As you read this article, you’re probably thinking “jeez, she must be depressed; her head must be spinning just trying to figure things out”… Well, it’s in times like these that “the struggle to be happy” truly sinks in. I pushed myself hard for years, winning regional and national University level competitions, being part of the ice canoe elite, winning mountain bike races, and finally topping it all off with winning the 2015 Montréal Marathon…

course championne

And then things took a downward turn… I was injured and burnt out. Up until then I had truly believed that by winning so many races, my esteem would grow and I would become stronger, wiser, safe from the judgment of others and that my heart would swell with pride, but I was mistaken. Self-esteem is gained through the small gestures we make on a daily basis; not through the winning of ribbons and trophies.

Looking back, I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished because those accomplishments made me the woman I am today: a woman who is strong and knows what she’s worth; a woman who can deal with whatever life throws at her. I am proud to be one of the top marathoners in Québec and Canada, but what makes me even prouder is sharing my passion, jogging with friends and giving them advice, encouraging them to continue when they’re tempted to give up. Racing is not easy, it’s mentally taxing; however, like I’ve always said: I’m probably not the fastest runner but I’m surely the most mentally well prepared.

Course championne

It’s been two years since I won the marathon, and in that time I’ve grown, I’ve learned to love myself instead of measuring my self-worth by the number of kind messages I received via Facebook.  Learning to love oneself is partly a matter of self perception; it is not the result of the compliments we receive or the manner in which we are perceived. Try seeing yourself through the eyes of another; be proud of your achievements, whether they’re big or small. Nobody is perfect; allow yourself to be less than perfect. It’s okay if you forget a detail here and there. It’s okay if there are dirty dishes in your sink or if you skip a workout… Smile more, be mindful, don’t spend time worrying about what might happen or whether you’ll be successful; take things one step at a time and you’ll go far. I didn’t take the time to fully appreciate the beautiful moments in my life because I was always looking ahead. The manner in which you reach your goals is part of the challenge itself; savour every moment, share the wonder, learn from your experiences, and you will emerge a winner. Don’t forget that even the most accomplished athletes experience disappointment, discouragement and feelings of vulnerability… you are not alone.

Course Championne

Life has taught me that despite our apparent successes, it’s our personal victories that matter most, so set realistic goals for yourself, pursue your dreams no matter how long or how difficult the road might be. Nobody can take away the pride you’ll feel when you cross the finish line. Keep that feeling close to your heart and remember it when you can’t see the sun for the clouds.

To those who ask when I’ll race again, or what I’m doing now, or what progress I’ve made… my answer is strong and clear: I’m taking care of myself, I don’t have any plans carved in stone. I know I’ll always be in training and I’ll surely accomplish whatever I set my mind to. I’m living life one day at a time. I surround myself with people who are determined. I share the knowledge I’ve gained and I’m ready to face whatever life might throw at me!

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Geneviève Asselin-Demers

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