Cardiff woman running her own race

By Stephen Dafoe

Cardiff – Whether it is running on a Sunday morning through Cardiff Park or running one seventh of a grueling trail run in southern Alberta, 39-year-old Calli Stromner runs mainly for herself. The Cardiff resident took up the sport two years ago to develop a greater sense of health and wellbeing, but primarily to come of some prescription antidepressants she felt were inhibiting her life.

Stromner, who had never run before outside school, began with an iPhone application called Couch to 2K, a popular program for beginning runners. Starting on the treadmill in her basement in July of 2010, she ran her first 5 kilometre race by October of that year. The run added to her confidence levels and that winter she began running outside a little more regularly. “I think for anyone who has put on a few pounds since high school, confidence is really lacking in wanting to go outside and participate or be seen as active,” Stromner said. “I, like everyone else like me, hid down in the basement until I was okay with myself.”

Being sequestered to the basement for training did not last long. Since running her first 5 km race Stromner has taken part in 27 runs, a dozen in her first year alone. Although she set a goal of 40 races by her 40th birthday, she will fall short of that goal. A back injury her husband acquired at work slowed her down for a while. “Life gets in the way,” Stromner said. “I think it is a success for anyone to be able to manage things that pop up in life and still maintain some sort of health and wellness.”

Her persistence in ensuring she maintains that balance between work, family, and her own health knows no climate. Last winter she ran four back-to-back half marathons with friends. It is an accomplishment she is particularly proud of as it required running 21.5 km on four consecutive Saturdays as well as some additional running during the week as training and as recovery from the half marathon.

Change in goals and vision

Stromner’s view and motivation behind running has altered somewhat over the past months as she has become more and more involved in a variety of running events and even styles. No longer confined to running merely on pavement and gravel, she has taken to and begun to enjoy trail running. With it has come a new understanding of what running means to her.

“I think there is a time at which you realize that you are not going to make some master’s running team; you’re not going to get to that 18-minute 5k or even a 3-minute mile,” she said. “Even a 5-minute mile might be outside of your scope. But rather than beating yourself up about it [or] injuring yourself by trying to get to that point, it’s just that realization that, ‘you know what, at this moment right now in time, this is what I can do and maybe I get better, maybe I don’t.’” Enjoy the minute you’re in and enjoy the run you’re on and don’t worry about the people that pass you in the race because they’re running their own race.”

A recent reading of Christopher McDougal’s book Born to Run helped shape a new perspective for the runner. “It kind of goes through the author’s own struggle with injury and falling short of the goals he sets for himself, but then how he finds inspiration going down to Mexico and running with the Tarahumara indian tribe,” Stromner explained of the book. “There was that shift that it really is about running the run and enjoying the moment you’re in rather than got to win, got to win, got to win!”

Stromner realizes she is unlikely to ever win a race, and although she continues to have personal bests in terms of distance, she continues to push herself to see at what point she reaches her maximum capacity for the sport.

The avid runner recently participated in the Sinister 7 Ultra + Relay, a 148 km run in the Canadian Rockies. The event took place in early July and Stromenr ran the first 16.5 leg of her team’s relay, a trek over varied terrain. Starting in Blairmore, Stromner ran past the Frank Slide site and through Hillcrest before taking a gravel road to a notch cut in the forest, where she proceeded through a freshly cut goat path to her finish line.

“I’m finding I like the solitude and the energy derived from running trails,” Stromner said of her recent efforts. “You don’t have to deal with traffic. You don’t have to deal with noise or garbage or smells. On trails you are just out there running in the woods.”
But the avid runner returns to the pavement Aug. 19 to take part in her biggest event yet, The Edmonton Marathon, a full marathon of 42.2 km. “Back before I started all this running mumbo jumbo, I thought, ‘Gee, wouldn’t it be nice to run a marathon before I turn 40?’” Stromner said. “I’m hoping to come in under five hours, but who knows.”

Last year she took part in the half marathon under extremely hot conditions and completed the run in two-hours-and-nineteen minutes. “I was focusing a lot on run speed and I need to have this time,” She said. “This time I need to finish and I need to not be dead at the end. It’s about finishing. It’s about still enjoying life after you accomplish something like that. Last year after I ran that fast of a half marathon – for me – I couldn’t walk for two days. So after I run my first full I want to be able to still do things.”
Calli Stromner turns 40 two days after her first full marathon race.

Above: Calli Stromner hits the trails in the Sinister 7 Ultra + Relay in this submitted photo. The race took place in July. On Aug. 19 the Cardiff resident will take part in her first full marathon in Edmonton. – Submitted Photo

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