Preparing for the longest race of my life

Four years ago at this time, the world was in the throes of the Covid pandemic and people were living in the most uncertain, eerie and chaotic times of the modern era.

Barely anything was open. Some people were essential workers while most people worked from home.

Millions of people went stir-crazy.

As for me, I was just starting to get myself onto local roads, tracks and trails, trotting slowly for a few minutes here and a few minutes there, as I began one of the the most empowering journeys of my life – my running journey.

Only a few months earlier, I was exiting the worst depressive episode of my life.

I couldn’t walk two blocks from my house without panicking so deeply, my knees shaking, heart pounding, almost fainting from fear of being away from my home, my “safe place.”

That was in January 2020.

By August of 2020, I was running 10 km at once without stopping. On a trail. Alone. No anxiety.

By November of 2020, I ran a half-marathon – 21 km. I felt on top of the world.

I became addicted to running and continued to run throughout the freezing cold winter, during those dark months of the pandemic when everyone was stuck inside, feeling hopeless and wondering what was happening to our crazy world.

I was, for the first time in my life, at peace, and having the time of my life, zigzagging all over the city in the dark, in the daylight, through the winter, through the summer, all through 2021.

By March 2022, I ran my first 30 km Around the Bay Road Race. 

I spent the summer and fall of that year training for the first marathon of my life. I completed the Hamilton Road to Hope Marathon in November 2022 in just under five hours. 42.2 km.

It was the salve I needed after a very difficult year in my personal life that reminded me just how powerful I was and that as long as I could run, there was nothing this world could throw at me to try and ruin me.

I spent all last year running more, running harder, running faster, and I completed the second marathon of my life in November 2023 with a 15-minute personal best over my previous year’s time.

The hunger remained, though. I wanted to go further.

And now I am. I signed up for the first ultramarathon of my life set to take place this May 25 at Dundas Valley Conservation Area. 

I will be running 50 km over hundreds of meters of elevation, up and down, through the spectacular and breathtaking Carolinian forest spread out over Dundas Valley Conservation Area.

The Sulphur Springs Trail Race is the oldest ultramarathon in Canada.

An ultramarathon is any distance longer than the standard 42.2 marathon distance.

On May 25 and May 26, runners of all ages will be pushing their bodies to their limits at Dundas Valley Conservation Area, all the way up to the 100-mile ultramarathon (160 km) – a distance, I believe, only reserved for some of the most incredible human beings on the planet.

This past year has been filled with heartbreaking and lonely training days.

Sometimes, I feel complete and utter euphoria moving through nature and other days, I wonder why I ever signed up and paid to put myself through this self-inflicted torture.

I can only say there is a deep, aching hunger inside long-distance runners. Running empowers us to come back to life in ways we never thought we were capable of. Scientific studies have shown most long-distance runners have faced some sort of trauma and running is one of the best ways to soothe and/or overcome that trauma.

I’m out there, alone, with nothing to distract me from every painful thought and memory spanning 44 years that takes up space in my heart and mind. Those thoughts and memories will always be a part of me but a tiny piece of the pain detaches with each footstep I take, with each run I do, surrounded by the healing beauty of Mother Nature, and I feel free.

For the few hours I’m running, I’m free. In pain, but free from it. It’s a paradox.

This ultramarathon is another step in that healing journey. Panic, depression, the echoing insults of adults who should have known better telling me how useless I was, the cravings for alcohol, gambling, cigarettes, and an unhealthy desire to be accepted and loved – all of that disappears when I run. It fades.

These past two months, I entered an extreme zone of focus as I prepare for this ultramarathon. 

I have focused on nothing but running since April 1. I’ve shunned social events, gone to bed early every night, I’ve shunned alcohol, I’ve fervently watched every morsel of food going into my body to ensure it’s fueling me properly – I’ve sacrificed a lot in my absolutely hellbent determination to finish this race.

There’s something about knowing you finished something you felt would kill you. About pushing yourself each step further. About not quitting, when you think you can’t make it further and your legs are buckling under you, and having that absolute stubborn determination to cross the finish line or crawl over it or die trying.

You did it. You made it. It hurt like absolute hell but you absolutely, unbelievably did it.

And as life goes on, and more pain comes, as it inevitably does for all of us, there’s a stronger version of you able to face those challenges head on.

You’re no longer a cowering, shrinking violet stuck in the tiny box your abusers placed you in many, many years ago – you are now a powerful, incredible, amazing, awe-inspiring version of yourself you never thought possible.

And it’s the best feeling in the world. If you want to run, Six Nations, send us an email and let’s get running on the track this summer – after I finish my race, hopefully in one piece.

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