Leeanne and I met briefly years ago, at various horse events. My Dad had been a teacher of hers, so she was added to the long list of people I recognized as “someone Dad taught,” but didn’t really know. We got to know each other better at some horse things one summer, and our kids really hit it off and became friends too.
About a year ago, Leeanne decided to make her health a priority. As someone who had struggled with her weight for a long time, her initial journey was about weight loss. She worked with a trainer and increased her strength and fitness significantly. She ran a mini triathlon and a 5K foam race, and began to take another look at running. In November, we both ran Brainsport’s Gingerbread Run, a fun 5K kick-off to the Christmas season. After this accomplishment, Leeanne decided to run a 10K next. She soon changed her mind and registered for the half marathon in the Saskatchewan Marathon at the end of May. Her focus on weight loss faded, and a movement towards improved general health, that had nothing to do with weight, took over.
Leeanne signed up with a beginner half marathon running group at Brainsport, and updated me many Monday evenings after her group run. She was at times frustrated and disheartened by being slower than her teammates, but she didn’t quit. Others did – quit some workouts partway through or even quit the group entirely. Leeanne’s perseverance and determination was truly inspiring to me, and motivated me to keep going at a time when I wasn’t sure I could complete my own training program.
The day before race day, we met at the Saskatchewan Marathon race expo to pick up our race kits and browse through the merchant booths. We attended the pasta dinner and heard an amazing speech from a Boston Marathon bombing survivor. Leeanne shared her time goal with me, and I tried my best to support it but also remind her that in the end it didn’t matter – your first half marathon is a physical and emotional journey that isn’t affected by time.
The next morning we met at the start/finish area bright and early. Leeanne left to go warm up with her running clinic group and I stood in line at the bathrooms and chatted with Glenda, who was also running the half marathon after not training quite to her full ability. We tried to laugh off our mutual feeling of being slightly undertrained and decided to just have fun. We eventually gave up on the long bathroom line up and found a good bluff of shrubs a ways away from the crowd, before heading to the start line.
My Dad greeted me at the finish line and hung out while I ate a cheese bun and a cookie, and drank some chocolate milk. We stood by the finish chute and chatted with Glenda and her Uncle Blair, and wished her boys luck in the MaraFun (kids run a total of 40 km throughout the month of May, and finish their final 2.2 at the Saskatchewan Marathon. There were about a thousand kids running this year!). Dad waited with me, as he was also proud of Leeanne for accomplishing what she had set out to do and wanted to see her finish. I was torn – should I run back along the course and find her, or just leave her alone to finish her journey by herself? After going back and forth a few times, I said to Dad, “there’s a long, steady incline a few kilometers back. She’s been worried about that being so close to the finish throughout this whole training process. I think I’m going to go back and see where she is and if she needs some help on that hill.” He took my bag and I began to run the course in reverse, off to the side.
I cheered for runners as I met them, and told volunteers and spectators, “there’s a woman with pink hair coming. It’s her first half marathon, so cheer loud for her when she gets here!” About two kilometers back, I could see Leeanne’s orange tank top and pink hair starting up the hill she’d been so worried about. Her running coach was on the sidelines there, and we got to her at the same time, falling in step on either side of her. He stopped after 100m or so to cheer on other runners, and I kept going. I let her lead the conversation, as I know sometimes runners want to chat and sometimes they don’t. I do this in my massage therapy practice as well, if my client initiates a conversation I’ll chat with them, but if they just want to be quiet then I’ll be quiet too. Leeanne started telling me things that were completely unrelated to running, so we talked about her goats, her kids, and whether her hair dye was running. Whether this was intentional on her part to distract herself or not, I’m not sure, but it worked. Every step we took got us closer to her finish line, until we could see the inflatable arch and hear the music. She started running again after a walk break and I said “this time you’re not going to stop. You’re going to just run the whole way.”
We got to the beginning of the long finish chute and I stepped off the road, behind the barricades. “Go get it,” I told her, and ran back to where my Dad was waiting. This was Leeanne’s race, and it was her finish. I’d already had my finish that day, and I wanted her to finish the race the same way she’d trained for it – by herself, with her own determination to push her through. She’d more than earned it.
Leeanne’s very supportive husband and kids were there to see her finish. Leeanne had a lot of people scoff at her when she told them she was running a half marathon. People told her she couldn’t do it, that she shouldn’t do it. People in her life who should have supported her and been there for her, instead told her to stop. Ian never wavered in his support of his wife, and knew she could do anything she put her mind to. Leeanne proved that he was right, and finished her first half marathon in 3:13.
I had ordered Leeanne a wrap from Momentum Jewelry with the inscription “She believed she could, so she did.” I just felt it was so fitting for her. I gave it to her at the finish line and was so happy to see her ring that personal best bell. When we parted ways to go home, she was already planning her half marathon in 2017, so I’d say she’s hooked. Who knows, maybe a full marathon is somewhere in her future!
Leeanne, I am so proud of you and everything you have accomplished. You have inspired me many times over the past year, and I can’t wait to see what you decide to do next!
You can follow Leeanne’s journey at http://www.farmfitma.wordpress.com.
Find me on Twitter: @RunMommyRun3 and Instagram: @RunMommyRun33