There’s a poem a friend sent me when I was going through a difficult time. it's called "Welcome to Holland." It’s by a woman who’d given birth to a child with developmental issues. She writes about the experience like envisioning a trip to Italy - when you’re in labour you’re boarding a plane, then you’re landing, and as you’re delivering - the pilot suddenly announces, ‘Welcome to Holland’.
So after imagining this perfect trip to Italy, you land somewhere else.
But If you spend your whole time in Holland thinking about how the pasta would have tasted, or how the wine would have tasted, you’ll miss it. You’ll miss all the beauty, and the chocolate, and the wooden shoes and the tulips.
It’s super cheesy, but it’s the truth - as hard or as shitty as life may seem sometimes, there’s daily gratitude in everything. Running is part of that for me. Every step I take - I have a body that can run and the freedom in my life to do it.
I’ve been running since I was quite young. It was something I always loved, I don’t know why - growing up in a small place, there weren’t a lot of runners my age.
My first race ever, I was in junior high, I remember wearing a Bart Simpson tee-shirt. I can still feel the exhilaration of it - running in the fall across country, with crunching leaves, the smell of the woods. Every time I experience those sights and smells and sounds again I get that little gurgle in my stomach, the kind like right before a race - I still feel that first race excitement.
Running has always been mentally grounding for me, something I connect with on a spiritual and mental level. I’ve always felt drawn to it. Even my mom who doesn’t really ‘get’ running will say - if I’m going through something, ‘go put on your shoes, you know what you need to do.’
I decided to start training for triathlons in 2013. I did a lot of running in university and I just felt like I wanted to do more - I think I had exhausted my run goals and I wanted to challenge myself. I didn’t want to ever feel limited by what my body can do, and that’s always been my drive to exercise. You go to the gym and there’s so much body image-oriented thinking, which I’ve never bought into. I want to feel strong. Whatever I want my body to do - if I want to climb Everest next year - I want to feel like I’m able to train and do it.
That first triathlon, I was smiling the whole time. My cheeks were hurting. I was just like ‘OH MY GOD, this is so fun.’ The bike - you’re just going so fast. And I loved the feeling of running after the bike too, your legs are so weird and jello-y. My first year I did all Olympic distance races. The second, I did my first half iron man. Then I got pregnant. I still trained. When I couldn’t reach the biathlon bars, I went to spin class. Eventually my stomach got too big to reach those bars. Wearing my swimsuit got more and more scandalous as it stretched. But I was on my spin bike until 37 weeks.
I was planning to save my full Ironman for my midlife crisis, but I think that already happened. For about a year and a half or more I was treading water because I had to. It was pure survival. I was at a point where I had to figure life out again.
I’m a single mom, and after I moved my son and I from out west, I was working full time. It was stressful. We got through the move and landed on our feet, and I decided I needed to get back to triathloning. We didn’t have a lot of money to tie things together, but I found a little treadmill on Kijiji and set up my trainer in the basement. I wanted to do another half Ironman. I’d get up at 3 or 5am in the morning, or I’d be exercising until midnight or 1am after I got him to sleep - I was burning the candle at both ends. Two nights a week I got a babysitter and I’d go swim for an hour. I was only taking two hours a week for myself, but I felt TERRIBLY guilty about it - and that parental guilt is so awful. I had a lot of guilt. People said to me, ‘why don’t you do a smaller distance, do a sprint distance, you’re a mom…’ I think from their perspective it was about trying to help me find balance, but it was important for me to show my son it’s valuable. Taking time out is really important - the same with me working. I feel so strongly he needs to know that balance, and the importance of personal wellness and self-love, because it’s made me a better parent I think.
I still get up in the mornings to do my workouts before he wakes up. I’ve thankfully never had to spend too much time away from him to train - even when I go for 100K rides, I’ll get up at 3am to get it in, so I don’t have to spend too much time away. I don’t think being a parent has changed why I run, but it’s definitely made me more purposeful.
My one year runner-versary with the North End Runners is coming up. Even though I still feel new to the crew, there’s a family orientation that feels really embracing and supportive, in particular being a single mom who did all my exercise in the basement by myself. I’m so happy to be running outside with other people. I think the most important parts for me (and my run story and my parenting story) is just that - the gratitude. And of course equity, the camaraderie of women, and female runners supporting each other.
My son admires strong women, his favourite superhero is Wonder Woman. He thinks I’m her sometimes.
One of his favourite books to read before he goes to bed every night is about Bobbi Gibb, the first woman to run Boston. When they get to the part where she runs by Wellesley College he’s the first one who hops up with, ‘go girl go! you’re my hero!’ It’s amazing.
But it can still seem really, really overwhelming sometimes - and we’re not superheroes.
