Running Changed My Life
In the first collection of stories in an ongoing series about how running has changed the lives of everyday Canadians, these three runners share their inspiring fitness stories
Rick Geddes AGE 48 HOMETOWN Port Alberni, B.C.
My wakeup call came when my older brother had a heart attack,” says paramedic/deputy fire chief Rick Geddes. “He’s also diabetic and these are both health issues that my father has dealt with, so my doctor suggested that I have some blood work done. Sure enough, I showed signs of pre-diabetes.”
Five years, 72 lb., one pair of shoes and one shift in perspective later and Geddes is now a runner.
“I came home to find that my wife had purchased me these fancy New Balance runners,” Geddes says with a chuckle. “I asked her why she bought them, because I don’t run. The shoes sat on the shelf in my basement for some time.” One day, Geddes decided to try them on. “I thought, ‘Man, these are comfy, I’m going to give this a whirl.’” Geddes went for a little run. “I thought I was going to die,” he now laughs. “But also felt that I was onto something. I used to think people that ran were kind of weird,” he adds, “and now I’m that weird guy that runs to work.”
Geddes’ wife supported his lifestyle change with one of her own – healthier cooking. The couple’s Rhodesian ridgeback has been supportive too, joining Rick on his runs.
Aside from the health benefits, Rick is confident that running has improved his ability to perform at work. “Sometimes people underestimate the physical nature of being a paramedic. A lot of my job involves heavy lifting, something that feels much easier having lost weight,” Geddes explains.
In terms of advice to runners just beginning their weight-loss journey, Rick ’s advice is tried and true: “Be persistent. You won’t see results right away, but you have to stick with it.”
Jodie Hutchinson HOMETOWN Toronto AGE 34
Jodie Hutchinson is a self-proclaimed “back of the pack advocate.” Four-and-a-half years ago, Hutchinson decided she no longer wanted to participate in races solely as a cheerleader for her friends, but as an athlete herself.
“At that point, I was well over 300 lb., but I told myself, ‘You can do this,’” Hutchinson recalls. “I’ve met a lot of people who are plussized who are afraid to run because they don’t think that they look like a runner. I’ve talked to groups of women who have convinced themselves that they have to run in the dark because they’re ashamed of their bodies. That’s why I’ve made my own journey so public on social media – I want people to be proud of themselves, to be confident in their bodies, even if they’re coming in dead last.”
Having lost 110 lb., Hutchinson is passionate about fostering a running community that is accepting of all sizes. “I was at the start line for the Scotiabank Waterfront 5k and I’m chatty, so I started talking to another girl in the corral.” She told Hutchinson that it was her dream to run it in under an hour. “I said, ‘OK, I’m going to pace you.’ I didn’t even learn her name until we’d crossed the finish line,” Hutchinson says. “I’ve had people cross the finish line, take off their bibs and come back to pace me in. I always try to return the favour for someone else whenever I can.”
Hutchinson’s favourite saying when it comes to running is: “There is no finish line, so love the journey.”
Jesse Wheeler HOMETOWN Peterborough, Ont. AGE 34
As a family doctor, Jesse Wheeler admits to being a “hypocrite in the worst kind of way.” Last June, Wheeler realized that, despite spending his days counselling patients on the importance of exercise and a healthy diet, he wasn’t really following his own advice.
“The worst thing was that I couldn’t keep up with my two little boys, who were five and two at the time,” Wheeler says. “That was when something needed to change.”
Like many, Wheeler’s middle school experience with running hadn’t left him with any burning desire to continue with the sport as an adult. “I remember coming in 58th of 59 and nearly vomiting at the finish line in a mandatory Grade 7 cross-country competition more than two decades ago. So, I’m not really sure how it happened, or even what made me do it, but I decided last June that I’d go try a run,” Wheeler recalls.
Those first days were not easy. “My chest burned, my legs felt like concrete, my back hurt, and I could jog for maybe 30 seconds before being totally gassed. I hated it while I was out there. But what got me hooked – what I truly enjoyed about it – was the feeling of accomplishment when I was done,” Wheeler says. He admits to having had a conceptualization of there being only one type of runner – the intense, wizened marathoner – prior to returning to the sport in adulthood. Now, 50 lb. later, Wheeler is in training for his first half-marathon.
A full-time job combined with parenting means that most of Wheeler’s training occurs at night. “My six year old asks me every day now,‘How far did you run last night?’ I’ve been motivated to make changes in my life to be a better example for my kids, so I hope that means I’m on the right track,” Wheeler laughs.
Maybe his boys will start joining him on his runs someday. That someday might be a while away still though. “Right now, it’s tricky to get them to run in a straight line.”— CF
LEFT Geddes at the Edge to Edge Half-Marathon, Ucluelet, B.C.
RIGHT Rick Geddes racing the Tri-Conic Challenge
ABOVE Hutchinson post-running
ABOVE Dr. Jesse Wheeler hitting his stride at the Butterfly run in Peterborough Ont.