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Its never too late to be a runner (by Valerie Behan)

Growing up in the 1980s I was a sporty kid that was inspired by Olympic track and field. One of my strongest memories is that of the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles when I was 11. I enjoyed running and took part in community games, which was the highlight of competitive athletics for kids. Later in life, I met my husband, an avid triathlete and together we made the journey to Kona qualification. Having been the support crew for many European championship races in Frankfurt, I had an appetite to compete myself. However, triathlon was not my sport. I was a runner.

Last year before the outbreak of COVID-19, I resurrected my plans to be a runner. Starting slowly, I was encouraged when I was able to run 2k, 5k, and then the 10k. I had been bitten by the bug. My inner voice was telling, you should do the Zürich marathon. Maybe it was too much, maybe I wouldn’t be able for the training. In September, I decided I needed a coach. I requested a coach through TrainingPeaks. Kathi replied; we spoke on the phone. She told me that we need to set up a proper goal and strength training is part of every plan. It sounded perfect. Kathi was my coach and I signed up for the marathon.

Kathi designed a great plan. Races aside, this was a dream coming true. Over time, I was getting stronger and I was even doing track sessions. I remember running on the track in November with the temperature falling below zero, the light fading and a fog rolling in. How cool is this!

In December, I struggled with being soar and in January, with the COVID numbers on the rise, there was a new worry… would the race take place? What if I have been doing all this training and now there will be no race? Only one month before the race they canceled the marathon. I was really disappointed. Kathi was on point; she told me why not do a 10k in a virtual race and go for the Personal Best. Agreed. But then, a week before the race, I got an ankle injury and had to get physiotherapy. Dealing with the mental aspect was tougher than the physical, but I knew it will pass and I will be back on track.

I ran the Zürich City Run 10k this past weekend. It was challenging and exhilarating. Going into race day I was nervous and excited. I was coming off the injury and had never ran a 10k race competitively. I had to trust in the plan. I had all the work done.

I chose a pretty flat route with a 2km loop, on the edge of a forest with a view of the Swiss alps in the distance. The day started off sunny and cold; a beautiful morning for a race. I started the race app, listened to the national anthem and I was off. I was ready. With so much excitement, I took off much quicker than planned, but I felt good.

My husband cycled in front like the triathlon marshals that go in front of the top three elite athletes at the Frankfurt European Triathlon championship. Seeing my kids at the 1km marker was just what I needed; shouting Hop! Hop! Hop! and letting me know that I was the 1. Woman.

At the 7km mark I was beginning to find it tough. I looked inside and said I can do this. Just keep going, listen to the rhythm of the shoes hitting the ground and don’t forget to breathe. With my support crew cheering me, I said one lap left and pushed hard for the final 2km. I only had to run to the next bus stop and the pain would be over. I exceeded my expectations and finished with a time of 46:08. Going from running a distance of 2km in January 2020 to coming 2nd in Zürich City Run 10K for my age group was beyond belief. Personal Best achieved. Today, I am motivated to keep going with Kathi’s plans, build up with my strength and compete in the Zürich marathon next year and qualify for the Boston marathon. I will make my dream come true.

Running opens your mind, allows you to find solutions and overcome challenges. You are never too old to achieve your dreams.

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