Her running career started innocently enough, after hearing positive accounts from a friend who had participated in a number of local races.
For Eleni Ryan, the Clifton native who moved to Fredericton 20 years ago, the sport became an intriguing but distant thought after those conversations in 2010.
The married mother of two young children was busy juggling the various aspects of life, which included her role as a senior programmer analyst for the provincial Department of Health.
But her friend’s commentary sparked an interest and Eleni, in search of some fitness options, got started in 2011 and really hasn’t looked back. Since then, she’s cracked through a series of goals that seemed daunting at the time – like running a race without any walk breaks, like competing in a 5km race, then a 10 km event and eventually, running 10 kilometres in under an hour.
“I signed up for my first race with my only goal to complete it,” she says of her progress. “My friend ran/walked that first race with me and coached me the entire way. The atmosphere is always so amazing and inspiring. Other participants and spectators are so encouraging and it is such a positive experience. I was hooked after that first race and have gone on to run 17 others.”
One of those was the recent Liv9 Fredericton Fall Classic in September, one she has competed in each year since the fall of 2011.
This years’ time of 28:26 was more than 12 minutes better than 2011 and along the way, she’s lost 60 pounds, recognition for all the hours she’s put into training and a personal reward after a frank self-assessment prior to her first race.
“At that time I had put on quite a bit of weight,” she said. “I didn’t like how I looked or felt and wanted to become more active. I was never very athletic and needed to make some changes to be healthier for myself and my family.”
The running journey includes and incorporates family as her husband Craig has joined her in the streets of Fredericton in training or on the sidelines cheering in races with their children Callie and Jackson.
For example, her gang, including her parents, were there when she raced earlier this year in Miramichi, cracking the 60-minute barrier for the first time in the 10-kilometer distance. She eclipsed the standard by a few seconds that paid rich dividends for the five seasons of sweat and the determined effort in the final stretch run. It’s a result that ranks as one of her most memorable runs.
“I like that running has made me healthier (by helping to lose 60 pounds) and hopefully being a positive role model for my children,” she said. “When they see my running bag, they quickly ask how far I ran and how long it took. It’s a fantastic feeling hearing them say ‘I’m proud of you Mommy!’”
Another event near the top of her major accomplishment list occurred in Beresford, one cold wet rainy morning in 2014 where she completed the 5 km distance without walking, a major goal for her at the time.
In fact, progressing along one step at a time is what makes running enjoyable for Eleni. The goals for 2015 included increasing her distances and completing a variety of 10 km events, which she has attained. Once the kilometres logged became comfortable, she worked on reducing her times. Again, progress developed thanks to a training schedule that includes plenty of lunch-time runs on the trail system in the city, ranging from 5 to 8 km.
Weekends meant Craig could join her as well.
Most important, she says, are the boosts it can provide in terms of everything from stress release to feeling strong.
“I’m so glad that I found an activity that I love and helps keep me fit and active,” she said. “Not every run is going to be a personal best and some days, the hardest part is deciding to put on my sneakers. I’ve never regretted a single run.
“There are lots of things I like about running. Some days it is almost like therapy for me. I turn on my favourite songs and just go. It’s my “me time” where nothing else matters.”
Kevin Barrett’s Kevin Barrett’s column appears every other Saturday. If you have a suggestion for a feature story, email him at email@example.com or visit barrettkevin.wordpress.com.