Imagine yourself in a town of only a handful of people, 20 kilometres away from the next town and with only one Tim Hortons. This is the town of Springhill, N.S., and it was where I found myself for a four-month long co-op term. There is a stark difference between this middle-of-nowhere town and the bustling Toronto-style life our generation seems so often drawn to and so, upon, arrival, I had one thing on my mind: run.
But I didn’t run out of town. I tried running for sport. Turns out, it’s great. I thought that running would be a great way to keep myself busy and stay fit, so with the whole summer to train, I decided to sign up for my first half marathon on a whim. This was a frightening prospect — not only had I never run 21.1 kilometres in my life, but I set the ambitious goal of running it in under two hours.
With that, the training began, and it was a pain. There were early mornings runs, chilly days in May and lots and lots of hills. My legs were constantly sore, I was easily out of breath and I was ready to give up. I wanted to stop running and just wing the half marathon in September.
Then one day, everything clicked. I realized I could run a kilometre in under five minutes and that I could reach distances that I never thought possible. I set a new personal record for my five kilometre runs, I had my first 15-kilometre-long run and almost had to outrun a bear. I was pushing my limits and developing the discipline to go farther every day. After a while, other people started to notice. The grandmas of the town would offer to make me food for after my runs and in a way, I became their collective grandchild.
The half marathon
Finally, on a cool, clear morning in September, it was race day. I had prepared all summer so when the starting gun rang out, I just put on my headphones and enjoyed the run.
Then I got to the last five kilometres and my body shut down.
My palms were sweaty, knees weak, arms were heavy … and I was sure I wasn’t going to make it. In these five kilometres, I swear I saw my life flash before my eyes. I saw my successes, my failures, my family, my time at Springhill and everything I wanted to achieve in my future. I realized that this was more than just an inconsequential race: it represented overcoming obstacles to achieve the goals I set for myself.
After what felt like eternity, I reached the finish line with my legs surprisingly intact and looked up at the race timer to see my time: One hour and 56 minutes. I had done it. I went from barely running two kilometres per day to 21.1 kilometres in less than two hours. And that feeling at the finish line made every painful mile I had run in training worth it.
At the end of the day, life is like a race. No doubt you will have difficult moments where the struggle seems insurmountable, but having the discipline to push through can allow you to achieve whatever you set your mind to.