Melissa Bishop is on fire right now. She’s following up a dream-like 2015 by setting yet another Canadian record, only to then break it just three days later. We talked to her after her whirlwind week in setting records and winning races in Ireland and Scotland.
In case you missed it, Melissa Bishop is the star of Canadian track right now. The 27-year-old is in her element these days as her track career hits high point after high point. Just this past week, Bishop set the new Canadian indoor 800m running 2:00.6 in Ireland on Wednesday and then proceeded to rest up and lower that time again, beating that record in Glasgow on Saturday. Bishop is one of the most admirable people in the Canadian running scene right now and of course, there’s always lots going on behind the scenes to produce performances like hers. Here are a few fun facts about Bishop and her record runs:
In Ireland, it was all about that 600m point
You can watch the races but the video doesn’t tell you anything about what’s going on from the athlete’s perspective. At the Ireland meet last week, Bishop was focused on running hard to the 600m point and then hanging on. “There isn’t a lot of time to think about what you’re doing,” says Bishop. “In Ireland is was: Make it to the 600m and then see what you can do.”
— Athletics Canada (@AthleticsCanada) February 17, 2016
Heading to Europe, the record was the goal
“We went in with the intention of chasing the record,” says Bishop. “We were fairly certain that it would happen– we were in the right races.” She had two chances to do it but she says it was important to try to get it the first time and not leave it to the Glasgow race. Similarly, after bettering the previous mark, she says it was important to still approach the Glasgow meet aiming to recover and run as fast as possible. Always take every opportunity, says Bishop.
You’ll almost always catch Bishop nodding off on her flights
Travel can make or break your race. Bishop knows that. If you were to spot her on a flight, chances are you’d see her dozing off. Her flight to Ireland was a night flight and so it was extra important to be well rested. When adjusting to time change, Bishop recommends sleeping on the flight and not napping during the daylight hours upon arrival.
Despite her successful career, she still gets pre-race jitters
Does the record-holding athlete with a world championship performance like Bishop’s silver medal run get anxious before the race? Yes. “Every athlete still gets nervous. Yes I’m nervous, I still have doubts but you focus on the reality and the reality was that I had two opportunities in Europe,” she says.
Bishop has been with her coach, Dennis Fairall for nine years… and counting
Fairall has been her coach ever since she first arrived at the University of Windsor in Ontario. As Bishop explains, it’s a close friendship as well as an athlete-coach relationship. Sadly though, Fairall had to step back from his coaching at the university to coach just a few athletes as he is not in good health. Fairall suffers from a degenerative condition called supranuclear palsy (PSP). It’s emotional for the pair but as Bishop explains, it’s not a hindering factor. “We know how to plan for it. He’s still completely able to come to practice and coach me. He’s still the same Dennis. We adjust accordingly,” she says.
When she’s not on the track, she’s on the couch or in the kitchen
When not banging out a hard workout, it’s about recovery. For Bishop, that means baking, cooking or reading books usually recommended to her by her massage therapist.
One of her best memories is a post-race hug she shared with Fairall
She’s been coached by Fairall for nearly a decade. The best memory was when he hugged her after her race in Beijing in the summer. He’s not a big hugger, she explains. “It was just as much of an accomplishment for him as it was for me,” she says.
If in the beginning she were told where her career would go, she’d have been surprised
Arriving at the University of Windsor, the goal was to have a good experience running for the school. As the years went on, the athlete could see that she was progressing but in the early days, she says she “would have been a little surprised,” if someone told her she’d become an Olympic and world championship runner.
Heading into Rio, health is her main focus
It’s an Olympic year–everyone is looking at Rio. The more specific focus though is health. “I’m hoping to stay healthy and that Dennis stays healthy,” says Bishop.