Growing up with a bumpy past, I've done my best to erase most of my childhood (or rather, lack thereof). But the joyous memory of fifth-grade track and field—the 100-metre dash, the 4x4 relay and the 400-metre lap—has stayed with me. I recall the feeling of pure unadulterated bliss, the sense of freedom and accomplishment as others cheered me on. And it felt good. It made me feel like what I thought a kid should feel like, albeit for a very brief period.
Fast forward to real adult life when a curveball hit me smack in the face (as life has the tendency to do). I found myself separated with a vivacious toddler. Sad and angry, bewildered at how I got to this unwelcome and foreign place, I clamoured to that moment in time when all was right with my world. A time when I was empowered to be happy and free.
I decided I would start running.
I decided I would be a runner.
I had heard that runners share this sacred creed: a friendly nod, a slight smile, a reassuring "good on you!" gesture as they passed strangers out on their jaunt. Whatever the goal each random runner was striving for was inconsequential yet connected, forming a bond among those with the determination to push forward, one foot at a time.
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My initial motivation was purely survival. I needed a distraction. I needed to keep myself busy and take my mind off my woes. However, it quickly became a safe haven, my time to get lost in my own thoughts and block out the rest of the world, if only for an hour. Gradually, this distraction morphed into a passion. I started to feel invigorated and inspired. I wanted to push myself to do more. I didn't want this feeling to end. That's when I realized I needed support to keep me on track.
By joining a local (and free!) running group (Tribe Fitness) the commitment to myself somehow became more tangible. I had others waiting for me at the weekly meeting spot. I had new role models to follow and aspire to. But what I didn't realize is that I also gained a strong sense of community—a feeling of belonging no matter my skill level or expertise. This running group is my sacred creed.
My personal life has drastically changed, though I still have the strong support of family—a different one than I had imagined, admittedly, but with the same unconditional love to give me the strength to move on. This newfound (or perhaps newly reignited?) spirit is also something I plan to share with my daughter. She may be only four (and proving to be a very happy and resilient little/big girl), but her changing family is a concern for me, especially given my own childhood. I want her to have a strong female role model in her mom and the belief instilled in her that she can do and be whatever she chooses. Maybe one day she will choose to run with me?
Whoever said running was an individual sport never had the support of a tribe behind them. So now when I run, I not only tip off my hat to others, but I grin from ear-to-ear.
Olga Brilant is Director, Consumer Product at Rogers Digital. When not strapping on her running shoes, you can find her walking Toronto for hours, munching macarons with her bon vivant daughter Elle, or immersed in challenging life pursuits (with the aid of dark chocolate and wine).