Smutty Fitness: Bending Impossible
She wanted her daughters to know that their dreams could come true and that there were no boundaries in life. Running a 5 day, 152 km race through the jungles, mangroves, mountains, trails and beaches of Costa Rica was a dream that she never believed she could accomplish. This is the story of how Tam, a 47 year old working mother of two who had never run farther than 10k before her daughters were born, began to bend impossible a little each day in hopes that one day it would break.
Tam began running while working as a flight attendant. To her it was an easy way to exercise while abroad and she found she would see the most magnificent sights while in her running shoes. We both agreed that while in a foreign country nothing makes you feel more like a local than running a city’s streets. Although she had run for years she had never run farther than 10km, but that did not stop her from thinking to herself, as she cheered her brother across the BMO Vancouver half marathon finish line, that one day she might attempt a half marathon herself.
Tam did not run much through her pregnancies and she put everything on hold to be a mother but after her second daughter was born she found herself battling with postpartum depression and she knew then that she had to start to give back to herself. Running became her outlet and her medication. She committed to a Sun Run training clinic but unlike all the other runners who would socialize at the local coffee shop post run, she found herself rushing home so she could breastfeed her four month old daughter. Before her daughter was a year old Tam completed the Sun Run and realized that running was not only good for her health but also good for her soul and she began to thrive on the camaraderie and support that she found within the running community. She was building friendships that she still carries with her today.
With the Sun Run under her belt she began to think of what was next and started to consider doing the BMO half marathon with a goal of completing it in under 2 hours and 30 minutes. In 2008 she crossed the finish line in 2 hours and 29 minutes and 59 seconds. Never in her life would a second mean so much to her and when she came home after the race she took her Saucony running shoes off and never wore them again. She had decided she never again wanted to be the woman she was before she crossed the starting line. Crossing this finish line had changed her and she wanted more.
Tam was hooked and wanted to try it again and chose the Nike Women’s San Francisco half marathon. But because this race was a lottery and she had missed it she joined Team in Training and put the hours she would have had to work to pay for the trip into fundraising efforts. To her this weekend away in San Francisco symbolized a rebirth to herself and once again she found herself crossing another finish line.
After this race Tam was approached to become a Team in Training coach but having never run a marathon before she figured it would be best she did. Months of sacrifices and long runs later she tied up her running shoes and set out to run 42.2km with 3 goals in mind: to have fun, to run the entire way and to cross the finish line wanting to do another one. After 5 hours and 11 minutes she was a marathon finisher. As she was in her 40s she had decided that it was time to make this THE decade and set a goal of running a marathon somewhere other than Vancouver. When Team in Training announced that they would be running Paris she said it was like the universe was talking to her. She signed up and she finished.
It was during her coaching efforts with Team in Training that she was reacquainted with a mentor, Graham, she had had while she was a Team in Training athlete herself. This small, yet pivotal moment, where she encouraged Graham, who was struggling on the course to push through and finish, was the catalyst for what was about to come, an adventure that would change Tam’s life.
Flash forward a few years to November 2011 when Tam receives a letter from Graham who was about to run a multi stage race across Nepal. The letter said “it took a village to get to where I am going so if you have received this email then you are a part of this village”. Tam was surprised to see this email in her inbox, and her life for the next week was focused on how Graham was doing in his race. Every night, once her daughters were asleep, she would sit down in front of her computer and send Graham motivational words of encouragement and track his progress.The day he finished was the night before Tam was about to attempt the Seattle Marathon. She had been discouraged through many injuries along the way to this start line but decided she would run the race for no other reason than because she loved to run.
Then came December 21, which also happens to be the shortest day of the year. Tam received an email from Graham asking if she was up for the challenge. It was an invite to join his team for the Coastal Challenge, a 152km, multistage race across Costa Rica and they would be raising money for Imagine One Day. She thought that it must have been a mistake as why would anyone want her on their team? But this email came on the 10 year anniversary of a close friend’s suicide and she thought to herself “I don’t give a damn, I am going to do it”.
Tam has to be the most positive, inspirational, selfless and humble woman I have ever met and I will share her journey across Costa Rica and how it changed her life next week.