While normally this time of year I might be writing a full Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon race report after just having run it, this year for me is a little different.
STWM for me this year was much more then just a race, it has been a humbling experience.
One that has been far too positive and profound for me personally to do it justice with a normal blow by blow race report; rather I choose to explain how I have arrived at STWM this year and the amazing ways my life has changed along the way to make it happen.
To start STWM has been, and will continue to be, an overwhelmingly positive event that acts as a yearly milestone marker in the decision to change my life for the better.
This year for me race day was amazing, uplifting and almost serene at times as I just let the amazing spectators, volunteers, friends and family carry me through the race.
It was amazing to feel their genuine support on the course when my race took a turn and was not going my way. I finished, and finished feeling proud, but devoid of the emotional finish I had hoped for by hitting my goal; a sub 4 hour marathon that still eludes me.
However to my surprise the race, it’s community and the emotions of it caught up with me two days later on Tuesday morning when I went for a short 6km recovery run.
On this run I stayed close to home, I ran around the blocks I had started running on just over 4 years ago, back when I could barley “run” continuously for more than a block or two.
It was on this run, not the marathon, that I hit an emotional wall. The outpouring of support I have had, the experiences I have shared both at the marathon and on the road to it over the years collided in what – to an outsider – was a grown man with a strange post race running gait, hitting race pace, while wiping tears away with a smile on his face, at about 3km in on a post-marathon shake out run.
This is because it hit me hard that while I did not hit my goal at the race, I had hit a level of fitness and recovery I never thought possible! I had connected with more people then I ever imagined and was part of an inspiring and supportive community. The moment was completely overwhelming.
To understand why everything just hit me like a ton of bricks a couple blocks from my home – and not when most, including myself, would have expected it to on race day – you need to understand how I came to running so recently in the big picture of my life.
Let me share with you my journey so far, as so many have shared theirs with me, and I hope it helps to inspire you to set personal goals to keep striving for and inspire those in your life to do the same.
THE WAY THINGS WERE
My primary lifestyle change was prompted by my weight pushing in on 300 pounds fluctuating generally around 290, working high stress, highly caffeinated, high sugar, long hours and “rewarding” myself with binge outings of the very worst kinds of food and drink when I had a moment to myself.
GETTING HOOKED ON HEALTH
4 years ago at about this time I had declared enough was enough. I changed my job, got a handle on my long hours, and committed myself to some big diet and fitness changes to take control of my life again.
At that point I just wanted to resume some casual basics like bike riding and hiking that I used to enjoy when I was younger.
It was not long in to this lifestyle change that I found running as an outlet for so much of what was wrong in my life.
Running helped me handle, process and cope with the stress of work, my parents separation, my physical insecurities and life’s other negative twits and turns that fueled the generally unhealthy lifestyle I had been living.
It filled something in me that I had once had but had been missing for a long time. That was self-confidence and the human need to have a physical coping mechanism to the flight or flight response that we far to often medicate one way or another as “normal” anxiety.
SECRETLY DREAMING BIG AND INADVERTENTLY INSPIRING OTHERS
After about 6 months of cross training in a gym, eating better, looking like some kind of awkward 80’s movie training montage and running out in the cold and wet spring months I ran my first 10k race, then two weeks later my first half marathon.
After the half marathon it was safe to say I was hooked, even though after the race I hobbled for 3 weeks from what I now know as being overweight and under trained; but that did not slow me down.
I went on to run my first 10 miler a few weeks later. I got a friend, Mike Lobsinger, training as well and we did a Warrior Dash.
I went on that same year to run a 30k race. Then with that under my belt I signed up for my personal secret goal of the STWM full marathon that fall.
Healthy eating became key to achieving fitness. Fitness meant doing things that were fun / outgoing and resulted in being able to pass along how I was doing it to others so they could do it with me. This was the beginning of some big changes in my life.
THEN TO THE PRESENT: HOW THINGS HAVE CHANGED
Since that first year of running I have run over 20 races. I have run road events, mud runs and scavenger hunts. I have run in snow storms, I have run in the desert, I have trail run up the side of a mountain and this week I completed a marathon and was able to spend the afternoon right after on my feet with friends.
I tweet at @SteveWLayton, blog and generally over share with anyone interested about running via my site GetOutDoMore.com and have come a long way mentally and physically when it comes to healthy lifestyle, while realizing that I still have a long way to go.
I am happy to know that I am actually tangibly changing my life for the better. I feel great knowing I have helped others to do the same and constantly meet new and amazing people as a result.
I have watched friends run their first ever races and hit new and amazing personal goals and distances. My friend Sharon ran her first 5k with me last summer and then ran her first half marathon in the spring.
Mike just ran his first 10k in the spring and half marathon at STWM this week, crushing them both and talking about doing a full marathon as we waited in the starting corals.
I have been given platforms to encourage and inspire anyone I can in their pursuit of a healthy balanced life through being a Digital Champion for Canada Running Series for two races this year, the Toronto Yonge Street 10k and Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.
I have had the opportunity to run beside inspiring people such as elite Olympians, charity runners and people that have overcome much more than I have, such as substance abuse and physical disability through the power of running and support of community.
I am proud and humbled to have become part of this amazing global running community. I could never have imagined 4 years ago that I could have done any of these things or that people would look to me for advice on how to live a healthy lifestyle.
I could never have imagined the pride I would feel in watching others around me achieve their goals and the support of the community by reaching my own.
I could never have imagined the absolutely humbling experience of having someone I have never even met thank me post race for giving them advice online that helped them dig deep to complete their first half marathon.
Congratulations on Your 2:28:02 Linda Chmielowiec, you earned it all on your own btw.
NO MATTER WHO YOU ARE, YOU CAN GET OUT AND DO MORE
While running is clearly my chosen path to fitness, health and its related and amazingly unexpected spin off benefits, I encourage you no matter what your health situation to simply get out and do anything physical that you enjoy regularly.
If you do, you will find out soon enough how the small changes in your habits will grow and grow into an active lifestyle that will sweep positive change throughout your entire life in unexpected and wonderful ways.
So take the first steps as I did, and continue to do and Get Out, Do More and encourage others to do the same with you.
I promise you, you will never regret it and the rewards are unimaginable. However I do warn you, it could make you tear up the day you realize just how far you have come.