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This story starts in September of 2014, with a question from my BRAND-NEW boyfriend. I don’t even think we were officially a couple at that time, and he casually asks me:

“So, what do your feet look like?”

A little surprised, I asked (what has since become) a key phrase in our relationship vocabulary:

“What exactly do you mean by that?”

“Well,” he says, “you’re a runner, aren’t you? Don’t runners have like really messed up feet?”

I had been seeing him long enough not to be phased by this type of conversation. What got to me though, was that he had this idea that real runners had really nasty looking feet. And my feet, were not nasty at all.

“Eeeew, no way!” I exclaimed. “I take really good care of my feet” I lied… while in the back of my head I knew that they didn’t need that much extra care, because I wasn’t a real runner.

Isn’t it fun what our self-conscious brain does to us?!?!

At that time, I ran maybe two or three times per week. It was more like a light jog when running outside -  everyone on the Martin Goodman Trail was always passing me, and I didn’t have a watch so I had no idea how fast or slow I was going. In the winter when working out on the treadmill, I never even considered anything above 5.5.mph. None of this mattered to me though – I loved running; the freedom I felt, and the “high” I got after completing an 18km training run - even if it did take me 2.5 hours.

Fast forward to September of 2017.

It’s recovery week after my final triathlon of the season, and I’m removing the nail polish from a month-old pedicure. One toe just won’t seem to come clean, but I give up because obviously this isn’t the type of thing a triathlete / entrepreneur has time for, and I move on.

A week later, the leftover polish on this toe still hasn’t chipped off, so I examine it further.

I felt butterflies in my stomach. I realize…


For real, my toe is black and I’m really freaking excited.

What does this mean? Does it mean that I’ve made it? Does this mean that I’m finally putting in the mileage to earn the title of REAL Runner?

It could mean that I need new shoes, which I do. It could also mean that I didn’t properly navigate the very steep hill on the run course at Barrelman in Niagara Falls.

All of these questions and I’m still pretty proud of my toe. But why? It seems so silly.

Perhaps it’s because I wear my triathlon wounds like a badge of honour. For example, I was actually kind of proud of the huge scab left on the back of my neck after I improperly zipped up my wetsuit and the Velcro chafed my neck at TTF. It was a lesson learned but it also made me feel kinda tough.

I’m going label it a milestone and continue the celebration until this black toe falls off.

As I prepare to take on a ½ Marathon at Road2Hope in Hamilton on November 5th I know I still have a lot to learn about running. Tempo, track practice – these words are still pretty foreign to me.

So no matter where you are on your journey, remember – that’s what it’s about. There is no destination with running - just small milestones to enjoy and use to gross out your partner.

Rachel Holt