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Running: the pandemic’s gift to me

For one Ottawa woman, running was a natural extension of walking for stress relief and solitude – and has become her passion

There is a profound feeling of power and personal success in making one single, positive choice. Most days, that’s my first cup of coffee, followed by putting on my running gear and opening the door.

Technically, that’s two positive choices, but both remind me that today and each day will be better because I took the time to run. 

Running just makes us happier people. For me, running has been an amazing tool in managing worry and anxiety during the pandemic.

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I wasn’t an athletic child. I’ve never been competitive or inspired by physical activity. In fact, I’ve had an on-again-off-again relationship with running for most of my adult life, only dipping into the sport because my husband is an avid runner and all-around sports enthusiast. We both wanted our children to learn the benefits of an active lifestyle, so I participated in activities with our children and went to group fitness classes, and we attended some organized road races, hoping to set a good example. The accomplishments were nice, but the motivation was never all mine. 

When the world turned upside down in 2020, like so many other people, I grew anxious and worried. As a mother, I worried about the effects on my children, and as a spouse, I worried about my husband, who is a first responder. Additionally, I worried about my aging parents and the possibility of loneliness and isolation. The worries seemed endless, and we were bombarded with negative news at every point of the day. Escaping the stress of it all seemed impossible. 

Photo: YouTube/Tony Xie

I needed breathing room, and some silence. I set aside one hour out of my day and walked. It was nice to disconnect from the world for that hour. Eventually, I decided to run, alone, through the streets of my neighbourhood. 

Running without stopping was difficult, but it was also exhilarating. It felt freeing and wonderful to run like a kid again, as if no one were watching me – and likely no one was. With more and more people exercising outside daily, why would anyone really pay attention to a middle-aged woman running down the sidewalk? My concern at being judged simply vanished. Without feeling self-conscious, running seemed natural. I didn’t have to be fast or an elite runner. No one was expecting to see a professional athlete out on a morning run. Arriving back on my doorstep after only about 20 minutes, I felt happy. I couldn’t wait to go again.

And so my new journey on foot began. Days and weeks passed. Seasons changed, which brought weather challenges and beautiful scenery. I began to set personal goals and to keep a journal of my progress. 

 

We are living our lives with often challenging routines, navigating changes as they come, coping together, yet still staying apart, as communities all across Canada and around the world are trying to do the right thing. Pandemic life has changed all of us, but I, for one, have embraced a new commitment to myself and realized the value and importance of better physical and mental health.

I’ve discovered I might talk about running a little too much. I find myself slipping the topic of running into conversations. I daydream about my next outing, a new trail or route to try, a PB I’m hoping to get or a running destination trip I’d love to experience. I read everything I can about running – there is so much inspiration to keep going, and there is so much to learn. 

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I’m passionate, and I admit quite addicted to all the “good feels” that running brings. It has been so therapeutic and rewarding.

As I tie up my laces and head out the door again, I know for certain that running is a gift. 

Roxanna Marion lives in Ottawa with her husband and children and their awesome Jack Russell terrier, Chewie. She is a recreational runner and a believer in pursuing goals, no matter how big or small.