In Andrew’s words – The Running Whys

Signal Hill 2

One of the highlights for Andrew and his wife Helene was a spectacular run up to Signal Hill during a family vacation to Newfoundland.

“To me, sleep is underrated.  Particularly on weekends.  Usually, it took a forklift to get me out of bed on a Sunday!  Now, if I don’t get my long, slow run in on a Sunday, I am Cranky McCrankerson!  Funny how running does that to you. A long distance training run can fly when you are chatting about sports, family activities, kids, music, life.   I find that time to be solitude, to enjoy the company, the scenery and be away from BlackBerries and computers.”

I met Andrew Holland when I first moved to Fredericton in 1997 and we were both covering sports. We’ve kept in touch since and have both come to enjoy the benefits of running. Of all the stories of battling through health adversity in 2013, Andrew’s recovery is near the top of the list. Earlier this week, he continued his impressive strides by braving the elements in the 2014 Resolution Run. Here is his story from 2013.




by Andrew Holland

I draw inspiration and motivation from the words of fellow runners and am happy to be invited by Kevin to post a recap of the past year given some of the health adversity I had previously faced.

2013 was a year of personal growth, a lot of learning and some injury frustration.  But all in all, a very rewarding year.

Since 2009, I had really been a casual runner, typically going out three times a week doing short distances on my own.  These ranged from 5-8 kilometres while my better half and our son did their respective workouts at the YMCA.

I also ran a few fun races, including the 10-kilometre race in the 2011 Fredericton Marathon.   For the past 4 years, I have always done the New Year’s Day Resolution Run, including the 2014 edition earlier this week.  I would go the occasional 12 kms but hadn’t really trained for anything.

The reality is I wanted to devote more time to running in 2012.  My goal was to run the Half at the  Fredericton Marathon in memory of my late father, who had passed away in January.

Unfortunately, that plan went sideways when I was hospitalized during a family trip with shortness of breath and pain.   I was diagnosed with a blood clot in my right lung.  So I followed doctors’ orders and avoided running for several months.  By the late summer/early fall I was able to resume physical activities without any breathing issues.  It was great to finally get out running a few times a week.

Last December, I looked for something to get me off the couch in the winter and wondered if there was a way I could dedicate myself more to running.  To push myself.

So, I went to the Fredericton Running Room, chatted with their staff, looked at their programs and signed up for the half marathon clinic. I figured that would get my dumper off of the couch in the middle of winter!   There were a few people in the group who I knew and occasionally spoke of their group runs and had encouraged me previously to drop by.  So I figured joining the clinic would make me accountable!

Together for 16 weeks, we ran 3 times a week plus other times on our own.  Some nights we were dressed up like the Michelin man on TV Commercials when it was -32 with the wind chill.   Through it all, I met a lot of great people and learned that running truly is a community where you do make friends and bond with people.

To me, sleep is underrated.  Particularly on weekends.  Usually, it took a forklift to get me out of bed on a Sunday!

Now, if I don’t get my long, slow run in on a Sunday, I am Cranky McCrankerson!  Funny how running does that to you.

A long distance training run can fly when you are chatting about sports, family activities, kids, music, life.   I find that time to be solitude, to enjoy the company, the scenery and be away from BlackBerries and computers.

Training went generally fine, including the annual 15-km Cops for Cancer Race.  I also got in a 20-km training run on my birthday in Halifax with my Nature Conservancy of Canada colleague Christine Beavis-Trickett.  There,  I was really struck by the huge group of runners (300) who came out to Running Room store for the Sunday morning run in April.  There were lots of pace groups and it was evident they have a vibrant running community.  After the run, she treated me to a new recovery drink, a Chocolate-Banana ice-smoothy at Starbucks which I highly recommend.

Despite some Achilles problems very late in training that occurred during speed work, I ran the Fredericton Half Marathon on Mothers Day.  I was taped up and had some acupuncture treatments!    It was my first ever half marathon so it was going to be a personal best!  My instructor Mark Kirby advised me to run smart – but not to run fast or push it.  My finishing time was just over 2:12 minutes.

I continued to run in the following weeks….including the Miramichi  road race.  My 13-year-old son and I ran the 5 kilometre together while my better half Helene did the 10-km run as her goal race.   She was in the Running Room 10-kilometre clinic group and has done two more since!  So she really has the bug.   After the Miramichi race, I took ten days off to have a rest.

Suddenly on Canada Day,  it hurt to walk and I noticed a bump on my right foot that kept getting bigger and bigger.   I went to Oromocto Hospital to get an x-ray.  They told me it was a bone spur because of too much running.   I had also learned that one foot had a higher arch than the other.   So after rounds of physio, giving it ice, heat, time to heal, trying yin yoga and most importantly – ordering orthotics,  I returned  to the trails for a couple of weeks in time for the Marathon By the Sea event in Saint John.

We did the 5 miler in the Port City – the hills were absolutely brutal – glad I wasn’t doing the half marathon!  Then it was off to St. John’s, Newfoundland for a family vacation.  The highlight of the year was a 13 kilometre run up to Signal Hill with my wife, Helene.   I had done it a couple of times before but it was her first encounter with these brutal hills.   But we both conquered it and finished smiling!

Over the late summer and early fall, I trained for the Legs for Literacy Half Marathon race in Moncton.   Figuring less is more, and trying to stay injury free, I ran just three times a week.  Things went according to plan until Thanksgiving weekend when a 20-kilometre training run yielded a pain in my right hip that has been nagging me ever since.

With the Moncton race just two weeks away, it was time to taper and get some more physio, ice and heat.    It was a damp and cool run in the Hub City, but I was happy with my race.  Despite my hip tightening up more and more, I had shaved 4 ½ minutes off my Fredericton time finishing just under 2:08.

Most of the race I ran along side training buddy Kelly Thompson-Cormier.  We pushed each other and we finished side by each which was rewarding.   Like me, Kelly is a chatterbox.  I don’t shut up and can talk a starving dog off of a meat truck.  So we get along great.  We ran together throughout most of the year, along with her husband James Cormier (Fox Radio personality) within a handful of folks who usually go the same pace.

It would have been nice to finish stronger but I just didn’t have a faster gear.  My hip was super tight.   I wanted to beat 2:05 as a time…but hey, it was another personal best!

Since Moncton, I have run outside a half-dozen times but due to my hip just not having enough time to heal, it has been problematic.  With my Blue Cross coverage having long run out for the year, and just not feeling the way it should,  I decided to finally listen to my body and shut ‘er down for 2013. Rest up until the January 2014 Resolution Run and January 14, when the next half marathon clinic starts!

My New Year’s resolution is to do a bit more cross-training this year, more weights and learn to stretch better and get improved flexibility. Hopefully this will prevent getting dinged up so much.   The big takeaway from 2013 is that not being to do something you really enjoy is really frustrating – so I have to invest more time into eating and stretching better, being more hydrated in order to give myself a better chance of staying injury free.

Thanks to all my running friends, both local and elsewhere, for their fellowship and encouragement.  Also thanks to the guy at the Menzies Orthotics store in Fredericton who suggested in July I quit running altogether saying it is an abusive sport that causes a lot of tears and strains. He also said my lack of flexibility made me appear like I was a stroke victim.  Instead of quitting, he provided me more incentive to keep doing something I love.   Thanks to my wife for chugging along too doing a bunch of these same races in her own distance and understanding when I was injured and  grumpy!  All runners go through injuries, aches and pains and I hope to see less of them in 2014!

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