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iTAB Star, Dec 2022

Katie Rylance from Burlington, Ontario, Canada.

I’ve always said that running is my therapy. It allows me to just completely zone out and go to a place that I need for me.”

For our Christmas special we speak to busy mum of four Katie turned the monotony of lockdown into an opportunity to transform her fitness and wellbeing. Walking turned into jogging, that turned into running, that led to her conquering her first ever 5k and Half Marathon. Two years later and she has completed seven races and has the Chicago Marathon firmly in her sights!

Merry Christmas Katie, you’re an inspiration!

‘You get up, you sacrifice sleep, you sacrifice time, and you just start walking. That’s my best advice. Don’t start running on day one, just go step by step.’

Katie, on advice for first-time runners struggling with motivation.

Hey Katie!

Hey iTAB!

Why do you run?

I run because it’s the only time I have for myself. I’m a very busy mom. I work and I find the time that I run is the only time that I’m alone. I’m alone with my thoughts. I’m alone with myself. I can reflect on the past, I can reflect on the day, and it’s the one time I can actually really be me and who I truly am.

Best thing about running?

The best thing about running is it’s time for me. Time that nobody needs me. Time I can be by myself. Time I can reflect. I’ve always said that running is my therapy. It allows me to just completely zone out and go to a place that I need for me. And that is the best part about running. That’s why I love it so much.

Hardest thing about running?

Hardest thing about running for me is when you’re in a training block that’s months and months long. You hit that wall where you no longer want to do it. It becomes so routine, so mundane. The same runs are happening every other day and you just don’t want to do it anymore, things start to hurt like my hips will hurt, my sciatic nerve, and you just want to give up. So, for me the hardest part is pushing past those barriers when you’re on a really big training block before a half marathon or a marathon.

So, how did you get into running?

I got into running in February of 2001. So, I’m sure like a lot of people, the pandemic hit, and I thought it was pretty much the end of the world. We were all in lockdown, my kids were home, my husband was home, we weren’t going anywhere, and I turned to food because it was a comfort. I started to eat and then I started to gain weight. After about six months of doing that and realising that the pandemic was coming to an end and life was going to go back to normal, I realised something had to change. I couldn’t play with my kids the same way because I was tired. I was winded. Walking up the stairs was a challenge, getting out of bed was a challenge, and I hurt my back and that’s not like me. So, I decided you know what? I need to get to something. I need to buy a treadmill. I’m going to start walking.

So, I started walking and after about three months of walking, walking turned to jogging, and then after about three months of that jogging turn to running. My neighbour has run long distances for her whole life, like marathons and Ultras, and I said to her I wanted to run a 5k once in my life since I was about high school that was one of my goals. I said can you put a plan together that’s going to allow me to do that. And she did. And it took me about four months from walking to running to complete my very first 5k, and I did my first 5k in about 34 minutes. So that was a huge goal for me that I accomplished. And once I realised, I could do that I thought Hey, why don’t I start signing up for races and see what I can do because I’m actually love running and I’m pretty good at it. I started signing up for races and next thing you know, here we are in December 2022, almost two years later, and I’ve completed seven races this past year, 5k being the shortest distance and a half marathon being the longest distance. So, you realised through all of this the potential you have that you can do hard things. You need to push yourself out of your comfort zone, and you need to tell yourself that if you don’t try, you’ll never know what you’re fully capable of.

Biggest running achievement?

My greatest running achievement would be two races that I did. My first is a 5k race on July 1st, through a company called VR Pro. They are a local company that hosts races, I have the medal here, it has the maple leaf in the middle. For me, this was a great achievement because it symbolised a race that I’ve wanted to complete since I was in high school. 5k was always my dream distance, so when I finally ran across the finish line and got this medal, I started to cry, jumping up and down. I was super excited that I actually did it. In that moment, I realised I’ve got potential, I can keep going, I can do hard things and that’s when I decided to sign up for more races.

So, my second greatest running achievement came when I completed the Oakville Half Marathon, I have the medal right here, and I received this the day before I turned 42. So, this was like my 42nd birthday gift to myself. I would say this one is my next greatest running achievement because this is a distance that I never dreamed I would ever be able to complete. I remember when I signed up for it, I panicked. I thought about pulling myself out. It was that initial self-doubt that you can’t do this. And then when I got over that mental block and realised Yeah, you can do this. I ran this race and I remember around that 17-kilometre mark, my left leg started to hurt quite a bit and I had to stop and walk a little bit, and, in that moment, I said, Okay, you have a choice. You’re either going to stop and quit, or you’re going to push through the pain and keep going. And I cried for a second and then I said no, you’ve come too far. I’m going to keep going and I ran through that pain, and I crossed the finish line and I cried, and I jumped up and down. I was so excited. It’s special for me too because this is the medal that I have my iTAB. So, if you look on the back, there is my name with my very first time and I’ve been told by a lot of people hey, you need to hold your head up high, that’s a pretty good time for your first half marathon time. I completed it in two hours and nine minutes so this medal will always hold a very special place in my heart because it’s my first half and my first iTAB.

How did you feel crossing the finish line?

It’s an automatic feeling, your hands go up and you look up to the sky and you’re just so thankful at what you did. You start to cry and you’re happy and you’re excited and your heart’s racing because you can’t believe what you just did. And the second I cross every finish line, my thoughts immediately go to Okay, what’s next? What can I challenge myself with next? Let’s go bigger. Let’s go better. So immediately after the half I said OK, Marathon. We’re gonna do it. That’s the next one.

‘The second I cross every finish line, my thoughts immediately go to Okay, what’s next? What can I challenge myself with next? Let’s go bigger. Let’s go better.’

