Krista DuChene takes a long hard look in the mirror after racing an Olympic marathon and approaching 40 and reaches a bold conclusion: the best is yet to come.
In preparing for the 2016 Olympic Games I did not allow myself a backup plan. I was going to approach what would likely be my only Olympic experience with no alternative in mind; I was not going to let a planned fall marathon allow me have a sub-par Olympic marathon. If the going got tough, I was not going to mentally check myself out of the race because I had another one lined up.
Then I had a great Olympic marathon. My heat and humidity-focused training allowed me to successfully execute my race plan; to start conservatively and move my way up the field to place above my ranking. I was elated, particularly when I ran into the arms of my loved ones immediately upon finishing. A dream come true. Becoming an Olympian was incredible and something that can never be taken away from me.
Back to thoughts of a fall marathon, I must be honest. During my Olympic training, I did have the idea in the back of my mind. I just didn’t say anything to anyone nor allow myself to think much about it. So once I felt recovered from my OIympic marathon, I started jogging and swimming in the village while continuing to enjoy the sweets I had gone without for weeks. I spoke with Coach Rick and expressed my desire to compete with STWM Race Director, Alan Brookes. I’d be racing in another Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon! Then, like every other return to training, the novelty of the sweets wore off as the hunger for competitive racing returned. My over-indulgence in my aunt’s butter tarts solidified the desire to resume my routine—time to get serious again.
I transitioned from recovery to full-time training for my two marathons that would be nine weeks apart. I’ve always believed that one can run two quality marathons per year so a fall marathon made sense since my last marathon, my Olympic-qualifying marathon, was in April 2015.
Many of the marathoners who had to compete in 2016 marathons called it a season. That wasn’t the case for me.
In preparing for Rio, we took very little risk so I was happy to change things up by committing to race the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, my favourite race in the world. The opportunity to run a faster race between two championship races, 2016 Olympics and 2017 Worlds, made sense. I had nothing to lose. I was an Olympian. Once the kids were in school full-time, I’d have six weeks to log serious kilometers and tidy up my diet.
Many athletes are asked their post-Olympic plans, sometimes evenly immediately upon completing their event, good or bad. When I was in Rio amongst other Olympians having these conversations it revealed a set of mixed emotions. Some knew they were done. They had been at it a long time, needed to focus more on family or establishing a career, or had given everything possible to achieve their goals. Others knew they’d target Tokyo, 2020. Then there were those of us somewhere in between. At 39, and with three children and a history of significant injuries, one would easily conclude that Rio was my one and only Olympic experience. While this may be true, I’m not retiring any time soon—nor ruling out Tokyo.
There are reasons for this:
1) I have only had one year of training with all of our children in school full-time.
2) I have only been competing at this level for six years.
3) I have already established my other professional career as a Registered Dietitian, which is less fun than marathoning!
There are athletes with running careers well into their 40s. I’m still going to bed and waking up with energy and motivation to train and compete.
I’ve never done the research to determine the odds that I’ve already likely had my fastest marathon. Likely, they’d say I have. But so far I’ve beaten the odds in so many ways that I refuse to stop reaching high and aiming to run another personal best. There are things we haven’t tried in my training and now’s the time to try. So I continue to press on and make the sky the limit. Here are some future possibilities:
1) Championship races: 2017 Worlds in London, England, 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast City, Australia, 2019 Worlds in Doha, Qatar, and 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.
2) Masters records of various distances. I’ll be 40 in January 2017!
3) World majors: Tokyo, London, Berlin, Chicago, New York. I completed Boston in 2005.
4) Travel to each continent for training or racing. I’ve been to Asia, South America, Europe and obviously North America. I’ll likely omit Antarctica (but who knows!); only Africa and Australia remain.
I’ve always said to set the bar high and make your ceiling your floor. There’s no stopping me. Ho