Accomplishing your first 5K is a true milestone in any runner’s life, worthy of celebration. Yet, as those that have gotten there through a Running Room 5K Training Program can tell you, there is some truth in the old adage about the journey over the destination. For some runners even, like training program leader Nancy Brooks, it can be a life-changing experience. This is the story of how one student became the teacher.
Currently a 5K Program leader at the Rosedale Running Room in Toronto, there was a time not that long ago when just the thought of running long distances, let alone coaching others to do it, would have seemed impossible to Nancy Brooks. “Although I had dabbled in running throughout my adult life,” Nancy says, “I never really stuck to it until 2010, when I started running consistently.” And it wasn’t necessarily an athletic or health goal that drove Nancy to commit to the process, but a chance trip to New York City.
When a friend travelled down from Toronto to run the marathon, he was looking for a support team to accompany him. “Funnily enough, I was not at all interested, but I was dying to go to New York as I had never been,” Nancy recalls. Little did she know, her life was about to take a dramatic turn, the kind that comes from witnessing one of the world’s greatest races.
“Once we got to the start line to cheer, my entire outlook changed,” Nancy says. “I was awestruck and mesmerized by all these people doing what I thought was impossible. I saw people who had every reason to sit at home and feel sorry for themselves do something that I only dreamed about. I was so inspired that right then and there, I committed to doing a marathon before I turned 50.”
So at 48 years young in September of 2010, Nancy and a friend joined the Learn to Run Training Program at Running Room. “My plan was to do the Learn To Run, the 5K, the 10K, the ½ and then the full – and do my first marathon in the fall of 2011 or the spring of 2012 when I would turn 50.”
Unfortunately, injuries would come to hamper her progress. But even when injury led to surgery, she stayed resolute. Just a week prior to her surgery, she ran her first half-marathon. “What a feeling that was! I knew that it was unlikely that I’d be ready to run my first marathon before I turned 50, and I was disappointed, but it was an arbitrary goal, so I just kept going once I received clearance to run again.”
As she found herself transitioning into running once again, Nancy knew she had a built-in strategy of support from her time in the Running Room training programs. “After my injury, I knew I needed to ease back into running,” she says, “So when the store manager offered me the opportunity to do it by coaching, I leapt at the opportunity.”
In coaching, she could stay involved in the community of the sport, when she couldn’t push herself as physically as she’d like. “I love seeing how members come together to support and encourage one another,” Nancy says. “I love seeing the doubt turn into success, the fear turn into confidence.”
She enjoys the diversity of each training program and how such individual goals can differ. “For some people, the program offers an opportunity to maintain a level of fitness and wellbeing and the camaraderie that comes along with that,” she says. “For others, it’s an important stepping stone should they want to continue to the 10K program and beyond.”
For those runners, she says, the 5K Training Program really builds on the foundation of the Learn To Run Program and positions a runner for success in the 10K Program. “This is where you get a sense of the type of commitment required. You get more information and education on how to maintain wellbeing, as well as advice on nutrition and injury prevention,” she says.
Nancy coached her way up through each level at Running Room to the half-marathon program, through which she ran her next half at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront event in October 2012. By the next spring, she had realized her dream from that day in New York City by completing the Mississauga Marathon in 4:55:12. “I was elated!” she says.
Because in the end, it’s the personal triumphs that drive Nancy to not only reach her own running goals, but help others to their successes. “Crossing a finish line, hand in hand with someone who never believed they could accomplish their goal is an experience that can never be beat,” she says. “The fact that so many of the people I’ve coached are still running today makes me feel very happy, too!”
So whether you’re looking to climb the ladder all the way through to a marathon, or simply looking to learn to run with a smile on your face, the 5K Training Program at the Running Room might be your best next step. Who knows, you may just end up at the head of one.