Training for Rally in the Ravine: My path to 5K

Guest post by Shana Haberman
Project Coordinator, Freeman Centre for the Advancement of Palliative Care, North York General Hospital

As I train for Rally in the Ravine, I’m reminded of what I said to North York General Hospital’s (NYGH) wellness coordinator the first time we met, over five years ago. She had gathered together a group of cautiously curious staff who were interested in participating in the Scotiabank 5K. She was asking about our reasons for wanting to get involved and about our physical fitness level. When it was my turn, I admitted, “I can’t even run half a block!” In high school and university, I shunned most forms of exercise and considered running a punishment. And then I started working, and I had kids, and, well, you know how it goes.

But funny things happen when you hit a milestone birthday. Suddenly you’re embracing the new and unfamiliar, and doing things you would have avoided in the past. And there I was, approaching my 40th birthday and feeling the imperative to do something outside of my comfort zone: grow personally. Feel good about an accomplishment. Cross something off the bucket list.

So I went to that first meeting about training for the Scotiabank 5K and declared publicly that I was totally unfit to do so. I thought everyone would laugh at me. But the wellness coordinator gave me a reassuring smile and explained that she would guide us through a Couch to 5K running program. The goal is to get just about anyone from the couch to running 5km or 30 minutes in nine weeks. The program conditions you for running gradually, giving you time to adapt and get fitter.

It worked. As promised, nine weeks after we started, I could run 5K in about 35 minutes. Granted, I used an interval timer on my smartphone to give me the short walking breaks I needed. But I was running! I was a runner! Doing that first Scotiabank 5K right after I turned 40 and having my kids cheer me on as I crossed the finish line felt tremendously good. It also started me on a path of physical fitness that I’ve continued to this day, five years later. I carve out time to train and exercise twice a week, typically spinning and running, because it energizes me. It gives me mental clarity. It makes me a happier person. I’m also convinced it makes me a better mother, spouse and colleague.

It takes commitment – getting up for an 8am spin class on Saturday morning isn’t easy. Similarly, running in the NYGH ravine after a busy work day can be draining. So here’s what I do: I bring my running gear to work on Monday and place the bag next to my desk. The bag is a visual reminder of what I’m supposed to do at the end of the day and motivates me to get outside and run. It’s a simple thing, but somehow it works. For me, 95% of the training challenge is self-discipline. Once I conquered that aspect, the rest came naturally.

Rally in the Ravine is a great way to ease yourself into fitness. Knowing that I have the encouragement of my family, friends and everyone who supports me with a donation to the hospital, is one of the strongest motivators yet. I encourage you to register and run!