Since her earliest races, two-time national 800m champion Lindsey Butterworth has embraced running as a chance to test and expand her limits.
“In elementary school, I had always just kind of had a love and passion for it,” says the 30-year-old North Vancouver native, who is now based in Burnaby. “I always did well in races, and really enjoyed running from a young age. I think that passion and love for just running in general has really fuelled my career in high-performance competition.”
And powerful fuel it has been. Butterworth won the Canadian junior 1,500m title in 2011 and represented Team BC in the event at the 2013 Canada Summer Games. From 2011 to 2015, she ran for Simon Fraser University, winning NAIA bronze in the 1,500m in 2011. As a senior in 2015, she won the NCAA DII 800m indoor and outdoor titles.
In 2017, Butterworth won 800m bronze for her first senior podium at the Canadian national championships. She then represented Canada at the Jeux de la Francophonie and made her debut at the World Athletics Championships. She won her first national title in the 800m before ending the season by running a then-personal best 2:00.81 at the NACAC Championships.
In 2019, she represented Canada at the Pan Am Games in Lima and the World Athletics Championships in Doha. At the Canadian Olympic Trials in June 2021, Butterworth broke through the two-minute barrier for the first time to win 800m gold. She made her Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020.
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“I like the feeling of really pushing myself,” Butterworth says. “I like putting in that effort where I feel like at end of a workout or the end of a race, I have really gone past my limits and can feel the amount of effort that I put in. There are so many little goals along the way that you can set for yourself that offer that sense of accomplishment and feel like you’re really achieving something.”
She notes the satisfaction of physical self-improvement isn’t reserved for elite athletes. Butterworth says part of the beauty of running—and what makes it such an inclusive activity—is that it invites people of all body types and abilities to progress on their own personal journeys.
But this truth can be clouded by lingering stereotypes about running that, frustratingly, keep some people away from the sport. “I think there’s still the stereotype that runners need to be tall and slim. We need to keep breaking down the barriers concerning body image,” says Butterworth. “Running is for every person, and you can feel comfortable starting from right where you are. You can really learn and grow from walking, running or whatever your plan may be, and there isn’t a specific body image or body type that is conducive to that.
She suggests that those new to running “start out slow and try setting goals that you know you can achieve, to work up to getting into that run or getting to the level that you want to get to. Everybody is different, and I think it works well for a lot of people to start off with just a walk-run program where you can kind of ease into running and build that strength, to be able to show yourself that you’re able to do it.”
Butterworth’s confidence in the power of incremental goal setting extends beyond running. She says it helped sustain her during the long, difficult months at the height of the pandemic. “Getting through COVID is probably the biggest challenge I’ve faced. It was a challenge for so many people. Not having any races on the calendar, and having so much uncertainty of what the future looked like really allowed me to go back to the basics. It allowed me to focus on what my plan was for the day and what my goal was for training for that day. And in the end, I achieved my biggest goal yet: making the Canadian Olympic team.”
Her dedication to continuing to build on her goals also recently saw Butterworth, who earned her bachelor’s degree in Health Sciences from Simon Fraser University in 2015, graduate from SFU’s Public Health master’s program.