This article ran in the Daily Gleaner on August 13.
There is a special picture of Fran Robinson in her personal library, one from last winter’s cross-country ski season, set on a beautiful day, sun shining as she looks intently onto the track feeling fit, happy with her training and ready to race.
For Robinson, the Ontario native who moved to New Brunswick to study her master’s degree, it was the culmination of months of training, complete with her summer leg work that allows her to challenge herself and live through a philosophy of active living.
This weekend, she’s getting ready for a triathlon in Harvey and then she will continue with running races that will add to a schedule that has included the Fredericton half-marathon, the Army 10K and the YFC Runway runs earlier this year.
As an occupational therapist, she’s seen plenty of reasons of why people need to keep active.
As you can see, at 58, she is not slowing down.
“I run because I can and we need to keep moving or our bodies or we will stop being able to move,” she said. “I see that all the time as an occupational therapist – so many seniors stop moving, stop exercises and then they can no longer do so. So, I keep moving.”
As a runner, Fran practises what she preaches with a regular regime that’s taken her to races in Fredericton as well as Switzerland.
After she gained her master’s, she moved to New Brunswick full time and ran her own business for 20 years – Proactive Therapy Services – until she sold it last May.
But running started when she was younger, in high school and university in London, Ont.
“All through high school and university, all of my siblings and I walked to school – 6 kilometres return – or biked throughout the city. So getting exercise as a means of going somewhere was something natural for us to do,” she said.
“I was very involved musically as a young child and woman. This slowed down to some extent when I went to university and I believe I took up running to fill a space in my life. It was also something that was good for stress relief. I was also battling with my weight, so running helped to control that to some extent.”
With her moves and then her career, she did not run as much as in her younger days but about six years ago, she joined the Capital City Road Runners to improve her speed.
“I bought myself a heart rate monitor and would try to get my heart rate up and hence speed up my pace,” she explained. “It worked.”
While other sports provide ample motivation, running has provided some special memories as well.
For instance, she ran one full marathon – in Lausanne, Switzerland in 2005 – while raising money for the Arthritis Society.
“Of course, the run was spectacular and the energy exciting,” she said. “I had been really sick the night before, but got up the next morning and ran the marathon. My time was really disappointing because I crashed half way through, but the pleasing part was that the next day we hiked in the Swiss Alps and my legs felt just great. It was wonderful to feel so fit.”
Another great run occurred in Fredericton in 2015, when she challenged herself to beat her personal best and crack two hours in the half-marathon. She did that in 1:51.02.
“I had skied all winter so I had limited time to train for the half-marathon,” she said. “Despite that, I did a personal best with a time under 1:52 and I improved my previous record by 10 minutes or so. It was rewarding.”
She usually trains on Wednesdays and Saturdays with the Capital City Road Runners and other times with her new partner. Otherwise, she runs alone.
“I used to live in Keswick Ridge, which is all hills and now off the Mazerolle Settlement which is almost as hilly. The hills keep a person motivated I find.”
As for the benefits of it all, she says it often takes place after she is finished and she loves it that anyone can do it with not a lot of gear.
“The camaraderie of running with a group is great. Running often becomes a therapeutic session if there are things on your mind. There is always someone to chat with at the club.”
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.