October 25th, 2016
When Toni Carey’s sorority sister Ashely Hicks-Rocha, with whom she would later found the thousands strong movement Black Girls Run! (BGR), returned form a short run one evening, Toni’s reaction was something she had heard many times before – “Black people don’t run!” The reaction is only slightly less absurd than that of Toni’s mother, who once Toni had caught the running bug and began working up to longer distances warned Toni that too much running would cause her uterus to fall out.
Rightly or wrongly, cultural norms, urban myths, and old wives tales do get passed on through the generations and even as we might acknowledge their ridiculousness, they still continue to inform our actions. We all have ideas of what we can and can’t do based on things we’ve been repeatedly told and have seen, both through the media we consume and in our surroundings.
BGR representing at the Fleet Feet Pickle 18 Mile Relay. Image courtesy of the BGR Facebook page.
The challenge is in being the first do so something and to lead the change, which is exactly what Toni and Ashley have done through BGR. The mission was simple, to start a movement that gave voice to black women already running, highlighting their incredibly diverse body types, backgrounds, professions, and abilities, in turn showing others that they could do the same.
Toni says that the idea of representation is often taken for granted and for the longest time, “running was synonymous with the skinny white guy in short shorts.” She vividly remembers standing in the finishing area of her first 10K and not seeing any other runner who looked like her. This is precisely what BGR is fighting to change.
The backbone of the movement, Toni says, are the amabassadors across the country who share their stories through blogging and social media and are working to change the generational norm that has resulted in a majority of black women in America being classified as obese. “We want people who are super passionate and want to change the culture,” Toni says, adding, “These women know the empowerment that comes from running and want to pass their love on to others.”
Ultimately, the story of each ambassador serves as a counter to the notion that women of colour don’t run or that the sport is reserved for the skinny guy in short shorts. Toni says that simply being the change is the most powerful thing imaginable. Toni relates the story of a friend whose husband had been dealing with heart issues, saying, “The doctor can tell him anything, but I told her that she has to be the example.”
Toni herself never pressures family or friends into running. Sharing her story, whether in person or through social media, has far more impact. Toni laughs when she mentions that just by sharing her adventures in running through social media, even her mother has begun to log her own miles with all organs remaining in tact thus far. Passion, once again, proves contagious. If each of the more than 100,000 members of BGR across the US can have that impact, the generational change that Toni envisions will slowly become reality.
The story of BGR is another testament to a very simple fact highlighted by many with whom I’ve discussed the topic of diversity in running, namely that our easiest gateway into the sport is when those we trust and respect, those who share our own goals and struggles, lead the way. Additionally, when those leaders look like us, it becomes much easier to envision ourselves in a community. BGR is creating a very different image of running than many of us may be used to seeing, but more importantly one that many of the women she hopes to empower may not have seen.
BGR regularly brings its thousands of members together at destination races across the US as well as the Sweat With Your Sole Race Weekend, giving members an opportunity to connect, attend a fitness and wellness expo, and take part in 5 and 10K races. On October 29, 600 BGR members will come together at the Trenton Half Marathon. The movement has certainly grown beyond anything Toni ever imagined, not just encoruaging new runners to take their first steps, but fostering a far reaching sisterhood that moves forward in their goals together. It’s a model for all runners to aspire to emulate.
– Ravi Singh
October 24th, 2016
At this time of year, I crave warm and filling meals. A quick stew recipe is always really appealing to me because the days are short and we all want to be able to sit and enjoy a nice meal without spending too much time in the kitchen.
By: Julie Miguel
For this spicy Italian chicken stew, I used LiberTerre chicken thighs. Feel free to use pork or beef if you prefer. use chicken thighs because they are more flavourful than the breast cut and they are also half the cost of chicken breast. LiberTerre chicken is always my first choice because their chicken has no added hormones, antibiotics and no animal by –products. Their chicken is also Canadian raised, so we know where our food has come from, and it is air-chilled so it tastes great every time!
This stew is made heartier with the addition of red kidney beans, so, with the combination of chicken, this stew is protein packed! This stew is great for leftovers as well. I prefer to make my stew a day ahead and then reheat it for the next day’s meal. Something magical happens to soups and stews when they sit overnight in the refrigerator. The flavours become smoother and richer.
Enjoy this one pot stew and be sure to serve it with some warm and crusty bread to soak up all of that flavourful stew from the bottom of your bowl.
