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Julie-Anne Staehli: Run Your Way

The 2022 Canadian national cross-country champion says that running makes her feel powerfully connected to her fellow humans

Julie-Anne Staehli ACXC Photo by: Sean Burges/Mundo Sport Images

Julie-Anne Staehli’s passion for running has propelled the 29-year-old Canadian track star a long way since her introduction to cross-country racing at age 10.

In her international debut for Canada at the 2014 U23 NACAC championships, the pride of Lucknow, Ont., took bronze in the 3,000m steeplechase and claimed a silver and two bronze medals in the 3,000m steeplechase at the Canadian championships between 2013 and 2015. In 2020, she recorded the second-fastest indoor 3,000m by a Canadian woman, breaking the nine-minute mark for the first time.
In 2021, she realized her dream of representing Canada after qualifying for the Tokyo Games with a time of 14:57.50.

Julie-Anne Staehli
Julie-Anne Staehli won the women’s 3,000m at the Terrier20 meet at Boston University in 2020. Photo: Kevin Morris

Staehli, who is now training stateside as a member of the New Balance Boston team in preparation for the 2023 World Athletics Championships in Budapest in August, says that while running continues to present exciting new professional opportunities, that is only one aspect of what the sport means to her.
“Honestly, running has been everything to me,” says Staehli.

“There’s the competition side–the focus on running fast and the competition, and all of that is exciting and fun. But it goes beyond that. Running has shaped my world in every possible way.”

One of the greatest aspects of running, Staehli says, is its power to connect, such as connecting her to her small-town roots. “I would have to say, my favourite place to run is back in my hometown of Lucknow. Anytime I go back home for the holidays, I always love running on those same roads, and just reflecting on the time I spent there growing up.”

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Running on those familiar roads, she says, also helps keep her connected to the core values that running imparts. “With everything else that has gone on in life, running has always been the one constant,” says Staehli. “As an athlete, you get to go to new places and work with new people, and often, the places you go and the teams you make are temporary. But what stays with you, I think, are the values you get from the sport, in terms of teamwork and the importance of living a healthy, active lifestyle.”

Perhaps most vital, says Staehli, is running’s power to connect people to one another. She says that running has the ability to bring together people of all backgrounds and abilities from all over the world, and notes how important it is to share that message of inclusivity with the broader running community. Crucial to spreading that message, she says, is dispelling lingering stereotypes about running that may be keeping potential newcomers from lacing up a pair of running shoes for the first time.

“If there was one myth about runners or running that I would like to help dispel, it would be that you have to be fast,” she says. “Speed is just a measurement, and I think a lot of people might be shying away from running because they think they’re not fast enough. But that’s just not true. The truth is, you don’t have to be fast to be a great runner.”

 

 
 
 
 
 
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That point was brought home for Staehli recently as she watched participants cross the finish line of the Boston Marathon. “Watching the Boston Marathon this weekend was impressive. It was almost more impressive to see the runners who might be considered ‘average’ cross the finish line. For these runners, their effort is no less than the elites trying to hit their pace.

“Time is irrelevant. I hope we can continue to move away from putting such a focus on time, in terms of the wider running community, and instead look at the people behind the performances.”

New Balance’s new “Run Your Way” campaign empowers runners

She adds that running offers many opportunities for connection beyond running events themselves. One that Staehli is particularly proud to be a part of is the ReRUN Shoe Project, an initiative Staehli co-founded in June 2016 to collect and donate lightly used running shoes to local communities in five cities across Canada.

“It’s another example of building these connections, and it keeps me pretty busy outside of training.”

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