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Ways To Get Off Your Ass And Go Running When You Don’t Want To

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A couple of days ago, I woke up not wanting to run. I had this whole list of things that I would rather do than go out and run, like setting my face on fire, declawing angry cats, and listening to country music.

We all have days like that. I’m sure that even the most dedicated athletes sometimes look at their training schedules and go, “Ugh. I really don’t feel like it.” I have had enough of those days to have developed a Ways To Get Off Your Ass And Go Running list.

1. Have your running gear laid out in a visible place before bedtime the previous night. There is nothing quite like the guilt induced by a pair of neglected running shoes staring balefully at you each time you walk by.

2. Think of how great you will feel when your run is complete. At the same time, think of how much you will regret it if the day passes by without you going for your run.

3. Think of the reasons you run. Are you doing it for health? Enjoyment? A cause? To win races? You are not going to serve your purpose by letting lack of motivation win.

4. Don’t let yourself make excuses. When I have those days, I’m always tempted to say, “I don’t have time,” or, “I don’t really feel well,” or, “Maybe it’s too hot to go running right now.” Obviously, if you’re coughing up a lung or it’s hot enough to fry an egg on your driveway, you shouldn’t run, but you’ll know if you’re making excuses. If you are, you need to beat down those inner voices and get out there.

5. Think of how missing a run will disrupt your training schedule. Runners live by their training schedules. If you skip out on this today, you will have to run tomorrow. But then you would have to rest the following day, and that would mean missing your scheduled tempo run, or hill training, and… You get the picture. Do you really want to mess up your schedule?

6. Break your run into chunks. Instead of thinking in terms of the whole distance, just tell yourself you’ll go for one or two kilometres and then see how you feel. Chances are that by the time you’re a couple of kilometres in, you’ll wonder why you were reluctant to run.

7. Choose a route with variety. This means different things to different people on different days. Sometimes you may want to combine road and trail, and sometimes you’ll go for a route that offers varied scenery. Variety can simply mean a route that involves a number of left and right turns. Variety keeps things interesting, and it keeps you mentally engaged.

I went out for that run a couple of days ago. Check out today’s vlog to find out how I felt about it.

This is an original post to Running for Autism by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit to the author.

 

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Back From The Murky Depths

jamesandgeorge

Welcome, welcome, welcome to my resurrected blog! I’ve been away for a while, just dealing with life. Several things have been getting in the way of blogging lately, like an insane workload, a car accident (everyone is fine) and the odd little mini-crisis here and there. A few updates:

My autism boy is off to high school in the fall! It was sad to say goodbye to the elementary school that gave him such a great start to his education, but we are excited about this next phase in his life. In other news, he is almost fourteen and he’s bigger than me.

My runner boy is – well, he’s running. He’s going into Grade 7 and he’s just closed out his first track and field season. He loved every minute of it and made some great gains, and he’s ready to step up his training and racing to a whole new level. Oh, and when he runs 5K races with me, he leaves me in his dust!

My own running has suffered of late, mostly because of a serious knee injury that I sustained in the most ridiculous way. What happened was, I was going out through the garage to lock the side gate, and I tripped over the lawnmower. I went crash, boom, bang and smashed both knees on the cement floor. My left knee was a little banged up, but it was fine. Unfortunately, I managed to twist my right knee when I fell.

This whole fiasco put me out of running for a good three weeks, which was too bad because I had only just gotten back into it. My knee still hurts when I turn it at certain angles, but it can take impact again, which means I’m back on the road.

One good thing did come out of my knee injury. While I was unable to run, I didn’t want to lose the progress that I had made prior to my fall. So I decided to get my cardio fix in the pool. It had been far too long since my last swim, and I had forgotten just how much I love swimming. Swimming was, in fact, my first athletic love. I swam competitively as a teenager, more years ago than I care to mention. After hurting my knee, I started spending large amounts of time in the pool, and I enjoyed it so much that swimming has become a permanent fixture in my training schedule. I am even starting to think of multi-sport racing.

One final bit of news: I have started a vlog with my runner boy! Check out our channel at  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCTce260EPfkZ6feFLkr_U5g and subscribe to get our updates!

 

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2016: Running To Mars

running a half-marathon

I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions. If I realize in September or October that something in my life needs to be fixed, I’m not going to wait until January to fix it. Very few of my major life changes have coincided with a new year: I quit smoking in June, I started running in April and I decided to start my own business in August.