Spicy Italian Chicken Stew
Prep & Cook time: 45 minutes
8 LiberTerre chicken thighs (about 1 1/2 pounds total), trimmed and cut into chunks
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced into thin coins
2 small potatoes diced into ¼ inch pieces
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
½ tsp dried chili flakes (or more if you like spice.)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup dry red wine
14 1/2-ounce can chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
Crusty bread for serving
ONE: Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. In a large heavy bottomed pot, heat the oil over medium heat until hot, but not smoking. Add the chicken pieces to the pot and cook until the chicken is browned and almost cooked through (about 5-7 minutes). Transfer to a plate and set aside.
TWO: Deglaze the pan with the red wine and use a wooden spoon to scrape any bits off the bottom of the pot. Let the wine simmer for 2 minutes. Add the chili flakes, and then the chopped onions, garlic, celery, carrots and potatoes to the pot and sauté the vegetables until the onion is translucent (about 5 minutes). Add the cooked chicken pieces back into the pot. Stir in the tomatoes and their juices, the tomato paste, chicken broth and then the herbs (basil, thyme and bay leaf).
THREE: Bring the stew back up to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer gently uncovered until the chicken is almost cooked through, stirring frequently, about 20 minutes. Discard the bay leaf and stir in the kidney beans to the pot and simmer until reduced slightly into a thick stew consistency (about 10 minutes). Ladle the stew into six bowls and serve hot with warm, crusty bread.
October 24th, 2016
An important part of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon is the Scotiabank Charity Challenge. We encourage all runners to enrich their race day experience by supporting charities that do so much for communities. We’re shining a spotlighting on individuals and families who have benefitted from some of the charities that are part of the event. “If you’re not running for something, you’re just chasing the wind,” says Wesley Korir. Let’s chase more than PBs. Let’s chase a better world.
“My son continued needing me in a way that I had to be super focussed and so I began running and it helped me be my best me, to help him.”
Rhonda Marie-Avery for Achilles Canada
You come to a place in your life where you know in order to care about someone else’s needs intensely, you have to take care of yourself. The only way to calm my youngest boy down (he has ADHD) was put him in the jogging stroller. I was diagnosed legally blind when I was three. Before that, I was told to stop misbehaving, instead of being led by someone across the playground to the slide. I hooked up with Achilles Canada, a non-profit that encourages people with disabilities to run, and they taught me how to be brave enough to accelerate knowing that there’s the potential of hitting a car.
My son continued needing me in a way that I had to be super focussed and so I began running and it helped me be my best me, to help him.
The culture doesn’t even know it discriminates against people with disabilities and so I think my visibility helps in order to have conversations. “People with disabilities can’t do that,” is a lot of people’s viewpoints and it’s one of the reasons I run: what does vision-impaired look like? A vision-impaired mother just ran the Bruce Trail! It’s important to create awareness. It’s one thing to have values and speak about them, but if you’re not willing to get on the front linesand work, you should stop talking: you can’t stand up for change sitting down.
People telling me stories of their uncle who lost their vision and how they struggle losing their independence. It doesn’t have to be that way! Other disabled people who aren’t athletes are saying things like, ‘If you’re running in the mountains, I don’t have to be afraid to go to the grocery store.’ See, my every day isn’t this big adventure. Can I make it to the bus stop without getting run over? Can I pick my son up from high school?
We don’t know how as a society to help people fit in like that and we need to talk about that more.
There’s a place for people with disabilities. And it’s definitely not on the sidelines where we’re put.
“When your liver fails, every other organ follows suit. If I encouraged one other person to go out and get tested, my job is complete.”
Lance Gibson for the Canadian Liver Foundation
When the Canadian Liver Foundation reached out to me, I was in a very vulnerable place but my disease spoke well to the need to dispel the stigma surrounding liver disease and Hepatitis C. I felt an obligation to speak out; to remove the negative stigmatization and help others understand the gravity and weight of my illness. Not only did I become more acceptant of myself, but I released all of the blame and came to understand that my illness was a fluke – to place blame on myself was not only unproductive, it was a disservice to myself. When your liver fails, every other organ follows suit. If I encouraged one other person to go out and get tested, my job is complete.
