Running is a very individual and solitary pursuit. Although some people run in a group, with a partner or dog; the activity lacks the dynamics of a team sport.
Regardless of how solitary the sport can be, it is important to reflect upon the individual support network that motivates you to run. In other words, the group of people who support your overall wellness. I have the amazing opportunity to work for community services in Whistler as an Outreach Worker. Through this position, I am afforded the chance to attend numerous workshops and educational seminars on topics regarding the betterment of one’s physical, mental and spiritual well-being.
This past week, I attended a session that focused on mental health and depresssion. The facilitator of the training used an acronym – N.E.S.T.S – that I began to highlight in bright pink marker as I recorded my notes from the seminar. It stands for Nutrition, Exercise, Sleep, Time and Support Network. Whenever any of those elements in my own personal life have been compromised, my own mental health and wellness suffer.
As I stared at the acronym, in my training notes, the final S seemed to have the most profound influence on me. There are tons of recipes and diets on how to improve your nutrition and a myriad of apps and devices to help you get more exercise and an abundance of teas, supplements and aids to get more sleep. However, it is hard to attach a price tag to your Support Network. Social media has been able to create a virtual world of friends, likes, dislikes, groups and favorites. But it can never replace a true support network that provides your wellness.
On my runs this week I have thought a great deal of the support network that motivates me to go for a run and supports my wellness. Some are very active friendships or places in my life and others are memories, mentors or people who have come and gone.
For me, support is my husband Jay – truly my life partner. He has always supported me in life and my running. As I rounded the corner and finished the last 100 meters of my first half marathon, in 2011, I could see his smiling face greeting me with a large bouquet of flowers. His hug at the finish line was symbolic for our life together. He is my biggest supporter and always there to cheer me on.
For me, support is my brother – the reason I started running. He came to live in Whistler for the summer in 2008. I had only been living here a few months and virtually knew no one. He was training for a half marathon at the time. I figured if I ran with him it would be a rare opportunity to chat, talk and support each other with no other distraction around us. I had left my family home at 19 , with seven years difference my brother was 12. More than 10 years later I still viewed him as that 12 year old boy. Running and training with him allowed us to catch up on “lost” time and meet the man that he had now become.
For me, support is Claire – my friend and co-worker who meets me at 8:15am before work (rain, snow or shine) to get in an early run.
For me, support is Martha – a friend who I met through the Whistler Half Marathon training club. We were strangers at the beginning of the 12 week program and at the end she became my mentor. We met during the Saturday long run sessions. Martha, never left me behind as we steadily added more kms to our training and she pushed me to reach the 21km mark.
A support network are not just the people you run with. It is my mom, the strongest woman I know, who shows me unconditional love. My father who taught me life’s greatest lessons through his own battles with cancer and his death. I believe that as I run alone most days he is my spiritual and silent partner. My sister, who reminds me everyday to be strong, passionate, ferocious and most of all to believe in myself. It is my aunts, uncles and cousins who provide unconditional support when life is both tough and joyous. The extended family I have gained through marriage who serve as grandparents and aunts and uncles to my son. The amazing friends, I have met in this community, who are my “Whistler family”. We have celebrated holidays, marriages and births. We have shared endless bottles of wines, bbqs and limitless plates of fries. It is the friendships I have made and rekindled after having my son. Mommy groups and lunches which debate and embrace the topics of breast-feeding to formula, sleep training to attachment parenting and the ever difficult challenge of heading back to work. It is my amazing co-workers who constantly inspire me and never make me dread going to work on Monday. Most of all, it is my son whose big strong eyes stare at me with wonder and inspire me to be a better person each and everyday.
The truth is, not everyday is beautiful. Life is messy, raw and sometimes unexplainable. Running is a metaphor for life. Sometimes we run and end where we started and other times we never look back. But as long as we can remember the people who have and continue to support us along the way, each step has the ability to get easier.