Don’t put too many expectations on yourself to be everything because you can’t. You’re going to suck at some things, and be good at others. Some days will be better than others. Ultimately, our kids have to see us feeling fulfilled. It’s important for them to see you being you, for them to learn that’s not something you can compromise - you can’t compromise who you are and what makes you happy, and I think that’s a valuable lesson. Drop the guilt. Allow yourself the guilt-free moments that give you joy. We all have these unfillable voids in us we need to fill with the good stuff - to be fulfilled, to be better parents.
It’s been a struggle, but everyday I find something to be grateful for and start there. When I can get up in the morning and actually run outside, I’m just so grateful, it’s never lost on me. The hardest part of running is getting your laces tied and getting out the door. Once you’re doing it - that’s it. Drop your judgement of yourself - I’m too slow, I’m too fast, I’m too whatever - get all that inner dialogue out of your head and remember why you want to do it. You’re doing it for yourself, for joy, to get all that negative chatter out of your mind.
Take a deep breath, put your shoes on and ‘welcome yourself to Holland’.
Leah is a Mom (and superwoman), and a sponsored triathlete on the Tri It Multisport team.
"When I was younger I was diagnosed with asthma. It wasn’t a big surprise. I’d be out of breath and wheezing with any physical activity. Sports really reduced my symptoms. Doctors advised me not to trigger it – but I can confidently say running cured me. By the time I was 16, I had no asthma whatsoever, no sign of it – and I know it was because of running.
I tried a lot of different sports, but they were all related to running, so I stuck with the running part. I started really young. I remember my Dad (he’s a runner) going for his runs. I watched him run his first race in Quebec. I was only 4, but I remember the medal. It piqued my interest.
Running is my favourite drug now. I love the endorphin boost. I definitely get the runner’s high – the good feeling is the reason it stuck. I try to run as much as I can even if I’m busy. Sometimes I have to force myself a little bit, especially in winter, but then I feel good after – sometimes those times when you have to force yourself are the best runs you have.
This summer I did the Rainbow race with my Mom. It was my first race with her. It was a beautiful moment. She spent pride week with me, just accepting everything about it. We ran together, people were cheering at us the whole way. The fact that my Mom was there – I didn’t want it to be over, I was even more proud. My Mom had a blast, there’s a picture of us, you can see her smiling ear to ear. It’s one of the highlights of my whole running life.
I consider myself an LGBTQ+ activist, and I'm involved in the community. I consider myself lucky after watching my friends around me – it can be a totally different story – not just from their communities but even from their parents. Not everyone is totally accepting.
I’m very active with Halifax Pride, so the fact that the Rainbow race was organized by NER meant a lot. Two different groups came together for one purpose – running during pride – it really showed me how everyone in the crew is so diverse and open.
There are so many beautiful souls to meet at NER. It’s really a community where you can make connections. The people I’ve met – it’s crazy, I was not expecting it. People have become friends I see outside of running. The crew is for everyone. Everyone should try it once.
We’re so different and diverse, but we run together, that’s what unites us."
Follow Daryl's passion for running and his wanderlust for life @durrellross
"If I didn’t have the goal race, I don’t know that I would’ve even started running.
I didn’t really play sports growing up, but both my parents ran my whole life. I’d watch them race when I was little. As soon as I was old enough, I started volunteering. I’d see all these runners crossing finish lines, smiling, feeling great – I had serious FOMO. Finally I said, ‘I want to do that’.
My friend’s boyfriend had coincidently opened up a running store in St. John’s and he was hosting a race-training clinic. I decided to try out the clinic to support local business and learn how to run – and to run the Tely 10.
I’ve watched my parents run, but if it weren’t for the Tely 10, I might have never gotten hooked. The Tely is such a big deal at home. Thousands of people come from away to run it. It’s a St. John’s running tradition that’s evolved so much over the years. I was looking back at photos of my parents running the Tely, and of my Dad’s first Tely when I was 6-years-old, and there weren’t many crowds. Now they block off all the streets and there are supporters on the sidelines cheering the whole way. It’s amazing. The directors put so much hard work into it.
So racing got me into running. I remember when I tried running for the first time. I left the house, ran as fast as I could, and felt like I was going to pass out after five minutes. I was like ‘how do people do this?’ But when I started the training clinic, it felt right. Most of us were completely new to running. They started us off slow on shorter distances, and I realized, ‘hey, I can do this, this is achievable’. Without building gradually, I think would have gotten discouraged.
I got such a high from finishing my first Tely. I started running in May, ran the Tely in July, and I kept going. I started running with Athletics North East (my Dad’s running club!) after that.
Then I found out I got into Law School in Halifax.