I ran the Rock and Roll Marathon in five hours flat on a dare while stationed at the USAF Base Bagram Afghanistan in 2007… exactly one-year before I was diagnosed with liver disease. My next, the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, came directly after my liver transplant. This event was bolstered with unprecedented meaning: I ran the marathon with my Liver Specialist right by my side – from towing the start line to crossing the final time check. I saw this race as a benchmark of my health. Everything I had been holding in for the last five years came pouring out at that finish line. I did it.
Running has become an outlet for me. It’s connected with everything from my diagnosis and mental wellbeing. I saw it as an obstacle and personal challenge. Each goal I set was a hurdle and personal achievement I needed to overcome. With each victory came the aspiration to do more. Today, I run to inspire others to never quit and to always keep fighting.
“When I got my cancer diagnosis, I knew exactly who to call. It was time to link about with TNT again and do another race. Fundraising helped get me through treatments—it gave me something good to focus on.”
Lori Christopher for TNT
I started running with TNT in 2013 after my nephew died from leukemia. I had to do something because there was nothing to do. Fundraising gave my running a purpose other than just running for myself. In 2014, I got diagnosed with leukemia. When I got my cancer diagnosis, I knew exactly who to call. It was time to link about with TNT again and do another race. Fundraising helped get me through treatments—it gave me something good to focus on.
With leukemia, you don’t ever get a cure. You hope for long-time remission. And in the meantime, I’m scoping out my next race.
I do better when I train. I feel better mentally. I feel better physically. I ran a whole pile of races through chemo because that’s just me. My doctor said I’m probably the healthiest chemo patient he knows, and that he knows plenty of people not in chemo who aren’t as healthy as you. Running is my outlet for everything. It’s how I sort everything out. Put your running shoes on and work out all life’s stresses, just run.
In 2014, my died from complications of Alzheimers. I work full-time and have three kids and run a house—running saved my sanity. I could not survive my mother’s diagnosis and her being sick without it. My best races came after my life’s most traumatic things. There’s not many finish lines I cross where I’m not crying.
I think when you’re running for something other than yourself the running means more. It’s morphed into something special for me. I’m running for all those people who can’t run. And to the runners reading this, reading my story—I know fundraising is daunting. But this is our time. Let’s band together—as runners—and help those who need it, because we can.
October 24th, 2016
Satisfaction isn’t something we fall upon. It’s something we work towards. And the harder the work, the richer the rewards.
Photo: Errol Mcgihon
A prevailing theme in our modern world is the overnight success. You have a killer business idea and sell it to Google in your first month of operation. You show up at a reality TV audition and a few weeks later you’re a recording artist. You post a video on YouTube and become an Internet sensation.
There’s a litany of self-help literature, ranging from Get Rich Quick to Lose Weight Fast, that supports the fantasy that big and wonderful things can happen instantly. No hard work required.
But real life is a lot like running; it’s an incremental game: Saving for your retirement, losing twenty pounds, building a bond with your child, or completing a half-marathon – they all result from daily hard work that, over time, adds up to a positive result. You can’t cram for any of them.
I just finished authoring a book about the history of the Boston Marathon and my own experience repeatedly trying and failing to get in, then eventually qualifying in my twentieth marathon. Everything about the experience of researching and writing the book reminded me that nothing meaningful happens in an instant. It took decades of history for the Boston Marathon to become the most respected and coveted race in the world. It took years of training – and some 12,000 kilometres of running – for me to qualify. It took months of writing, starting with a blank document and adding a few hundred words at a time, for me to complete the book.
In every case, there were no shortcuts. You can’t buy a VIP pass and skip to the front of the line. You start with nothing and you do a little bit. And then a little more. Every day, you throw a little more on the pile. In a short time, you have something more than nothing. Eventually, if you keep it up, you may have a lot. But you never add more than a modest amount to the pile on any day.
The same principle applies to fundraising. Like many of the stories we’ve shared in this issue of iRun, a runner on a mission to raise hundreds or thousands of dollars starts at zero. Even Terry Fox began with an empty bucket. A little bit at a time, the runner gets commitments from donors. Eventually she hits her goal. Combine that $500 or $1,500 with the fundraising efforts of thousands of other runners and suddenly you have millions for medical research or some other worthy cause.
At some point in this incremental journey you will start to wonder: Is it the pile or the practice of adding to it that provides the greatest reward? When you train for your first marathon, you think the race itself is the attraction, the experience from which you will get the most benefit. After a while, as running etches itself into your routine, you realize that it’s the daily hard work that may be the biggest prize. The marathon is the unapproachable classmate you fantasized about in high school. Training is the devoted friend who was by your side every day, listening to you go on and on about your dreams.