That being said, the New Year is a handy time to start new things just from a mathematical point of view. If I want to compare something to prior years – like my weight (which keeps going up) or my bank balance (which keeps going down), January 1st is a good point of reference. Or if I want to try and do something quantitative, like run a thousand miles in a single year, it makes sense to start logging those miles on New Year’s Day.

So while I don’t actually have New Year’s resolutions, there are some things that I am going to start working towards when the clock has struck midnight.

Most of them are centred around my health and fitness. I had such grand plans for my running in 2015, but life kept throwing massive spanners into the works. There were weeks when I barely had time to sleep, let alone run. Circumstances forced me to be a no-show at several races that I had registered for, and I ran my October half-marathon on very little training.

Then I went away to South Africa for a month. I ran a few times and did a great deal of walking, but there were many meals out as I celebrated being with family and friends. When I came back, I flew straight into the Christmas season with its eggnog and turkey dinners and chocolatey treats.

So I am out of shape, and I need to fix that. While I was at my desk trying to decide on next year’s races, two things happened. First, I saw a Facebook post from my friend Frank, who has made great strides in his quest for a healthier lifestyle. He posted that in January he is repeating a thirty-day squat challenge that he did in November, and he wanted to know if anyone was going to join him.

Squats are my least favourite form of exercise. If I were to equate squats with food, they would be like cabbage, the very thought of which is enough to cause a gag reflex in me. But unlike cabbage, squats are not likely to make me physically ill – on the contrary, they will strengthen me and make me a better runner. So I responded to Frank’s post in the affirmative, committing to a month of squats in January.

The second thing that happened was that I received an email about something called the Moon Joggers. This is a group of runners from all over the world, who in 2016 are hoping to collectively log enough miles to get from here to Mars. It sounds like a fun thing to be a part of, so I signed up and set myself a goal of 1,000 miles, or 1,600 km.

I decided to take this one step further. Starting on January 1st, I am going to attempt a running streak. In spite of my husband’s initial reaction, this does not mean that I’m going to run naked. It means I’m going to run for as many days in a row as possible. On my “rest” days, I will run at least one kilometre.

My hope is that through all of this activity, the adjustments I need to make to my overall lifestyle will be easier. I will get more sleep, drink more water and eat more veggies.

I am looking forward to being fitter, healthier, less stressed and more energetic.

 

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Running For Autism: One Step At A Time

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Two days from now, I am running my annual half-marathon for kids with autism. You’d think that after doing ten half-marathons in the last six years, this would be old hat to me. I am familiar with the distance, and since this year is my seventh Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront race, I am familiar with the course. I know exactly where the hills are (not many, thank God, and none of them are exactly mountainous), I know where the halfway point is, and I know which sections of the course are more challenging for me.

The training, the period of Taper Madness and the race itself are supposed to get easier with each passing year, right?

Well…

This year, my family has faced some intense challenges. A series of unfortunate events culminated in my husband having just three weeks’ notice to vacate his business premises. This meant packing up and moving fifteen years’ worth of product, tools and heavy industrial-grade machinery. While this was going on, I landed a big contract for my own fledgling business that I couldn’t turn down. I was helping with the move during the day, working on my contract at night, and grabbing catnaps on the couch from time to time.

This left me no time for running. My half-marathon training called for intense speed work during the month of July. Instead, my training ground to a screeching halt, and I was only really able to get it going again halfway through August. By then, as much as I had tried to keep my work on an even keel, I had fallen so far behind that I was continuing to work late into the night. So although I was running again, I wasn’t running as much as I needed to.

Consequently, I am not as prepared for this race as I should be. I know I can complete the distance, but I do not expect it to be my finest hour. I don’t even have a goal time in mind. All I want to do is cross the finish line, get my finisher’s medal, and come home where I can sit on the couch and eat weird amounts of cheesecake. If I get a decent time – and I’m certainly not ruling that out – that will be a bonus.

My fundraising hasn’t gone as well as I had hoped either, for pretty much the same reasons. Asking people for donations makes me feel more than a little awkward at the best of times, and this year it has been particularly challenging. I haven’t had time or energy, and I have been operating in a fog of exhaustion and stress. I have fallen far short of the fundraising goal that I had set for myself.

