Premier Kathy Dunderdale has a lot of running ahead of her.
This fall’s general election is 80 days away and she’ll spend the weeks before chasing votes to keep the Progressive Conservatives in power.
But prior to hitting the hustings, she’s got a different kind of race in front of her. Dunderdale is running in this Sunday’s Tely 10, and will be the first sitting premier to do so.
“I’m not the least bit concerned about time. Whatever competition that’s going on is going on internally,” she said.
“It’s such a thrill for me to do this. I know I can run it.”
Six months ago, the premier wasn’t even thinking about running the province’s most popular road race.
It didn’t become a serious consideration until the end of May, when she concluded that running the route from Paradise to Bannerman Park would be doable if she could do four laps of Quidi Vidi Lake.
That realization is one of many Dunderdale has had since Oct. 16, when she changed her lifestyle and committed to losing weight and becoming more active.
After watching late cabinet colleague Dianne Whalen’s health fail, and remembering her late husband Peter’s battle with cancer a few years before, Dunderdale found herself thinking about how important it was to be healthy.
She wanted better control over her body. She cut things out of her diet — refined sugars, processed foods, etc. — and started exercising more regularly. She stuck to the plan even though her workload changed drastically when she became premier Dec. 3.
Her original intent was to shed 20 or 25 pounds, but nine months after she began, Dunderdale proudly said, “I’ve lost nearly 100 pounds.”
After struggling with weight for about 15 years and trying “everything under the sun” to conquer it, she said she’s feeling healthy and strong. She considers that a great gift. One she said she doesn’t take for granted.
“I hope it continues. I hope I don’t go back, but I’m always mindful that I’ve tried many things and failed.”
Besides becoming fitter, Dunderdale has become a runner.
She had always walked and hiked. After she started changing her lifestyle, she began doing lot of walking. Winter set in and she hit the track at MUN’s Field House. One February day, she decided to try to a little run.
“I did one lap and near died. I thought, ‘this is not for me.’ But the next day I decided I’d try it again and just consistently kept at it.”
She has kept going ever since, running as much as her schedule allows.
The premier started setting small goals, with no pressure. Three kilometres at the Field House. Then it was six.
“During that first month, if anybody told me I’d be running the Tely 10 I would have told them they were crazy.”
Then came that May realization that she could run the big race.
To prepare, she tried the 10-km Bell Centennial Cup last month in Grand Falls-Windsor.
She passed that “first test,” and gained confidence about Sunday’s race.
Dunderdale has been travelling a lot in recent weeks, including to Europe for July 1 commemorations and to the Connaigre Peninsula last week to announce aquaculture projects. She’s also been busy with things like candidate nominations for the upcoming provincial election.
She flew to Vancouver Tuesday for premiers’ meetings and doesn’t get back until Saturday afternoon. Her plan is to try to stay on Newfoundland Time, so her internal clock isn’t thrown off too much for the race.
“I don’t know if all my meetings will let me do that,” she said before she left, “but I’m going to give it a good try because that might be my best approach.”
The premier’s main focus for Sunday is simply on crossing the finish line.
“I can’t say that I like running,” she admits. “But I love what running does for me. I love, when I’ve completed a run, how I feel. I love the effect it has on me physically.”