New Balance athlete Erin Teschuk, a former Winnipegger now living in Toronto, is one of the few track athletes tough enough to tackle the 3,000 metre steeplechase–a brutal series of barriers and water pits laid out over seven and a half laps of the track. Here, she shares what makes her choose to run the steeplechase, and what has her excited about this year’s World Athletics Championships. (Teschuk will compete in the 5,000m on Wednesday, Aug. 23.)
Canadian Running: How did you get started in running?
Erin Teschuk: I started running the same way a lot of people do, which was because I was good at it! When I was younger, I played a lot of different sports–soccer, figure skating, basketball–pretty much any sport I could find. And then I started to realize the reason I was good at any sports was mostly because of the running. So when I was in Grade 9, I joined a track club for the first time, and eventually I started having success on a more competitive level. I remember really feeling like I had more in me, and every season, no matter how well or how poorly it went, I left knowing I could get better. I think that’s what keeps me coming back–knowing I still have improvements to make. And honestly, I have a huge love for it, too.
CR: What led you to the steeplechase?
ET: One summer, I was coming back from university, and I wanted to participate in the Canada Summer Games. But I also knew I had to get ready for cross-country season. So my coach at the time suggested trying steeplechase, since it would help me prepare for cross-country. I’d never done it before, so I just jumped in. It was so much fun! For steeplechase, being able to change pace is a big part. It’s a little different than other events where you’re kind of trying to be smooth and getting into a rhythm. You have to practise being able to accelerate and decelerate, and then having that additional strength to be able to jump, even when you’re fatigued.
CR: How does it feel heading to Worlds?
ET: It was honestly a big surprise for me. Going into the end of the season, I didn’t think I would have made the team. And when I found out, I was super excited. This is really what we train for–the ultimate goal is to be able to represent Canada on the world stage. And it’s my first time ever doing it in the 5,000m. So to be going into a new event is super exciting for me, as well. I can’t wait. It’s such a great opportunity. It’ll be just kind of a chance to show off all the work I’ve been doing.
CR: What’s the game plan?
ET: The game plan is really to go in and give it my all, to figure out how to get the most out of myself in every race. Every time I step on the line, the goal is to run a personal best. The game plan is to have to be peeled off the track at the end. I’ve had a lot of tough years in the sport, where I really wasn’t competing at the level I knew I could, struggling with a lot of different things health-wise and training-wise. There came a crossroads for me where I had to decide, do I really want to keep doing this? I think what it really came down to is that I have such a pure love and joy for the sport. I asked myself, is this something I would still want to do if I knew I would never make another team? And the answer was yes. Because I do love it so much. And because I do still think I can get better and get more out of myself. So I think that was actually a really powerful question to ask.
CR: Has that mindset made a difference?
ET: It’s funny how it works. Since having that mindset, I’ve made more teams than I had in the years prior. I remember finishing the 2016 Olympics, and not having my best performance there, and just being like, oh well, like next year, I’m going to be even better. And then by the next Olympics, I’ll be making that final, for sure. I was super motivated in that way. So it’s funny to think that I didn’t even make the next Olympic team. But the reality is, there’s ups and downs in this sport, but I think, going back to that moment in 2016, I would have first been disappointed. And then next, I would have been really proud of myself for persevering through it.
CR: Does making this Worlds team give you confidence?
ET: Being able to make the Worlds team definitely gives me confidence going into the Olympic year, and hopefully next year, I won’t make it by such a close margin. I definitely want to be on that Olympic team. I know that’s within my capabilities.
CR: What does “run your way” mean to you?
ET: To me, “run your way” means there’s no right or wrong way to be a runner. So everyone comes at it with their own background, their own experiences, and it’s really about finding what lights your fire. What makes you passionate? It’s about knowing your why. For me, running your way just means I’m trying to figure out how good I can be. That’s really my purpose. It means showing up every day, knowing that if I want to find out how good I can be, I have to give it my all.