But still – I have raised almost $300, and that money is going to make a huge difference to some kids with autism. It will provide art supplies, musical instruments, sports equipment or camp activities. It will give young people with autism opportunities and experience that might otherwise be out of reach for them. And I am more grateful than words can express to the people who have helped me reach that total.

I think, in spite of the circumstances, I have done all right. I feel excited about the upcoming race, and I feel proud to be doing my small part to make a difference to children and youth with autism.

It’s not too late to donate. If you would like to sponsor me, please click here. All funds go to the Geneva Centre for Autism, where they will be used to provide services for children and teens with autism.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit to the author.

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8 Things That Large-Breasted Runners Will Understand

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Women with big breasts have some challenges that other people might not understand. We cannot wear strapless bras without needing to hitch them up every three minutes. We are faced with decisions about whether running for the bus would cause too much inconvenient bouncing. Button-down shirts gape, no matter what size we get. And of course, there’s Underboob Sweat. I’m not talking about little half-moons of perspiration on the bottom of each bra cup. I’m talking about litres of the stuff that you have to wipe off with a towel. Which you then have to wring out over the bathtub.

Large-breasted runners have their own unique set of problems. Like these:

1. Getting into sports bras is a sport in itself. We don’t just put on our sports bras like our more petite counterparts. We wrestle our boobs into submission. We have to shift things around and tuck bits in to make sure we don’t hit the pavement looking like a Picasso painting. And those of us in racer back bras have to turn into contortionists in order to strip down for our post-run shower.

2. We have to buy our sports bras online. Running stores love putting out social media posts saying that runners come in all shapes and sizes, but they don’t cater to runners of all shapes and sizes. It would be easier to find powdered unicorn horn mixed with the sweat of seven dragons than it would be to go to a store and find a decent sports bra with cups that are DD or bigger. We are left with two options: shell out a fortune at a specialist bra shop that charges specialist bra shop prices (and everyone knows that runners need at least three sports bras), or buy online and just hope the thing will fit.

3. Heart rate monitors are a challenge. Heart rate monitors usually come in the form of sensors on a strap that goes around the chest. For the most accurate reading, the strap should be secured right below the breast area directly against the skin. And let’s face it, there’s not enough room there for my plus-sized knockers, my giant-by-necessity sports bra, my litres of Underboob Sweat and a heart rate monitor strap.

4. There’s nowhere to attach race bibs. A race bib should be the easiest things in the world to attach, right? I mean, it’s just a rectangle of paper that you stick onto your shirt with safety pins. The trouble is, nothing screams “Stare at me!” louder than giant numbers attached to giant boobs. Apart from that, the bib kind of puckers and crumples when it’s attached to something resembling two misshapen melons (or if your sports bra has given you a uniboob, something resembling a giant misshapen pool noodle). We have to find creative ways to attach our bibs. I pin the top of mine to the bottom hem of my shirt, so that the bottom part of the bib kind of free-floats.

5. Fuel belts make our boobs look even bigger. The fuel belt is a staple for many half-marathoners and marathoners. It carries bottles of water and/or sports drink, gel packs and other items that might be needed during the run. It attaches around the waist, which is problematic for many of us. It cinches my waist in a way that makes my boobs look even bigger, and I end up looking like Betty Boop dressed up in a runner’s costume for Halloween.

6. We know how painful salt in the wound really is. Breasts – even small ones – move a lot during runs. The bigger the boobs, the larger the range of motion. Because it’s so hard to find sports bras that adequately restrict how much our breasts move, we end up chafing. Sometimes I end up with bleeding raw patches right in the Underboob Sweat area. When I take my post-run shower, the salt from the sweat runs into the raw patches, and it hurts. A lot.

7. Being top heavy is a thing. We big-breasted people carry a fair amount of weight on our chests. If you don’t believe me, tie a three-pound sack of potatoes to your chest and go for a 5K run. It affects our posture, changes the way we run – particularly up and down hills, and it gives us our very own set of aches and pains.

8. Race videos are the most unflattering thing ever. You’re running along, having a great race, feeling like a million dollars. You post your best ever finishing time, and you go home proudly wearing your finisher’s medal. A couple of days later, you open the email containing your race photos and your finish line video. You’re excited to see this record of you running gracefully, like a gazelle. You play the video, and – holy crap! Those gazungas are bouncing and swaying like there’s no tomorrow! You settle for ordering one or two of the least bad pictures and you forego the video entirely.

