This is the eighth story in a series profiling runners who will compete in the 2oth anniversary running of Emera Marathon By the Sea Marathon in Saint John. The stories are also running on the MBTS Facebook page and MBTS website.
Editor’s note: Lacey Clowater has come full circle in the running game, from aspiring runner to course conductor to this spring – a half marathoner. But as she prepares for the 12 k event at the 20th anniversary running of Emera Marathon By The Sea, she does so with additional inspiration gained from her closest allies. These are the same people whose touching display of support in the final stages of the Fredericton Half Marathon provided Lacey with an emotional and lasting memory that will never fade away. They have also helped her gain a special sense of appreciation for all she has accomplished in a relatively short time.
I get by with a little help from my friends…
My running story begins in the fall of 2008 when my mother and I signed up for a Learn to Run clinic at the Fredericton Running Room. For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a “runner”. I liked the way runners looked as they glided down the trail with ease. I wanted the feeling of freedom that runners exude; I longed to be a part of this culture.
After some persuading, I convinced my Mom to join me on this journey and for four months we traveled an hour every week from Taymouth to the Learn to Run clinic. I distinctly remember my first night as a runner. We hit the trail for one minute running, two minutes walking and I thought I was going to die. I ran full out for the one minute, trying to keep up with the pack and by the end of my first run, I was feeling defeated and ready to quit. With great support and encouragement, I was able to finish the clinic and ran my first 5k in the annual Resolution Run.
I continued with the 5k clinic the following spring; however, after that, I fell off the running bandwagon so to speak. I found it extremely difficult to continue with the traveling but I was also so unmotivated to run on my own.
I ran sporadically over the next year, but no longer considered myself a “runner”. A major turning point for me was a year after I finished the 5k clinic when a friend of mine asked me to join the 10k clinic with her as she was preparing for Tough Mudder. Initially, I was hesitant because I hadn’t been running consistently and also because I had never surpassed a 5k distance.
However, with some persuasion and arm-twisting, I signed up. Our goal race was the Marathon by the Sea 5miler event and weeks into our training, I got a call that I was having sinus surgery the Friday before the race. I was quite disappointed, feeling that by not completing the race, I was essentially not completing the clinic. During this time, however, I encountered some great people at the Running Room in Fredericton and through a conversation one night after run club I was asked to instruct the Learn to Run clinic in the fall. After the initial shock wore off (why would they ask me I kept saying) I accepted! I was determined to continue with my running journey this time around.
I began instructing in the fall of 2012 and after my first clinic night, I had a full circle moment. I had transformed from the timid, scared, doubtful person who had never run before to the instructor, helping others begin their running story. Even though teaching is in my nature, I never imagined how much I would enjoy being an instructor. So much so that I continued on and instructed the 5k and 10k clinics the following winter and spring.
My 10k clinic finished at the end of June 2013 and I told myself that I needed to take some time off. My body was tired and after teaching three back-to-back clinics, I needed a break. I told myself that I would run on my own and since I had the summer off, I could go out whenever I wanted. I could run early in the morning or late at night if the temperatures were too warm or I could just put off my run until the next day. Well the next day turned into the next week which turned into the next month and by the time summer was over, I was in a rut again and I was chomping at the bit to get back to the Running Room and my running buddies.
So I signed up yet again to instruct the Learn to Run program for the fall. During the first night of our clinic I felt so in my element, like I was where I belonged, where I was meant to be. It was so delightful to see familiar faces and to be surrounded by people who enjoyed running as much as I did.
It was during our talk on goal setting that I had another running “aha” moment. I spoke about goal setting and the importance of setting realistic and achievable goals but then I also asked the group to share one of their “dream” goals because without dreams, we never reach our full potential.
Some of the members of the group were hesitant to share their “dream” goals and others simply stated that they wanted to finish this clinic; that was their dream. Since I was asking a fairly personal question, I felt that it was only fair that I share my “dream” goal and in doing so maybe I would inspire someone else or possibly even myself. So I did it…I confessed my running dream, to run a half marathon before I turned 30. At that time I had just turned 28 and thought that this was certainly achievable within the next two years, maybe it would be something I would do to celebrate turning 30.
