Running the Marathon: Why I love Working in RyersonSA
The academic year is winding down. Classes and exams are over and students are shifting gears, preparing for summer jobs, graduation, or relaxation. I work as a counsellor in the Centre for Student Development and Counselling (CSDC), a division of Student Affairs. For us counsellors, the marathon of this year is almost over; we have fewer crisis calls and while we are still very busy, the demand for our service has slowed down considerably.
This year was an exceptionally busy year and I have welcomed the slightly slower pace, however, just as my work marathon wound down, I was mentally preparing for another kind of marathon: the real thing. I am turning 40 this summer and with this milestone birthday has come what I call a “lite” mid-life crisis. I don’t want to drastically change anything about my life; in fact, I am very happy with it. But I do feel that urge—no, that urgency—to complete those outstanding items on my bucket list; some of which are larger than others.
- Start a doctoral program (check—starting this fall);
- Travel to Africa (check—one-month camping safari booked for July);
- Run a marathon (1/2 check—registered for the May 3, 2015 Toronto ½ marathon).
Of these goals, the marathon was the one thing to which I wasn’t looking forward. Sure, I wanted the challenge, but I am one of those people who were born without an athletic bone in my body. (Yes, in case you are wondering, I was picked last for teams in gym class; I was that girl.) So, you now see why running a marathon is on my bucket list. Almost like, “If I can run a marathon, I can do anything” … but more like, “I won’t be that awkward kid in gym class anymore.”
The planning process began last fall; I registered for the marathon in October. I figured I couldn’t back out once I paid the $45 registration fee. It would be a waste of money, right? The problem is that I procrastinated during the very cold and snowy winter. I thought about the marathon a lot; I really did. But I didn’t actually train for the marathon. I only started training 3 weeks before the marathon and never actually made it past the 5 km mark; a ½ marathon is 21 km. This is where my colleague comes in.
Laura Girz, a psychologist at CSDC, is a long-distance runner. She has an enormous amount of energy, is always up for adventure, and will make herself available on a moment’s notice if you need her; an exceptionally supportive colleague. Laura would fall into the athletic category (and definitely first to get picked in gym class). I decided that I needed her support to get me to the finish line and she too signed up for the marathon.
May 3 arrived and like greyhounds, we were corralled into different sections of the start line. Laura is a wee bit faster than me, so she was placed in the “competitive” category. Before the gun went off and we went our separate ways, Laura used her best sports psychology tactics on me. Somehow she convinced me that, barring injury, I would be finishing the marathon—no question. She was persuasive in her arguments and I decided to believe her. I pretended I was the athlete that I had always wanted to be, set my iTunes to the best of the 80s, and off I went.
It was incredible to be running with thousands of people, all with the same goal: finish the marathon. Throughout the marathon, volunteers were stationed at the side lines, cheering, holding up inspirational quotes, offering high fives, blowing horns, playing tambourines, and reading our names off our racing bibs; “Bronwyn, you can do it!”
It was absolutely exhilarating and for the first time in my life, I experienced a runner’s high. I felt unstoppable among the crowds of supporters. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face—I was having so much fun!
But the “fun” wore off about 3 km from the finish line; my legs felt as though they were on fire. I started to feel lightheaded, and I had to slow down my pace. At that moment I had to work very hard to maintain my new “athletic identity” and self doubt started to creep in. I recalled Laura’s pre-race pep talk, and found the encouragement I needed for a second wind. Soon the finish line was in sight and I caught a glimpse of my spouse who was cheering me on and beaming with pride. I did it—I crossed the finish line!
Laura and I reunited, swapped marathon stories, and congratulated each other. Laura was impressed (no, shocked) by my race time and lectured me about underestimating my abilities—she was right, I had indeed underestimated my physical abilities. Then, before my adrenaline wore off, she proposed that we run the Scotiabank ½ marathon in the fall and perhaps a full marathon next year. And so it was—I am no longer that girl in gym class; I am a marathon runner.
Why do I love working in RyersonSA? Because our colleagues support each other through the marathons, on and off campus.