Fortunately, the pull of running is too strong to let any of these things stop me. This weekend, I will be out on the road with Boob One and Boob Two, and I will love every second of it.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit: Justin Taylor. This picture has a creative commons attribution license. 

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Electrotherapy TENS Unit: Effective Pain Relief From Omron

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Electrotherapy TENS vs. old injury

Over twenty years ago, I sustained a serious injury to my left ankle, and it hasn’t been quite right since. My ankle problems have been such a constant factor in my life that I have christened the offending joint “Ankle of Doom”. It is because of Ankle of Doom that I have permanently abandoned my dream of running a full marathon. Half-marathon training is challenging enough: for at least a week after my long runs, Ankle of Doom puts me through so much pain that I want to weep.

When I was offered a review unit of an Electrotherapy TENS device from Omron, I thought I may as well give it a try. Between Ankle of Doom and the acute pain that has developed in my shoulders as a result of long hours working in front of a computer, I knew that I would be able to give this unit a thorough workout.

TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. It cannot cure the underlying cause of pain, but it provides temporary relief by preventing the pain message from reaching the brain. Many people who have used TENS therapy have found it to be effective and easy to use.

Compact and easy to use

When my Electrotherapy TENS unit from Omron arrived, I was pleasantly surprised by its size – or lack thereof. The unit is small enough to fit comfortably into my hand, and it is very lightweight. It comes with a belt clip that can be used to attach it to the waistband of almost any clothing, and it feels almost invisible when it’s being worn in this way. This makes it truly portable – there is no need to stay rooted to one spot during your fifteen minute treatments.

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The unit is very easy to set up and operate. It runs on two standard AAA batteries which are kept firmly in place by the backing which is removed and reattached with the twist of a coin. It comes with a pair of standard pads complete with a holder, a thin cable with the electrodes (about the thickness and length of the ear buds you use with your iPod), the belt clip, easy-to-follow instructions and a nifty little pouch to store it all in.

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There are nine preset modes on the unit. Six allow you to target specific parts of the body (shoulder, lower back, arm, foot, leg, joint), while the other three (tap, knead and rub) are massage modes.

To operate the unit, you simply apply the pads to the part of your body that is hurting, select one of the nine modes, which are clearly labelled on the display, and select the intensity. The intensity can be adjusted at any time during the fifteen minute cycle, and when the time is up, the unit shuts off.

The results

After using the Electrotherapy TENS unit for a couple of weeks, the results are promising. With at least one fifteen-minute treatment per day, the pain in my ankle has been a lot more manageable. I have not had the week-long agony that usually follows long runs. I doubt if I’ll be able to revive my plans to run a full marathon, but I do believe that training for my upcoming half-marathon will be a lot more bearable, and I think that my recovery from the race itself will go a lot more smoothly than usual.

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If anything, the unit is a little too effective. It blocks the pain signal so effectively that it is easy to forget that there is a problem, and you run the risk of not being duly cautious of using the affected part of your body. However, combined with rest and whatever other treatment your doctor might recommend, Electrotherapy TENS can make life with an injury a lot more bearable.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. All photos credited to the author.

Disclaimer: A review unit of the Omron Electrotherapy TENS device was provided to me in exchange for an honest review. This post is a true reflection of my experiences to date with this product. The experiences of others may differ. This review is not intended to replace or supplement the advice given by a registered medical professional.

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Sporting Life 10K: Lessons From A Tough Race

Sporting Life 10K - before the race

Sporting Life 10K Start Line

On Sunday, I ran my first race of 2015. It was the Sporting Life 10K, a massive event that takes over 25,000 runners down Toronto’s iconic Yonge Street. I was just a little bit apprehensive going into the race, because my training has been somewhat sporadic of late. I have been doing my weekly long runs, but the shorter mid-week runs have been on-again/off-again. I have done a little bit of speed training, but no hill training whatsoever. As for strength training – well, that hasn’t even been a gleam in my eye.

Still, I thought this race would be fairly easy. My weekly long runs have had me doing distances longer than 10K, and I figured that since the Sporting Life 10K is basically a downhill run, my lack of hill training wouldn’t matter. The race did in fact start very well, and the first 5K went quite quickly. As soon as I ran over the halfway timing mats, though, the wheels started to fall off, and I ran the second half about three minutes slower than the first. I finished with an official time of 1:07:02, which is nowhere close to my best time. In fact, it’s probably one of my worst.

