18:24 – 5th overall, 3rd age group

I did something I never thought I would do.

But before I tell you about that, I need to go back a bit. The tough part when describing what a life moment means to you, is how far back do you go to provide context?

I was born October 1st, 1981 in London, Ontario.

Nope, that’s definitely too far back.

Instead let’s go with August 12, 2011. That evening I ran a 5k race at Reach the Beach because my friend Alexis was helping put it on for Youth Opportunities Unlimited where she worked. I ran a 30:37, which isn’t a significant result, but what was significant is that I ran. I had barely run since the Toronto Marathon in 2004.

Instead of running, I had gone to grad school, bought a house, started a family, and had a run-in with major depression. Major depression with suicidal ideation. I went pretty deep down a dark hole. I gained 50 pounds, developed unhealthy weekend binge drinking patterns, and basically forgot that there was anything about me that I liked. God bless my wife for sticking with me through all of this.

So going for a 5k run in 2011 was an important moment. About 52 times the following year I decided I would get back in shape, though that didn’t exactly pan out and I ran a 30:18 at the 2012 iteration of Reach the Beach. However, I did start riding my bike to and from school when the weather was nice. New Years 2013 I finally got serious about losing weight and dropped from 201 to 175 pounds in a couple of months.

Then in the spring of 2013 I got an email from a friend: “Hey, triathlon club at the Y only runs 4 weeks for $20 on Sundays and they teach you to swim.  I can’t remember if you said that was a schedule conflict…” We had talked about it and I had expressed concern about my ability to swim. However, I went out and of course Scott Mallory, the friendliest coach in Canada pulled me in, with some pushing from a neighbour.

Suddenly I got serious about exercising and started setting some goals: Sub-20 minute 5k, sub-40 minute 10k, qualify for the triathlon age group world championships. Starting in my early 30’s out of shape, and as a non-swimmer, I knew there was a lot of work to do. I also didn’t know how much fitness I could gain, as for elite athletes things can start to go backwards around 35. So when I looked at 5k race results I would see a group kind of clustered in the high 19 minute range, fellow “sub-20 minute goal” folks I presume. Then there would be a more spread out string of folks all the way down to 16 minutes. These are mostly college elites, life-long runners, marathon elites who do 5k’s for fun, or physiological anomalies who are expert at all sports. I didn’t even pretend that would ever be me…sub-20 was enough, it was reasonable.

A couple weekends ago I ran an 18:24 at Jordan’s Run the Runway 5k. Sure, if you’re a college cross country runner that’s a jog, but for me that time is stratospheric. It is a time outside what I ever perceived as achievable. I’ve had a number of questions from friends about how I did it, how it felt, that sort of thing. Physically, it felt no different from any other race, I went to my limit, but my limit has obviously changed. Mentally, it felt like now I have no limits.

Shout outs to Coach Jennifer for standing in the rain while I ran 5 minute kilometer repeats back in the day, to Rachel Hannah for inspiring me with truly stratospheric times, to David Sommerfreund for chasing me in circles around the BMO track, and to Spencer Summerfield for committing through the sweatiest September lunch runs ever.