iRun because I cannot say no to a second slice of chocolate cakeEmily Shandruk , Vancouver, BC

iRun to stay fit and release those running endorphinsLiliana Plava , Calgary, AB

iRun because I want to qualify for Boston and raise money for charities near and dear to my heartChristine Gracel , Calgary, AB

iRun because it makes me feel good, allows me to spend time with my friends and gives me a feeling of accomplishmentHelen Kolodziejzyk , Calgary, AB

iRun but not enoughMichael Shaw , New Westminister, BC

iRun because I never thought I would be able toGary Morris , Winnipeg, MB

iRun to challenge myself, physically and mentallyKathleen Keenan , Brampton, ON

iRun because people around me inspire mePina Bevilacqua , Caledon, ON

iRun therefore I amDuncan Walsh , Nottingham, UK

iRun because I liveGeorges Schneller , Laval, QC

iRun to be free and enjoy our beautiful countryCheryl Carter , Clearwater , BC

iRun for overall wellbeingTrish McCourt , Halifax, NS

iRun because it makes me a better person, a better wife, a better mother and a better friendNathalie Joncas-Caissie , St-Antoine, NB

iRun because it makes me feel powerfulCarlene Paquette , Carp, ON

iRun because pecan pie, french fries and beer are chasing meTeresa Sterling , Ottawa , ON

iRun because it’s in meMichael Foley , Stittsville, ON

iRun because it reminds me that I am capable of so much more than I have doneJames Sauve , Ottawa, ON

iRun for meKiza Francis , Ottawa,ON

iRun to prove to myself I canLesley McGougan , Brampton, ON

iRun because all the ladies are chasing my sexy runner’s bodyChris Baker , Etobicoke, ON

iRun because I can and I’m gratefulTerry SanCartier , Gatineau, QC

iRun because when I run I feel most aliveMeghan Lynch , Ottawa, ON

iRun to unleash my inner athleteAdelle Densham , Avonmore, ON

iRun because it cleans up my life, because I drink more water, sleep better and eat healthier foodsRobin McIntyre , Ottawa, ON

iRun because of the peace and strength it brings meMichelle Jordan , Ottawa, ON

iRun because I need it to soothe the soul, keep me in shape and for overall wellbeingBeth Neil , Lombardy, ON

iRun because it is my tonic and my salvation Georgia Ioannou , British Columbia

iRun for relaxation and to motivate my two sonsKeith Bradbury , Newfoundland

iRun because endorphins are freeCassandra Chouinard , Ontario

iRun because somebody once told me I couldn’t Heidi Abbey-Der , Saskatchewan

iRun because couch potatoes die young Cathy Andrew , Ontario

iRun because it’s cheaper than therapy Leah Boulter , Alberta

iRun because I like buying running clothes Pamela Blaikie , Ontario

iRun slowly!Jason Hoffman , Manitoba

iRun because it gives me freedom to relax my brainMarie-Claude Gregoire , Nova Scotia

iRun because I learn more about who I am with every kmSteph Mansell , Quebec

iRun because iEat Sherry Maligaspe , British Columbia

iRun and run, and run, and run, and nobody can stop me Andrei Lucaciu , Ontario

iRun because the wall is meant to be broken Jonathan Bird , Ontario

iRun because it has saved my life John Marshall , Alberta

iRun for the challenge to go faster and farther Steven Matejka , Alberta

iRun to my happy place and some days it’s very Doreen May , Alberta

iRun because food tastes better afterwards Patrick Houston , Alberta

iRun because I can’t dance Mario Javier , Ontario

iRun so I don’t say never ever again Linda Klaric , Manitoba

iRun because it makes me whole Denis Ladouceur , Quebec

iRun because it gets my husband out there Tricia LaLonde , Alberta

iRun away from the negative and towards the positive Teri Lepard , Alberta

iRun because running is like breathing to Stephanie McEvoy , Ontario

iRun because I love the solitude Janene Tailleur , British Columbia

iRun for the moment when both feet are off the ground Catherine Anderson , British Columbia

iRun to someday win the race Lindy Dunlop , Yukon

iRun to stay ahead of the weight gainMyra Abstreiter , Alberta

iRun because otherwise I’m grumpy Alexandre Charest , Quebec

iRun because I get foot rubs afterward Kate Howerton , British Columbia

iRun because iLoves my man Beverly Huang , Alberta

iRun because not everyone can Olivia Harvey , New Brunswick

iRun to get to know myself, my strength and my spirit Lisa Groulx , Ontario

iRun whenever I feel the need to escape Iona Hillis , Ontario

iRun because it’s like flying, only lower Glenn Johnson , Ontario

iRun because it makes me feel powerful Sarah Kallaghan , Alberta

iRun because I’ve lost 80 lbs and running has become fun Cheryl Kelly , Ontario

iRun because there is no finish line Claire Kilgour , Ontario

iRun so my daughters know that they can, too Shelley Kirkpatrick , New Brunswick

iRun because it reminds me of how strong I can be Monique Lavoie , Ontario

iRun because it’s a great way to see the world Sherry Mahoney , British Columbia

iRun because my heart tells me to William Martin , Manitoba

iRun to prove to them that iCan Catherine Smith , Manitoba

iRun because it’s fun when it’s done Sue Matte , Ontario

iRun because I am not as clumsy I thought I was Hanna Baer , Quebec

iRun see where my feet will take me todayMegan Dolinskas , New York

iRun for the cool t-shirts! Pina Bevilacqua , Ontario

iRun because I want to be a role model for our six kids Catherine Empey , British Columbia

