by lindsay khan
When I was 11 or 12 years old, I remember crying on track and field day as I walked two laps of the track that had been spray painted on the grass at my elementary school. When I was in high school, I was in swimming and was asked to try a track practice. I ran the practices and couldn’t walk the next day. My childhood was riddled with knee injuries from competitive dance, and running was the furthest from something you’d find me doing. When I was 19, my mom joined a learn to run clinic. Surely if she could do it, I could too. I could barely run 200m without stopping, but I was determined to run 5k. Two months later, I did. I am a firm believer that things come to us when we need them the most. Running came into my life exactly when I needed it - even if I didn’t know it at the time.
10 years and two kids after that 5k run, I ran my very first marathon and qualified for Boston. A few months later, I learned about the elite standards for the 10k at Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend and signed up to run a 10k. The B standard was sub 40:00. I ran 37:54 and my elite application was accepted a few days later. I knew it would be a difficult transition going from Boston to a 10k within 5 weeks. I was physically and mentally exhausted when I completed Boston.
As the Ottawa 10k approached, I had another battle ahead of me – imposter syndrome. I was looking at the names of the other runners in the elite field and I struggled with feeling like I belonged. By no means do I consider myself an “elite” runner. I am someone who happened to run a certain distance under a certain amount of time. I came down with the flu the week of the Ottawa 10k, and although it took a toll on my body, I tried focusing on the positive and the extra rest I was getting (the rest I didn’t give myself after Boston).
When I picked up my bib in the elite suite on Friday, the day before the 10k, it was so surreal to see my last name on the bib instead of a number. I could overhear other athletes talking about national titles and trips to the Olympics. Reality was setting in, and my nerves were taking over – regardless of what I did to try and take my mind off of the race. My plan for the race was to push as hard as I could and hold on for as long as possible. I was hoping that the momentum from the other members of the elite field would push me to run faster than I had before.
On Saturday, the day of the 10k, my kids had me up at 5:50am and I had to wait until almost 6:30pm for the race. I am a morning runner, so an evening race was new to me. It was going to be a warm race. I focused on hydration during the day. We packed up the kids and went into Ottawa. I was scrambling to get to the elite sweat check and drop my bag off. I ran into some friends along the way who offered words of encouragement. I went into the warm up area and there was Natasha Wodak warming up. I took my place at the very back of the pack and waited for the start, trying to take in every moment and feeling that I experienced. It was an honour to be standing with those ladies. It reminded me of how far I’ve come in my running.
I went out a bit too fast, especially for the temperature, and started slowing down halfway through. I pushed as hard as I could but had to set aside my goal of a PR that day. I learned a lot from the experience and know what I need to work on next time. I need to relax and work on my mental game. When I started slowing down during the race, a small voice in my head told me I was crazy for doing this and that I didn’t belong. I know that I am capable of running a much faster time than I did that day, and one day, I will set a new PR in this distance. My experience in the elite field helped me to find a new spark to ignite my running goals. I am so thankful to Run Ottawa, the organizers and volunteers that make Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend possible every year, the Race Director, John Halvorsen, and to Manny Rodrigues, the elite coordinator who works hard at creating an amazing experience for the elite athletes at this event each year.
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