I can take things too seriously in law school sometimes, but I always feel better after a run. Running has turned into something I do for my mental health - it keeps me sane. This program can be tough. I tend to get really focused and take it very seriously, so running is a great stress reliever (and the endorphins are amazing). I chose to be a lawyer, I know it’s likely going to be high stress career, but getting out for runs gets me through it. Running and law take dedication and a certain element of insanity (because why would anyone do either!), so I’m don’t know if it’s a coincidence that I’ve noticed a lot of lawyers run. I’m not 100% sure what kind of lawyer I want to be - but I’ll probably going for runs the night before I go into the courtroom to calm my nerves.
Running with the crew is such good motivation too - we’re all the same, we get home at the end of a long busy day and we’re tired. At those moments it’d be so easy for me to sit on the couch and not go out for a run, but I know other people are showing up who’ve had busy, stressful days and weeks. If they can make it, I can make it. Everyone’s so encouraging. Last time we ran to the top of citadel, everyone waited at the top to cheer each other on.
Dad thinks me running is wonderful, both my parents do. Running means a lot to them, so it meant a lot to me to finish the Tely for the first time knowing my parents were proud and they could relate.
Taking that first Tely finishing photo with my Dad is probably my favourite running memory so far. He’s actually so supportive, he gives me good advice about training and races, and about staying healthy; it’s pretty nice that I can share that with him.
Sometimes I head out for a training run and he’ll joke that I should skip it so I don’t get faster than him. I’m going to catch up to him someday."
From the Tely 10 to her first half marathon THIS WEEKEND at Maritime Race Weekend. Jules celebrates the start her last year of Law at Halifax's Dalhousie University with 21.1K. Cheer her on @juliette_ryan
"I got into running to recover. I was burnt out after starting up the Food Wolf and running it full time for three years. It was starting to wear on me. Even though running is the last thing you feel like doing when you’re fatigued and overwhelmed and overstressed and overworked - I got some gentle encouragement that running might be helpful to emerge from that.
I ran before, for about three years just for fun on and off, until something switched. It was only when I was least taking care of myself that running took care of me.
The woods were the switch. I realized that running can be a lot more fun when you do it on trail. Trail showed me that running could be a restorative activity, while pounding pavement sporadically was hard and didn’t always leave me with a good feeling. When I got into the woods, I realized it was a skill I could build over time and it got me hooked in.
I didn’t know there would be such a sense of belonging with a crew until I went into the woods - these people just as wild and crazy as I am who want to go for long runs in the middle of the wilderness. They don’t know you, but there’s a tacit unspoken trust from strangers - whatever happens in the woods, they’ll take care of you.
I really like that sense of belonging. It grew on me, it grew me on trail, then one day I realized the trail crew was the same crew running road, so I might as well just run road.
Now I take two days off and I’m like ‘I don’t know if I can do this!’ You know that feeling? If you take a couple of days off you feel like maybe you’ve never run a step in your life. But it takes a special kind of road discipline to maintain trail.
Trail is really sensory. You could say that a lot of my work in food and my career in public relations is about creating a sensory experience, whether it’s through words or through taste – I live to share those experiences. You have to be present on trail. You have to show up, pay attention a little bit more. You can’t really space out. It’s a lot of positive ions, so it charges you up, it works your entire body in a different way than running road. I find in the woods you always finish strong because you’re outside, regardless of the conditions, there’s something so free about it. You can completely disconnect from everything else when you run trail. Somebody else has an emergency phone, somebody else has a first aid kit. You can leave everything behind and check out, and I need that decompression to show up and perform in other areas. Running trail feeds the other parts of my life.
I’m registered for the Fundy Circuit 50K Ultra and I’m really fucking excited for it. Running trail is like the alternative side of running - it’s becoming more and more popular but it’s still sort of alt – we do things and see things a little differently than road runners. I’m building my whole training plan around the concept of rest and active resting. I’m training for the 50 by sleeping and running more trail. Basically my motto for the next three months is ‘sleep more, run trail’.
So that’s my goal, and then I registered for the East Coast Ultra in Newfoundland a month later, because if I’m going to run Fundy I might as well run Newfoundland - wtf, I’ve never been, why not? It’s a barely manageable stretch goal. To go from having only just started trail running in July 2016 to running an ultra in September 2017 – that’s big. But I’ve learned a lot about how to rest through running. When you get home from the woods you have to actively chill. I’ve always been good at chilling, but I’m better now.
For anyone interested in trail running, I would say approach it with a lot of playfulness and lightheartedness. Enjoy it. Forget that you’re running, you’re not really running, you’re just going through the woods. It’s not about the athletics here, it’s about you being at ease with yourself, finding your flow and being ok alone in the forest.
You’re won’t be going as fast as you think, but you’ll be going faster than you ever thought you could."
Check Nat's headstanding and trail running adventures on insta @nataliechavarie