Training for the 10 km. race at the Woody's Marathon this weekend and a marathon later this spring Crystal Rhyno

Training for the 10 km. race at the Woody's Marathon this weekend and a marathon later this spring Crystal Rhyno

What makes a runner?

I used to think people who ran marathons were a few beers short of a six-pack. Seriously, who would run 42 km on purpose?

I used to think people who ran marathons were a few beers short of a six-pack. Seriously, who would run 42 km on purpose? That’s the equivalent of running to Sylvan Lake and back. And that’s just on race day.

Marathoners pound the pavement for hours at a time, day after day, before they even approach the start line. It’s a certain kind of madness that I never quite understood.

That is until six months ago when I crossed the finish line of my first marathon. And I can safely say that after Woody’s RV World Marathon on Sunday in Red Deer, a new group of marathoners will get it, too.

Let’s be clear. Running does not come easy to me. I am not a natural runner nor do I have the look of your “typical” runner.

In 2008, I started running casually when I was asked to write a weekly column on my experiences learning to run.

Believe me, if I didn’t have thousands of readers holding me accountable every single week, I would have tossed my sneakers off the nearest bridge long ago. I have no shortage of running mishap stories to fill the awkward silence in those long elevator rides.

I can’t tell you when my love affair with running began. It wasn’t one of those hot and steamy romances. Maybe it was the first time a finisher’s medal was placed around my neck or when I was able to run 10 minutes straight without calling for a medic.

Like most successful relationships, it took a lot of understanding, compromise and commitment.

I’m proud to say I’ve been running steady now for two years.

In all that time, I never imagined that one day I would add marathoner to my arsenal of party tricks. At no time did the thought linger between my pen and my bucket list posted on my refrigerator.

I was happy to finish a half-marathon sub two hours and a 10-km race under an hour. I was beating everyone on the couch. So I was winning, right?

Sure I had run several half-marathons, a few 10-km races and even a 27-km leg of the Canadian Death Race. But a marathon? Not me. Marathons are for the elite endurance athletes — or at least that’s what I thought.

In a brief moment of insanity, I entered my name in the lottery for the ING New York City Marathon in 2011. Deep down, I had visions of leading the pack off the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.

Never in a million years did I dream my name would be drawn from the hopefuls in the lottery. Some people try year after year to get in the marathon through the lottery.

If you are still reading, you can probably guess what happened next.

I think now it was probably one of the most pivotal times in my young life. It was early spring when I learned what I would be doing in November. I had about eight months to convince myself I had what it takes to run a marathon.

The hardest part of the puzzle wasn’t finding the time to run. It wasn’t dealing with the blisters, the aches, the pains, the chafing or the mental breakdowns. It wasn’t turning down an extra shot at the bar because I had to get up early the next morning for my long run.

Many new runners will tell you that overcoming the negative thoughts or self-doubt is the biggest hurtle. It was no different for me. I had only run consistently for 18 months and I still felt like a poser when I timidly declared I was a runner. Didn’t runners have to train for at least five years before they considered a marathon? Some people believe running a marathon is the epitome of fitness. So why on earth did I think I could run a marathon?

Let me tell you, in those 16 weeks of training, I learned things about myself that years in therapy never uncovered.

Above all, I learned the secret to running at any distance. It’s all about mind over matter. Set a goal. Then just do it.

Don’t get me wrong; the physical training is no easy feat. I know a few runners in Red Deer who had to postpone their marathon debut on Sunday because of injuries. I know it’s heartbreaking but it’s also smart. I hurt my left leg a month before my marathon. I ran anyway. As a result, I didn’t run pain free again until January.

Training for a marathon and successfully completing one has solidified my belief that we can do anything we put our minds to. Crossing the finish line was one of the happiest moments of my life. Yes, every part of my body was screaming bloody hell. Yes. I had to walk three km. but I loved every single gasping-for-air minute of it. I loved it so much that I immediately registered for the Scotiabank Calgary Marathon, which is next Sunday, and the BMO Okanagan Marathon in Kelowna in October.

Now in my sixth month as an official marathoner, I feel it is my duty to spread the true gospel of running. I can’t imagine my life without running. People often ask what keeps me motivated, especially on those double-digit-kilometre runs?

It’s simple. Sanity. Running clears my mind. I love the me time.

On a trail run out in the middle of nowhere, I solve world problems. I hug trees. I have some of the best conversations with myself. Running is something that constantly challenges me. And this is big: the running clothes are super cute.

I’m not trying to turn everyone I meet into a runner. Some of my best friends are non-runners. But if you want to try a new sport or push your limits, I encourage you to give running a go.

All you need to get started is a good pair of sneakers, a clean bill of health and the desire. Need some inspiration? Check out Woody’s race on Sunday starting and ending near Camille J. Lerouge school. The marathon and half-marathon start at 8 a.m. The 10-km starts at 7:45 a.m.

I’ll be the one in the pink dress running the 10 km. Follow my running adventures @crystalrhyno on Twitter.