Sunday morning featured the 86th running of one of eastern Canada's largest road race, the Tely 10 Miler. With more than 3300 runners, this was the largest field ever in the history of the race. Athletes ranging from former Olympians, to walkers, lined up at 8 am on McNamara Drive in Paradise at the starting line, and made the long trek down Topsail Road and into St. John's, ending at Bannerman Park.
Preparing for a 10 mile road race, requires an important level of training. There are likely just as many unique and amazing stories as there are runners. Perhaps none more interesting than this one. A leader of the local Catholic Church community, and a leader of the local transgender community, have formed one of the most unlikely friendships and have overcome many obstacles together, to find themselves lining up together for the Tely 10 this year.
Kim Noftall has sat on the Board for the Parish Council of St. Pius X Church. She is also a community volunteer at the MacMorran Community Centre, and sits on her local Tenant Association. Kim grew up on a farm in Airport Heights, and is a graduate of Holy Heart of Mary High School. She is currently a homemaker, where she oversees a home that includes her husband, two children, two cats, a gerbil, and a lovely garden of flowers.
Jennifer McCreath is a local public figure who first made news when she lost her job as a Government senior policy analyst, shortly after coming out as transgendered and made the switch from living life as a man, to a woman. Jennifer is also well-known among the political community, as she is a frequent blogger and tweeter, and has been a subject-matter-expert in mainstream media interviews on government issues, including Access to information and Protection of Privacy, and the recent budget cuts to the Department of Justice. Jennifer has spoken at many rallies & public forums, has given guest lectures at Memorial University. She was also the founder of a non-profit organization that provides products and services to members of the Lesbian Gay, Bisexual and Trans community. Jennifer also plans to put her name on the ballot in this September's St. John's City Election. Jennifer is no stranger to distance running, having complete 30 marathons between 2007-2011, including twice at the legendary Boston marathon, and five times here at home in the Newfoundland Provincial Marathon. She was the overall runner-up at the 2008 Eastern Marathon, in Portugal Cove - St. Phillips, NL.
When Kim learned about Jennifer's transition and her marathon running, from a feature television news series in 2008, and later noticed that they lived in the same neighbourhood, she was intrigued enough that she wanted to knock on her door and say hello. A good friendship quickly developed. Not long there-after, Kim asked Jennifer if she would be interested and willing to train her to become a runner. Although having never trained another athlete, Jennifer was happy to take on the challenge, and things went very well.
Within three months, Jennifer helped Kim go from someone who had never run, into an athlete who successfully ran the third-largest race in this province, the Mews 8K race, in July 2009. Kim was also the winner of the 2.5k fast-walk charity race, for the Newfoundland Sexual Health Centre, in 2009.
A year later, Kim's health would take a drastic turn for the worse, as she was diagnosed with Occipital Neuralgia, a condition of severe pain and numbness in the head and neck. It would later be determined that this condition was caused by Trigeminal Neuralgia, a condition where a blood vessel in the brain becomes enlarged and presses against the nerves. Kim was advised that her running career was over, as the pressure caused by the thumping of feet on the road during the running movement, would cause additional pain, and cause further risk of complications.
Meanwhile, as Jennifer made the adjustment from testosterone to estrogen, she found herself losing strength, speed, muscle, endurance, metabolism, and lung capacity. Despite a strong effort to stay in shape and keep running, she found herself gaining back all the weight she had lost in 2007 when she initially took up running, approximately 75 pounds. Stubborn, Jennifer kept running marathons anyway, and eventually blew out her knees when she refused to drop out of the 2011 Halifax Marathon, despite suffering a significant injury 26 km into the race. Jennifer would later suffer a grade-two torn ankle ligament, while running the 2011 Cape to Cabot 20 km run through the hills of Blackhead Road and Signal Hill.
Although unable to run, Kim was determined to continue on with improving her physical fitness, and took to riding a stationary bike, and talking up speed-walking on a treadmill. Kim picked her training up a notch in 2013 and dropped 20 pounds, and at 42, she is now in the best shape of her life, and was ready to make her Tely 10 debut, as a fast-walker.
After six months of physio on her ankle, which only lead to minimal improvements, the 39 year-old Jennifer, continues to battle the bulge and deals with permanent pain in her knees and ankles. Fortunately, after 4 years of consistent weight gain and decreased running amounts, she found new energy in 2013. While still hurt, she has managed to train enough and adjust her eating habits to the point that she too has lost 20 pounds this year, and felt she had enough base-building training to run what was her 4th Tely.
It turned out to be a successful day, as Kim walked the course at a consistently-fast pace, and finished strong at 2:42:25. Jennifer took to the road at a pace much slower than her sub-71-minute performance at the 2008 Tely, but she ran a strong race and avoided any major injuries, and crossed the finish line with a smile at 2:07:19, giving her only her second race finish in nearly two years, since that fateful 2011 Cape to Cabot run.
Jennifer and Kim will continue to work together and attempt to improve on their results next year. Meanwhile, off the roads, Jennifer and Kim will continue to work together to further strengthen their friendship, as well as work to take steps to try to get their respective communities to better respect and understand each other. Jennifer is optimistic after reading about the Pope's recent comments in which he indicated that gay people should not be marginalized, "we are all human beings and we all need to treat each other with love and respect. The Tely 10 is a perfect place to demonstrate that people from a wide range of backgrounds, can come together and share the roads for 10 miles, in unity, and in celebration," said Jennifer
(pictures: 1) Burton Pond 5k finish line 2010, 2) at Mundy Pond before Mews 8k Race July 2009, 3) at Travis Tritt concert 2013, 4) after the Terry Fox Run Sept 2009, 5) with local Radio Talk Show Host & near-elite runner Peter Soucy at Provincial 5K Championships 2009).