Likewise, while your intentions are honourable and philanthropic, you also get some benefit whenever someone supports your fundraising campaign. Just like the feeling at the end of a good run, there’s something enormously satisfying and validating about adding a few hundred dollars to the pot you’re handing over to a good cause.
No matter what Hollywood or self-help gurus tell you, life isn’t about big moments and grand gestures. It’s about chipping away at a challenge, one day at a time. You can’t jump to the finish line or skip to the end of the movie. And, you soon realize, you wouldn’t want to anyway.
October 24th, 2016
Anyone familiar with The Strumbellas and their hypnotic hit song Spirits, will no doubt know that the band has a thing with a catchy melody and lyrics that stir the soul. In other words, great running songs! Guitarist Jon Hembrey started running with his mother and still hits the street three or four times a week. “Once I get in the mindset of just, “Go out there and do it,” I find I have more time than I think,” Hembrey says. “I’ve been thinking I might try a half marathon.”
The Strumbellas are undoubtedly one of Canada’s best new bands. And I think this playlist rocks, too.
October 23rd, 2016
In the days following a big city marathon, the stories that will grab the most attention and dominate the headlines are those that are so extraordinary they’re almost absurd. These are the stories that most vividly illustrate the ability of the marathon to shatter what we considered the limits of human strength and determination.
These are the stories of Jean-Paul Bedard, for whom enduring personal struggles which have claimed the lives of millions did not diminish the sheer grit needed to complete four consecutive marathons over the course of twenty four hours, and of Robert MacDonald, for whom it would have been a miracle at one time to walk again let alone traverse fourty-two kilometres. It is the story of Ed Whitlock, who in fifteen year old running shoes, ran a sub-4:00 marathon at the age of 85.
Fighting through the humidity at the 18K mark. Image courtesy of Tribe Fitness.
I ran alongside Mr. Whitlock for a few minutes during the portion of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon that goes out and back along Toronto’s waterfront. Only a few minutes after spotting Ed, the elite runners whipped past us in the other direction, already having hit the turnaround to head back east.
Such stories and experiences can be interpreted a few ways. They are, of course, sources of inspiration for us to push our own limits and opportunities to be humbled by incredible talent. On the other hand, no matter how much we may resist, they serve as points of comparison that make our own achievements feel diminished and our own stories seem insignificant.
On the day of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, I was chasing my personal best at the half marathon. I was riding a wave of incredible momentum, having already twice run a PB at the distance in 2016. Despite the oppressive humidity and a blister on the bottom of my right foot having formed precisely where I struck the ground with every step, I did indeed run that PB and completed the race feeling optimistic that, if granted friendlier conditions, even stronger results awaited me.
Still, in a pond peopled by Eric Gillis and Ed Whitlock, I barely cause a ripple. At least when it comes to the tangibles of running – overall rankings, placements within our age group, how close our results bring us to Boston – I’m still thoroughly mediocre. I am slightly faster than the average man my age at the half marathon, but to the best of my recollection I have never ranked even within the top 50 in my age group.
If I were to tell anything to a new runner, it would be to embrace this from the very beginning. It would be that in running greatness is not imperative and that constantly measuring ourselves against any conception of it will result in feeling like a failure. When we come to running, we are not chasing an end but cultivating a life skill. What we think will be our greatest moments of triumph will actually prove insignificant in the long term.
In the time I spent distracted by measuring myself against standards, I missed the key realization that running was never meant to be measured. While I’ve had the privilege of seeing many friends experience astronomical growth in their abilities as athletes, I suppose deep down we all know when we first lace up a pair of shoes that while we may very well exceed our own highest expectations, we will probably not be the global sensation that is Ed Whitlock. In my case, I’ve always known that I will never be an impressive runner, never run Boston, and never stand on a podium. As of this writing, I’m okay with that.
What I wish for every new runner to know is that even those moments where we post our fastest times at a distance, or maybe place within the top three in our age categories, are fleeting. They may be the moments of our greatest and most vocal celebrations. They may be the ones that attract the greatest cries of support and congratulations from friends, family, and the running community. They are not, however, the moments when running has the most power in our lives. Furthermore, they are few and far between. They are not guaranteed and if we hunger too strongly for them, the despair produced by their absence is all the more devastating.
