In CR‘s series entitled ‘The Moment That Changed Everything,’ we take an in-depth look at a momentous race, event, or happening in the career of a runner that has helped shape them into the athlete they are today. (So far, we’ve chatted with Charles Philibert-Thiboutot, Luc Bruchet, and Sage Watson.)
Olympic finalist and 3,000m steeplechase national record holder Geneviève Lalonde stars in our next feature. The Moncton, N.B.-native is fresh off an appearance at the IAAF World Indoor Championship, in which she placed 11th in a strong field, and is now in training for the upcoming Commonwealth games. Now a Speed River athlete and former University of Guelph Gryphon, Lalonde takes us way back to her first cross-country race, in which she learned how to deal with rough terrain the hard way.
As told to Alex Cyr
“Running has been a part of my life for a long time. In fact, my first vivid running memory dates back to when I was seven. Of course, I cannot say that I knew at that age that I wanted to become a professional runner, but it was then that I discovered my love for it for the first time.
“It was a cross-country race, and it was hosted by Camille Vautour Elementary School in the Kent region of New Brunswick. I was a student at St. Bernadette at the time. I decided to give running a try because I wanted to do like my older brother, who would often travel to races on the weekends with my dad. I was the youngest of three, and always followed in my siblings’ footsteps.
“I vividly remember getting out of the car and walking the course – I think it was a 1K loop. The terrain was up and down, and my dad told me two things. The first was to let loose when running down the hills to conserve energy. The second was to avoid ‘The Hole’. About 100 m past the start line and in the middle of the course was a hole in the ground. Through my eyes back then, it was huge. It may have dug almost a half-metre into the ground, but it was plenty deep to trip up a seven-year-old.
“The race started, and not following my dad’s advice, I ran straight into that hole, and fell. Barely 50 m in the race I was in last place, watching a herd of girls run away from me. I did not give up; I got up, and ran past all but one runner. Despite the fall, I finished in second, and was given a trophy. It is still one of the only running trophies I own. Just like that, I was hooked. I felt a thrill when I ran.
“Looking back, that moment was important for me because it was my first glimpse into the world of running. It was the first time I had fallen and chose to keep pushing towards a goal. Growing up, I think it is natural to go through stages of life and to make choices. I am happy that I chose to take running further back then, and stick with it until now through those stages for more reasons than just the results. Running has been a source of inspiration and getaway for me, it has permitted me to see the world, it has helped me in my schooling, and it has connected me with some of the best friends I have today. It really is something I cherish.
“Back when I was a kid, my dad kept telling me that to travel to races was a privilege and that I was lucky to have the chance to pursue a sport I loved. I only fully understood what he meant later on. Now, I remind myself of this lesson every time I get to represent Canada at IAAF World championships or at the Olympics, and I appreciate it. I came a long way.”