Katie, on the feeling of crossing the finish line.

Future goals? 

Right now, my goal is focusing on next season. So, I have in March, a race called Around the Bay, which is a race that takes place here in Hamilton, and it’s a 30k race. It’s not quite a marathon, but it’s 30k and there’s a ton of hills. It’s been known for very challenging hills. You know what? It’s such a well-known race here, let’s do that once. And then I signed up for the Mississauga marathon in April. However, we just got the email yesterday that they’re cancelling the marathon so that was a little bit of a shocker. But not to worry, because in October, instead of during the Oakville Half, I’m going to take on the Toronto Marathon, so that’s my next big one.

So next year, I’ve got a 30k and then my first official marathon, 42k, and I think in the middle there I might pick up a few smaller ones like a couple of 10ks. I love the zoo race. We have a Toronto Zoo here and they do a great 10k race and I just love running and looking at all the animals, I’ll do that one, but those will be my two big one’s next year.

How do you get motivated when the going gets tough?

I tell myself I’m not going to die. Like I can do this. It’s really the mental block. I have to say to myself, you can push through this pain. One more step. One more breath. One more minute distance and just get there, and before you know what it will be done. So, I have to take small moments in time and say Just push through this because this pain is going to come to an end, it’s all in your mind, keep going.

What advice do you have for first time runners?

You ignore the reasons. You get up, you sacrifice sleep, you sacrifice time, and you just start walking. That’s my best advice. Don’t start running on day one, just go step by step. Walk the next day, walk a little bit more until you eventually build up the stamina where you’re maybe doing like a run in a walk. And before you know what you’ll start running, but you have to get off the couch, you have to get out of the bed. Turn your alarm on for the morning, put it across the room for you so you’re forced to get out of bed. You have to get out of that comfort zone, so that you realise just how strong you really are.

Who is your support network?

My husband and my close friends. My husband will run with me sometimes, we’ll do some training runs together, through this journey he has run all the races with me. It started off as a safety thing, he wanted to make sure I was okay when I was out there running and then it turned into him falling in love with running as well. He’s definitely a support for me and he’s someone I can turn to. He encourages and pushes me. Then my close family and friends, they’re constantly encouraging me if I have a bad day, they are messaging me, they are calling me You do not stop look how far you look how far you’ve come look how far you can go. You’re not throwing in the towel. Keep going. You are motivating us. You are such a motivation for other people, you can’t stop. I don’t have a running group, but I have such a close-knit group of people that help guide me and support me and love me on this journey.

How do you track your progress?

Well, I record everything. I take pictures of every run I do. I take a screenshot of every Strava upload I do to see my progress and my tracking. I track on a calendar every single run I do and how long it was. I have a binder with all that information in it. So, every calendar from February 2021 is in there and every single day as marked off in some capacity. It could have been a walk or run, work on my abs, do some strength training. Every picture I have taken is in that binder. In my gym downstairs there’s a picture from me on my day one and there’s a picture of me today and I keep that up as a memory to say you are not going back, you need to be proud of how far you have come in this journey. So, for me, keeping a binder with all of those mementos is so important because I can look back on it and say look at how far you have come, don’t give up. Look how amazing this is. You don’t want to be that person again. And then I use my social media outlets to post so much. Not to be boastful, not to come across as arrogant but as a memory for me to show other people.

Listen, it’s hard. I have four kids, I work. I get up at 4:30 every morning and I sacrifice my sleep to do this and it’s the best decision I ever made. And I document it so people can see it. This is real life. Like yesterday, I uploaded a video to my story that said Hey, I took 16 rest days in November. My life was crazy. I had sick kids that home. I had a daughter recovering from a broken foot and rest days are okay. And for me I post those videos to show people this is real life, and this is hard, but you need to track what you do so you can look back on it and say you’ve come so far. So, for me it’s a combination of all that, keeping memories and binders, keeping pictures up, keeping a social media feed so you can see what you’ve done and hopefully inspire someone else that is thinking about doing it to go and do it.

On your Instagram bio, it says ‘Adventurer’, so how important is the outdoors to you?

I always tell my family if I could live in the forest, that’s where I would live. And hence my lovely moose sweater I have on, if I can be amongst the moose, I would be extremely happy. There’s something about being outside especially for me in the forest. I feel alive. I feel alive when I run amongst the trees. It’s a very calming place for me. I can walk out there, I can reflect, and I can talk to myself. I can talk to the trees. It has a very calming and peaceful feel to it very similar to running which is probably why I also gravitated towards it.

How important is the medal to you?

I think the running is the icing on the cake. It’s one of those. If I didn’t get the medal at the end of the race, would I be upset? No. Because I know that I finished it. It’s more like a little surprise that you get, and I have them right downstairs by my treadmill on one of those runner medal hangers and anytime I’m feeling a little bit down, I just look at it. It was just a nice little memory like Hey, look what you did. But if I didn’t have them, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. So, for me the run is the most important.

What appealed to you about getting an iTAB?

but that visual, maybe for other people to see, if that makes sense. I love that it’s personalised to me with my name on it and my time, and especially for those first medals that mean so much to you, like my first half. I will get one for my first marathon. Anything that’s huge, I want that engraving done on my medal.

Thanks Katie, you’re a star!

If you want to follow in Katie’s footsteps, here are some of the events she has completed:

VPRO Pro Canada Day 5k, ButterTart 5k & Halloween 10k

Oasis Zoo Run: Toronto Zoo 10k

Oakville Half Marathon

Road 2 Hope: Hamilton Half Marathon