My spirits were somewhat lifted yesterday morning when I checked my race stats and saw that I still managed to come in just a fraction ahead of the middle of the pack. I was comfortably in the top 50% of women, and in my category – women aged 45-49 – I was in the top third. I’m not under any illusion that I actually did well – I’ve run this same course almost seven minutes faster – but these stats do tell me that race conditions were difficult on Sunday.

For a start, it was a lot hotter than I thought it was going to be. I have a feeling many people were caught off-guard by this. Everyone has been training in mild temperatures: being hit with blazing sun on race day would affect the performance of most runners. Then there was the fact that there were so many people. Even allowing for the fact that runners were released in corrals 15 minutes apart, there were still thousands of runners in each corral. During the early stages of the race, and to extent later on, I was doing a great deal of ducking and weaving to get past people who were slower than me. It took a lot of energy and it made it very difficult for me to find any kind of rhythm.

So maybe I did OK in light of the conditions.

But still… I have come to expect more of myself. I am intending to run a 2:15:00 half-marathon in October, and I will not do it with the half-baked efforts that I have been putting into my training. I am a runner. It’s time for me to start acting like one.

Sunday’s race woke me up to some things that I have to change. Immediately.

1. I have to step up my training. I am not going to become a better runner if I’m not consistent about it. Yes, life is very stressful right now and yes, time is a big issue for me. But for several years now, I have been very low on my own priority list. It’s time for me to devote more time to my health. All it takes is a couple of hours on Sundays and an hour on four other days each week. If I cannot manage to carve out six hours a week for exercise, then I’m just making excuses.

2. I have to resume my oatmeal breakfasts. I need to fix my eating habits in general, but I’m not expecting myself to accomplish that overnight. What I can do overnight, though, is bring back one simple routine that was healthy not only for me, but for the rest of my family.

3. I have to get more sleep. I have reached the point where six hours counts as “a good night’s sleep”, and I am experiencing permanent bone-crushing exhaustion.

4. I have to get a sports bra that fits properly. The chafing that I go through after every run is excruciating. The longer or harder the run, the worse the chafing. On Sunday afternoon, the feeling of clothing against my skin was making me cry.

5. I need to make a proper display of my bib numbers and finisher’s medals. Seeing the distances that I have run and the bling that I have earned will keep me motivated and remind me of what I am capable of.

6. I have to regroup, reset and make a new plan. For the last few weeks, I have been scrambling to train for a half-marathon on May 24th. This is a hard thing to admit, but people, I’m not going to do it. I could do it. I know that I have the physical ability, at my current level of fitness, to complete the distance. But it will be with a lot of pain and anxiety, and I wouldn’t enjoy it. As soon as I feel dread rather than excitement about an upcoming race, it’s time for me to bow out. And so I have transferred my registration to another race in the series, and I am plotting out a new training plan that will take me to a fabulous half-marathon in October.

As I contemplate the races that I have coming up, and the new plans that I am making, I can already feel the excitement building in my gut. I can feel that once again, I am going to run for the love of running.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit to the author.

 

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2:15:00 in 2015

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At the beginning of 2014, I had grand plans for my running. I was going to run my first 30K race with a view to building up from there to a full marathon by 2016. I already had eight half-marathons under my belt, so while I knew it would be a challenge, I felt that it would be achievable. I registered for the Around The Bay 30K which takes place in March, and I drew up an ambitious but doable training plan.

The plan got derailed when the Polar Vortex hit. The temperatures were lower than anything I have ever experienced. Even with all of winter running gear, I wouldn’t have been able to handle running in that cold. The bigger obstacle, of course, was the ice. There were sheets of it on the roads and sidewalk that were inches thick in places. Even the most seasoned of winter runners were staying indoors.

As a result, I was forced onto the treadmill for most of my training. I did do a couple of grueling runs in heavy snow, but for the most part, I was clocking up 18K runs and more at the gym. A month before the 30K race, conditions were still too severe for outdoor winter running, and I decided to pull the plug on my training. I did not think it would be wise to attempt my longest ever distance right at the end of the worst winter in recorded history.

I went with Plan B: I sold my bib for Around The Bay and instead registered for the 30K Midsummer Night’s Run, which happens in August. That way, I would have the summer to train in safer conditions.