iRun to inspire my kids to tryGlen Johnston , Nunavut

iRun so I can eat ice cream Sandy Bolan , Ontario

iRun because I want to live to be 100! Colette DeJean , Ontario

iRun for health, i Run for life Pat Cheung , British Columbia

iRun because it gives my day a boost of energy Sara Campbell , Nova Scotia

iRun because it’s better than almost everything else Nathan Carey , Ontario

iRun at 50 years old because at 43 I couldn’t Peter Cicalo , Ontario

iRun because it's better than almost everything else Nathan Carey , Ontario

iRun at 50 years old because at 43 I couldn't Peter Cicalo , Ontario

iRun because it is my tonic and my salvation Georgia Ioannou , British Columbia

iRun for relaxation and to motivate my two sons Keith Bradbury , Newfoundland

iRun because endorphins are free Cassandra Chouinard , Ontario

iRun because somebody once told me I couldn't Heidi Abbey-Der , Saskatchewan

iRun because couch potatoes die young Cathy Andrew , Ontario

iRun because it's cheaper than therapy Leah Boulter , Alberta

iRun because I like buying running clothes Pamela Blaikie , Ontario

iRun slowly! Jason Hoffman , Manitoba

iRun because it gives me freedom to relax my brain Marie-Claude Gregoire , Nova Scotia

iRun because I learn more about who I am with every km Steph Mansell , Quebec

iRun because iEat Sherry Maligaspe , British Columbia

iRun for my heart, so it runs for me! Cathy Brzoza , British Columbia

iRun to inspire my children! Wendy Bowen , Manitoba

iRun because it sure beats the bus Robin Robbins , Alberta

iRun for the challenge and to remember to fully live Pascale Synnott , Québec

iRun to kickstart my day Sharon Strueby , Saskatchewan

iRun for me! Judi Wearing , Saskatchewan

iRun because it's a great stress release Brooke McKenzie , Yukon

iRun because i love to Mirella Petriello , Ontario

iRun because it helps me see things more clearly Jennifer Pitts , Ontario

iRun to eat Maureen Tritscher , Alberta

iRun to correct years of sedentary living! Mike Scott , Ontario

iRun away from the abyss Charlene Thomas , Ontario

iRun all the livelong day Pierre Saint-Laurent , Québec

iRun to challenge my perceived limitations Cassandra Williams , Ontario

iRun to maintain a strong physical and mental state Tammy Rainville , Ontario

iRun so that I can live longer and stronger Derek MacPhail , Ontario

iRun to feel great Kathryn Rachar , Saskatchewan

iRun because I like to be healthy Melanie Oickle , New Brunswick

iRun to eat more, especially sweet potatoe fries Joanna Skomra , Ontario

iRun for the fresh air and adrenalin Charlyn McGregor , Saskatchewan

iRun for the individual pursuit Robert Pelletier , New Brunswick

iRun to satisfy the irresistible urge Tim Nixon , British Columbia

iRun because I love the sense of accomplishment Amber Moase , Nova Scotia

iRun to challenge my mind, body and soul Sonia Mendes , Ontario

iRun because walking is too slow Barry Knapp , Ontario

Motivation, Training

Kate Van Buskirk: How I Unlocked the Ultimate Me

Kate Van Buskirk won bronze for Canada at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. She’s currently training for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

I’m sitting on the covered patio in front of our condo in Scottsdale, Arizona sipping on a post-run coffee and stretching my tired legs out on the chair across from me. I gaze down at my sunburnt thighs, a reminder of how close we are to the unrelenting sun. Its hard to find shade in the desert and most of my runs trace the canal systems that cut like veins through this arid land supplying water to the cities and farms, the life blood of the Copper State. I’m getting darker every day, and the tan lines that give away every athlete are becoming increasingly pronounced: sports bra, shorts, compression socks, sunglasses, watch. My body is a patchwork of white and brown; Canada and Arizona.

