While many of us are just trying to maintain our fitness throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, some runners are still making serious improvements. Julie-Anne Staehli and Lucas Bruchet fall into the latter category. Over the weekend, they each ran time trials — Staehli a mile near London, Ont., and Bruchet a 10,000m in Burnaby, B.C. Both produced impressive results, with Staehli running 4:34 and Bruchet posting a 28:32. Their seasons may be on hold, but both runners look like they’ll be in great shape for the day races make a comeback.
Staehli’s mile TT
Staehli is a former member of the Queen’s University cross-country and track teams and a multiple-time All-Canadian runner. She was on a tear this season before the pandemic, winning five of her six races and finishing just one second off of the Canadian 3,000m record at the Terrier Classic in Boston.
Staehli also ran her mile PB earlier this year at another indoor meet in Boston, where she recorded a 4:32.36. She was hoping to run sub-4:30 at this meet, but she led from start to finish, which she admits wasn’t an ideal strategy. Her outdoor PB is 4:34, which she ran at the Navy Mile in Washington, D.C., in October 2019.
“I think I need a race where it’s perfectly set up and on a good track to break 4:30,” she says. That time wasn’t in the cards on Friday, but it was hardly the right track for such a run — she and her boyfriend, Chris Balestrini, chose a nearby high school track — plus, Staehli notes that she doesn’t feel sharp, “just more generally fit.”
The couple brought along a surveyor’s wheel and measured out an additional nine metres to get 1,609m — an exact mile. With that, they were ready to go. Balestrini paced Staehli throughout the run, and she finished with a 4:34, tying the PB she set in D.C. last fall.
Going into his time trial, Bruchet — who represented Canada at the Rio Olympics in 2016 —owned a 10,000m PB of 28:36.74 from 2015. On Friday, he finished with a 28:32, although he modestly says the PB might not be as impressive as it seems.
“It has been some time since I’ve really gotten after a 10K on the track so I think the result is somewhat misleading,” he says. “Either way it was great to run quicker than I have before.”
— Justin Kent (@jkent_) June 20, 2020
Bruchet ran with a teammate for the first 5K, and his coach rode a bike alongside him for the rest of the run.
“I was fortunate I had my coach to keep me company,” he says, “or else it would have been a long and lonely slog.” The weather on Friday was hot, humid and a little rainy, so he wasn’t sure if the conditions would allow for a career-best run. Ultimately, this didn’t cause much of a problem, and he walked away with a four-second 10,000m improvement.
Training through COVID-19
Staehli and Bruchet both say COVID-19 has affected their training a bit, but they’ve still been able to put in solid work.
“Running is likely one of the only sports that hasn’t suffered a major setback in training,” Bruchet says.
Staehli says she’s spent a lot of the pandemic using running as an outlet to de-stress during such strange times. “Having that hour or so to have your own time and get outside is great. It’s almost like the purpose of running has changed for me.” She’s used this time to “fall back in love” with training and to simply enjoy the process.
Both runners are eager to get back to racing, although it’s unclear when that will be. They’re hoping to compete again in the next few months, which will provide them the opportunity to work out any kinks ahead of December, which marks the start of the qualifying period for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.