By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – On a hot summer’s evening, a bit of a breeze in the air to further keep the mosquitoes at bay, a Cardiff woman does several laps of the Morinville Fish and Game Club pond. By her side is an overweight neophyte runner learning the ropes from the more seasoned practitioner. But for Calli Stromner, who took up running last year, there is a great willingness to get someone else into the sport because she knows the benefits of running and the steps that got her to where she is today.
“It was one of those moments you realize you’re coming up to your 40th birthday and you think bucket list,” Stromner said, adding she wondered how difficult it would be to run a marathon on her 40th birthday. “Something snapped and I didn’t feel like I wanted to be that person anymore who was out of breath all the time, had lower self-esteem, couldn’t keep up with her kids. Couldn’t do anything. Depression. All that sort of thing.”
Although an avid runner today, running wasn’t the start of Stromner’s road to better health and a more positive outlook on her future wellbeing. She first signed up for a summer program at Servus Place called Biggest Loser. That program had a running component to it, and it was there – about three weeks into the program – that Stromner was bitten. It was at that point she was able to complete the track without stopping.
“I felt this tingling. It started at my head and came down to my toes,” she said, adding she asked her trainer if it was the endorphin rush runners experience. Although it was just the effects of her body heating up, Stromner remembers the sensation a year later. “It was cool.”
But when the program ended, the running didn’t. Stromner bought a basic Canadian Tire treadmill, and together with an iPhone app for runners she hit the sport running for the next six months until the treadmill became too slow for her abilities. Progressing to a new treadmill more suitable to her increased stamina, Stromner spent the long winter running indoors. Although she participated in a 5K run last fall, she finally hit the trail in a big way this April when the snow finally melted. Over the past year, the running enthusiast has seen an incredible development in her abilities.
“From then until now – I couldn’t run 100 yards without stopping and dying,” she said. “I do take walk breaks in my runs, but I completed my first half marathon at the beginning of June.” That marathon was the Fallen Four Marathon between Mayerthorpe and Whitecourt, a two-person relay that saw Stromner run 21.5 kilometres in two hours and 41 minutes, beating her goal by four minutes. “That was a huge milestone,” Stromner said. “That was a great race. There were monsoons on my legs, but you tough through it. Before then, I’d never actually run that distance in training. I’d gotten up to about 17 kilometres.”
Plenty of benefits
Besides the sense of accomplishment Stromner received from that and other marathons she since completed, she has also experienced tremendous health and mental benefits from running. Since taking up the sport she has lost 40 pounds and no longer takes some medication she had been proscribed to deal with occasional depression.
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“For me it’s a great stress reliever,” she said. “Through running, it allows my subconscious to work through the problems of the day, work through some of the challenges that I face. It’s a vacation. For 35 minutes for a five km run, it’s a nice vacation for your mind. You can just concentrate fully on yourself. How you’re muscles are working. It really keeps you in tune with your body.”
A sport for everyone
But now that Stromner has immersed herself in the joys of running, she is looking to share that joy with others who have found the sport and those who are perhaps looking to find it.
“Sometimes it’s super hard,” she said of taking up the sport. “Setting goals for yourself and being able to achieve them – there’s no better confidence boost than that. Humans were born to run. It’s in our genetic makeup.”
Although new runners may encounter some pain, the seasoned runner said it is all part of the process. But the benefits far outweigh the negative thoughts people give themselves when contemplating the sport. Unlike many sports, Stromner said the equipment is minimal and the venues plentiful. “There’s no shortage of open space,” she said. “You don’t need a track. Also in large supply is the number of opportunities to meet with other runners, new and experienced. Stromner said the Running Room in St. Albert has regular running nights. But if the runner has her way, people will soon be able to meet up close to home.
Stromner has just started a Facebook page to gauge interest in running in the area with an eye towards starting a running club in Morinville. Those interested in learning more about the club can visit the FaceBook page.