Disclaimer: I am not a running expert!

Dr. Andrea about halfway through her first 1/2 marathon!

Dr. Andrea about halfway through her first 1/2 marathon! (bright orange shirt)

If you are hoping this will be a “how-to-train-for-a-half-marathon” blog post, stop reading now…I am NOT an expert in running! However, I really found the whole training process and race day such an interesting and rewarding experience I wanted to share! And I can’t always write about dentistry…so here goes!

Although I started running in 2006 to lose weight gained during my last pregnancy, I had NO intention to ever run this kind of distance. In fact, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to run at all, but had to do something to get back in shape! So, thanks to The Running Room I started with the Learn to Run program, then 5km training, then 10km training. I ran (slowly) in a few 5km races, then 10km races. I felt great, I was very fit, and I wanted to increase my challenge and train for a half marathon!

And then in 2009, I broke my knee. Not while running, I actually fell at work! Sidelined, my physiotherapist told me not to expect to run any distance again, I should just be happy walking. I really missed it, felt so sad seeing runners on a nice day outside. I struggled with staying fit over the next few years, especially during challenging times like opening my own dental practice in 2011 and dealing with my mother’s illness and passing.

It was through my involvement with the Ottawa Makeover Project that I met my current trainer at Executive Fitness Leaders, who started working with me to strengthen my body enough to compensate for my weak knee and hopefully overcome my injury. The very determined lady we selected as the participant in the Ottawa Makeover Project had already registered for the half marathon (her first, and her goal race), and I figured why not, I’ll sign up also, let’s see what happens! That’s when I really got scared…what if I can’t do this? I even told people on Facebook that I was planning to run, so I was accountable to finish!

I started training in November, and the weather all winter was terrible.  I didn’t run outside all winter, instead suffering through tedious treadmill runs that got longer every week…and more boring. So, there were many times I opted out of my run, or shortened the run with the justification that a short run was better than no run, right? In fact, the first run outside was a long run on a Sunday by myself, I ran 12 km! Still each week I ran mostly alone, each week afraid I wouldn’t be able to complete the longer distances and be embarrassed in front of a group (like with The Running Room) until finally two weeks before the race I met downtown with all of the other Running Room groups to run the half-marathon route…and I did it! That’s when I knew I COULD run a half marathon, and I went into the actual race day with great spirits and no fear!

Race day was amazing…hotter than I had hoped, but the energy all around me was huge. People lining the streets cheering us on, bands and drummers and DJs and singers placed all along the race route, beautiful home owners outside with their hoses to spray us down as we ran, and so many volunteers giving us water, fruit, wet sponges, and medical aid for those who needed it. I thought, “If every run I did was full of all of this support, I could run a race every week!” And that’s where I come to the point of this blog…

That's Dr. Andrea, just after finishing her first half marathon! (photo credit to her 8 year old daughter Molly)

That’s Dr. Andrea, just after finishing her first half marathon! (photo credit to her 8 year old daughter Molly)

It’s not about training for a race, it’s about training for life. My life, your life. All around us are people who love us and people who like us and people who don’t even know us…and they have oodles of wisdom and experience and advice and support to give us through all aspects of our lives. We can stay just as we are, never changing  or challenging or growing, or…we can choose to push ahead and do something with our lives that is hard, and even a bit scary, but we aren’t alone. Start a business, learn a new language, apply for a more difficult job, go back to school, train for a race…there are people all around us to give advice, share expertise, offer support, and even a shoulder when times get tough. All we have to do, each one of us, is ask. I ask for help and support for improving my dental practice from dentist friends and experts in my field, and help with raising my family from others with grown kids that seem like really well-adjusted people. I’ve learned so much from my trainer Kyle, who is an experienced distance runner himself, and also from reading as much as I can stand about living a healthy and balanced lifestyle. And as race day yesterday showed me…I also leaned on the shoulders of strangers also running the same race and of those standing on the sidelines, smiling and clapping and urging me on. Each of you really can have people like this in your lives to offer support…find them, ask them, depend on them…and become your best you in the process.

Dr. Andrea Stevens is a cosmetic and family dentist in practice in Kanata, Ontario. If you have dental questions, you can call her at 613-271-7091 or visit her at kanatacosmeticdentist.com Please also feel free to leave comments or questions below, and Dr. Stevens will be happy to answer!