Where does resilience come from? Is it a part of who we are at birth? Is it something we learn that is shaped by our experiences in life? It’s hard to say for certain, but here’s a short story of my life and where I believe my passion has come from.
Growing up, I had a burning desire to be the best I could be and was always willing to put in the hard work. As a gymnast, I was taken out of recreational and put into competitive when the coaches noticed my work ethic and my strength (especially doing chin-ups). From that point on, I spent 20 plus hours a week in the gym until I was about 12yrs old. Every school night, weekend, summer I was training trying to better myself. It took falling over and over again to finally master a skill. This was beyond rewarding when I finally stuck that landing and not many things these days give me the same level of satisfaction. I enjoyed going to competitions, although they made me really nervous! I always remember going to meets on the weekends and the following monday bringing in all my medals to show my teachers and friends – I was so proud! I really appreciated these early life lessons – keep trying until you get it (perseverance), you need to keep working on a skill consistently (consistency), and don’t get frustrated when things don’t go your way just keep trying (determination). It’s been many years since I’ve practiced gymnastics (though I still go to adult rec when I get the chance!), these experiences have lasted with me all this time. Once a gymnast, always a gymnast.
^This December’s adult rec
In elementary school I did cross country and track & field. From my years competing in gymnastics, I had powerful legs and a great aerobic base! I was never super serious about running back then though I did make the regional final DEAA; no idea how I placed but I do remember running up giant ski hills and going to track meets. I still had that burning desire to be the best. I soon applied that to my schooling (once I got much needed glasses – I was basically blind and told no one – sounds like me!) and by the end of grade 8 I was valedictorian. Near the end of elementary school is when I stopped competing in gymnastics, it wasn’t working for me any more and was time to move on. It took me until Grade 10 in high school to really find my passion in running. This included a hilarious bout on the volleyball team in grade 9 where I was a good ol’ bench warmer. I remember one game I finally got to play and I completely screwed everything up! Hand-eye is NOT my forte.
I competed for the cross country and track & field teams in grade 9 and my new track coach noticed my talent. She said I should join a club team, which at the time I had no idea such a thing even existed. I joined the Durham Dragons in the summer of 2006 and took off running, literally. I saw quick improvement over the summer going into grade 10 and really started to take running seriously. We had practices two nights a week and a long run on the weekends where we had our traditional work-out days and my coaches taught me everything I know today about running. I was lucky enough to make it to Ofsaa for cross country and for 800m on the track that year. I did not place well but I ran as hard as I could and took in the experience. Unfortunately, the next year I developed patella-femoral syndrome and my knee was out of commission for almost a full year. In grade 12 I was back racing and competing. I worked my butt off in training and really enjoyed it. My mileage was about 50k a week I believe, that’s nothing to me these days!
Even so, there were times when I didn’t believe in myself. I remember clearly one track workout when I pretended to hyperventilate just to get out of the workout. Even more memorable was during XC area finals LOSSA. Coming off that knee injury took a long time. I had raced very well at multiple XC meets already the season but the week before my grade 12 LOSSA I had a pretty bad cold. I tried every remedy to get rid of it but I couldn’t. I knew that I had to be in the top 3 to move on to OFSAA and I wanted so badly to qualify. Our course was 2 loops of the grass field behind Pineridge Elementary School in Pickering, ON. I started out well near the front, the leaders were well ahead of me but I was holding 3rd position for most of the race. Nearing the last half of the race a girl unexpectedly came running by me pushing me out of the qualifying spot. I was crushed. Instead of finishing the race and trying my best, I dropped out. This is so memorable to this day because I remember how badly I felt and even worse how disappointed my coaches were in me. Obviously looking back I know being sick likely played a role, but definitely this was a time where my mental sabotaged me. Ever since this day I have tried hard not to let my inner voices tell me I can’t do it. It’s something that I work on every day.
In the next chapter of my life I left home to go to the University of Windsor to pursue a Kinesiology degree. Again, I used my early life lessons to push myself to pursue academic excellence. Going in to university I had a scholarship based on my high grades, but as is the case for most students, I couldn’t quite keep them high enough to keep that scholarship. This was a big blow to my ego because I always had thought of myself as
“smart.” Even so, I pushed myself and studied long hours to get that scholarship and get it back I did after only a semester or two. Now the Windsor Lancers (the UWindsor team) was one of the best in the country, so coming in I was on no athletic scholarship by any means. I still came out to the team and ran my heart out and put all my miles in. The first year I didn’t run well switching coaches (as most athletes find). I couldn’t even hit the qualifying standards to be allowed to actually compete for the track team. This was pretty hard on me. I gave it everything only to come up short, again. In my second year I developed a metatarsal stress fracture. I came in very fit over the summer, only to perform poorly for the XC team. I took well over a month off over Christmas that year seriously contemplating quitting the sport. I decided that NO this is what I’ve worked so hard for I’m going to get back to it! Not having the knowledge that I have now, I jumped back into intense training much too quickly only to give myself a stress fracture, great. That took over 6 months to heal and that summer I cross-trained like crazy to be ready for the next season.
My third year I found myself in great shape coming in to the season. I was one of the top girls leading most workouts. I thought, this is going to be my year. Then… I couldn’t even make the top 7 women to be allowed to compete at OUAs for our team. I wasn’t even
named the alternate because the coaches never believed in me. That hurt a lot. Again I contemplated quitting the sport. I had a meeting with one of the coaches to try to figure out why my races went so poorly compared to training.
I didn’t realize it at the time but one area of your life, can really hold you back in all others. At the time I was in an awful relationship that I had been in since high school. We went to Windsor together and it wasn’t working for either of us. Misogynistic, is not on my list of highly sought out traits in and man and here I was with someone who didn’t respect me, believe in me or make me feel safe. As I contemplated quitting running, I decided not to run indoor track that year and just focus on running higher mileage. A very good friend had suggested this to me, since they too weren’t finding the Windsor program was working for them. He also helped me find my strength and self-confidence too. As we spent more time together, I felt more and more confident in myself. After a few months, I found myself a new place to live and moved out of that relationship, even though it meant having my parents drive 5 hours just to move me and paying for two places at the same time. I knew that if I didn’t make the decision then, I would be stuck there, it had already been 5 unhappy years. If you haven’t already guessed it, that very good friend, that’s my now husband Josh. He showed me that I could be great, I just needed a different approach and someone to believe in me.
As I trained more on my own outside of the team and ran more mileage, I started to improve. There were still days where I wasn’t the most confident but that started to become less and less. That summer I ran a personal best in the 5k, 18:30. My previous personal best was 20minutes and the last few years I had been running 22minutes under Windsor’s program. This was a breakthrough. After all that time it had been confidence that I was missing. That summer, I decided I would stick to road racing and haven’t turned back since.
I have still had many ups and downs in the meantime, but am glad that I’ve continued to grind and try to get the most out of myself. I might not be the most gifted but I am one of the hardest working people you will find. If I decide something is achievable then I will see it through until the end.
It just goes to show you, that yes, I may be performing well now, but that was not always the case. If there’s one thing that rings true again and again in running is put the time in and you will get the results you want. It won’t happen overnight but if you want to be the best, or at the very least be your best, you need to keep showing up. Do the work, every day, and see where it takes you. It is after all, the journey that is important. And the little things you learn about yourself along the way.
As always – Grind ON!