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Turning 50 and losing 40 – My journey into Running

by Kathryn Macleod
Turning fifty, is a milestone. For me it was huge. I admit to being quite vain and also to fighting getting older.
I wanted the day to pass without ceremony and attention. A few days after my July 12, 2012 Birthday, I took a trip to Vegas with my husband and another couple.
The celebration was to begin with a shopping expedition. I had this visual image of what I would look like in my special new outfit. I spent far too much money, but purchased what I thought was the perfect outfit.
That evening my husband took some pictures of me. I distinctly remember looking at the pictures and this huge lump came in my throat.
I was not “fat” but I was certainly quite chubby. I actually cried. That same weekend, my husband took a picture of me on my horse. Another weepy moment and another eye opener.
I had to do something. What could I do to change my lifestyle?


Las Vegas 2012
Las Vegas July 2012


Riding Horse 2012
Riding my horse Winston


I have always been an active person. I teach dressage riding professionally (think ballet on horseback), I ride many horses a day, muck stalls, lug hay, and do all sorts of manual labor.
I grew up in Prince Edward Island, Canada and studied Education at a university. I competed with my horses and my riding students at a very competitive level — coaching students to represent Canada in North American competitions.
How did this active person let the pounds just gradually slip on? I had done the diet thing many times…diet down for a vacation south…only to gain it back.
I was hitting middle age and for the first time ever…I was gaining weight on my middle. I weighed 167 pounds.
Social media intervened and so did the era of the “app”. I saw someone post on Facebook about a program called C25k [couch to 5k]. I googled it. Interesting, I thought, perhaps this is what I needed to do?
In August of 2012, I downloaded the “app” on my phone and I created a Facebook page called “Let’s Get Fit c25k”. I convinced several friends to take on the challenge with me.
I then put on whatever running shoes I had and ventured out my door.I did not know it, but my life was about to change.
The first day I ran, I knew. I just knew that this was what I should be doing. I am not without runners in my family. My sister is a runner and a very good runner. I have two nieces that have completed marathons.
I however, had never run. EVER. I thought it was a rather deranged thing to do. I had no idea that it would be something that would captivate me. Having spent a lifetime captivated by only my horses and my coaching, the mere thought of anything else bringing me such satisfaction was just not comprehensible.
When I say I was hooked on that first day- I was. I felt so challenged. I felt the air in my lungs. I heard the rhythm of my footfalls. I saw the beauty of nature. I melded with it. I felt the wonderful surge of ‘I did it”- the runners high?
I checked off week 1 of c25k, onward to week 2, and so on and so on. I did my “app” three days a week. I went to a running store and got fitted for shoes. I bought running clothes. I read every single beginning running book my Kindle would download.
I studied running form on videos. I listened for my “splits ” to be announced on my “app”. I wanted to be faster than the day before. I was addicted.
I finished the c25k program and entered my first 5k race. I was so blessed, my friends who had started the venture with me also signed up and some of my riding students (already runners) also registered.
My first  5k race was in October in Ogden. I was so excited and so proud. I had my race plan written in ink on my wrists (yes I am competitive and driven). My goal was to be under 35 minutes.
I finished in 31 minutes and placed second in my age group. I was bitten and bitten badly. I love competition and thought as I saw my race time…..now I want under 30 minutes.


5k run!!! 032
My first 5k and my wonderful “riding” students staying with me to cross the finish line


My goal was to enter a 5k each month, every month I did, my times improved. In November, I finished in 29.59 and won my age division. I continued to get faster and by January I was finishing in 28 minutes and winning my age group once again.
That January  2013 race would be another life changer and another PR. By this time I was “inventing” my own training plan from all the gazillion books I was reading. I did my fartleks and my hill work and my “long” run ( 7kms) BUT, I was also having some pain in my right piriformis [buttocks] it was grabbing and sore. At the end of the 5k race in January, busting with pride to be an age division winner, I lined up for a massage. I met Dr.Tim Speicher, who owns and operates Positional Release Therapy Institute. He shares a building with Nate Graven of Graven Sports Therapy.


