When the global pandemic hit in mid 2020, I had just gotten into running. Up until that point, my life was going well—I had a relationship, things were going well at school, and I was working on changing myself for the better. I was running for the first time in my life and within a few weeks, I ran my first 5k and felt amazing.
Until everything changed.
I lost my job due to the pandemic, and financial stress slowly crippled me. A few weeks after, my relationship imploded in every sense of the term; it was probably one of the worst breakups I’ve lived through, and my parents were seriously questioning divorce (what a time for relationships, huh?). The last thing on my mind at that point was running or staying in shape.
The first 6 months were hard. I was depressed and didn’t have a job. I was living off emergency government unemployment and didn’t really know where I was headed. Those 6-months were used semi-productively and I created this website, but I was still floundering to find direction and what I would do next.
Eventually, I got my head semi-screwed on and things started looking up. I got a new full-time job, stable income, and I started dating again (compulsively). Like most people, I worked from home and because of health protocols at the time, there was nothing to do, no where to go. When you’re facing a health crisis in the dead of winter and there is nothing to do but stay home, motivation for any kind of physical training is just non existent. Finding the power within yourself to sweat and pain for even 20 minutes a day seems impossible.
I worked at a desk all day and most of the night; the rest of my time was split between the couch and an occasional date night. Since I was doing both school and work full-time, I spent a ridiculous amount of time just sitting in front of a screen and I was mentally drained. I got unhealthy very quickly and my stress levels skyrocketed because of it. My sex drive was at an all time low, and I started to feel very unwell. The stress of school and work was mounting and crushing me. It convinced me that I didn’t have time to train or do anything physical.
Really, I was just being a pussy.
When the sun started to shine in spring, I felt like running again. So, I went for my first run in over a year after my first successful 5k. Within a kilometer, I was out of breath, tired, and hating myself. I didn’t run again for a week or two after that—I figured that running wasn’t for me. My mind convinced me that I couldn’t do it and that I actually hated it. Truthfully, I probably did hate running at that point, but only because I couldn’t do it properly. What I really hated was myself. Every time I failed on a run, I was reminded of the fact that I was unhealthy and fat. It became harder and harder to find the motivation to better myself.
I think in part because I was bored, and running was just something to do, I tried again after those first weeks. Summer had unofficially started, and the sun felt nice on my skin after a day indoors, so I just went for a run everyday after work. I had no goal in mind, I just put on running shoes and headed out the door at 4PM almost religiously.
It didn’t go any better.
I struggled to run for more than 10 minutes and gave up really quickly on my runs. I remember setting a 3K goal for each of my runs, and for 3 consecutive weeks, I never hit that goal. But I kept running. I ran a few times a month, sometimes a few times a week. Most “runs” ended with me walking myself back home.
About a month later, a buddy of mine, Phil, suggested we do a small 5K race. It was some obstacle course race that we could do to motivate ourselves. I needed the motivation, so I was in. Sadly, the pandemic had shutdown most sporting activities and many of the races we wanted to do were cancelled—back to step 0, no motivation.
A few weeks passed, and I hadn’t stepped up my running game. I didn’t have a goal, so I didn’t take it seriously. I was still gaining weight without making any progress on the streets. We were now closing in on 2 months into unofficial summer and I couldn’t break the 3K.
Flashforward to 2 weeks later, and I finished my first ever 10K run.
What happened? How did I go from being out-of-shape and breathless to finishing a 10K run in just two weeks?
I desperately wanted a source of motivation, and I found a marathon race online that will be held in Tremblant on August 8th, 2021; I told Phil to join.
They offered 3 divisions: 5K, 10K, and half marathon. Given our level of fitness at the time, we thought the half marathon would be suicide, so we opted for the 10K. But we were hell bent on finishing at least that. The races were all 2 months away, and we had virtually no training so even the thought of a 10K seemed rough.
I was seconds away from registering for the 10K, when Pete, a colleague from long ago, sent me his registration card; he was doing the Tremblant half marathon. Pete wasn’t in much better shape than I was, so if he was doing it, so would I! In minutes, he convinced Phil and me to sign up to the half marathon; yelling barbaric cries that we would make it, even if we needed to walk it! It was on!
In the next few days, I crafted a training plan and decided I would need to start eating properly. I had 2 months to train, and everything about my life did not spell “healthy”. I was not ready for a serious workout plan. I thought it would be impossible, but I was determined to give it a go.
My mind exploded with motivation. We were now 4 guys (another buddy joined in) without any real training, who signed up for a half marathon (21.5 KM) on 2 months notice. This may not sound like a big deal to athletes or very active people, but to me it was.
For the last few weeks I stuck to my training plan and I ran my first 10KM ever after only 2 weeks of real training (I even got to strikethrough a goal from my impossible list). The following week, I pushed up to 13KM (as per the plan). I am running 4 days a week and doing 2 days of cross training, with 1 day of rest. I am running somewhere around 30-40 KM a week–much more than I ever have before, and I love it!
Most of what we do is based on mindset. Without the proper mindset or motivation, I failed to push myself past the pain on those earlier runs. My body still hurts on most of my runs. My ankles get swollen and my tendons are enflamed, but I keep pushing. I finish each and everyone of my distance goals and make good time. Every week I am getting better.
I found a passion for running and can’t wait to hit the pavement now—endorphins are a real thing! Keeping a consistent training plan and eating schedule has really helped alleviate any depressive symptoms as well. I feel better, stronger, and happier than I have in a long time. I am still not ready for the half marathon, but I feel a hell of a lot more confident about getting there.
If there is something you are failing to push for in your own lives, find a goal, a small endpoint, and use that to fuel you to take the steps you need to achieve your goal. Most importantly, be consistent in your small steps! My end goal is not the half marathon, I want to continue to much bigger lengths and harder races, but the thought of completing that first challenge got me off the couch and moving. Start small, but aim big!
Keep it real.