I’ve discovered my true identity


It’s one thing to identify as “a runner”. There are a lot of us out there. But there are sub-categories among runners, and we can relate to each other a bit better when we belong to the same tribe. I have realized I belong to the category of Morning Runner.

I admit – I haven’t always run in the mornings. When I was in high school and university, although I liked the idea, my circadian rhythms and daily patterns did not fit the morning running schedule. Not many people I knew in those days ran in the mornings, and I just followed suit with my friends and team mates of running in the afternoons. I have always loved running, and would rather run at any time of day than not run at all, but in hindsight I realize that in those days I was denying my true identity.

It wasn’t until after I had kids that my destiny revealed itself. If I wanted to run it had to be either before everyone woke up, or after they had all gone to bed. That left either the windows of 5 a.m. – 6 a.m. or 9 p.m. – 10 p.m. I tried out both, but soon found myself falling in love with the early morning slot. I had stumbled across the running schedule that fits my true personality. Yes, it took being forced into it, but now I feel like I have discovered the real me.

A few reasons why I love running in the mornings:

Heading out in the mornings, I don’t expect it to be either warm or light out. It may become lighter and warmer by the end of my run, but they all start out the same way – relatively cold and dark. It’s all about managing expectations. In contrast, if I wait until the afternoon or evening and it happens to be cold and dark out, I find it the hardest thing in the world to get out.

Early in the mornings, I don’t worry too much about traffic. I own the streets and rarely have to slow down or stop for streetlights or car traffic. Later in the day I get annoyed at the cars driving on my route, and my runs take way longer as I have to stop for the full duration of traffic lights.

Admittedly, running intervals in the mornings takes some getting used to, but I now realize the benefits. My repetitions always get faster as I go. They start out feeling hard, but become easier and faster as the workout progresses. In contrast, one day the other week I had to do an interval workout later in the day. My first repetition was blistering fast (I was obviously too well warmed-up), I struggled to match the time in the next intervals, and barely completed the entire workout.

When I start my days with my run under my belt, I feel alive and full of energy and ready to tackle any challenge. If I wait until later it takes me about half a day to wake up, and the second half wondering when and how I will fit in my run.

I am aware of a breed of people who are Night Runners. I see them out there at various hours, seemingly happy and in their element. I know we are part of the same family, but we a different sub-species. Although I can and sometimes do join their ranks, I will never truly be one of them. Now that I’ve finally discovered my true identity I will embrace it and be true to it, and will continue to run most of my miles before the sun rises.

Interview with Jen Drynan – friend, mom, pharmacist, and 2:49 debut-marathoner

Sometimes I find I need a little inspiration in life and running. I need to be reminded that I should not make excuses for reasons that I can’t do something – I should adopt a positive attitude and try my hardest. One of my great sources of inspiration in many areas is my friend Jen Drynan. Jen is a pharmacist, mom of twins, rock-steady friend, and amazing runner who seems to be getting faster every year, always with a smile and usually while dropping off baked goods for someone in need. To highlight the amazing runner point, Jen just ran her first marathon in Niagara in a spectacular time of 2:49! I caught up with Jen so she could give me the low-down on how she manages to do it all.

1. I first met you on the x-country team at Queen’s University in 1994. You were a top runner on the team then. How long had you been running competitively before that?
• I started running in Grade11 at Unionville High School. Thanks to two dedicated coaches, Dave Stanley and Keith Hotrum, I made it to OFSAA in Cross Country and/or Track yearly from 1989-1992. I thought that would be it for running. But at graduation, Mr. Hotrum took me aside and said “I know you don’t think you are talented enough to run varsity at Queen’s but you go out there and do it!” Without that encouragement, I would have hung up my spikes.

2. You remained a competitive runner on the road scene after university. Then in 2007 you became a mom to twin boys! Tell me about the role running played in your life in the early days of new motherhood.
• Getting back into running after kids was a mental health choice. Going for a even a quick run helped me get out of the house. Running was also became a form of weight and resistance training. Pushing a double Chariot out of Sunnybrook Park made me feel physically and mentally tough!

How I picture Jen running

How I picture Jen running

3. In the past few years you’ve posted some very fast times (in 2012 Jen ran 1:19 for a half marathon, 35:48 for 10K and 18:04 for 5K) along with an amazing marathon debut of 2:49! When did you decide to make the transition back to competitive running?

