Every Tuesday, Svveat Stories brings you Svveatspiration: an inspiring series of first-person narratives from our fitness community’s unsung heroes. This week, Veronika Zotochkina shares the ups and downs on her road to a healthy, happy life.

Veronika Zotochkina

My journey into #TheSweatLife started a few months after I moved from Russia to Canada in 2007. I had always been a chubby kid and, as much as I would have loved to blame my weight on genetics, I only had myself to blame. Fortunately, you can only live in the yoga-centric culture of Vancouver for so long before it rubs off on you, which is why I finally stepped out of my comfort zone and started my lifelong journey to create a healthier version of myself.

Being active did not come naturally to me, nor did it come overnight. I started casually with Bikram yoga and my own random fitness routines. I learned to develop a very strong, dedicated and goal-oriented mind. But along with it, unfortunately, came an eating disorder. Luckily, I was able to overcome the negative, stick with the positive and ultimately leave behind nearly 70 pounds.

All the activities I tried during this time were enjoyable, but not fully satisfying; I needed something that would constantly challenge me. Then I found running.

Veronika Zotochkina running hills

About 2.5 years ago, after I moved to Toronto, a good friend of mine picked up running, which at the time sounded torturous to me. But I had heard so many great things about the “runner’s high” that I decided to try and find mine, so I signed up for a 15-kilometre race. For added pressure, I decided to fundraise for a recently departed relative, so I had no choice but to follow through on the plan. When it was all over I thought I’d never do it again. Boy, was I wrong.

I thought I had gotten better at this “running thing”, so I decided to run a half-marathon, and then a full marathon. That marathon will forever be the most humbling experience of my life. Nothing will compare to it because it wasn’t about me and my goals during those four torturous hours, it was about the people who carried me through those kilometres: my family, the kids in the east end who fed me bananas, the familiar faces that cheered me on, the volunteers who handed me water and, most importantly, my teammates who got me to that finish line. You just can’t fail with that kind of love on your side.

Adidas Runners Toronto run leaders

Today, I’m so far from where I started: I have an amazing coach, I have joined two running teams and I hit the pavement every day.

The running community in Toronto is truly incomparable. Our crews are so supportive and inspiring. We carry each other through everything: the daily routines, the work/life trauma, mental health issues, heartbreaks, failures and much more. We share PBs, accomplishments and countless jokes. It’s something I will never be able to fully explain; you have to feel it.

If you’re struggling and trying to change something in your life, hear me out: I understand you. I have been there! We all have a story behind our smile, so don’t let that stop you from connecting with me or anyone else in our ever-growing community. You will be surprised at the doors it will open for you.

Follow Veronika on Instagram to see where her fitness journey is taking her next. Check out the Adidas Runners Toronto page on Svveat to find out where you can join her for a run.

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