How I find balance — October 2016

Ultramarathon running helps Harriet Tinka keep all her activities — her work, family, volunteer work and managing her own business — in balance.

Harriet Tinka, 42, senior accountant, Office of the City Auditor, Edmonton

Doing an ultramarathon offers a different kind of personal satisfaction than I get from other parts of my life. When you run a 125-km race (like the Canadian Death Race relay, which I ran in 2014), only the first 20 km is running; from there on, it’s all mental toughness. You have to tell your body the pain is part of the race and that every step forward is one step closer to the finish line. I also like to set a goal and see if I can achieve it. For example, for the [next] ultramarathon I’m running (the 161-km Sinister 7) my goal was to run 80 km to 100 km a week. Some days I’ll do 10 km first thing in the morning and 15 km when I get home; then I might take a day off. On weekends, I do long runs.

To fit in time for my family, my volunteer work and my business, Empowered Me (workshops for preteens and adolescents on topics such as self-esteem), I have a routine. For instance, I commit time, especially Sundays, to spend with my children; I mentor students on my lunch hour and every Wednesday night I speak to women who are facing domestic violence. I also write everything down in a mini-calendar and colour-code each activity.

Whatever obstacle you hit, you deal with it — you might have to change your plan, but you keep going. I’m grateful for everything I have, even for what happened to me in university. (After being abducted and stabbed by a former classmate, I met a young woman in the hospital whose outlook was positive despite losing both parents in the accident that left her in a wheelchair.) If it hadn’t happened, I don’t think I would be the person I am today. I want to inspire others; I think once you have a vision and a plan, you can achieve anything — you just need that passion.

— As told to Wendy Haaf