This is the 21st story in a series profiling runners who will compete in the 20th anniversary running of Emera Marathon By the Sea Marathon in Saint John on Sunday. The stories are also running on the MBTS Facebook page and MBTS website.
Editor’s Note: For as long as Tessa Stright of Quispamsis can remember, she’s called herself a runner. From grade school, through middle school to adulthood, she’s maintained her fondness for the sport. It provided a sense of comfort in the face of other challenges and a forum to reach personal goals. After having two children, it provided an outlet and has helped in other ways as she manages during the hectic days with two young kids. Through it all, Tessa has a new perspective, a new philosophy and she’s made adaptations while training extremely hard. On Sunday, she will run her first half marathon at Marathon by the Sea. Her family will be there, cheering her on. Here is her story.
When I look back at when I started running or when I became a ‘runner’, it’s impossible for me to think of a time when I wasn’t running. I’ve always loved running, and to be a runner, you have to love it.
As a child. I ran everywhere. Why walk somewhere when you can get there twice as fast by running? Besides, terrorizing the neighbourhood would never work if you were just walking…
I started competing early on, joining the middle school track and field team. It was fun being able to travel to different track and field meets and while I loved team sports, I loved being able to compete by myself more.
While attending one track meet, I was noticed by a coach from a private track club in Moncton, Edgar Vick. He asked me to join his club. Living in Sackville, it was a bit of a hike for practices but I started traveling to Moncton for training – in the summer at an outdoor track and then in the winter at an indoor track.
I was running year round and training with a great coach paid off. I made it to Legions, travelling across Canada a couple of times to compete and really learn how to train my body properly.
As a student who struggled through school with learning disabilities, it felt good to finally have something I knew I was good at.
Running has been consistent for me. No matter where I was in life, it has always been a part of it. I stopped running when I was about six-months pregnant. At the time, I thought I would be able to pick it back up as soon as the baby was born. Boy, was I wrong. When my daughter was born in the summer of 2012, I had a long recovery.
It was disheartening not to recover as fast as I had hoped. While I had a new bundle of joy and was enjoying motherhood, I was missing running. I tried to get out a couple of times and that was the first time I had ever felt like my body was telling me ‘no’. It wasn’t just saying ‘no, this is hard, poor me,’ it was screaming at me ‘Stop, No!’”
It took me a couple of runs to get over my stubbornness and realize that I shouldn’t be running; it was too soon. I knew what it felt like to push myself during a workout, but this was different. This was too much.
My body was still recovering and with the sleepless nights and hectic days, it’s not like I was able to get the rest I needed. I loved being a mom, having that baby rely on me but I was craving some ‘normal’ back in my life. My daughter was happy and healthy and I felt like I should be too.
My son was born the summer of 2013 – yes, about one year later. They’re 14 months apart. Shortly after he was born, a girlfriend talked me into doing the KV Challenge half marathon relay with her. I had recovered much faster, had breast feeding figured out and I really felt like my body was ready to get out and start running.
The only problem was that the race was eight weeks away and I hadn’t run a 10k since my pre pregnancy days. I was nervous, but I was excited to start training and I set a goal for myself. If I could finish without walking and wearing a smile, I’d be happy. It felt great to start training again. My legs were burning, my heart was pumping and my lungs were breathing deep. Becoming a mother is definitely life changing. Some days are definitely more challenging than others but it was great to have a goal that was mine, something to work towards, for me.
The morning of the race came, I could see my breath. It was so cold, I couldn’t feel my nose and my fingers were starting to go numb. While waiting at the start for the horn/gun came a feeling of anxiousness and nervousness I had forgotten about. But as soon as the horn sounded and I took my first steps forward, those feelings faded. My mind quickly switched over to race mode and I started to push forward. It felt amazing.
I amazed myself, hitting the 10k mark in 53minutes. I remember running toward the finish line, seeing my daughter in my husband’s arms and my son in the stroller with my mom behind him. I felt so proud of myself to have the support. I felt like all those crazy hectic days of finally getting the kids bathed and in bed, lacing up my sneakers and forcing myself out the front door had paid off. I didn’t walk, and I was smiling ear to ear.
What I’ve learned is that running now, after having children, is so different than before, but it’s also the same in many ways. It’s different in that you can’t stick to a strict training schedule. Juggling family life, shift work, teething, runny noses and doctors’ appointments means running can sometimes take a back seat.
Running, when you feel like it, is also a thing of the past. What I have learned is that I need to set goals, so I have something to work toward, I’ll be running my first half marathon at Marathon by the Sea. And although my days are hectic and crazy, I still feel if you truly love something, you’ll make time for it.
Sure, I can’t be as choosy when it comes to what time of day I get to run, or how many kms I am able to clock on any given night. Now it really comes down to, ‘do I have 30 minutes to lace up my sneakers as fast as I can and hit the road?’
I’ve also learned that sometimes you need to take a step back, realize that you’re not Super Mom, and you can’t get bent out of shape over missing your Sunday long run.
If I’m up half the night and my body is telling me that 10kms isn’t looking too good for me today, I listen to it. Sometimes, a shorter run and an early bedtime are just as good. I guess a lot of things have changed in the past couple of years. What hasn’t is that I’m still in love with running and it doesn’t matter whether your running 5kms, 10km or to the next telephone pole. What matters is that I’m out there, enjoying my run, and being able to do it.