Meet 53 year-old Helen Lanthier from St. Albans …. another recent “victim” to the running obsession. Yay Helen!!
I haven’t always run. In fact, I spent just over half of a century determined NOT to run! Now that I’ve started running, I run because on every run, I learn something new about myself. Running makes me believe in myself in ways I never did before, both on the road and off. But, why did I start running? After all, I was the perpetually overweight kid who always got picked last for playground games. Playing a simple game of Tag was pure torture – I couldn’t run fast enough to avoid being tagged, nor could I run fast enough to lose the position of “IT.” The only time I ran was to run AWAY from such situations.
Sixteen months ago, I went for a walk at Collins Perley Complex in Saint Albans. Just a walk. For some reason, still unfathomable to me, I wondered how far I could run. I had recently begun working with Beth, a fitness trainer at The Fitness Zone, and had lost a great deal of weight. I knew where to go for a measured mile. I picked up one foot and started a slow jog. When I stopped I was breathless, but realized I had jogged a full mile. “Ha,” I thought, “not bad for someone who can’t run.”
On the way to my car, I bumped into a friend who asked if I had started running. I replied that yes, today I had run, but no, I had NOT taken up running. She told me about The Brandon Stephenson Run, a 4.4 mile race to be held in August. She said she’d be participating and asked if I would join her. I looked at her to see if she had been listening to me at all and repeated that I had simply jogged a mile and was totally out of breath. I doubted that anything called a “4.4 mile RACE” would be anywhere in my future, near or far.
Well, you know how an idea gets tucked away in the recesses of your brain? That’s what happened to me, but it wasn’t tucked too far back. I went for my training session with Beth just a few days later. As we worked out, I casually told her of the conversation I had and asked, “Do you think I could get ready to do it?” Always encouraging and never wanting to inhibit progress of any kind, she paused thoughtfully and said, “If you’re willing to work hard for it, I KNOW we can get you there. You can do it.”
Someone actually had faith that I could run that far? That was more credit than I could give myself, but I also knew Beth wouldn’t lie to me. We developed a training schedule and I began running, 5 or 6 days per week. I huffed and I puffed hard enough to beat out the Big Bad Wolf! I moaned and groaned up and down High Street, doing so loudlyenough to wake the sensible people, fast asleep, as I ran each of my early morning runs. Just when I thought I might not die, I experienced the first of many injuries, none uncommon to any runner. In the course of the next few months, I healed, ran faster, got injured again and healed again, began running up and down hills (How many times did you say you want me to run up and down Lakeview Terrace, Beth?), and even began the dreaded interval runs. Two weeks before the race, I seriously injured my leg. The physical therapist said, ”No running!” and I cried all the way home. How could I reach this point and NOT run in the race?
I followed the “no run” plan for one and a half weeks, then was given permission to run the length of my driveway. (It’s a standard driveway, nothing that takes any more than 30 or 40 steps to cover) and was then advised to try running ½ mile the next day. If it hurt, no running. If it didn’t hurt, I was good to go.
I ran and it hurt, but I decided I was going to get my bib in the morning and see what happened. Beth came to the race to cheer me on or to scrape me off the side of the road, whichever I decided I needed. I paced nervously until we were told to line up. I placed myself at the dead end of the line – I didn’t want to hold anyone back. Once we were off, all the pain seemed to go away. A runner’s high, I guess. The run was not an easy one, but I finished it. I actually managed to come in 2nd in my age group – and I suppose I should tell you at this point that the age group I fit into is the “Old Ladies Group, 50-59 years old.” You can bet that I proudly collected and ate the Boston Crème Pie I was awarded! And by the way, my friend never showed up at the race…it seems she decided to take a trip to Argentina instead!
Since then, I’ve continued to push myself toward new running goals. I finished the 1st Annual Run for the Lake that September, the Leaf Peepers 5K that October and the Westford Turkey Trot that November. With a single training goal in mind, I ran hard all winter, missing only one day due to below 0 temperatures and very icy conditions. On May 29, I completed 13.1 miles as a member of a 2-person relay team in the KeyBank Vermont City Marathon. I became a long distance runner! This summer, I trained for the Vermont 100 on 100 relay in August and the Green Mountain Marathon in October – 26.2 miles!
My evolution as a runner has brought me from running away to running toward new opportunities. If I have to miss a day of running due to late meetings or other commitments, I’m a wreck! What keeps me running? Running!
St. Albans, VT