21.1 Nonsensical Kilometres

By Shannon Lelievre

Sometimes you have to do the thing that doesn’t make sense to anyone but you. I ran 21.1 nonsensical kilometres and while it wasn’t the prettiest half marathon ever, it was the most beautiful run of my life. I signed up for New York Road Runners Virtual Half Marathon a couple of weeks ago when it was an act of support for a friend who’d be running the real thing. I knew I could use a physical challenge to help me reset my focus and it turned out to be exactly what I didn’t know I needed.

The last 4 months have been full of unexpected challenges: from a car accident and concussion to the ongoing frustrations related to my impending divorce to being abandoned by old friends and picked up by new ones. I’ve felt at my lowest and spent time in the darkness so today ended up being about finding my way to new heights and basking in the warmth of the light.

The windchill kicked my ass in the first 5k and I had to tell my doubts to take a leap as I plowed on. I veered off the trails which were open to the winds and found shelter along the main drag until I hit 11k when I hopped back on the trail and turned to head back.

There’s a reason this particular stretch of the Harvest Moon Trail is my favourite: the trees close in and hug me as I tread along the snow covered patches until I reach this little downhill that leads to an open stretch. The ground was soft under my feet and the trees opened enough to let the warmth of the sun beat down upon my face as I glided down one side of the little valley. I opened my arms and spread my wings like the guardian eagles who soared above me.

In that moment I was grateful for the gift of running. I was grateful for the discomfort that was starting to set into my right quad because it was a reminder that I’m alive. This is living! It’s hard and painful yet moments of absolute joy and peace can be there, right around the next bend you just have to keep moving forward.

I met dogs and sang along to my favourite songs and ignored the tightness. I paused to walk several times because I didn’t train beyond a 10k so while I may be a badass warrior, I’m not a superhero. Every step helped me clear out the things that have hurt me so deeply I forgot who I was. Every step forward helped me break free of the chains that were keeping me stuck. I’m rooted in who I am, not in who the struggles tried to turn me into.

I chose to make my start/finish Nova Scotia’s Grand Pre National Historic Site because it’s absolutely beautiful but it’s also a representation of the struggles my Acadian ancestors endured. I knew I was close when I could see the spire of the church and I could smell the finish when I came upon the tree with the massive eagle nest. I actually said “You are almost there…just keep moving forward “ out loud.

That final kilometre was one of my slowest ever but that doesn’t matter. It matters that the sun was shining, the snow was melting, the eagles were riding the wind above me. It matters that I got out of bed and put my gear on and left my doubts in dust. Will I do another half untrained again? Probably not, but sometimes what doesn’t make sense to anyone else is exactly what you need to do to be who you are.