by Christine Dirks
In my early forties I worked from home and would go for a walk mid-day to clear my head. If I was puzzling over something by the time I was home I had an answer. Three years later the half hour walk was more than an hour. I’d been active before but a routine was something new and I loved it. One day, while walking, I thought, “Run for a few blocks and see how it feels.” It felt good.
The running increased. Within a year I was running the route six days a week. Sometimes my son, then in late grade school, would ride his bike alongside. Often I’d pick a spot a few blocks away and run as fast as I could telling myself, “Go. Go. Go.” One summer when my sister was visiting she asked how far my route was. I didn’t know. “I’m going to measure it” she said. I wrote down the route which she then drove. She returned smiling, “It’s 10k.”
In 1998 I returned to university to earn my Masters in Journalism and I kept running. In many ways running kept things together. It was the busiest year of my life. I was working part time and my son was in grade nine with lots of homework requiring many trips to the library. We shared the one computer. Running relieved stress, gave me time to think about assignments and tell myself, as often as I needed to hear it, “You can do it”. When I was wondering about applying to the Masters program, I told my sister I was concerned about how tough the year would be. “Yes” she said. “But in a year it’ll be over and you’ll have your degree.” She was right and in that year I learned I could manage a lot more than I’d thought possible.
I never considered doing a race until I watched the 2000 New York City Marathon on tv and saw the lead women in those final few miles racing hard to the finish line. Their effort was palpable. In the summer of 2001 I registered for the fall marathon in Niagara Falls and joined a running group. One morning while waiting for the group to gather I noticed a poster in the store window. It was the age group qualifying times for the Boston Marathon. Now I had a goal. I was determined to meet the qualifying time for my age group and run Boston the following spring.
The training runs with the group were fun and the longer the runs the more I liked it. Half way through the summer I stopped taking walk breaks telling myself, “You’re not going to walk in the marathon so don’t walk in the training runs”. I had planned on not doing a race before the marathon. Then a running friend said it would be good to do one as I’d know how to handle nerves and pacing. It was good advice. I ran a half marathon and a month later as I approached the finish line at the Niagara Falls marathon and saw the time on the big clock I yelled “YES!!”. I’d qualified for Boston.
I’m 67. I’ve run 181 races. I look forward to more runs, races, fun times with the running group and new challenges. This September I ran a 50 mile event. Had someone told me when I was young and tearing about that sometime I would run 50 miles I would likely have laughed and said, “I don’t think so.” But as with many things in life, you never know until you try.
Christine Dirks is a writer and editor in London ON. Early in her career she worked in the Toronto book publishing industry where she specialized in international marketing. Later she wrote two weekly columns and features for The London Free Press. Her work has appeared in The Globe and Mail, Canadian House & Home, Canadian Gardening, Azure and other publications. Christine currently provides research, writing and editing services for individuals and organizations.