TORONTO March 10th 2014. In 2010 Digital Champion Emily Gray cheered on runners at mile 22 of the New York City Marathon, and cried. Inspiration had hit, and she knew she had to get involved somehow. When early 2011 rolled around, on a whim, she signed up for her first half marathon and in August 2011 bit the bullet and signed up to run the 2011 NYC Marathon as a guide for a disabled athlete with Achilles. Running keeps Emily fit, sane, healthy, happy and inspired on a daily basis. She is always looking to push her own limits, run her best, and learn from every race. You can often find Emily running all over Toronto (join her! Or at least wave to her), or hitting up every gym out there to try every workout in the city. Connect with Emily on Twitter @EmilyMcGray.
Why I’ll Never Run Boston. By Emily Gray.
I’ve never been the first one across the finish line, even in training. Often I trudge, shuffle, complain and occasionally I full on cry. Since childhood, I’ve always been a supremely competitive person. Wanting to be the best, at the expense of being my best. Let’s face it, there are certain people who are built for the marathon…and I am not one of them. I am dense, muscular, strong and predisposed toward short powerful exercises followed by a sweet, sweet nap. When I started distance running in 2011, it pushed me so far outside my comfort zone that I found myself constantly frustrated and unable to make it through the longer distances without walking, while I could power up a hill with relative ease.
I completed my first half marathon in 2:18:36, and yes those are 36 very important seconds. At the time I didn’t really consider myself a “runner,” (because I didn’t feel I could brag about my time) more someone who had finished a half marathon. Even after my first full marathon I felt disappointment in being so far off my coworker’s projected finish time, that I missed the fact that merely finishing the race was the major accomplishment. Other runners would pass me on the course and I would get a
familiar sinking feeling in my heart and gut; “I have to keep up.” “You can’t let them pass you.” “You are weak if you walk.” “Everyone thinks you’re slow.”
Those extremely defeatist thoughts carried over into my training runs, I ignored aches and pains, and finally found myself running on a fractured foot. Somewhere along the lines I decided that I would be faster if only I could lose 5 pounds, 10 pounds…it would be easier. Somewhere I heard “To run faster, you have to run faster.” It stuck, despite my inability to apply it. Every training run I thought, “you have to run faster.” Talk about missing the point.
As I started to gain more experience and knowledge in the distance running world, I started to realize that I had to be a bigger friend to myself than I had been if I expected to continue with the sport. My body is able to do amazing things. Qualifying for Boston isn’t one of them…and that’s okay. In case you didn’t hear that: IT’S OKAY!! As I allowed that reality to sink in, I found that more and more people aren’t focusing on that elusive Boston Qualifier, but on getting across the line by whatever means possible. I found other training options that didn’t involve yelling at yourself and adopted 10 & 1’s (now 20 & 1’s), and the world continues to spin. I take a walk break every 20 minutes, training or race, and run for time rather than distance on long runs. At first I scoffed at these new techniques, but quickly found that I listen to my body, I move at my own pace, my brain is excited, happy and kind…and I run faster. And farther. Wait…what? Turns out that positivity and actively listening (and responding) to how I’m feeling makes me feel like I can accomplish the best I can. Every run.
During my most recent marathon, I got an incredibly well timed walk break on a particularly nasty uphill section, and silently cheered. The girl next to me cried out “NO! Don’t walk!! You can do it!” I replied by slowing my strides, tipping my water bottle in the air and saying “Oh, honey, this is planned.” At the 17km mark I passed her, and never saw her again. As the half marathon runners started to overtake me on the course, I felt the familiar competitive drive kick in as I heard a pack of long, lean, towering gazelles thundered toward me. This time, however, I calmed myself. “Keep up” was replaced with “run your own race” “remember you have twice as far to go,” and (my favorite) “you are your own personal Kenyan.” I finished in 4:28:16.
My half marathon record stands at 2:05:11, and I’m chasing the 2 hour mark this season (Not to mention working toward a 52 minute 10k on April 13th!), and I couldn’t be more proud. I am a runner! Not because I run Boston, not because I run marathons, not because I can run without stopping…I am a runner because I run.