Let me tell you about Mia. After meeting at work four years ago, she has become one of my closest friends. She is a real life Disney Princess – and she runs too.
Three summers ago I started a running group at a community centre for anyone who wanted to learn how to run. Mia eagerly signed up and without fail, showed up every week wanting to improve her running. We started with a 5km race. Now if you can run 5km, you can run 10km. So she did the Sporting Life 10km race the following year. If you can run 10km, you can do a half marathon. You’ll start to see my thought pattern here. Nothing is out of reach so long as you’re prepared to put in the work to get yourself there.
So last year me, Mia and another friend of ours (who was new to running as well) signed up for the Niagara Falls Women’s Half Marathon. We checked in regularly to keep each other motivated to run. On June 1, 2014, I was happy to run along side Mia during that race and watch her push herself harder and further than she ever had before. She is one determined Disney Princess.
Earlier this year Nike announced a new Women’s 15km race in Toronto on the island. I remember her texting me about it after she found out. She was going to do it! I was excited for her.
This would be the first race that Mia trained completely on her own. She didn’t know anyone else running. For me, that makes getting yourself out the door that much harder when you don’t have someone to check in with who is training for the same race as you. But Mia was determined. Through a hectic spring season at work, she still managed to find time to make sure she got her runs in – on her own.
Everyone is busy – work, friends and family take over and often we forget to make sure we do things for US – whether that be running, yoga, cooking – any activity that makes you happy. I was explaining to one of my colleagues this week, one of the reasons I started running was because I love how I completely check out of life during those runs. No phone, social media, tv or interruptions.
Mia has been an incredible source of support for me – she even came to Boston in 2013 and cheered for me along the sidelines. I am forever grateful to have her in my life. So today I decided to surprise her with a friend of ours along the sidelines of her first 15km race to show her how proud we are of her.
Well needless to say Mia had an amazing race. She said this was the best race mentally she has ever done! Incredible! She can now check 15km off her race list. She signed up for this race not knowing anyone running, trained after long hours at work and through some pretty unpredictable weather.
Where there is a will, there’s a way.
Mia I am so proud of all your running accomplishments since you showed up that first day of my running clinic three years ago! Now if you can run a half marathon…. 😉
On a related note, Nike put on an incredible race. As part of the lead up, they held Nike Training Club (NTC) circuits at cool venues across the city. I did an early morning class at the Art Gallery of Ontario before it opened daily to the public! How cool is that? This weekend Nike set up a barge on the water for special NTC classes. Sunday morning challenging core classes are so much better on the water! Awesome job Nike. Can’t wait for next year.
Back to food! As promised in my last post, this is one of my favourite dinner recipes. You can make this recipe vegan as well. Warning: it is labour intensive! It takes about two hours from start to finish, but it’s worth it!
Eggplant Quinoa Parmesan Casserole
2 cups cooked quinoa (you’ll need about 1 cup / 6 oz / 170 gr of uncooked quinoa)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large eggplant, cubed
2 cloves garlic, minced
a handful of fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 29 oz / 822 gr can (good tasting) tomato sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1 cup / 1.8 oz / 50 gr Parmesan cheese, grated* (this is what the recipe calls for but I usually double any amount of cheese)
½ cup / 0.9 oz / 25 gr Romano cheese, grated* (see note above)
*Vegans: sub this with vegan cheese
Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C) and lightly grease a 8×8 baking dish.
Fill a large bowl with cold water, add one teaspoon of sea salt and stir until it dissolves completely. Place eggplant cubes into the water and let sit for 20 minutes to draw out the bitterness.
Drain the eggplant cubes and pat them dry.
Heat olive oil in a large non-stick pan (or skillet) over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, and ½ teaspoon of sea salt and saute’ for 6 to 7 minutes, or until onions are translucent.
Add eggplant cubes and saute’ for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, making sure that the eggplant doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
Add tomato sauce, basil and ½ teaspoon of sea salt, turn the heat to low, cover with a lid and cook for 25 to 30 minutes.
In the meantime, in another dry non-stick pan (or skillet) over medium-high heat, toast quinoa with red pepper flakes, black pepper and a pinch of salt for 2 minutes. Set aside.
In a large bowl combine quinoa, eggplant sauce and ½ cup of Parmesan cheese.
Transfer quinoa mixture to baking dish, top with remaining Parmesan and Romano cheeses.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes and then turn the broiler on and broil for 1 to 2 minutes and carefully brown the top.
Remove from the oven and top with fresh oregano leaves (or basil ribbons). Allow to sit 10 minutes and then serve.
As noted above this casserole will be better the next day or even the day after that.