This is the second of three stories in the Daily Gleaner (@dailygleaner) on runners who will be competing in the Fredericton Marathon next week.
Toby outlines her courageous fight that involved her family, friends but more importantly, her own commitment. Among the rewards along this 4.5 year period of recovery was qualifying for the 2015 Boston Marathon.
But the personal rewards along her journey are much more significant.
Her story is below.
For over two decades, Toby Richardson relied on food and alcohol as her crutches to get through life.
All that changed four and half years ago when the Fredericton resident rediscovered a passion for running and began rebuilding, aiming toward a better way of life.
Richardson, 45, will be one of more than 250 marathon runners at next week’s Scotiabank Fredericton Marathon, but for her, this run is just another step in a journey that is much longer than the 42.2 km route and much more important.
Richardson’s story, however, is not about the pursuit of fast times and finish lines but an inspirational personal recovery that’s taken courage, support and dedication. It’s one that won’t end with the 36th annual edition of the popular race.
“Four and a half years ago, I was sick, 50 pounds overweight and nearing the end of my 22 year drinking career,” said Toby, as her training for the Marathon reached the final stages. “Getting sober changed my life as I knew it and it was far more difficult than completing a marathon. I was forced to dig deep to rebuild a life that was to become more meaningful, balanced and healthy.”
One of the key steps in her recovery was starting to run again 10 years after completing a half marathon that admittedly didn’t go that well. Now, she’s got two marathons under her belt and has even qualified for the 2015 Boston Marathon. In addition to relying on running to help in her recovery, Richardson enlisted the help of her personal network, those whose love and support were critical, serving as another collective crutch in her journey.
Specifically, she cites her parents, David and Glenna Richardson, her boyfriend Jamie Pickard and her girlfriends Maryanne Davies, Tina Waterhouse-Campbell and Lisa Stafford.
With them and their unwavering support, guidance and just being there, they’ve helped during the most difficult moments in her recovery and as well as being on hand to celebrate the special moments.
They will be there with her next Sunday – if not physically, then in spirit – saluting their daughter, friend and partner and she races with approximately 2,100 others in all of the distances through the streets and trails of New Brunswick’s Capital City.
“My support team is extensive both on the trail and off,” Toby said. “There are days I have difficulty connecting the dots or even tying my shoe laces. Living with G.A.D.(Generalized Anxiety Disorder) would be impossible without guidance from the mental health professionals at Victoria Health Center. My girlfriends have seen me at my worst and continue to love me when I can’t love myself.
“Same goes for a strong and supportive boyfriend (who’s also running) and incredible parents who see my successes especially when I don’t. I’m surrounded by love and support.”
As for running, Richardson competed and completed her first marathon last August, in 23C conditions at the Marathon By The Sea, where she clocked a 4:27.09 time.
“I was so proud, never imagining I’d ever make the finish line,” she said.
It spurred her on but even the most optimistic people could not have imagined what happened next, when at the Legs for Literacy Marathon in October, she shaved more than 35 minutes off her time in 10C conditions and qualified for the 2015 Boston Marathon in 3:51.37.
“Qualifying for Boston is something that will always be special for me personally.”
Richardson was born in Fredericton and for the past 14 years, has called Marysville home, so she is well aware of the city’s trail system that makes up a large portion of the Fredericton Marathon’s double-loop course.
This upcoming event, for her, is part of prep work for Boston next April and she is aiming to escape next weekend free of injury. A new personal best won’t hurt either.
However, in the bigger picture, it’s 42.2 km further along in her emotional and important journey.
“Overcoming stress and anxiety is a life long journey, so if my new crutch is running, I’ll take it along with all its many benefits,” she said. “I run for my mental health, my love of chocolate, self-esteem and for recovery. I’m 4.5 years sober and I am a runner.”