• I really didn’t consciously decide to get back into competitive running. But, I did commit to running the Sporting Life 10K when the boys were just over a year old. I was pleasantly surprised by my result and realized that there might still be hope of running decent times post kids.

4. You have a busy life with a job as a pharmacist, a busy husband and two kids. How do you create the balance and fit in your training?
• I end up running in the wee hours of the morning or running home from work. Multi-tasking is key. When I squeeze my run in before the day starts, I find I can focus better on the rest of “the list”.

Jen, happily juggling it all

Jen, happily juggling it all

5. Your husband coached you for your recent marathon. This can be tricky territory for many people. How did the dynamic work for you?
• Mark has coached me in the past and knows me, my body and my schedule better than anyone else. I trust his knowledge and knew that he would adjust my training plan based on the feedback I gave him. I would say it was truly a team effort.

Jen and Mark - great teamwork!

Jen and Mark – great teamwork!

6. What is your favourite workout?
• Kilometre repeats.

7. What is your least-favourite workout?

• Ascending distance repeats. Or anything that involves a 500 m repeat – that distance always kills me!

8. What is your favourite indulgence?
• Chocolate.

9. You are a great inspiration to many working parents who are still trying to perform at their best. What/who is your greatest source of inspiration?
• I am so fortunate to have many role models and sources of inspiration. In terms of running a marathon, watching my sister Ali run her first was extremely motivating. Nicole Stevenson, a great friend, mentor, and coach is of course an inspiration; as are the Angels, her talented group of runners.
• In terms of perseverance and commitment, kids are my inspiration. My own because anytime I feel like giving up, I think of what I want to model for them. I want them to see that if you work hard at something you enjoy, there are benefits. In this case, both physical and mental. And, working at Sick Kids, the patients and their families are inspiring. The mental and physical strain of running pales in comparison to what they endure.

Jen in her role at work

Jen in her role at work

10. Any final words of wisdom?

• My Dad always said “If something is worth doing, it is worth doing well” and my Mom always told me “Just do your best and have fun!” If you can strike a balance between these two sentiments and commit to and enjoy hitting the pavement, you will find you are “running well!”

Thanks Jen! Good luck in your next races, and I hope to get out to train with you more often in the future!

Where my mind goes when I’m running

The other day I was chatting with my neighbour when she said “hope you had a nice run on Saturday”. I drew a complete blank. What was my run on Saturday? Was it a race? No. Then how did she know I’d been running? I couldn’t recall a thing about my run. It turns out she had seen me and we had smiled and waved at each other. Whew! But this was scary as I have zero conscious recollection of having done that. I think my mind often leaves my body when I’m running and all I can do is hope that I’m acting like a normal human being. When people say they saw me running I often just have to hope it wasn’t while I was doing something strange or anti-social, like blowing an air-hanky or adjusting my running bra. This got me to wondering where my mind actually does go when I’m running, as it obviously is not in the conscious present. Here are some examples of some thoughts I recall having had while running, which may give some insight as to where my mind goes:

“I wonder if we should get a dog?”
“Holy cow, five minutes at race pace feels hard – how will I keep that up for a 10K race??”
“I love running in the fall.”
“I hope the park washrooms are still open!”
“I like this song. I think I’ll just play it on repeat until I hate it.”
“Wow, I’m already three miles into my run – only four to go.”
“I can’t believe how insensitive XXX was yesterday!” And then by the end of the run: “Poor XXX must have been having a hard day yesterday.” (Funny how running changes your perspective on things)
“Aaaagghhh!! Oh, it’s just a Halloween decoration.” (I really did nearly jump out of my skin the other day when my mind suddenly processed a dead-body type thing hanging from a fence)
“There really are a ton of raccoons in this city.”

Other than the odd fleeting thought though, I really can’t recall much. And strangely, even though my mind is apparently blank, I’m never bored. I’m glad I seem to automatically smile and wave to people who wave to me. But please don’t take it personally if I don’t – just assume I’m working through serious math problems or coming up with new ideas which will change the world. Who knows, maybe deep in my sub-conscious this is actually what my brain is hard at work doing while I run. I’ll go with that theory.