The Q&A: Running with Cheri
The Valley Harvest Marathon is coming up and we wanted to know more about running in the Valley! We asked runner Cheri Killam a couple questions:
How long have you been running?
I started running in 2011 — right at the end of my first year of law school. I started all by myself with an app call Couch to 5k, which was apt because I’d always been a Couch Potato. I began in May that year with my first goal of making it to the 10k at the Valley Harvest Marathon. I did not want to work that hard for that long only to do a “fun” run (the 5k).
Why did you take up running?
When I first started I was amazed at people who had been doing it for years. I could not imagine. I had never stuck with any type of physical activity in my life. But running made me feel better — physically and mentally — and it made law school a little bit easier. It worked both to get stress out of my body but also it seemed to make it easier to think clearly. The experience at the Valley Harvest was surreal. I had been running alone, thinking I was doing something kind of weird and unusual, but suddenly there were hundreds of runners around me. It was amazing. The next spring I decided to join a “Learn to Run” group with Helen MacDonald and, since then, I’ve never enjoyed running alone again. Running has become my outlet and my entire social life. The running community is incredibly supportive and welcoming. Now it seems like almost everyone I know runs.
Most tend to think of running as a solitary activity — what do you appreciate about running with people?
Although running is hard work, we always find time to talk while we’re running. We solve the world’s problems, we sort out our lives and our personal problems, and we discuss tips and tricks for making running more fun, or at least more bearable. My theory has always been that running is the opposite of junk food: junk food tastes great for a few minutes, but fills you with regret (including the physical effects) for a long time. Running, on the other hand, is grueling work for a (relatively) short time, but you reap the benefits for a long time: physically, emotionally, and in your physique.
Do you have a favourite time of day, or place that you like to run?
We often run in Kentville, but I’m also a proud member of the Port Pacers — a run group for everyone — that meets in Port Williams every Tuesday (at 6:30pm) and every Saturday (at 8:30am). My favourite time of day is pretty much anything but the morning which is why I’ve been a loyal member of the Port Pacers but I’ve yet to join them on the Saturday morning runs.
What do you appreciate about events like the Valley Harvest Marathon?
This will be my 6th year in a row participating in the VHM. I consider us incredibly lucky to have such an amazing run right here in the Valley. It’s so well-organized and so respected. As a race it’s not considered an easy one (lots of hills) nor is it considered in the hard range. It’s beautifully scenic and so well-supported by the people who live along the route and in the surrounding communities. It’s where I ran my first 10k race and my first half-marathon. Last year I’d hoped for it to be my first marathon, but I had to drop back to the half. This year I’ll be lucky to finish 5k (I’m registered for the 10k) but I could not miss the 25th race!
How are you preparing for the event this year?
Usually I follow a carefully planned schedule where I run 3-4 times per week with a combination of longer and shorter distances, gradually building up. I know many people who follow very strict regimes of special training techniques and careful diet, but I find I lose my enjoyment if I work too hard at the training stage. For me, achieving lots of small goals (making it up that hill, finishing that next distance) with my eye on the big goal (the race) is how I keep motivated. The night before a race is the time to enjoy as much (reasonably) healthy food I want but absolutely no alcohol. The morning of requires almost superstitious adherence to “what worked before.” You run with your stomach and your guts and you do not need any novelty on race day.
What is it like running with such a crowd?
Running with a crowd is invigorating and intimidating. So many people are so excited and so ready to go, it’s hard not to catch the enthusiasm.
If you knew of someone interested in starting to run, perhaps with a goal of participating in the Valley Harvest Marathon events next year, what advice would you pass along to them?
I would recommend starting slowly and join a group. There are lots of groups out there who are eager to help new runners. The Mountain View Runners are a great group filled with enthusiastic supporters. For me, I needed to see I could do it myself before I was brave enough to join, but then I could not imagine running alone. And hey, there are not many opportunities in life, once you’re a grown-up, to get actual awards. If for no other reason, run so you can get that medal!