Community Grown Women Crushing It: Women’s Racing in Canada

    Grown Women Crushing It: Women’s Racing in Canada

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    Cleo Boyd is a 28-year-old runner from Mississauga who placed second to Leslie Sexton last year at the Canadian 10K Championships in Toronto with a time of 33:11:22. On Saturday, Boyd is lining up against Krista DuChene, Olympian, at the Canadian 10K Championships in Ottawa, and DuChene is a runner who Boyd says inspired her when she was 16, and who inspires her today, as she tries to live a balanced and healthy, competitive life. In anticipation of the race, and in celebration of our sport and the overall good feelings around the return of in-person Canadian racing, iRun arranged for Boyd and DuChene to meet virtually and discuss their lives, their race plans, their community, and the future of our sport.  

    iRun: As race day approaches, what are the vibes? 

    Boyd: It feels like such a long time since we’ve been racing in Canada that I feel excited, almost like Ottawa is going to be a reunion, and Krista, I just have to say, you’re someone I’ve looked up to for awhile. 

    DuChene: I first raced Ottawa in 2003 and I feel the same way as Cleo, it’s nice to be back in person and I knew with this race, I just had to be there. 

    Boyd: For me, it was Krista and Lanni [Marchant]. I remember not knowing any Canadian women who even did the marathon on a high level. I might have been in high school and seeing you two crush it, I remember thinking: these are women, not college athletes.

    It was inspiring to me, watching grown women crushing it.  

    DuChene: It’s exciting to see up and coming athletes and knowing where they’re at. Cleo, I did the broadcast of the 10K Championships last year in Toronto. You were there?

    Boyd: Yes. 

    DuChene: I remember you puked at the finish line. 

    Boyd: Yes. 

    DuChene: That stood out to me because you seemed so humble to admit it in your interview that you got sick and I admired the way that you handled yourself—no pride, you just put it all out there and that was admirable. It’s neat that we look at each other in different, yet similar, ways. 

    iRun: Let’s talk about competing and what that means. Cleo, pushing yourself to the point of making yourself sick: can you talk about your will to compete? 

    Boyd: I’m curious to what you’re going to say, Krista, but to me it feels almost ordinary: making that discomfort feel normal. I don’t even think about it as switching gears.

    When you lace up your racing flats, you’re going to that place and you’re used to it, being really uncomfortable.

    That’s probably what all of us miss when we’re hurt, being in that place where you’re uncomfortable. There’s something peaceful about that place. 

    DuChene: We’re choosing to do it, choosing to go there, and we enjoy it. When you finish a race you want to make sure you have no regrets when you’re done—did I push? Did I hurt? Did I give everything? If you didn’t, you’re looking back and your chance is gone.

    iRun: So, when the leather hits the road Saturday, what should we expect?

    Boyd: I respect the other women I’m racing with and know I would have to have my best day ever to win. My training has been solid for a couple years, but I haven’t put it together on a race day—yet. I’m hoping my fitness shows up and I’ll be able to hang with these women—maybe beat them—but I have so much respect for everyone I’m lining up with.

    DuChene: In Toronto, were you second to Lesley? 

    Boyd: Yeah, but I got dropped pretty early and I’m a little disappointed with that result. I thought I could hang with Lesley. 

    iRun: And Krista, will you try and hang with Cleo? 

    DuChene: Oh, my no. I’m going after the age group record, over 45, because in the 40-45 age group, there’s Sasha Gollish, Natasha Wodak, and I think Malindi [Elmore] has the record.  

    Boyd: What time Krista? 

    DuChene: 35-low. I should write it on my hand. I know I have it written down somewhere, but I won’t be racing Cleo. I’ll be nudging her to the front middle, standing in the back, yelling: Make sure you puke! 

    iRun: Cleo, not to put you on the spot, but what is it, or when was it, that Krista came on your radar? 

    Boyd: I remember watching Krista in Boston the year it was so miserable and, of course, a Canadian crushed it. I remember watching the TV and screaming and I’m sure so many Canadians had that pride on that day.

    What stands out to me is the message of long-term health and knowing there’s no rush and you can have other things besides running in your life as you move along and aspire to be successful in your career.

    Boyd: Another thing I remember about Krista has to do with overcoming injuries. Did you have femoral fracture?

    DuChene: I did. I had to have three screws in my leg. 

    Boyd: I read that at 16 and it made me think that you can get through an injury and come out on the other side of it and be fit. Your journey to fitness was, for me, motivating and inspiring. 

    DuChene: I wrote about that in the hospital. I wanted to be author of my own story and be authentic about who I am. I have no mask. I had no guarantee of the outcome. It’s neat that less than a year later I had the Olympic Standard, but at the time it was: how do I make it to the bathroom on my crutches?    

    iRun: How do you feel, hearing Cleo, knowing that your message to young female athletes gets through? 

    DuChene: I’ve always been deliberate about choosing how I use my words and represent women and I’m excited to see girls in sport.

    Boyd: There’s so many great role models. I look up to Lyndsay Tessier and I’ve seen these women excel—Malindi Elmore—and I’ve tried to follow in their footsteps. 

    DuChene: To hear what Cleo says, when I started, there was a gap. I was the first Canadian to qualify for the Olympics in 20 years, but Lanni and I realized we could do this. Back then, it wasn’t as competitive as it is now, but the Olympic Standard was there for both of us to get. I want to be a role model. Even with the broadcasting, I want girls to look at something that’s been a male-dominated job and say, ‘A female can do that.’ A girl can turn on the computer and and see a woman doing the job.