Training in the American southwest is a new experience for me. Each winter for the last three years I’ve traveled to Florida to escape the snow and cold for a few weeks, but the best early season races are in California so basing in the neighbouring state makes far more sense. March in Scottsdale, April in Flagstaff, May in California…not a bad way to welcome spring! The cacti and sunbeams make for a pretty spectacular setting and my body seems to appreciate it as much as my mind does. Each workout is faster than the last, and it’s relieving to feel my fitness coming around. There are few things that I love more than being right in the thick of a training cycle, churning out 120km weeks, inching closer to race pace, ending my days exhausted, exhilarated and hungry for more. This is the good life: when the body is fit and healthy, the mind is tuned in and the heart is full.

But it isn’t always this way.

Every track and field athlete in Canada will face a laundry list of obstacles throughout their athletic career that make them question their commitment to this sport: injury, illness, a crushing loss, a disappointing season, nomad’s fatigue, being flat broke, the internal debate between sticking it out for one more year or just moving on to a real job already. Knowing that these experiences are shared by our tight-knit community of athletes provides some solace, but as we watch more and more of our friends walk away from the track and move on to start families, careers and RRSP’s, its hard not to wonder if this pursuit is worth the sacrifice.

Like most elite athletes, I’ve dealt with each of the aforementioned challenges. And, as I’ve realized is also true for many athletes, these challenges have been compounded by anxiety and depression. My struggle with mental illness seemed in its worst moments like the thing that most defined me, even as I was experiencing the greatest athletic success of my collegiate career. In my last year at Duke I set an NCAA record and 3 Duke school records, earned 2 All-American titles, anchored our Blue Devils to a 4x800m victory at the Penn Relays, and ran personal bests just about every time I stepped on the track. I was being recognized as one of the top mid-distance runners in the NCAA in the same semester that I was struggling to get out of bed or attend classes. I was both protected and terrified by this image, constantly afraid that the grand illusion would be shattered and my vulnerable side would be revealed.

One of the greatest and most counterintuitive things I’ve learned in the 4 years since returning home from university is that the more vulnerable I’ve allowed myself to be, the stronger I’ve become. Just like the injuries, the illnesses, the financial stressors and the uncertainty about the future, the more I’ve talked about dealing with depression and anxiety the more I’ve found support, understanding and community. I’ve gained a wealth of knowledge about myself as an athlete and as a person, and I’ve equipped myself with information and tools to move forward on this journey as peacefully and optimistically as possible. And I get more excited about the journey every day.

I vividly remember a workout that I did at the Chinguacousy Park track in my hometown of Brampton when I was in middle school. I was preparing for the North American Hershey Track and Field Games, by far the biggest race of my young life. I was running 400m repeats and my dad was coaching me; other than the two of us, the stadium was empty. As I began my last interval, my dad told me to imagine myself running the best race of my life, and to use this as motivation to finish the workout as fast as I could. I’m sure he intended for me to envision myself competing well at the Hershey meet, but the image that came into my 13 year-old mind was of crossing the finish line at the Olympics. I had no real frame of reference for this other than what I’d seen on TV, but as I rounded the final turn on the track I pictured a stadium roaring with energy, me wearing a Canadian racing kit, and the Olympic rings above me. At 13 I knew innately that I wanted to be an Olympian, and that desire has fuelled my athletic drive for the last 15 years.

The Rio 2016 Olympic Games are now just over a year away, and the excitement builds with each passing day. But while my dream of becoming an Olympian has intensified over the years, it now shares its spot in my heart with other experiences and desires. Over the last decade, I have had the great fortune of representing Canada at 8 major international events and each has brought me enormous pride, extraordinary learning opportunities and memories that will stay with me throughout my life. Competing at the Olympics would surely be an unparalleled experience, but it would be just one set of memories within a much larger anthology that will collectively define my athletic career.

I’m also never navigating this journey alone. I have such an enormous love affair with the running community, who constantly surprises and inspires me, and which cannot be adequately described as anything other than an awesome, giant family. I feel this community beside me every time I lace up my shoes, and the tremendous sense of purpose that this brings helps to keep me grounded. Through the successes and the disappointments, I am buoyed by my love for my sport and the people who comprise it.

There is always something to look forward to, and before the Olympics can fully enter my radar, I have this summer’s Pan Am Games and World Championships to prepare for. Neither team will be announced until late June, so for now I’ll run through the desert, my head full of dreams, my heart full of love, and my body readying itself for whatever the next step may be.

April 24th, 2015

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2 Responses to “Kate Van Buskirk: How I Unlocked the Ultimate Me”
  1. Maureen Peniuk Says:

    How blessed you are that besides your athletic ability you also have a great skill for writing. A skill that you can use to influence and also to financially support yourself. Looking forward to more from you!

  2. Lynda Younghusband Says:

    Your story was just what I needed this morning as I sat here feeling sorry for myself, recovering from gout ( for the first time ever) and feeling frustrated because the Ottawa half marathon seems unlikely now. At 72 years, and a runner for only six years, I love to run and especially to race. I love your enthusiasm and admire your skill for writing. I can’t wait to lace up again myself. Good luck in all your future races. I hope to watch you at the Olympics.

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