TORONTO July 24th 2014. Almost 2 years ago, a friend of Bridget’s talked her into signing up for the Canada Army Run half-marathon. ‘Ah yes, that running thing. I’ve seen people do that…’ There was just one catch: she had never run before. Now: four half-marathons & an Around The Bay 30K later, she decided the next logical step with this new-found obsession would be to run a full marathon. Though she currently lives in Ottawa, she chose the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon as her first marathon because Toronto was the first place she moved out on her own, away from her hometown of Cornwall, Ontario. STWM seemed like a fitting idea to attempt another big first! Connect with Bridget on Twitter @bridgetwaits on on her blog.
Remember to Run. By Bridget Roussy.
I still have a difficult time thinking of myself as an athlete. I grew up playing outside just like every other kid in my neighbourhood. We invented games, we came home only to eat and go out again in the evening. We swam at the outdoor pools, played hide-and-seek, built forest forts. Sisters, brothers, neighbours, cousins. We worked it out together.
In elementary school, I joined every sport team: why not? It allowed me to leave class for a day, go to schools around the city and play baseball, soccer, indoor hockey. The city I grew up in is fairly small and extracurricular activities were no doubt high in demand (as well as price) at that time, but my mom always ensured we had an outlet for our energy. I played soccer for 5 years before joining Sea Cadets, where I swam competitively and won provincial medals. Sport wasn’t something I thought much about, it was just something I did.
Despite growing up with a life of active and encouraged play, I can pinpoint the exact moment I started to hate it: in high school, in an all-girl gym class.
In high school it was clear that you didn’t just join a sports team. You didn’t just show up to class and play. You needed to dress a certain way, you needed to hang around the right crowd. You’d be judged by your family income and you’d be judged by your hair. After all, judging is what teenage girls do best. All of a sudden, the fun was taken away from the game and I was left with my ratty sneakers, resentment, and the entire semester that remained of this dreaded class. For years after, I did what I thought was everything opposite of the jock crowd: I dyed my hair every colour, I wore thrift store clothing, and I went to all-ages shows with my friends. I skipped out on mandatory ‘school spirit’ basketball team home games and spent time in the darkroom developing photos. I despised anything that took place in a gym.
It never occurred to me that I could have it both ways. That I could keep doing what came natural & explore new hobbies as well.
Fast-forward so many years later: I don’t hold any hard feelings toward my classmates. In high school and adult life, there will always be someone there to try to discourage you. It has taken me this long to realize and acknowledge. Sometimes that person will be a colleague, a family member, a neighbour. But for many of us: it’s ourselves. It upsets me to think I lost so many good years due to teenage and, eventually, adult insecurities. Because almost 20 years after gym class, it’s only now that I’m learning to play all over again.
I started running two years ago after I signed up to walk a half-marathon. It was difficult, it was exhausting, and it burned. I wasn’t sure why I was even trying it out in the first place. I had only made a commitment to walk the distance. But at that moment, the childhood exhilaration came back: running to the park, to the pool, from my brother, to the store for popsicles. When claims were made by whoever could make it there fastest.
I don’t have the same friends to run around with now but I have many other reasons to keep it up: to meet new friends in the rabbit-hole of an online community or out on the trails, to raise money for charities I believe in, to encourage anyone who may be hesitant, to keep striving for new goals and to gain overall confidence, and yes… for popsicles. Our ability to run is the ultimate equalizer. It can be a common bond with someone you’ve just met. It’s exploring new places and seeing old ones differently. Many of us grew up doing it, regardless of income, of what we could afford to wear. It’s just that most of us have forgotten *how* to do it over time.
After a few years of re-discovering, the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon will be my ultimate gift to myself: my first marathon, to take back all of that lost time. To prove that we don’t ever have to stop playing.
And if you’ve never started? Just try for yourself and see what happens. I promise not to judge you.