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Charles Philibert-Thiboutot: Run Your Way

Anticipating his second Olympics, the 33-year-old from Quebec City discusses what motivates him as a pro runner

Charles Philibert-Thiboutot Brussels Diamond League Photo by: James Rhodes (@jrhodesathletics)

Middle distance runner Charles Philibert-Thiboutot of Quebec City is focused on making it to Paris for the Olympics this summer. The 33-year-old is in good form, taking home a gold medal at the Pan-American Games in Chile a few months ago–a big confidence boost ahead of an Olympic year—and has spent most of the winter and spring training at altitude in Flagstaff, Ariz.

“My first memory of running, I think, is in elementary school–actually we had an Olympic day, and we had a 50-metre race,” he recalls. “I came second in my whole school to a girl in my class. I think that was my first core memory of running.”

From being second at school as a 10-year-old to racing at the Rio Olympics, three World Championships and a medal at Pan Ams, Philibert-Thiboutot’s career has truly taken off. But it hasn’t been without struggle; he’s had seasons marred by injuries, and the comeback process has been mentally and physically tough.

“Getting gold at Pan Ams is probably one of the highlights of my career,” he says. And with the Olympic Trials coming up in Montreal this month, he’s going in with confidence. “I think racing in Montreal for the Olympic trials is a tremendous opportunity for me,” he says. “I know a lot of local support will come to cheer for me, and I really want to do my best and do well in front of my home crowd.”

Charles Philibert-Thiboutot
Charles Philibert-Thiboutot in the men’s 3,000m at the 2024 New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in Boston. Photo: Kevin Morris

“I’ve had a tough patch with a lot of injuries,” he adds. “There was a long stretch where I didn’t really perform at my best from around 2017 to 2021, so just be able to get back to a world-class level and get the win at Pan Ams was a huge boost.” 

Part of Philibert-Thiboutot’s training process focuses on training at altitude, primarily in Flagstaff, where many track athletes have their home base. “In the last few years, I’ve been going to Flagstaff twice a year–once in January and once in March, April or May,” he says. “We really liked that protocol. I go up, get a boost in red blood cells from the altitude right before the big racing seasons—right before the indoor season and then getting another kick right before the outdoor season in April.”

For many pro athletes, it can be hard to maintain a love of the sport when it’s not just for fun, it’s their profession. “I think everyone needs to find what brings you joy in running,” Philibert-Thiboutot says. “I think it’s different for everyone. For me, it’s really that feeling of flow state I have during a good workout. Instead of being stressed out with hitting times, I just focus on the way I feel when I run. That’s what I really like about running. I found a lot of fun doing that, and that’s where I’ve been getting my intrinsic motivation.”

Senbere Teferi and Charles Philibert-Thiboutot, winners of the 2022 BAA 5K. Photo: Kevin Morris

“To me, “run your way” means run in the way that brings you the most joy,” he adds. “I think it’s different for everyone. For some people it means health, it means getting out the door at the end of the day, getting some fresh air. For some of the people, like me, it means competing. I’m a serial competitor and to me, running is really where I get this this boost of adrenaline and this competitiveness. Running can also be meeting up with your friends and going for a run with them. So I do think that run your way is something that is very singular and different for everyone. But for me it is to get the best out of yourself and get competitive and see how good you can truly get.”

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