Catching Up With Two Marathon Mavens

by | Sep 8, 2021 | Community

The Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon is back with an in-person 10K on October 17 and a month-long virtual race from October 1 – 31. Second Harvest is proud to be a charity partner of the STWM and we’re even prouder of these two utterly inspiring women who are raising funds for food rescue. 

We talked to Maria Cruz and Leeanne Donovan and we dare you not to feel pumped up and hopeful after hearing what they have to say about what gets them – and keeps them – on the road.

How long have you been racing? 

Leeanne: I started running in 2010 for fun and did it off and on, running some fun races every year and a few half-marathons. In 2018 I developed vertigo and wasn’t able to run or even walk for a while.  I tried to get back into it and continued to run moderately while struggling to get better but ended doing more run/walk than running. I’m really happy to say that I started to run again as a test of my condition at the beginning of the pandemic. Now I run five days a week and have taken my running to a level I never thought possible. I’m at my best shape and fastest pace than I’ve ever been before.

Maria: I’ve only been wheeling in a manual wheelchair for exercise since late 2017. I was born both blind and mobility impaired, and I work as an Accessibility QA Analyst helping to make sure smartphones and tablets are accessible for people like me who use text-to-speech screen readers. I feel lucky to have a good paying job where I can help improve accessibility for other people with disabilities including myself. Since 2017 I’ve been doing 5K races (not sure how many, but quite a few). When I go out wheeling I have to use the assistance of a sighted guide, who tells me which way to go or warns me about any potholes, people or obstacles coming up. Causes like Second Harvest are what motivate me most to do the races I do. I wheel to get good exercise and be by the lake, and it’s also really good to have the company of my guides. But wheeling for a good cause motivates me the most.

Did your training regime change in response to the pandemic?

Leeanne: Big time! As I said I struggle with vertigo and was struggling to run. I had a terrible work/life balance so didn’t feel like I had the time to manage my vertigo while trying to run again. The pandemic forced me to press pause on life. Not having to commute and not being able to do things gave me the gift of time, so I used it to start running again and come up with a solid plan for running with my condition. I decided to dedicate some time into getting my health in check, too. Since the pandemic started, I’ve lost 73 pounds, and I’ve taken my resting heart rate from 96bpm to 63bpm.

Maria: During the pandemic I wasn’t able to get out at all. I just started wheeling again in the beginning of July. Before July I did a couple of virtual races at home using my exercise machine, but to me it’s nothing like going out and wheeling, and it was really hard to motivate myself to do that. Pumping up my music definitely helped, and although I have quite a few favorites, I think my best pump-up song has to be “Roll It Gal” by Alison Hinds. As it turned out, the day I started wheeling again I wheeled 5K in the morning and another 5K later on in the afternoon. Man, were my arms sore after that!

What are some tips you would give fellow runners or newbies?  

Leeanne: Start slow, listen to your body (which I didn’t always do before), and don’t skimp out on good gear – it makes all the difference in preventing injury and making for a more comfortable run.

Maria: Although I don’t really have any tips for newbies, if anyone is considering getting into running and using their running to support awesome organizations like Second Harvest, I’d say go for it!

If you could say one thing to people and organizations considering supporting Second Harvest by doing the marathon, what would it be?  

Maria: You’ll not only get some good exercise, but you’ll be helping people and the environment too. I’m really happy to be able to support Second Harvest because I think it’s so important to keep good food from going to waste and to give good food to people who really need it.

Leeanne: I would say think about every step you’re taking as another family being fed, another kid not going to bed hungry, and another person feeling like there’s options out there for them. I’ve struggled with being in poverty in my life and my mom not always knowing where our next meal will come from. We had to rely on food banks a lot growing up. If there were no food banks, we would have gone hungry many times over, so I am a huge supporter. I love what Second Harvest does and will continue to support if there are people in need. 

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