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Globe Life's online editor Amberly McAteer after crossing the finish line at the Sporting Life 10K in Toronto, May 1, 2011. She finally got the t-shirt. (Noah Vardon for The Globe and Mail)
Globe Life's online editor Amberly McAteer after crossing the finish line at the Sporting Life 10K in Toronto, May 1, 2011. She finally got the t-shirt. (Noah Vardon for The Globe and Mail)

I finished the 10K smiling. But another race? Not a chance Add to ...

I did it. I ran across that 10K finish line yesterday - totally upright, somewhat smiling, thoroughly proud and completely ready to make this declaration: I will never run a race again. Ever. Let me explain.

Over the past 10 weeks, I've graduated from excuse machine to jogger to runner. When I publicly committed to training for the 10K, I was under the notion that runners, by definition, race. Every one I know talks about their next big feat, keeping up with the pace bunny (an actual thing), and their PB (which, by the way, is tragically not code for peanut butter).

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I'm a competitive person - put me in a dodge ball court and it'll get ugly - but for me, running isn't a sport. It's a sanctuary - a sweaty, beautiful hour of my life that is just about my feet and the ground.

On my first trip for running gear, flocks of spandex-clad middle-aged men discussed their upcoming "half." I wanted to run the 10K in a brag-worthy time. This is what runners do, I thought. In the weeks that followed, I completed two 5K races. And after each one I eagerly checked online to find my time. Seeing my name scraping the bottom of the list - twice - was, well, a little dispiriting.

I appreciate races do great things - the Sporting Life 10K raised about $1.2-million this year for Camp Oochigeas, a haven in Muskoka for kids with cancer. So next year, I'll happily make a donation, cheer on those bold racers and run my own 10K somewhere else.

I wish we didn't have to call it a race - we all knew I wasn't going to win. I never even got to see those zippy Kenyans who habitually do. For me, it's all too much of a spectacle. The huge crowds, the music, the lithe speedsters stretching like Olympians. I want to ask those (sweet, good-natured) volunteers to kindly refrain from the high-fives, as I'm in my own personal groove. I'd be similarly uncomfortable if a sudden brouhaha erupted in my gym, strangers cheering me on as I grunted through my last set of tricep dips.

I've fallen into the comparison trap often, and worked hard to silence the self-defeating voice. But it's all the more challenging when eight-year-old boys are flying by me, exclaiming (I kid you not): "This is so easy, mom!"

Yesterday it dawned on me: I hate races. I no longer give a flying fartlek about my time (but in case you do, it was 1:16:17).

As I panted past the Globe and Mail building - about nine kilometres into the race - I had a moment: I've never run so far in my life. Since the starting line is coincidentally steps away from my house, I had literally run to work. If this were only about me I would have been happy to stop, pat myself on the back and go home.

But this 10K race is about doing something I truly believed I couldn't do - and I promised myself (and you) that I'd cross that finish line. That last kilometre was fuelled by pure adrenalin - but I did it.

Once I finished, I must admit I felt a little silly about making an ordeal of such an enjoyable experience. To those contemplating such a feat, I'll say this: The battle - honestly, almost all of it - is psychological. Quiet that voice, appreciate your body, show up on race day, and that finish line is yours.

Friends, family, strangers, trainers, colleagues still prod: "So, when's the column about your first marathon?" Not funny. The only reason I'd ever dreamed of running 42 consecutive kilometres is just to say I did it - and that's not me.

I run for running's sake - and that's a long distance from where I started.

Reluctant runner Amberly McAteer received advice (both helpful and hilarious) from hundreds of readers on her quest to finally complete a 10K race. Read her favourites and share your tips here

 

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