My 2016 in running

In many ways, 2016 was rough. I know many personal stories of struggle and loss. Then there was the U.S. election and other international events leaving us questioning what is going on in the world.

But if you will indulge me a little, I want to share about what has been going on in my little running bubble over the past 12 months. For me, running has always provided a little escape away from worry and dread into hope and motivation. Let’s focus on some positivity.

Best race experience: Ottawa Race Weekend 

In May, I ran a marathon for the first time.

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The race experience in Ottawa was just amazing. I wholeheartedly recommend Ottawa Race Weekend to anyone considering a fun, spirited, energetic and flat goal race. This year will be huge with the run corresponding with Canada’s 150th. My husband and I made it into a couple’s getaway weekend and we would love to make the trip again — perhaps next time with our little guy — so we can take in more sights and enjoy the nation’s capital. As long as Ottawa can promise to turn down the heat!!

Best run: Stroller running

I finally bought a new-to-me B.O.B. stroller which has encouraged more stroller running with my two-year-old. Combining my love of/need to run and enjoy time with my son is truly priceless (why didn’t I buy one sooner?!). We even ran a 5K race together this fall. To think about it gives me goosebumps. We were sailing down Manawagonish Road in our neighbourhood, which I’m sure Silas recognized. The experience must have been so cool for him. And not a bad time, either: 28:30!

28:30 for our first 5k race 🏁 #runningmom #strollerrun #5k

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A close second would have to be my new half-marathon personal best at Moncton’s Legs for Literacy in October. 1:59:47, baby!

Best new piece of running gear: massage stick

Man, when I think back to all the $$ I spent on running stuff this year, it’s a little frightening. Three or four pairs of good shoes, Lululemon and Lole clothes, a water belt, race registrations, etc, etc. But the very best thing I invested in was PHYSIOTHERAPY. Oh goodness, am I ever glad I went during the weeks leading up to my marathon. Rob saved me. I’m sure I’m not the first person to say it either. He told me to buy one of these torturous sticks, so I did, and continue to poke and prod my lower extremities after runs, though probably not as much as I should.

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Best running advice received this year: “Let pain be your guide, but don’t let it stop you.” My physiotherapist said that. He also told me that I could heal/get stronger while continuing to run.

Best advice I can give: You will feel better after 10 minutes. Drink more water. Get more sleep.

Most inspirational runner: Krista Duchene, Canadian Olympic marathoner, mother of three, 39 years old. This video brings tears to my eyes.

Favourite picture from a run or race this year: 

So many photos in my library bring back good memories.

Sitting in the frigid Bay of Fundy after a long run was pretty classic!

But it’s got to be my Ottawa finish line photo! After running 42.2 km in extreme heat and humidity, I made it to the finish. There is noooooo feeling like this, folks.

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Race experience you would repeat in a heartbeat: Not going to say Ottawa because running a marathon in 40 C with humidex is not something I want to repeat.

Maritime Race Weekend was absolutely stunning. The weather was simply perfect for a half-marathon. The run was well-organized and so much fun. I want to go back!

7th half marathon in the books in beautiful Eastern Passage, N.S. @maritimeraces

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Worst running moment: I had a few very painful, long and lonely long runs leading up to my marathon. It was in cold, damp spring weather and my IT band was throbbing in pain. I trained by myself. I had many moments of doubt in those two-three hour runs, but refused to give up. I walked a lot, my pace sucked, but I got through it. And was stronger for it.

Favourite medal: I received many beautiful medals this year but Ottawa is my fave!

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Summing up the year in a few words: I ran a marathon! What?! I have come a long way. Every year gets better. Running makes me more balanced in other aspects of my life.

The “Year of Running” is hosted by Courtney from Eat Pray Run.

Read more Year of Running posts here. 

Eat Pray Run DC Year of Running 2016
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Run with Joy

Meet Joy Durdan, one of the most inspiring runners I know in Saint John.

Joy running in Bouctouche in July
Joy running in Bouctouche in July

Durdan, 42, is a self-described middle-of-the-pack runner for her age group. But as of Aug. 27, she is in third place in the Run NB standings, rubbing shoulders with high-octane Boston marathoners.

“That pretty much blows my mind,” she says, jogging beside me during track night at the University of New Brunswick Saint John stadium. “I’m pretty proud of myself, really, to be up there.”

It has not come easy.

By the end of this season, Durdan will have competed in at least 30 races, with an average of one or two races every weekend. That includes several half-marathons and one full marathon planned for Moncton in October.

Since the standings are based on points collected for each race, she has managed to accumulate 426 points in 15 races (and that’s not counting events that aren’t part of the standings, such as the recent Marathon by the Sea half-marathon, which she ran in 2:07:52). To put this in perspective, I am in 50th place for my age group, with 48 points from three races.

Durdan has run the half at Marathon by the Sea every year since 2001, but in the past couple of years, she decided she wanted bigger challenges. In 2011 and 2012, she ran her first full marathons, then she ran a 2012 ultra-marathon, which is 50 kilometres. Next, she had her sights set on a 50-miler, but since there are none in the area, she had to find an alternative.

She realized she had made it to sixth place in 2012 “without even trying.” Durdan remembered a friend who had made it in the top three, more because of volume of races rather than speed.

“I decided that’s what I would do,” Durdan says.

“I’m very stubborn and determined, and once I make up my mind, I follow through. That’s what got me through the full-marathons and the ultra-marathon.”

And it’s what will get her through this year, even if it leaves her utterly exhausted. During our run at track night, the usually peppy Durdan is tired. She had just finished a Saturday 10K in Caraquet with a season’s personal best at 54:22. Then she did her long run on Sunday at 18K.

That’s the challenge of training for a full-marathon while squeezing in weekend races across the province.

“The long run is your cornerstone, your building block of a marathon,” she says, sweat beading on her forehead in the hot afternoon sun. “It’s hard to figure that out. If you’re racing on the weekend, how do you fit in another 20 km?”

This coming weekend will be another challenge. She has the 5-km Race Against the Reds in Fredericton on Saturday, followed by a half-marathon in Saint-François-de-Madawaska in northern New Brunswick on Sunday.

Does she ever second-guess her decision to enter all these races, something she figures must of cost upwards of $1,000?

“Ah, let’s see,” she says during our run. “No.

“Sometimes I feel a little down, like I’m trying really hard and sometimes I’ll be hard on myself if I didn’t get the time I wanted to, but I quickly talk myself back in to being positive,” she says.

She is Joy, after all. She’s the person you see smiling at every race, encouraging others to do their best. You’d never know that running is her antidote for depression and anxiety.

“I love everything about running,” says Durdan, who has a 19-year-old son in theatre school and balances her running passion with a job at Je Suis Prest, an uptown Saint John clothing store.

“I love the running community. I love the endorphins,” she says with a laugh. “Running really helps me focus on what’s important.”

Durdan says anyone can tackle their goals, even if they’re not top-calibre speed demons. She’s proof.

“There are no limits, only the limits you put on yourself,” she says. “If you don’t go for it, you’ll always wonder what would have happened. So just go for it.”

Joy at the Grand Bay-Westfield 10-Miler
Joy at the Grand Bay-Westfield 10-Miler

Follow Joy’s progress on Facebook and DailyMile