Runner Stories

#WhyIRun: Alex McGillivray

Written by Katie

Name: Alex McGillivray
Hometown: Hamilton, Ontario
Occupation: Provincial Coordinator for a Charity
Where I call home now: Hamilton, Ontario
Running Crew(s): YWCA Hamilton Run/Tri Club, Tribe Fitness

alex_whyirun_9 Heyo! My name is Alex and I’m quirky, nerdy, and a whole lot of sporty! I’m happily married to my high school sweetheart (awwwww, insert all the feels), but I also have a thing for Chrisses – you know, the Evans, Hemsworth, and Pratt variety. I work for charity by day, but my real passion lies in getting sweaty while running, swimming, cycling, yoga-ing, and training. Basically, I am a busy, busy bee!

Let’s take a quick rewind to my childhood. I was a tomboy and always into sports. Bless my mom because she had me in swimming, dance, basketball, and baseball. Let’s not forget the countless times I spent outside playing sports with the neighbourhood kids. I absolutely loved being part of a team and of course, the action packed movement of each these sports, however, I was, and have always been bigger than your average gal.

I have to confess that I’ve never felt comfortable in my body, and was teased A LOT about being fat as I grew up. This was where I learned to focus on my negativity and where I really learned to hate my body. To be fair, I’ve always had a strong sense of self. I just failed to see my own greatness or potential because I chose to focus on what I thought was physically wrong with me versus what was awesome. After years and years of secret tears and living entrenched in a negative mindset, I decided I needed to change, but it didn’t happen quickly, and my running journey has a lot to do with it.

When did you start to run?

I’ve had a bit of a love-hate relationship with running and it started way back when I was a kid in elementary school. I was never naturally drawn to running. I found it much more attractive when it involved chasing a ball or an opponent, but like all school gym classes, there was a running unit, and well, I was forced to do it to pass. My hate for running only grew when my one gym teacher pointed out that my form was terrible and that my left leg “weirdly” swung out to the left side. Feeling like I wasn’t naturally good at it only made me hate it more.

Fast forward to 2008 (a good solid 20 years later). I was approaching my wedding and of course, like many brides, I wanted to lose weight. I started going to Running Room’s free Wednesday night runs and enjoyed it up until the point where the group got so far ahead of me that I felt like I was holding them back, so, shamefully, I quit.

In 2009, friends of mine asked me to join their co-ed soccer team in what felt like the hottest summer EVER. My eyes popped out of my head and I laughed hysterically because, hey, did they actually know who they were asking? I didn’t run. Nevertheless, my friend said we could practice running together at our neighbourhood park, and so we did. I vividly remember running and trying to select objects along the trail to run towards. My favourite was a giant flagpole at the back of the loop where I kept telling myself that one day I would make it from the bend to the pole. I never made it that summer, but I did play every soccer game. The sad part is, once the summer was over, I stopped running.

Why did you start to run?


I stopped running for a solid 4 years after that summer of soccer. In 2013 I weighed my heaviest at 276lbs and was probably the most miserable I’ve ever been. I remember breaking down into tears one night because I felt so incredibly unhappy with myself. I didn’t know where to start or how to fix it, but something inside said that I would find my way. At the time, I had a friend who was training for her first half marathon that fall. I ended up coming across an ad for Color Me Rad and sent her a message saying something to the effect that it might be a fun way to spice up her training. 10 minutes later I got a reply saying she signed “US” up. I thought the “US” was a typo. I was wrong, and that’s where my official running story began.

That summer I ran both Color Me Rad and The Color Run with my friends. After finishing both races, that same friend convinced me to take on the challenge of running a sanctioned race, so I chose the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront 5k. As I finished the Scotia 5k, which has now become a family tradition as I’ve now convinced my brother-in-law to run with me, I decided I was going to dream big and set the goal of running a half marathon in the next year. Why? Because why not?! After all, I instantly fell in love with the energy of the Scotiabank Waterfront race, the cheers, and of course the feeling of accomplishing something that seemed impossible.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but after setting the goal of running a half marathon, the universe began conspiring to make it happen. As I continued running, I literally ran into one of my oldest friends on the trail as she was training for her first IronMan. We quickly arranged a coffee date, and when I met her, I told her about my goal of running a half marathon and asked her if she would train me. She was all in, and with her kindness and encouragement, I ran my first 8k race in January of 2014 (in good ol’ -32C Canadian weather I might add). I also joined her awesome sister’s fitness group in Toronto called Tribe Fitness, and by April I ran the Toronto Yonge Street 10k. In June my mileage grew and I ran a MEC 15k race on the hills of North Shore in Burlington. Finally, in August, I ran lululemon’s Seawheeze half marathon in Vancouver. After years of living with self doubt and self hate, I was now part of the half marathon club! Sometimes, I still can’t believe it.

When did you finally consider yourself a runner?


Surprisingly, and I say surprisingly because I continue to grow in my self confidence, I don’t actually consider myself a runner. I consider myself an athlete. I only started to self identify as an athlete within the last year and I did it because I felt like I was doing myself a disservice given the amount of time I spend training. This doesn’t include the time I spend thinking about it, or reading about it.

While I self identify as an athlete, I do remember the first time I felt like a runner. It was during a training run for SeaWheeze. I was out on one of my favourite routes and about halfway through my run, when I actually forgot that I was running. It felt amazing and effortless. I remember thinking to myself that this is what it should feel like. That this is what all runners feel like.

Why do you continue to run?

I continue to run and chase my goals because it has gifted me with my own quiet confidence (something I never thought I would find). Simply put, I run because I love it. I love that with every run, I experience what my body is capable of. Most of all, I love that running doesn’t care if I am fast, how far I go, or what I look like. It reminds me that all I have to do is show up and just be me.

What’s your biggest accomplishment in running?


This one is tough. There are so many moments, experiences, and things I am beyond proud of, but I think my Around the Bay 30k race takes the cake. Training for and participating in this race taught me so much about myself. I learned how powerful my strength, courage, and undeniable spirit truly is, but most of all, it taught me that my only real limit is me.

Who inspires you?

Again, this one is tough. There are a ton of people and places I draw inspiration from, but someone I really look up to is Leah Gilbert who is a body positive athlete and paving the way for plus size women in sport. I also love Kaillie Humphries because she bobsleds with the boys, holds her own, is determined AF, and is a straight up badass. Speaking of Kaillie, she takes the prize for one of my favourite inspirational videos.

What are some of your favourite inspirational quotes?

These are a couple of my favourite inspirational quotes. Check them out!

Impossible is Nothing” – Muhammad Ali

What lies before us and what lies behind us are small matters compared to what lies within us. And when you bring what is within out into the world, miracles happen.” – Henry David Thoreau

A final thought on running

So why do I run? I run because it shows me I am capable of conquering the impossible.



About the author


Founder and Creator of Why I Run.

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