This story ran in the Daily Gleaner in August.
Near Jennifer Spinney‘s house on the Carlisle Road there is a hill. It’s not any hill but the kind of incline that can get inside your head.
Whether it is biking or running, the climb can be daunting, a challenge that requires a mini celebration every time it is conquered.
Some call it a beast.
Others, like Jennifer, use it as a fitness gauge, an assessment of where she is in her specific training plan.
“Most runs and bike rides end with that big climb,” says Jennifer, already in the heat of training for the 35th Annual Breathing Space Yoga Fall Classic half marathon next month.
“Sometimes I dread it from the minute I leave the house. But it’s such a great way to force you to do hills, finish strong and always a measure of how fit or unfit I am on that particular run.”
Spinney grew up in Keswick, one of four children to active parents, who were always outside on bikes, swimming at the lake or riding the family’s horses.
Now, a single mother of two boys and two girls, Spinney remains active, leading by example in a life that includes a priority on physical activity.
Her affection for running started innocently enough, like it does for many, with races in elementary school as part of regional competitions in track and field.
“It was probably Grade 3 or Grade 4 and I liked the long distances right away,” she said. “This continued into high school at Fredericton High School, where I ran cross-country and onto the University of New Brunswick as well.”
Her interest never waned and now she has a host of accomplishments dotting her sporting resume, including completing a triathlon in Mont Tremblant and a 50-kilometre race in Saint John. Next spring, she has her sights set on a 50-mile endurance race called Rock the Ridge at Mohonk Preserve in Gardiner, N.Y.
“Running was an outlet for me and continues to be,” she says of her initial and current motivations. “It’s the simplest form of exercise, as you really only need your sneakers and ambition.
“Once I got that feeling that comes from a great run, I was hooked.”
She is not in the sport to compete against others, just herself and an assortment of other foes – “Against my day, against my pain or against the clock – however I am feeling, running will make it better.” She has raced marathons and half marathons and one of her recent goals was to complete a triathlon, which she did in 2013. She posted a time of 11 hours and 30 minutes for the grueling event in Mont Tremblant, a challenge that consists of a 4.0-km swim, a 180-km cycling leg and a full 42.2-km marathon.
“My most memorable run would be the finish of that,” she said. “I was worried about the run the entire day. But edging into that finish line was an amazing feeling of accomplishment.”
After that feat, she turned her attention almost exclusively to running, where she took advantage of the trail system near her home and incorporated that into her workouts, thanks to her partners – a Chihuahua named Torpedo and a Golden Doodle she calls Henry.
In 2016, she completed her first trail race – the Saint John-based 50-kilometre Rompin Rockwood run in 5:58.50 to win the women’s division and finish second overall. That provided encouragement to tackle longer courses, such as the event in New York next May.
“I think running is amazing and if you can learn to get past the painful start of getting comfortable with it, you have endless roads and trails to try,” she said. “I have had four kids and was on bed rest for a few of them. I have started from being very out of shape… and it always comes back.”
The Fall Classic is slated for Sept. 24 in Fredericton.
Kevin Barrett’scolumn appears every other Saturday. If you have a suggestion for a feature story, email him at email@example.com or visit barrettkevin.wordpress.com.