Our most important and powerful moments come when we are furthest removed from the celebratory atmosphere of the big race. From the moment we start running, it is likely that years down the line, if it isn’t the case already, that we will have days when we reach points of emotional exhaustion following conflict with family and friends, when our daily responsibilities frustrate us to the point of murderous rage, when the future is wildly uncertain, when we confront the deepest depth of despair and loss.
On those days, the time that we manage to carve out of our day to run will mean everything to us. It will come quietly, like Homer’s rosy-fingered dawn, but these will be our most powerful moments of running. It is in these moments that we realize, in Jean-Paul Bedard’s words, running is not something we do, but something we are* and furthermore an integral companion in a journey towards the better person we hope to be for ourselves and those around us.
It is in those moments, too, that we’re telling a story that doesn’t hit the headlines with a bang, but which makes itself felt every day. When we talk about community building in running, we’re often talking about the tangibles. The money pumped into a local economy on race weekend, the funds raised for charity through that race, and the myriad of growing run crews that have made our sport more social, empowering, and far reaching than ever.
Running’s community building power is beyond running itself. In our journey as mediocre runners, we grow as parents, partners, friends, and citizens. Taken cumulatively, that is an incredible story. At the root of community is the individual who has been given the support and room to flourish. In the cluster of runners who cross the finish line are thousands of such individuals who have been given and have taken that invaluable opportunity. Those are the runners who have obtained wisdom through running that is carried each day beyond the finish line.
For each of us who is invisible on the course, our impact is quietly felt and is the culmination of the steps that we each took in the both the silent and exuberant moments. As you are passed by the elites, as you fail to run your personal best, continue running with the knowledge that with each step you are part of this silent revolution.
*Bédard, J. (2016). Running into Yourself. Breakaway Books.
October 18th, 2016
The evening scramble is tough. I find myself rushing around trying to figure out which dishes I can make that my whole family will enjoy. This quick Brussels sprouts dish is great because it’s really simple to make and you can prepare it while a chicken is roasting away in the oven, and it tastes great!
By: Julie Miguel
This quick warm slaw will make any person who isn’t fond of Brussels sprouts change their minds. The slight acidity of the lemon rounds out the buttery flavour of the sprouts, while the hazelnuts add a great crunchy texture to the dish.
½ lb Brussels sprouts
2 Tbs. butter
2 Tbs. Olive oil
1 Tbs. Fresh lemon juice
⅓ cup hazelnuts roasted and chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
Salt & pepper
ONE: Halve Brussels sprouts lengthwise and then thinly slice crosswise, discarding the ends. Sauté in butter until crisp-tender.
TWO: Toss with olive oil, fresh lemon juice, finely chopped shallot, chopped toasted hazelnuts, salt and pepper. Serve warm.
Julie Miguel is an iRun food contributor, where you’ll find a selection of weekly recipes and food ideas. She is a home cook, and food influencer and has worked with a national television, print and online media outlets. You can also follow her food discoveries and travel adventures at Daily Tiramisu.
October 17th, 2016
Before this year, I had never been to British Columbia. But in May I ran a half marathon at the BMO Vancouver Marathon and on Labour Day weekend, I ran Kelowna’s Wine Country Half Marathon, part of the Destination Race Series. So when I was invited to run a 20K leg (as part of a four person relay team) at the Whistler 50 Mile Ultra & Relay, I felt pretty comfortable if not confident.
Frankly, I was more concerned about two things. First, this was a trail race and I hadn’t run on a trail of any kind since cross country training a couple of decades ago. The second major worry was the wildlife, namely bears and any creature that could end my life. Unwarranted? Maybe a little, but the race course did weave through the more than 40 kilometers of natural park trails that are a big reason active outdoor enthusiasts including runners and skiers are attracted to this naturally gifted resort town.
Needless to say, running in the town that official alpine skiing venue for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics (640 meters at base level) wasn’t on my radar in the way that it should have been. After all elite runners often live at and train at altitude. When you arrive at a destination that’s at a higher altitude than where you’re usually living, your body automatically begins producing new red blood cells, as a means of carrying more oxygen through your body. But you don’t need to be an elite athlete, this process just happens when you’re running a destination race somewhere like Whistler. That said, elite athletes train at this higher elevation and there’s a whole plan that goes along with that type of training.
