Half-marathon delivers a fuller life

Elise Manolakos leads her group of marathon runners on a training run for the Grand Canyon half-marathon race in May. Training for the race provides the all-female group with many psychological benefits.
Elise Manolakos leads her group of marathon runners on a training run for the Grand Canyon half-marathon race in May. Training for the race provides the all-female group with many psychological benefits. (MISKETI_RUNNERS_E)

Every Sunday at 10 a.m., Elise Manolakos and her group of marathon runners warm up for a 10-kilometre practice run. On this Sunday morning, fresh snow covers Toronto’s sidewalks and the wind makes it feel like -18 C.

This group of runners, however, won’t let the weather stand in the way of what they see as a major achievement in their lives. She and the group have come prepared for the winter weather.

“My shoes have spikes,” Manolakos said.

Last year, Manolakos, a Toronto marathon coach, launched her startup Athletic Fortitude. Her goal was to train a group to run a half-marathon race each year at a different international location. This all-female group-of-four runs at least twice a week with Manolakos in preparation for the Grand Canyon Half-Marathon, a 21-kilometre run, scheduled for May 17.

The runners are women in their 40s and 50s. Among them, Cristina Dicoiu, 42, said training to run in this half-marathon event has had a positive effect on her life.

“It gives me this great feeling that I can challenge myself and accomplish things,” Dicoiu said. “It makes me believe I have the strength to finish this run.”

Stephanie Katona, a Toronto fitness instructor, will run with the group at the Grand Canyon. She suggested that long-distance running has a positive effect on women in their 40s because of the psychological boost.

“When they get to that age, it’s a big achievement to run a marathon and it definitely increases their confidence,” Katona said.

Running in particular, one expert said, can deliver more psychological benefits than a sense of achievement and greater confidence. Dr. Kate F. Hays specializes in sport and performance psychology. She said that running for women in their 40s creates a work-life balance.

“It gives them the ability to make time for themselves and their own activities,” Hays said.

Dicoiu, for example, works in an office environment, managing human resources for a corporation whose employees work in various international locations. She said she used to work late hours at her office regularly. Now, she leaves the office at a reasonable time on nights when she runs with Manolakos and the group.

“I made it a priority. It’s important,” Dicoiu said. “It’s a different dynamic to run with a group of women than with a mixed group.”

Hays said that women training in an all-female group adds another psychological benefit to running – a sense of striving toward a goal together.

Manolakos has known that all along.

“It gives them a community to work on their fitness together,” she said.