Community Mother’s Day with Krista DuChene, Canada’s Marathon Mom

Mother’s Day with Krista DuChene, Canada’s Marathon Mom

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Krista DuChene is among the most popular runners in Canadian history. She exemplifies sportsmanship, grittiness, grace and endurance, and her winning ways—and humility in the practice and performance of her craft—have endeared her to countless runners around the country. That DuChene has reached such athletic heights as a mother of three children only adds to her allure. Ben Kaplan caught up with DuChene, a Saucony athlete, dietitian and soon-to-be Olympic commentator of the CBC, two sleeps before Mother’s Day. 

Ben Kaplan: So Krista, what are your Mother’s Day plans? 

Krista DuChene: I think I’m fairly easy to please every Mother’s Day. A run, and brunch, church, trail walk, swim spa soak (new this year), and dinner with my family would be lovely. They usually make my favourite—cedar plank salmon, roasted vegetables, and carrot cake. Oh, and a homemade card would be nice.   

BK: Can you describe your perfect day? 

KD: I think I just did. But it wouldn’t require the homemade card and I’d be OK with cooking the dinner.

BK: How have you been doing with the schools out and the kids at home? 

KD: Like many, I struggled a bit initially with the change. It always takes patience and adjustment to get into another new routine. We have two teenage boys now (and a 10-year-old daughter), so we had to have a few discussions about bedtimes, screen usage, and getting outside. 

BK: Have you been making time to run?

KD: Definitely. 

BK: Of course you have. I feel like a goof for even asking. 

KD: Other than missing my weekend runs with my friends in Paris, it hasn’t really changed much. I’m grateful that I can step out the door to do the sport I love without restrictions. I usually leave before the kids are up and am back in time to help my daughter with her schoolwork. I still take one rest day each week.

BK: I know you’ve been enjoying trail running and 50K distances. Can you talk about your transition from marathon mom to ultra-marathon mother? 

KD: Adjusting to the trails was definitely a change for me, mainly due to the terrain—roots, rocks, uphill, downhill, single track, etc. I enjoyed the change and will return to trail racing but know I still have unfinished business on the road. Back in December, Coach Reid Coolsaet suggested I attempt the 50K Canadian record, which I thought was a great idea. The training hasn’t been that much different to that of a marathon. It’s not quite as intense because your pace is slightly slower, but you need to dig as deep mentally because you’re out there longer.

BK: How much harder do you reckon an ultra is than a marathon? 

KD: Because I did 54 kilometres on the trails, I can’t really compare it to 42 kilometres on the road. It was a balance, keeping my thoughts on the terrain to avoid tripping (which I only did once, thankfully) and the need to allow my mind to wander because I was out there for so long. After my upcoming 50K on the roads, I’ll be able to better answer this question.

BK: What’s running like for you these days? Is it radically different without a big race to train for? Are you enjoying it more or less or the same?

KD: I definitely miss running with and against other people. Like everyone else, I miss the energy and excitement of the entire running community at a race—the staff, volunteers, crowd, announcers. We’ve had a few time trials with Bayfront Endurance and Coolsaet GO athletes, which has been fun and really helped with motivation. 

BK: I’m doing a virtual half this weekend with BlackToe and it’s that same thing: needing some kind of motivation. 

KD: As long as I’ve had something in the calendar to work toward (even if not a “real” race), I feel purpose. Because I’m past setting my fastest times, it has perhaps allowed for an easier transition to my other career goals. I’m definitely still enjoying the sport and looking forward to a return to racing to check off more bucket list items e.g. running three more of the six World Majors.  

BK: Talking about career goals. Congratulations on covering the marathon at the Olympic games. What’s your approach to covering the event? 

KD: I want to know our athletes and provide the best coverage possible for our Canadian spectators, particularly for the athletes’ families and friends who aren’t able to attend the Olympic Games in person due to COVID restrictions. I hope to provide insight as an Olympian and an experienced marathon runner—pacing, hydrating, fuelling and adjusting to course layout, heat, and humidity. I also want to be an inspiration for young girls to see a female broadcaster analyzing an event and thinking that’s something they could do.

BK: You’re such an inspiration to young girls everywhere and always have been. What do you look for in coverage of your own races? What works and what does not? 

KD: I believe that viewers want to know runners’ place and pace, who they are, and the story that is enfolding on the screen. When I ran at the 2016 Olympic Games, I was told that viewers were excited to learn updates of my steady progress, consistently moving up throughout the course of the race. Pace isn’t as important at championships events as it is at flat and runner-friendly courses where records are expected. It will be important to provide equal coverage of all six of our athletes—three women, three men—as they represent Canada, not just the event leaders. You have to be well-prepared ahead of time, and also be able to act quickly when the unexpected occurs. It’s definitely a higher level for me but I’m up for the challenge and willing to work at it.

BK: How do you think COVID-19 will affect these Olympic Games?

KD: Athletes were told quite some time ago that it will be an Olympic Games like no other, and shouldn’t be compared to past Olympic Games. Multiple COVID tests, masks, physically distancing, hand-washing, and remaining in the Olympic Village will likely be required, but that doesn’t mean athletes can’t get excited and thoroughly enjoy their event and experience. 

BK: And for us watching at home? 

KD: Fans watching from home won’t have that much of a different experience and can completely enjoy following the progress of and cheering for our athletes. I’ve chosen to pay little attention to the negative stories around this summer’s Olympic Games and hope and trust for the best.

BK: That’s you in a nutshell, my friend. These days, when you think about your legacy, what do you want people to associate your time as the face of our sport? 

KD: Small town farm girl’s love and joy of running takes her on an epic and inspiring journey from recreational to Olympian with a faith that carries her through some of the darkest and brightest moments of her life.