I hated running.

I didn’t understand its appeal for any reason other than tiring out my dog (which takes about seven minutes for a 160-lb Newfoundland).

I once watched a friend, in the midst of marathon training, take off for a two-hour run after riding a motorcycle all day. I was tired just from the riding, and even more tired after watching him trot off.

I grabbed a beer and parked myself.

Fast forward a few years and I’m in the midst of marathon training and an Athletics Yukon board member.

It started on a whim one February. Impending fatherhood and my early 30s got me thinking about my health and lifestyle. I read something about reducing common ailments through regular exercise and quickly became convinced that the invincible years were over.

I’d better get my act in gear if I wanted a better chance at a longer, happier life. I signed up for a 10-kilometre race that June.

For the trail runs she organizes, Nancy Thomson offers chocolate milk as a reward (PHOTO: Rick Massie www.rickmassie.com).

My partner squinted her eyes with concern. She knew my feelings on running and didn’t quite understand why that would be my way to get more active.

I cursed repeatedly as I struggled through a couch-to-10k program. It started with intervals of one minute of running (OK, staggering and wheezing at that point), followed by three to four minutes of walking.

It was agonizing and demoralizing.

With helpful encouragement from my partner, I stuck with it. June arrived, and I ran my first-ever 10k.

I wasn’t fast, but I wasn’t wheezing.

Together with folks of varied shapes, sizes, ages, speeds and abilities, I ran my 10K—and didn’t die. In fact, I felt pretty good and learned what it was like to experience a “runner’s high”.

I then started participating in Athletics Yukon’s weekly 5k fun runs/walks. They were timed, but it was really about getting out and having fun.

I watched the fast runners take off at a pace I thought impossible, groups of participants chatting away, walkers powering along, kids on bikes riding beside their parents. It was inspiring, challenging and fun.

The following winter I trained for a half marathon. That meant training runs pushing past two hours.

I hated running, right? Hmm. Finishing that race was a major personal accomplishment that sealed the deal. I was hooked on running.

Then I then discovered Nancy Thomson’s fantastic Thursday night trail runs (she sets up a flagged course with chocolate milk as a reward at the end). That opened up a whole different running world.

It eventually led to running a leg of the Yukon River Trail Marathon, many other Yukon and Outside events, and now a marathon this coming May.

Running has changed my life. The training has shown me that, by sticking with it, I can accomplish my goals and do things I never thought possible. I feel better physically than I ever have, and my mind feels sharper.

My daughter, all of two-and-a-half years old, runs races with me around the house. My whole family comes out to the weekly fun runs.

I have made many great friends in the running/walking community and admire the dedicated volunteers who make our events happen.

It’s that time of year to start thinking about the summer running and walking season and how you, too, can get out and participate.

The first event is the 21st Anniversary Law Day Fun Run for charity on April 27 in Whitehorse. The Tuesday fun runs/walks begin in early May, starting in front of F.H. Collins Secondary School at 6 p.m. There are options of 2.5k and 5k distances for either running or walking.

There is no pressure to be fast, only to participate, get active and have fun.

Athletics Yukon has a calendar of running and walking events at www.athleticsyukon.ca. We’re also on Facebook.

Want to get into running or walking but don’t know where to start? There are run/walk clinics in Whitehorse on Tuesday evenings from April 3 to May 8 to prepare for the annual 5K Run for Mom on May 13.

For more information, contact arleneogden@hotmail.com. I’ll also explore training options more fully in an upcoming column.

Running or walking, alone or with friends, at races or it the woods—it’s all about putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward both happier and healthier.

I am now a runner and… wait for it… I love it! Sometimes I still can’t believe it.