Motivation iRun contributor sets new Canadian record: Michelle Clarke on surviving her “darkest...

iRun contributor sets new Canadian record: Michelle Clarke on surviving her “darkest place”


When I was little, like every tomboy, I wanted to go to the Olympics. I was competing at a very high level at an age when I should’ve been playing hide ‘n’ seek with my friends. Life has a funny way of working itself out though. As an adult, I can make better decisions for myself. Determination and focus are just part of the training I put myself through every single day.

When I finally found my latest coach Timo, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had heard rumours he was pretty awesome. I was looking for something specific. I was looking for a coach who was going to be adaptable. I’m not an easy subject to coach and I needed the perfect fit. We bonded instantly and then things started to change dramatically for me.

I hadn’t spent much time on a track in my adult years, except to train for my marathon. My coach said this broken marathoner had nothing left in my legs and began to rebuild me. He sent me to the track twice a week every week for the last year. This time last year was my first time back competing on the track in over 20 years. I was scared and felt way out of my element. I was the marathoner, not a trackie.

I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a world master track and field event. Coach Timo insisted I sign up. In August I went to my first international meet in Lyon, France. A dream I didn’t know I actually didn’t know I wanted. Turns out, I did want to compete for Canada, even if it was as a master runner.

My first season as a master on the track was amazing, so many first moments; so many best moments. It was again a surprise to me that I suddenly thought; hey let’s try for a Canadian master record. With very little time to prep for this, I had to turn my 1500M training around and switch gears to the 5000M. I had two weeks to tune my training. It’s not a lot of time, but I had faith my coach would get me there safely.

Sunday at York during the OMA mini meet #2 is a day I will never forget. 25 times around a 200M track is tough. It takes a very strong mental game to push through the pain. My race played out exactly as my coach and I thought it would. I would be fine to 3000M, but the next 2000M would be the darkest place I’ve been in a while.

With six laps to go and my body overheating, I was happy to accept failure and try again on another day. But it was my coach’s face, his words and my teammates who wouldn’t let me quit. I owe my Canadian record to them as much as to my training and myself. With two laps to go, I managed to find the strength deep down to save the day and grab the record with 8 seconds to spare. (19:31:50 was the old record, I now hold the new record of 19:23)

I didn’t think a Canadian record was achievable at this age, so for the last 10 years, I’ve not thought much of it. Athletics Canada and the Ontario Masters Association really have given all athletes a first chance and a second chance to achieve great things.


  1. Just for clarity, this should be accreditted as specifically an “indoor 5000m” event record for the masters category – not a outright Canadian Masters record. Marilyn Arsenault of Victoria, BC has run 17:30 over this distance in the +40 Masters category.

  2. For even more clarity, it is a Canadian Indoor 5000m record for the 40-44 Age Group. Former record was thus:

    Leanne Shafir
    Toronto, ON

  3. Nothing is more impressive than an athlete, giving his/her all, willing to “suffer” temporary pain, and reach that “dark place” that only WINNERS know to reach the best of their ability…

    That is what champions are made of…And I applaud and praise Michelle Clarke for doing that.
    Long May She Run,

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