Enter the Ankle Of Doom. More than 20 years ago, my left ankle was seriously injured. In spite of a lot of medical intervention over the years, it has never really been right since. It always hurts for about 24 hours after a long run, but as long as it recovers quickly, I can live with that one day of pain each week. Except that this summer, when I was running distances of 22K and more, my ankle wasn’t recovering. It was constantly hurting and I developed a semi-permanent limp. When I set out for my long runs each week, I was still in pain from the previous week.

I knew I was pushing myself too hard, but I kept telling myself that it would improve, that all I needed was time for my body to get used to the longer distances. Even though I knew this wasn’t working, I was continuing on with desperate hope.

I was finally forced to face up to reality one day in July, while I was doing 25K along the lakeshore trail. Ankle Of Doom throbbed the entire time throughout the first half of the run. As I reached my turnaround point, I knew I was in trouble. I took a two-minute walking break and then, feeling a little better, I started running slowly again. About 3K later, I was feeling OK, so I decided to kick up my speed a notch. Five minutes later, I felt an almighty twinge in my ankle, as if someone had pulled back on an elastic and then released it.

There was instant agony. I could still put weight on my ankle, but with every step, I felt as if a hot poker was being skewered through my foot. I forced myself to continue: I was on a trail, nowhere near a road, and I did not have the option of calling my husband to come and pick me up. Only 8K to go, I kept telling myself. You can run 8K in your sleep. This is nothing for you.

8K is excruciatingly long when every step feels like torture. My ankle got more and more wobbly after every step, and I knew that if I wasn’t careful, it wouldn’t be able to carry me all the way home. For about 3K, I alternated fifty steps of walking with fifty steps of running. The counting definitely helped – it gave my mind something to focus on other than the pain, and alternating walking with running enabled me to keep going. Those three kilometres or so went a lot more quickly than I thought they had.

But then I reached a point of meltdown. I sank down onto a rock facing the lake and burst into tears. By this point, I had less than 5K to go, so I knew that I would make it home. It would take a while, but I would get there. But the realization hit me that I would have to forego the 30K. I knew that in all likelihood, I would never get to achieve my dream of running a full marathon.

I went through the rest of the season in a kind of haze. I switched my 30K registration to 15K and had a good race, and I ran my autism fundraising half-marathon, which also happened to be my 10th half-marathon. A doctor told me that if I concentrated on rehab exercises for my ankle for the next year, I might be capable of training for a marathon.

But I’ve decided that enough is enough. After having pushed myself very close to the point of not being able to run at all, I have accepted that a marathon is not a viable goal for me. I am proud of the fact that I can run half-marathons – for someone who, let’s face it, is not naturally athletic, that’s quite an accomplishment.

And so instead of hurting myself trying to chase a goal that could permanently disable me from running, I am going to improve on distances that I have already accomplished. I am going to get my 10K time back to under 1:03:00, and I am going to run a sub 30-minute 5K. Best of all, in 2015, I am going to run a half-marathon in under 2:15:00.

As modest as these goals are, I have my work cut out for me. But instead of making me weaker, working toward these targets will make me stronger.

Am I sad about giving up on the marathon dream? Of course I am.

But I would be sadder if pursuing the dream took away my ability to do anything at all.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit: Ludo Rouchy. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.

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Ice Buckets For Autism

The Reason I Run

The Reason I Run

Yesterday, I spoke about the aspects of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge that bother me. At the same time, I acknowledged that this campaign has been wildly successful in raising funds and awareness for ALS. Although I have been nominated, I have declined to participate – not only because of the reasons stated yesterday, but because there is another cause that is nearer and dearer to my heart. I am not in any way diminishing the ALS cause, I am just saying that with my limited funds and more limited energy, I have to focus my efforts on a cause that directly impacts my family.

Every year, I participate in the Charity Challenge of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront half-marathon to raise funds for autism services, and this year is no different. The money I raise goes to the Geneva Centre for Autism, a wonderful organization that has provided endless support not only to my autism boy, but also to his younger brother, my husband and myself. I can say without reservation that my son’s life – all of our lives – would be very different if it weren’t for the Geneva Centre.

The thing is, though, that fundraising is hard, and it gets more difficult every year. People struggle. They have difficulty paying their bills on time and providing for their families. Life in this day and age is not easy. And the people who do have funds to donate are increasingly selective about where that money goes, and rightfully so. There have been so many stories about donated funds lining the pockets of people who are already rich.