You don’t have to be an elite to run in the mountains. That said, it will help to keep a few key points in check (which I didn’t but will next time) when you only have a couple of days to acclimatize before race day.
Dial It Back
You want to go faster. Who doesn’t? Whatever the distance, you’ve put in the training, but if you’re used to running at an altitude that’s say 75 meters above sea level (like Toronto) and you’re race is at Whistler’s elevation, then you’re not going to have a PB, you’re just not, get used to that idea. I didn’t expect a PB. But also didn’t bank on having to dial back my speed as much as I did in the last 7 kilometers of that 20K, it wasn’t pretty. Instead, enjoy the mountain views, because no matter the mountain range (Rockies, Sierra Nevada or the Alps) you will never experience anything quite like it.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
It’s a no brainer for anyone who has ever trained and raced. But hydration is ever more important at altitude. Why? That’s because as your body acclimates to the elevation, you’ll body naturally increases its breathes per minute which requires added hydration. Dehydration is the number one cause for athlete fatigue, which make it an especially important consideration for anyone racing. Supplementing water with an electrolyte is also a good way to ensure your body is getting what it needs. And save the brews and cocktails for the post-race celebration since alcohol can dehydrate you more quickly in this environment.
Your breaths per minute will naturally increase when you’re at a higher altitude and by being away of your breathing on race day, you’ll be able to better adjust your pace. On race day, stay focused on your form: keep your shoulders down and relaxed and lead with your ches, which will expand your lungs and maximize air intake. Sure we should be doing this all the time, but it’s even more important in order to help maintain steady breathing and avoid hyperventilation, which can happen when you’re racing on a mountain high.
October 17th, 2016
2016 Toronto MarathonToronto, Canada October 16, 2016 Photo: Victah Sailer
A few days after racing the 2016 Olympic Games Marathon in Rio, I knew it was too early to call it a season. I was healthy, feeling relatively fresh and strong, and decided to race the IAAF Gold Label Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon (STWM), which would also host the Canadian Championship. My main goal would be to win a national title again.
I told my coach that I wanted to take more risk with my training. Rio was all about being careful with training while completely devoting to preventative maintenance, rest, sleep, and nutrition. It was easy and straight-forward to continue with the latter, once I returned from Rio, because I simply plugged back into the same healthy habits and routine I had in place prior to the Olympics. But we took more of a chance with training, ramping up the mileage and intensity of workouts fairly aggressively. I felt I had nothing to lose and was willing to take the risk; I might get injured or ill but how would I ever know if I did not try? I successfully completed my highest-ever week of 180 km but was only able to log 174 km the following week after simultaneously succumbing to both the cold and G.I. illnesses floating around. I nursed myself back to good health and continued focusing on marathon-pace specific workouts while commencing a slight taper. It was at this time that my left achilles started to give me some grief. Fortunately with great care from my physiotherapist, Paul, and remaining on trail and treadmill soft surfaces, I was able to get through it so that it wasn’t a factor on race day.
In trying to determine pacing needs for the race, it was difficult to give race director, Alan Brookes, a solid number. I knew I was peaking late with my fitness but my 9 week build was so different than any of my other ones. The strongest-ever Canadian women’s field at a national championship was going to include five other women who could likely go under 2:35: Rachel Hannah, Dayna Pidhoresky, Tarah Korir, Leslie Sexton and Erin Burrett. Lanni Marchant would be switching spots with me, doing the broadcast this year, with plans to race New York city a few weeks later. Like any marathon, pace was going to be strongly determined by race day conditions. For the 2 days leading up to race day, the weather was showing a combination of cloud, sun, lightning, wind, and rain. I’ve raced long enough to not obsess about the weather yet also not underestimate the effect it can have on performance, regardless of your fitness level. Media commitments and expo activities kept me busy on Friday but Saturday was free and clear, allowing me to rest and relax comfortably in the hotel. The forecast within the last 12 hours before start time was then consistently showing humidity in the mid 80’s. That was a red flag for me. I once raced STWM with high humidity and it was ugly. Very ugly. On race morning, I figured fast times were not going to happen so it would be my experience, and heat and humidity training for Rio, that were going to give me the confidence to race well.
