dailymiler of the week: Mel

Every few weeks we pick one inspiring dailymiler to be featured on the blog. This gives us a chance to learn the stories of members of the dailymile community. Check out past dailymiler’s of the week or nominate a dailymiler for a future post!

This week I introduce to you, Mel. She is actually a good friend of mine that I met through coaching. I’ve watched her go from her first 5km race to her first half marathon. Most recently she completed her first indoor half marathon. Her determination never falters. What is most impressive to me is that she finds the time to run despite being a working mom and she’s often literally running on fumes. She also finds the time to be a cheerleader for fellow runners, always ready to encourage them if they’re having a tough time on a run. She appreciates every moment that she gets to run, and I think a lot of the time she’s still in disbelief over the fact that she can call herself a half-marathoner.

First I wanted to ask her how her running life began. And as usual I wanted to ask how she seemingly does it all. Runners who find the time to do their thing between countless other responsibilities fascinate me! All of us have to deal with time management, so it’s always helpful to learn how others deal with cramped days and the boundless urge to run. She also shares with us what it takes to overcome the mental challenge of running a half marathon indoors!

Why did you start to run?
I started running because two years after having my son I wanted to find a physical activity that I could enjoy as “me time” with the bonus of healthy living. I did not want to commit to a team sport, because having a baby is so unpredictable and a husband on shift work, I didn’t want to feel I was letting people down if I couldn’t make it out last minute.

Did you enjoy running before you began, or did you have to warm up to it?
I had never run. Prior to running, I had spent 2 months walking twice a week with a walking group. This was to get me used to the routine of getting out there. I saw the runners and thought “I’ll try that”. I felt very comfortable with the idea that if I didn’t like running, I would promptly go back to being a walker. I was hooked after the first 20 minute running session (walk 2min/run 1min). I felt so accomplished every week when I would run an extra minute; I would come home and exclaim “I ran 5 minutes straight!” I felt like rock star – and still do after every run, every race and every workout.

Describe the experience of your first race
My first race was 5km Canada Army Run race in 2010. This race was on my birthday, and I wanted to celebrate my new found “me”. I had planned to just enjoy myself and run a couple of minutes, then walk a few minutes and so on. Even if I walked the whole 5km, I was happy to be there. After all I did run quite a bit. Of course receiving my first race shirt, first race bib, and of course my first medal (dog tag) was absolute icing! I still get goose bumps about the conversations I overheard during this race. I was running and walking along side children, spouses, parents, siblings of soldiers. Very emotional!

What’s been your toughest run so far (in training or as a race)?
Thus far my toughest run has been my most recent race (Sherbrooke Indoor half Marathon). I have not had a tougher training day, run day, race day than this one!

How do you balance being a mom and working full-time?
It’s definitely not easy, but having a strong support from from husband helps tremendously. Also my mom and close friends willing to babysit so I can train and race means the world to me.

In 2012, Mel got this tattoo of a drawing her son drew of her running

How has running impacted you as a mom?
Being a parent isn’t easy, and sometimes it’s easier to get in a comfortable routine of motherhood and just do what needs to be done to get the family through each day. Being a running mom, I think my son will always know that I can do more than the routine. He’s only 4 but I know he’s proud, and that makes me a proud mom. I’m not a routine person, and being a running mom makes me feel like I’m a better mom to him because it makes me feel whole as as a person.

I asked you why you started running, why have you stuck with it?
Running is who I am now. I’m a runner. I never want to say “I used to run”.

What’s the toughest thing about running?
The toughest thing about running is the mental aspect: staying motived.  When you know you have a long run ahead, weather conditions against you, no music for safety reasons, and you are going to attack it all without running mates.  On the other hand injuries are insanely frustrating because your mind is ready to attack the toughest runs, but your body is struggling to walk across the room.

How do you stay motivated when things get tough?
I reach out to my running mates and schedule a run. I remind myself that running is a part of me and if I don’t get out there, I’m cheating myself out of a part of me that makes me truly happy – running is the sprinkles on my dessert of life haha

You recently completed an indoor half marathon, how was it different from other half marathons you’ve run? Easier or more difficult? Was the atmosphere different? 
105.5 laps around a 200 meter track.

The indoor half marathon was the most difficult race I have ever ran (even though it was my 3rd half this year). It was the biggest mental vs physical challenge. Some people think the difficultly is going in circles, but it’s not. It’s just felt like the longest race, there was no change of scenery, no cheers from random volunteers, and no way to gauge my progress, and I couldn’t have my music to get me through this. I don’t always pay attention to my music during races, but I always have it because it’s there when I need the boost. Usually, during races I have my garmin and my music - 2 things I could not use during my indoor race. I didn’t know my pace progress. All I had was the clock on the wall and periodically they announced how many laps we were each completing. I have never done so much math in my head, as I did that day. I was ready to quit at around 8km. I wanted to cry about 3 times but no sunglasses on my face to hide those tears, the pain, the want to quit. My usual motto of “if all else fails, walk it” wasn’t really applicable because I had a cut off time for this race. If I walked anymore than I did, I would not have been allowed to finish. There was no way I was going to get through all this anguish and not accomplish my goal. I finished and cried afterwards.  The organizers were the sweetest, and the other runners were supportive. I would definitely run indoor races again, but not half marathon. I am already thinking of a 10km indoor race in January, with this same race organizers. This is not for everyone, but I’m happy I tried it. Now I know.

What’s next for you in 2013? 
In 2013, I would like to run at Ottawa’s Race Weekend once again. This year I would like to race the 5km on Saturday evening and the half marathon on Sunday morning. I want to attempt a new running challenge every year, and in 2013 my running challenge will be a trail face: 10km at Mont Orford. I would like to run a half marathon at the Maritime Race Weekend in Nova Scotia but that will depend on family availability; being a mom sometimes takes priority over that race wish list haha

Do you have a lucky charm you bring to races? 
I don’t have a lucky charm because I fear getting attached to it. There are enough mental games during a race; the last thing I want to add is a superstitious element.  So far, the only thing that I bring with me to all races, without fail, is my acceptance to finish all races injury free, and heading for that finisher’s medal. I don’t value finishing time.

A big thanks to Mel who took the time to answer my questions. Visit her profile and congratulate her on her recent achievement. 

About Steph

A used-to-be-un-athletic-wannabe-ultra-runner-running-coach-history-lover-turned-science-nerd-student from Montreal, Canada. She runs to wake her brain up for the day, to keep sane and to keep Zoe (her dog) happy. After 4 marathon and 2 ultras in two years, she has decided to spend the rest of 2012 and 2013 building speed and working toward a faster 5km. But she won't forget her desire to run a 100 miler someday! When she's not running or having her brain eaten by school she's writing, reading or singing in her garden. She dreams of one day having a farm with chickens that she will love and never eat.
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