New marathoners have reason to run

The first in a four-part running feature begins today

At 2 a.m., Nikki Jomha descends beneath the Victoria police station and fires up a treadmill in the gym. That’s when the 43-year-old mother of three and grandmother of one, with another grandchild on the way, leaves her post as a 911 operator for an hour break.

“For me, partway through a 12-hour shift, that’s my lunch time,” Jomha says. “It’s a chance to run, or do weight work, whatever I can fit in to keep going, and it gives me the oomph to make it to 6 a.m.”

Finding the time to train is a challenge, but the balance doesn’t take anything away from her family, she said.

Jomha and thousands of others are in the final three weeks leading up to the GoodLife Fitness Victoria Marathon on Oct. 7.

One of those thousands of runners is Greg Robbins. Like Jomha, this marathon is Robbins’ first.

As a delivery truck driver, he also works 12-hour days in a stressful atmosphere, the kind that drain you before the day’s over.

“I think about those people in a 9-to 5-desk job,” Robbins said. “I somewhat envy them, as they can go running after work, starting fresh, whereas, at the end of the day, I’ve unloaded 20,000 pounds.”

Robbins’ reasons for running are powerful. He recently celebrated two three-year anniversaries. One of sobriety, the other for smoking.

“Ten beers and two packs of smokes everyday. I was a solid alcoholic,” Robbins said.

The 35-year-old found faith in God about eight years ago, but the drinking didn’t end.

“Just like any kid I grew up playing organized sports. But I started smoking and that basically ruined everything,” Robbins explained.

“When you’re young and you party, some people stop and some carry on. I had a job and was single, and basically devoted my entire time to drinking.”

Robbins quit three years ago with the support of his church and family, which includes his wife and kids, seven and five years old.

He’s since become a youth leader at the Colwood Pentecostal Church, and was leading a group outing up-Island last weekend.

“Addictions can make you extremely selfish, you find ways to satisfy your addictions. My faith has given me the motivation, determination and strength.”

Robbins has run four half-marathons, including the GoodLife half-marathon twice, and the treacherous hill climbs of the Bear Mountain 10-kilometre race.

It took the marathon-running words of Robbins’ pastor David Funk to convince him to make the jump to the full distance this year.

“(Funk) will probably beat me, but I will finish that race. I’m not in any running groups. I do this all on my own. One of my goals, besides accomplishing it, is not to look like I need to be carted off in a wheelbarrow.”

When Robbins crosses the finish line he’d at least like to appear ready to run another 10K.

In some ways, it’s a goal not far off of Jomha’s.

“My ultimate goal is to complete Ironman Canada in 2014,” Jomha said.

“Obviously I’m going to need to do a marathon at some point, so my training partner said, ‘Let’s do the GoodLife this year.’”

However, Jomha has since found out her triathlon training partner, who is also a 911 operator, has to work Oct. 7.

“Even amid all those thousands of runners, I’m going to feel all by myself without her,” Jomha said.

For Jomha, the decision to take on triathlons started in 2009, but long before that she suffered such a health scare that, although belated, it provides motivation today.

“I woke up one morning in 2003, and I couldn’t move, I couldn’t get out of bed. I was tested for this, and that, and eventually took some medication that cured it after three months.”

She was never diagnosed, but took medication that’s given to sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis.

“I was immobilized. It was only three months, but it was a dark, dark time. Now a part of me runs for people who can’t run.”

Jomha was a “complete couch potato” when she started running in 2009.

“People tell me, ‘I don’t know who you are anymore,’” Jomha said. “I’ve lost a lot of weight and I’m very active. I want to be an inspiration to my kids, a model for my co-workers.”

Jomha did the TC 10K, and needed goals to keep her training up, so she entered in every local race going. She’s done the Bear Mountain 10K, Oak Bay half-Marathon, and runs the Island Race Series in the winter.

She’s also improved her swimming so much that biking is her weakest of the triathlon disciplines.

“Biking is another one I have to fit in. I get up at 4:30 a.m. to bike 28 km to work,” she said. “Ironman is a completion to that journey, whatever it is.”

sports@vicnews.com