winter run
Holding my time card in January of 2013


I set up an appointment for early the next week and went to see Tim at PRT-i. I distinctly remember walking in and seeing “runners” sitting waiting for appointments. I coveted their muscled legs. I wanted to be one of them.
My first appointment went well and Tim and I talked about running form and the possibility of a bio mechanical analysis of my running. He would then design a runners core program to address the weaknesses and to strengthen my stability and thus get to the issue of my aching butt. This would be in conjunction with his positional release therapy. Wanting to get faster and fitter, I signed up. I was about to have another eye opener and another weepy moment.
Tim asked me to show up in shorts and a running bra for the analysis. He would video me while I was on a treadmill…I was game for the shorts but no way, no how was I showing my middle to anyone. So I wore a tank top and set off for my appointment.
I thought I was pretty good…I felt strong on the treadmill as he video taped me. I thought this ole 50 year old can run a 28 minute 5k. THEN…I saw the tape. It was like seeing that birthday picture…I did not look sleek, I looked chubby. I did not look smooth…I looked awkward.
I needed help.
I continued on in February, March and April of 2013 working with Tim at PRT-I, religiously following his exercises and working with him. I also had massage work done by Nate at Graven Sports Therapy. I was impressed with how professional they were and how knowledgeable they were. I was also intrigued by the folks that came through the doors. They were runners and I wanted badly to know how to be a runner. I wanted to get faster and stronger. I did not want to be the person I saw on the videotape, I knew I needed a coach. I knew enough from spending my life coaching, that having a coach was important. I knew no matter how many running plans I downloaded or books I read, nothing could replace the real deal. But who takes on a beginning 50 yr. old runner?
Enter Janae Richardson into my life. Once again my life was going to change. Tim at Positional Release Therapy suggested I contact her and Nate and Corey at Graven Sports encouraged me as well. I remember typing her a letter and thinking…will she even take me on?
In May, following the Ogden Marathon (which would be another 5k age division win for me and a new PR and also the first marathon I ever watched), I met with Janae. That first morning we ran a mile warm up and Janae asked me a few questions. All I could think, as I ran beside her was “she looks like a runner”, “I know this is what I need.” I was hungry for the coaching. We did some speed work that first session and did some chit chatting. I told her I had two goals- I wanted to run a 10k and in November I wanted to run a 1/2 marathon in Las Vegas. I told her I just wanted to “finish” the 1/2 marathon.
Janae and I clicked…we just did. She is driven and competitive and she gets my personality. She gets that I expect the best from myself. I accept nothing less. From the first day I started c25k to the day I am writing this I have missed less than 5 run days and only because I was too sick to run. I run four days a week…whether I am on vacation, whether it is raining or snowing or it is 100 degrees. I  revolve my life around my running. I take one day off a week. Two of the days I do my core work and some light biking. I also of course still ride many horses a day and do my physical barn chores.
With Janae’s help my weekly mileage went up…so did my speed work. With the new work outs I really had to pay close attention to my eating habits. I needed to perform well. I expected nothing less. What went into my mouth affected my runs. I changed my eating. My weight started to really drop off. The core program was giving me AB’s I had not seen in awhile. I felt strong. I felt power. I was feeling like a runner. Janae’s programs challenged me in every way. Some days I would read my running plan for the week and groan (although secretly I welcomed the challenge) I thought “she is crazy” I can not possibly hold that pace in a tempo run. But I wanted to report back only success and that would drive me on those days my legs felt like lead and my body felt 50 years old.
I entered my first 10k just after meeting Janae and was excited that I was a 3rd place finisher with a time of 1:01.59, then I wanted a sub 1:00- which I would get the next time out. In September, Janae and her husband Ken, put on The Classic race in Layton. I wanted to do well. Janae came up with my race plan…I thought, “she is nuts, I can not go this fast.” She told me to trust in my training. She was right. I finished in 54.39. I took almost 6 minutes off my last 10k.


Janae and Kathryn
Janae and I after my new 10k PR and a 3rd place age division win


My next goal was my Vegas half marathon, but I decided to try the Huntsville 1/2 before I went. Once again Janae  came up with a race plan. I finished my first 1/2 marathon in 2:13.54, I was thrilled. I loved every moment of that run. A year before I was 40 lbs heavier and could only run for 2 minutes at a time.


Huntsville half 2013
The new me- just moments before the start of the Huntsville marathon


Next was the original goal…the Vegas RocknRoll  Half Marathon. I had tons of friends going and running it…I wanted to be in the best shape I could be. I worked diligently with Janae and Tim at PRT-I and Nate with Graven Sports Therapy.
I ran and ran…my speed work got tougher. I ran some trail runs with Janae and she continued to push me. I ate properly. I learned about carb loading and pre-race nutrition. I could not wait for Vegas.


trail run
Long run training in October 2013


Las Vegas November 2013- my big day. I had my race plan. I had my new goal. I wanted a sub 2:10, I wanted a PR. It was 14 months since I  took my first running steps. I was in my first “corral”…thousands of runners. Vibrant atmosphere and I was surrounding by my friends who had also made this half marathon their goal. We were all shapes and sizes, from all walks of life. We all had one goal and that was to cross that finish line. Janae told me the energy of the race and crowds would carry me…my training would carry me…my 40 lb lighter body would carry me. It did. I finished my second 1/2 marathon in 2:08. My first thought and my text to Janae – “I want a sub 2:05.”


las vegas 2013las vegas finish 2013
And now what? Now I want more. I want to be fitter and stronger. I want to drop another 3-4 lbs. I want to set new PR’s. But mostly I want to run because I can. I want to run because it has changed my life. I have dropped 40 lbs. I have dropped from a size 12 to a size 6. I eat healthy food. I take vitamins. The last year has been life changing. I have several races planned for 2014. A 10k in January, a 1/2 Marathon in St George also in January. In February, I am heading to Florida with my sister to run the famous Gasparilla Race and I can not believe my feet will touch the same ground as Grete Waitz’s did. In May, I will run the Ogden 1/2 Marathon. I am excited about the year ahead.
My journey has been profound. I have had so much support along the way. I have met wonderful people. I have GREAT running buddies, we support one another in so many ways. We now call our Facebook group “Let’s Get Fit 5k and Beyond”. We have members from all over Canada and the USA. Everyone at different points in their running. They tease me because I am so driven. I try to inspire them, for they inspire me. But isn’t that what running is all about? Isn’t that what draws us to running – the vibe, the world of runners, the comradery that is within any running group? My coach Janae – I truly adore,we have become friends and I trust her implicitly. Tim Spiecher at Positional Release Therapy, Nate and Corey at Graven Sports Therapy have been instrumental in keeping me healthy. Taking on this sport in middle age could lead to injuries. I think surrounding yourself with the right people is key. Last, but certainly not least, my husband Bill. He comes to every race. He listens to my endless chatter about running. He does not say a word as yet another Lululemon package arrives at the door…or I need to go to a local running store for more shoes. He is proud of me. That means everything.


las vegas 2013 after


Kathryn MacLeod resides in Uintah, Utah, with her husband Bill Cheney and their many horses, dogs and cats.
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This entry was posted on Thursday, December 12th, 2013 at 3:34 pm and is filed under Beginners, Injury Prevention, Motivation, Nutrition, Training, Utah Running. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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