This is what I have in common with elite runner Krista Duchene:
— We both have young kids
— We’re both in our mid-thirties (she’s 35, I’m 36)
— We both love to run
— Last March we both ran Hamilton’s 30k Around the Bay race in under three-hours (okay so she won it for females)
— In April, Krista ran a 2:32:06 marathon in Rotterdam, Netherlands. I am married to someone whose last name comes from the Netherlands.
— In less than two-weeks we’re both going to run the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.
— At that marathon Krista will try to break the Canadian female marathon record (Sylvia Ruegger’s 2:28:36). Post-race I will try to break the world record for head-kicks or, in the very least, feel like I’ve been kicked in the head.
Last Friday afternoon I hung out with Krista. I went to her house for a chat when her one-year-old was napping and her older boys were in school. And this is what struck me about her – She’s so nice and just so normal.
I’ll admit it — before Friday, my idea of how an elite runner got to be, well, an elite runner, involved talent for sure, but also a rigid life governed by a strict adherence to a training plan, a very tight diet, an extreme focus on nothing but running and other-worldly self discipline. And yes, Krista is very dedicated to her sport. She runs 160km a week – a good portion of that on a treadmill while her daughter is in day care at the gym – she cross trains, she eats well, she talks to her coach daily. What’s more, many mornings she’s up by 5am so that the bulk of her training is done before her kids get up and her husband goes to work.
But here’s the thing. When she gets home from those workouts she’s not all protein shakes and split-time analysis. She’s mom. She’s making breakfast, packing lunches, letting the dog out for a pee and making sure her kids have enough clean clothes so that they have something to wear to school. She loves to talk about her running, but just as much about her kids, her husband, her job (she works one afternoon a week as a dietitian) and her life.
And so when we got down to the nitty-gritty of her race day plan for the Waterfront marathon, it didn’t come as a complete shock when she told me she didn’t really have one.
“Some athletes analyze the course turn by turn,” she told me. “I might know that there’s a big hill here or there, but that’s about it. I know there are 42.2km and I have to run at a certain pace. That’s about the extent of my plan.”
Unbelievable for someone of her running caliber, but her relaxed attitude also extends to her attempt to break the Canadian Women’s marathon record.
“I don’t feel pressure to get the record at Scotia,” she says. “I want it. Badly. But if I don’t get it there’s still time to improve.”
What’s more, After getting an Olympic qualifying time in Rotterdam, but being denied a spot on the Canadian Olympic team, Krista wasn’t heartbroken.
“Of course I was disappointed, but it wasn’t my original plan to go for the London Olympics,” she explains. “ The idea came about after running such a great Around The Bay. My coach and I thought, if I can run that time, why not go for it? So the London Olympics were really only in my head for a couple of months. The plan was always to go for Rio in 2016.”
So Rio’s the plan, but between now and then Krista would like to have another kid, she might take on some more hours at work and wants to see where life takes her. Ultimately for Krista, running is not so much about the records and the medals, but about what she can do with it. Funnily enough, she looks to the woman whose record she’s trying to break for inspiration.
“Sylvia Ruegger uses her running career to inspire people and for her charity [Start 2 Finish]. That’s what running is for me. An amazing sport yes, but also a platform to do good things. That’s where I want to take it when I’m done.”
And as for this mom/runner/blogger? I’ll be cheering her on the whole way.
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