I had lots of time to plan, lots of time to train, but also lots of time to procrastinate. I wasn’t sure that I was ready and I had a lot of doubt that I would physically and mentally be able to achieve my goal. My best friend Lynsey was co-instructing with me at the time and after expressing my dream goal, she simply stated: “you just said it out loud, no turning back.” As our clinic progressed, I encouraged many of the members to continue running and suggested they sign up for the 5k clinic that was starting in January.
At the time there was no instructor for the 5k clinic and a couple of the members in my group asked me to continue on with them. I debated instructing again. If I did, I would have an excuse for not signing up for the half clinic but there was also this tiny spark that had been lit ever since I expressed my desire to run a half marathon. I had this internal battle for several weeks and after much discussion with my family, friends and staff at the running room I made the giant leap and on December 31, 2013, I signed up for the half marathon clinic to begin in January.
I had two friends that had already signed up and I had also convinced my sister to register. If I was heading down this road, I wanted some friends by my side. I did not tell many people that I had registered because deep down inside there was still the fear that I would not be able to do this. The first clinic night arrived and I picked up my sister who was full of excitement while I on the other hand, was full of nerves and feeling very anxious. Our group turned out to be very large and full of energy and by the end of the first run, I was feeling more relaxed and ready to embark on this crazy journey.
After that, everything went extremely smoothly and I ran my first half marathon with no problem! Yeah right! I struggled a great deal during my sixteen weeks of training, some runs were extremely hard, and some were easy. I would experience major mental blocks during several of my runs and I was very hard on myself. I had a hard time switching from instructor, the one who is positive all the time and encouraging others to student, the one needing support and encouragement. But the support and encouragement was always there and sometimes it came from where you least expected it.
I knew I had the support of my family and close friends but was astounded at the support from my co-workers, fellow training partners and former runners that I had instructed over the years. Running is a very physical sport and can at times wreak havoc on your body. During this clinic I had regularly scheduled massage appointments every two weeks and had to purchase a new pair of sneakers and orthotics so that I was able to run without pain.
However, the mental aspect of running is where I struggled the most and is the reason that I did not register for the half marathon until a month before the race. Even after running 16k and 18k, I was still doubting that I could run 21.1k. Why was I so hard on myself? I had put in the time, I had done the training. I could do this and I would do this and on May 11, 2014, I ran my first half marathon. It didn’t turn out quite as I anticipated. I struggled a lot between kilometers 14 and 20.
Between the heat, the blisters and the voice of doubt, I was ready to give up several times and just when I didn’t think I could go any farther or that I had any gas left in the tank, I begin to cross the train bridge and see my sister, my best friend and training partner running back toward me. She had already finished her half marathon and came back to run me in.
With her were two of my best running buddies and in a flood of emotions, I broke down. The tears were streaming down my face as I ran my last 1.1k.
My sister held my hand and my friends shouted words of encouragement as I continued to sob. How did I get so lucky to have these people in my life? Regardless of the time on the clock when I crossed that finish line something happened that day that I will never forget. Not only did I complete a half marathon I realized that importance of friendship and how fortunate I am to have those people in my life. In the days following the race I was a bit down. I was having trouble celebrating my accomplishment because I was disappointed with the outcome. Instead of being proud that I had run a half marathon, I kept reliving what went wrong and how I didn’t achieve the time I had wanted.
It was during a moment of self-pity that once again my friends came through. The marathon photos had been released and a friend sent me a link to one of my photos. It was of me, my sister (holding my hand) and my two friends, Julie and Kristel. After seeing that photo everything was once again put into perspective. I had achieved my goal. I crossed that finish line and in the end time is irrelevant and I realized that I can achieve any goal, running or otherwise because “I get by with a little help from my friends…”
So this August, with some help from another good friend of mine, Jamie, I will tackle the 12k at the Marathon by the Sea, the 10k goal race that I never had the chance to complete and after that, who knows what is in store for me and my running buddies.
But one thing I know for sure is that running will always be a part of my life because the friends I have made and the experiences I have had along this journey are worth more than any medal.