“I began running because I never could,” said Allison Larsh, a 28-year-old IT Project Co-Ordinator. “I have this horrible memory from childhood from when I joined my elementary school’s cross country team,” she recalls. All of her friends were joining the team, and so Allison thought she should as well. “I guess I didn’t factor in that running as an overweight kid was not easy.”
She remembers that for her first run, her teacher tried to stay behind and support her until she realized that the rest of the team had finished and were being left to their own devices. “Instead of finishing, I took a left towards my house and abandoned my back pack to the school yard,” Allison remembers. “I remember that feeling of not being able to do something that I wanted to do and being humiliated by it. So, I decided to take running back.”
Years later, Allison has lost 145 pounds, runs four to five times a week, and goes to CrossFit (a strength and conditioning program). “Now I run because there is nothing else in my life that makes me feel as simply and as satisfyingly good about myself,” says Allison. “I love the feeling of choosing to make myself feel good. There’s so much I have no control over, but this, this one small thing I can do.”
With a marathon (Ottawa: 4:31), three half-marathons (Ottawa twice: 2:35 and 2:11, and Scotiabank: 2:00), and a 30k (Around the Bay: 2:39) under her belt, Allison’s short-term goal is to make it through training for her next marathon in February (Winterman) without a return to the disabled list. “Some people think it’s crazy to run in the winter. I think it’s crazy to run in the summer,” says Allison. “The mechanics have been working smoothly thus far, and I think CrossFit plays a large role in that — It keeps the rest of me strong and balanced, so that I can keep running.”
At the top of Allison’s most memorable running moments, was when she ran her first marathon in Ottawa last year. “Not only was it the farthest I had ever run,” said Allison, “but I ran it specifically for my Dad who has late stage kidney cancer.” She ran the race injured, which had prevented her from being able to train for the event. “I definitely cried during, and I definitely thought about quitting,” she recalls, “but that race was my Dad and I’s ‘thing’.
“He and the rest of my family were waiting for me at the finish line, and it really meant a lot to me.”
Allison can often be found running along the trails in the Don Valley, where she enjoys the hills. “It makes me feel like I’m playing,” she said. “You can’t take yourself too seriously when you are bounding up and down. Of course it kills my quads.” Allison also enjoys the challenges of Moore Ravine, which runs from the belt line down to the brick works before meeting up with the Don Valley trails. “The best part of running in Toronto is the abundance of trails,” says Allison. “I often ask myself how I can live in this city, with all its urban-ism, and thirty seconds later, be running in relative peace and quiet.”
In the longer term, Allison isn’t limiting herself to road races. “I’d like to move to ultras,” she says. “I find it incredibly satisfying to run long and I love running on trails. I’d like to do the Run for the toad 50k, to whet my appetite.” She also notes that this goal is somewhat dependent on staying off the disabled list.
When asked, Allison often struggles for the words to express what running means to her. Her most truthful answer is: “I run because once I couldn’t. I run because I can always get better. I run because I’m proud of what I’ve already achieved. I run because it makes me happy. I run because it keeps me sane. I run when I’m sad, I run when I’m stressed, I run when I’m angry. It is something that constantly changes, I never see the same things twice, and I see my location in a whole new way each and every time. I run because it leaves me feeling grateful: that I am healthy enough to do this, that I have something that I love in my life, and that it gives me a sense of self. I run because it’s simple — I put on my shoes and I go. Sometimes, the runs are great. Sometimes, they are awful. But, to quote my favourite running quote, ‘I’ve often regretted not going for a run, but I’ve never regretted going for one.’”
To keep up with Allison, her upcoming races and progress, visit her blog at www.larsh.ca.
Favourite Shoe: New Balance 1063
Favourite Equipment: Double-layered socks
Favourite thing about running Toronto: Networks of trails
Motivation: Feeling good about myself. “Running is a socially acceptable drug, and for now, it’s my drug of choice.”
Favourite Quote: “I’ve often regretted not going for a run, but I’ve never regretted going for one.”