Getting off the sidelines

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This weekend celebrates the 39th Johnny Miles Running Event. This will be my fifth Johnny Miles race. I started running in the spring of 2010 and ran my first 5k that June. This year I will be running my very first full marathon. If you had asked me four years ago if I would have ever considered running the full, I would have laughed in your face! Had you asked me 10 years ago if I would ever run at all, my answer would have been “No, I hate running.” To me, having grown up in Pictou County, Johnny Miles was a weekend where traffic was blocked off and you were inconvenienced to take an alternate route. Little did I know that Johnny Miles was not a traffic detour, it was a community coming together, celebrating more than just runners.

Johnny Miles is a weekend that inspires; it’s a weekend that tells the untold stories of hope, courage and triumph. Yes, we celebrate the amazing runners who will win their race, but to me, that’s not all this weekend represents. This weekend is about community, about physical activity, about pride. I feel bad that I never realized that until I was in my mid-30s. I missed the bigger picture. You don’t have to be a runner to appreciate the smile and tears on many of the runners’ and spectators’ faces. You don’t have to be a runner to applaud the person whose odds are stacked against them, but yet they still run.

My odds were always stacked against me. I was obese since the age of three or four. I was inactive. I had no desire, no aspirations for anything significant. I always identified myself as the person who sat on the sidelines when, in fact, I seldom sat on the sidelines because I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. My perception of myself dictated my abilities. It was not my physique that limited me, it was my perception. It wasn’t until I gave myself the opportunity to try that I had the power to succeed. I mean really try, not the kind of try that lasts a day or two or perhaps even a month. The kind of try that wakes you up in the middle of the night; keeping you wide awake thinking about what you really want in life. The kind of try that has no finish line in sight.

What if we started to identify ourselves as marathoners? What if we went about our daily lives, training for the bigger picture in life? What if we stopped putting a time limit on our expectations and just genuinely tried? My marathon training has taught me much more than how to run long distances. It’s taught me that I am a stronger person than I ever gave myself credit for. It taught me that I have more drive in me than I was aware of. It taught me that if I hadn’t given myself the opportunity to try a different lifestyle choice five years ago, I would have never known any of my personal or physical strengths.

Don’t let your current identity dictate your future. Give in to the idea of try and let it stick around. I invite you to come down to Johnny Miles this weekend and be inspired by those who tried. I dare you not to leave that day without feeling a new-found strength within.


Lori Atta is a personal trainer at the Pictou County YMCA. She also has a page on Facebook about health, fitness and weight loss called Face the Mirror. After struggling with obesity for 25+ years, Lori changed her focus and lost over 100 pounds and has been committed to promoting health.

Organizations: Pictou County YMCA

Geographic location: Pictou County

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