Dayna and I decided that we would start around the same pace but if one felt stronger, we’d split with our pacers. It was after about the first one or two kilometers at 3:30/km that I knew I needed to slow it down, just slightly. Humidity is a silent killer and I was not going to risk blowing up by starting too hard. Additionally, with no sun and some rain patches, the ground was somewhat slippery. Dayna moved ahead and was in the lead for the majority of the race, just enough ahead of me that I could keep my eye on her. Meanwhile, Rachel was just enough behind that she could keep her eye on me! Being sandwiched was ideal; we all wanted that Canadian title and I had one to catch to get it and one to keep away from taking it. It was my race to win or lose. Around the time I caught up to Dayna at around 32 km, Rachel caught up to me. I continued to press on, staying focused and patient, knowing I wanted that national title more than anything.
The Canadian record and (ridiculous) World Championship finish times were out of reach by this point. So it was about grinding it out. Over the last 10 km I was able to gradually widen the gap and successfully cross the finish line with celebratory arms in the air as Canadian champion. It was a rather emotional finish for me as I thought about my husband and kids’ devotion to my training over the last several months. It is difficult for a mom to put herself first but Team DuChene allowed me to do that, and we succeeded. With the Canadian flag over my shoulders, I shed a few tears and held dearly to the memory of hugging my family immediately upon my finish in Rio. I did it. We did it. We made 2016 my year as Olympian and Canadian Champion. And I have so many to thank.
It has been a bit over 24 hours since completing the marathon. I have smiled and teared up over many congratulatory messages, and enjoyed a few sweets, several cups of coffee, and some precious quiet time in a still house with the kids at school and me not out training. I have several speaking engagements ahead that I look forward to, along with savouring the outcome of this incredible year. As for what’s next, obviously a well-deserved break. A spring marathon will likely be the plan (when I’m 40!) but for now, it’s another cup of coffee and square of chocolate.
To each and every one of you, I thank you. From the bottom of my heart, I truly thank you.
October 17th, 2016
Photo Courtesy: Canada Running Series
In 2005, the New York Times had a piece on Ed Whitlock just after he ran two marathons under three hours in his 70s: after crunching the data, they determined his performance was the most impressive ever completed by a marathon runner. The difference between his finishing time and other finishing times for people his age was more significant than any world record at any distance than any other runner had ever completed.
That was eleven years ago and before yesterday’s race, when Whitlock broke another record. At 85, Whitlock completed the marathon in 3:56:38, more than 30 minutes faster than anyone had ever completed a marathon in his age group.
Whitlock was perhaps already the world’s most impressive runner. And then he went much further than that.
I saw Ed on the course yesterday and he was smiling. Granted, this was in the early stages of the marathon race, but still: anyone approaching Whitlock at the Expo would’ve have seen a genial older gentleman, resplendent in a slim-fitting grey suit, eagerly listening to the other speakers and spending time with anyone who wanted a photograph. He doesn’t look like an elite athlete. But don’t be mislead. Whitlock has the dedication that runners half his age (three times?) long for. Running is his passion. It’s his north star. It’s his heart. He’s been through injury and personal setbacks, the same life dramas as everyone else — except, at 85, he’s taken more than his fair share of blows. Many times it seemed like his career was over and when we interviewed him last year, he wasn’t sure if he’d ever run the marathon again.
Asked to explain his famous running style, in which he runs three hours through the cemetery near his home, he said in his martini dry fashion: “You go the cemetery and by comparison to everyone else there, you’re in good shape.”
Whitlock doesn’t have a shoe sponsor. When asked about the vintage of his sneakers and his singlet, he said they were, “very well-worn.” I asked him three tips for having a long running career and he said quickly that you need good genes and good knees, and when I said that makes his talent sound arbitrary, he said: “Have a lot of patience. Have time to waste.”
He was asked how he felt going into Sunday’s race. “Apprehensive,” he said.
What’s your plan to get over that apprehension, I asked. “Get to the start line, I guess,” he said.
What do you think about when you run? “When will this be over.”
In a sport where we have any number of heroes, like Eric Gillis, Krista DuChene, Lanni Marchant, Reid Coolsaet and Rachel Hannah, who not only run fast, but are delightful, offering encouraging words to runners who applaud their grit. Ed Whitlock stands apart. At 85, he just broke another record. In our cover story, after the writer pleaded with Whitlock for some kind of insight into his singular greatness, Whitlock finally gave a straight answer.
How does he do it?
“I have a great deal of what you might call perseverance, I guess.”