“Race day was utter joy – one of those days you will remember for rest of your life. It was a beautiful fall day in my hometown of Charlottetown. I didn’t care about my time; I just wanted to run every single step. The tears started falling down my cheeks at the 4 km mark. That’s when I had gotten rid of my race nerves and was approaching the intersection where my daughters would be cheering for me.”
When Kathy decided to run a half marathon last year, she did so with some uncertainty. But it was fantastic to witness her progress, moving from single digits in training kilometres to each barrier she broke as the distances increased. Beyond that, though, was seeing her great determination and sheer will in order to meet her goals. A couple of years back, she did a half marathon, walking, as part of a Nordic-walking club, completing the route in a few seconds under four hours. This year in running the P.E.I. Half Marathon, after months of intense training, she took almost one hour and 30 minutes off that time, an amazing reward for her commitment.
Here is her story.
by Kathy Kaufield
I didn’t mean to become a runner.
When I pressed the “Fat Burn” button on our new treadmill in January, 2012, I thought it would make me walk up a few hills, not run.
“Fat Burn makes you freakin’ run!” I shouted to my husband. “Mother of God!”
It was hard. But I felt good when I finished. Better than I had in ages. Truth be told, I hadn’t been feeling all that great since I entered my 40s. I felt really tired a lot; I was too thick around the middle; I suffered persistent headaches, heartburn and neck pain. My doctor discovered my iron and vitamin D levels were low, but she basically told me that my symptoms were caused by getting older.
Okay, I thought to myself, there’s no way I want to feel this crappy at this age. My kids are too young to have a mother who is this tired.
So, I stepped on the treadmill. That year I ran my first 5 km race in over a decade and my first 5 miler ever. I was happy with those accomplishments and already feeling the lure of the supportive New Brunswick running community.
But honestly, I didn’t enjoy running. I dreaded going for runs and had pretty much given it up by the end of the year.
Then I discovered KV Fit Body Bootcamp – group interval strength training. It had been 20 years since I attended my last fitness class; I swallowed my fear and went. I fell in love with it. I spent the winter doing squats, push ups, planks and anything else the coaches threw at us. I started to feel – gasp! – physically strong for the first time in my life. I left each class bouncing with energy. I felt terrific for the first time in years.
Inspired by my husband’s running, I laced up my sneakers when spring arrived. That’s when I discovered something I should have known: running is much more enjoyable when your body is strong. I still spent the first 1.5 km of each and every run resisting the urge to stop, and my legs felt like lead sometimes. At some point of each run, though, magic would happen. I would feel like I was flying. I would feel invincible. Sometimes, the magic lasted only a few minutes. Sometimes, the feeling would come and go. But it always came, even if it were fleeting.
By June of 2013, I set my sights on running the half marathon in PEI on October 20.
My goal was two-fold: to do something I was scared to do and to set a good example for my two young daughters.
I announced my goal publicly in a column I write in the local newspaper. My first few outings after setting my goal were hard runs on hot days.
“I can’t do this! Why did I write about it in the paper?” I lamented to my husband. “There’s no way I can run 21 km. I can’t even run 6 without stopping.”
He told me not to look too far ahead. Focus on what you have to run this week, he said.
So that’s what I did.
When I ran 7 km for the first time, my legs were wobbling, my heart pounding. There’s no way I can run any longer, I told myself. Then the next week, I would add another kilometer. Then another. And another. Week after week. Sometimes, I would add an unplanned kilometer at the end of a long run just so I could go home and surprise my husband….my inspiration, my coach.
I ran when I was tired. I ran when I was stressed. I ran with bleeding feet. Bloody socks and blackened toenails became badges of honor. I ran in the rain. I dodged deer and raccoons. I ran when I didn’t want to.
I never regretted a single run.
Race day was utter joy – one of those days you will remember for rest of your life. It was a beautiful fall day in my hometown of Charlottetown. I didn’t care about my time; I just wanted to run every single step.
The tears started falling down my cheeks at the 4 km mark. That’s when I had gotten rid of my race nerves and was approaching the intersection where my daughters would be cheering for me.
I thought about setting a good example for my girls; I thought about my husband who supports me in all I do; I thought about my family and growing up on the beautiful Island where I was running.
It was this thought, though, that brought the tears: I am running for myself.
Before the race started, I wrote my family (MacPherson) motto on my arm in black marker: “Touch not the cat bot a glove” to remind myself that I am fierce and strong. I set a goal. I made a plan. I stuck with it. I made a dream come true.
Running has taught me to be careful about putting limits on myself in anything I do. Running has reminded me of my own inner strength. Running has taught me to ignore my nagging voice that often says ‘can’t’.
I don’t remember my exact race time (2:36 something). What I do remember is how happy I felt even when the running got hard. I remember marathoners calling out words of encouragement to me as they passed me lumbering up hills. I remember the bagpipers. I remember the support I felt from friends and family at the finish line. I remember watching with pride as my friend qualified for the Boston Marathon and my husband sprinted across the finish line with energy to spare.
I’m not a fast runner and likely never will be. My 60-something cousin finished the race about three minutes before I did. That didn’t discourage me. That inspired me.
I don’t know what my next running goal is, but I do know this: when I am her age, I want to still be running too.