I can give my personal assurance that money donated to the Geneva Centre for Autism does not go towards ridiculously high salaries or swanky events. It is used for things like art supplies and musical instruments for kids with autism, job skills training for those leaving school, iPads for those in need of communication assistance, and summer camps for children and youth who need help with social skills development. This is money that is used to help real children and their families. It is money that genuinely makes a difference and can change the course of a young person’s life for the better.

This year, for those who do have a few dollars to donate, I am adding an element of fun to my fundraising efforts. It is a variation of the ALS campaign, and I am calling it “Ice Buckets For Autism”. The premise is simple: for every $100 that I can raise for autism, I will dump a bucket of ice water on my head. In keeping with my concerns about using water wisely, I will dump it in such a way that it can later be used for something else.

There are no nominations and there is no stipulation as to how much each person should donate. People can simply donate if and how much they choose, and every time the hundreds digit of my fundraising total changes, I will drench myself and provide photographic and video evidence of the act.

I am hoping to be drenched many, many times.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit to the author.

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6 Reasons To Run The Durham Quarter Marathon

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Every year, my race calendar is a combination of the old and the new. Although I like exploring new races and new challenges, there are a handful of events that I put into my calendar every year. One of these is the Durham Quarter Marathon, or DQM. This event has all of the right ingredients, like great organization, a scenic course and a great cause.

This year I was kind of bummed, because I came down with a nasty cold several days before the race. For most of the week, it looked doubtful that I would be able to run, and it and touch and go right up until the night before the race. Fortunately, though, my immune system did what it does best, and I woke up on the morning of the race feeling  just a tiny bit congested but otherwise fine.

I’ve missed races due to illness or injury before, and it’s never fun. This event in particular is one that I never want to miss (the only race that I hate missing even more is my annual autism fundraising run). Here are some reasons why I love this race so much, and why I believe all runners in the GTA need to try it out at least once.

1. DQM raises funds for a cause that I am absolutely in love with. The Refuge is a place in Oshawa that helps homeless youth. They provide meals, basic supplies, clean clothing and a place for homeless teens to go. DQM does not merely support this cause by putting logos everywhere. The organizers provide a very practical way for runners to make a real difference. Instead of getting one of those reusable shopping bags that runners already have too many of, you get the race kit in a small cardboard box, which you can then fill with supplies and return to The Refuge at a later date.

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2. DQM is one of the smaller events. It does not have the massive numbers of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, or the Yonge Street 10K. This means two things: you don’t have to fight ridiculous crowds in order to be squeezed into your corral, and the race has a wonderful community feel. When you run DQM, you feel like you’re running with friends. That community spirit travels with you along the entire course.

3. The course is absolutely marvelous. The run starts at the Oshawa City Hall (just a block away from free covered parking), and it runs along the Oshawa Creek and the Waterfront Trail. The last little bit offers a lovely unimpeded view of the lake. It’s a net downhill course, which means that the start is at a higher elevation than the finish. There’s something in it for runners of all levels – a nice combination of ease and challenge. There are a couple of decent uphill stretches in the second half, and a lovely little downhill right at the end, so that runners can build up good momentum for a sprint to the finish line.

4. The logistics of this race are so well organized that it’s impossible not to enjoy the experience. The 6K and 7K markers may have been slightly off, but apart from that, the course was well marked. There were four aid stations along the course, spaced fairly evenly. The organizers also provide bag check facilities, and for runners needing to get back to the start area, a free shuttle bus. Not one of those old school buses that make you feel like you’re being spanked whenever you go over a bump in the road, but a nice comfy city bus.

5. There’s a great finish line vibe. This year I loved the finish line announcer. He was announcing and encouraging runners as they sprinted down the final stretch, and he managed to make everyone feel like a champion. The atmosphere was one of support and celebration. I felt a tremendous sense of collective goodwill as I wandered around the finish line area picking up my bag and getting my post-race banana.

6. I appreciate a good coincidence as much as the next person, but how could you not love a race where you can take a picture of last year’s bib and this year’s bib that looks like this? Who knows – maybe if I run this race often enough, I’ll have a nice little collection of Lucky Number 7’s.

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This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Finish line shot is credited to the organizers of DQM. Shots of the bibs and the race kit box label are credited to the author.