For Penny Klepic, the numbers tell the story.
In the three years since she decided to tackle running through a popular Couch to 5k training program, she’s transformed her health and her body, while enjoying tranquility on her runs and taking 26 minutes off her half marathon clocking.
“I was 50 pounds overweight and everything was hurting,” she explained of her initial motivations. “My oldest son is special needs and I needed an outlet to vent and clear my head most every day.
“Right now, running is a huge part of my life.”
Penny, a Moncton native, and her husband John moved to Fredericton from Bridgewater, N.S. approximately 14 years ago and at time, she was a Baptist Minister. Now, she is a stay at home Mom, with two boys who are 14 and 11.
In 2014, she took to running with a 12-week program that had its fair share of intimidation, she recalls, thinking there was no way she’d complete two minutes of consecutive running after barely making a minute in the early stages. Yet patience paid off for Penny, whose small incremental gains led her to the start line of her first race.
“There was a lot of self doubt,” she explains. “I mostly ran by myself in the beginning because I was really slow and was feeling like I would hold other people back. When you first start out and you are overweight, you really try to run when no one else is around.”
In fact, it took more than year for her to feel truly comfortable on her runs. Yet, when she took part in the Fredericton Fall Classic in 2014, it was an event that, looking back, served as a springboard rather than end point.
“I thought if I could get the weight off, then that was all I was using it for,” she said. “Now, I don’t want to ever stop. I had to take a four-month reprieve when I had an injury 18 months ago (tendonitis in her calf led to plantar fasciitis) and it was horrible.
“You can bike and you can swim but when you see everyone else out running, it is the worst feeling knowing you can’t be out there doing what you love.”
After that Fall Classic run in ’14, it took a few more races to gain that treasured comfort zone but soon enough, she was more encouraged when minutes were dropping off her official times. That’s when her training and motivation clicked into higher zones.
“When you go from a 38-minute 5K to a 29-minute 5K three years later, that is big,” she said.
Her most memorable outing occurred this past May, when she raced the Fredericton half marathon on Mother’s Day, the first time she completed the distance without any walking breaks. In the process, she shattered her previous personal best by 26 minutes.
“That really stands out,” she said. “It was training, weight loss, health, speed work, hill training and a strength-training program my physiotherapist designed for me to keep my muscles balanced. I also used a Running Room program that I had used previously – I just pushed myself a little harder.”
This year, she’s raced the Lorneville Loop, that Fredericton half marathon and the popular YFC Runway run.
Further, she is expected to take part in a Canada Day run today, the Fall Classic in September and the Legs for Literacy in Moncton in October.
“I have my eyes on a full marathon in 2018, so I need to get through 2017 injury free,” she explained.
If that occurs, she’ll start training in January for a return to Fredericton’s Marathon in the spring – only this time the 42.2 km challenge.
That’s a long way and one she never thought possible when she took off on the first runs three years ago, where she could feel the effects every second. With the support of her husband John and her entire family, she’s continuing down a path she once felt impossible.
“That first minute of running can feel like the longest minute of your life,” she jokes about now. “Running back then was for losing weight but now, it is for health, sanity and good overall wellness.”
Kevin Barrett’s column appears every other Saturday. If you have a suggestion for a feature story, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit barrettkevin.wordpress.com.