Geneviève Lalonde hadn’t raced cross-country in five years before lacing up to win the Athletics Canada cross-country championships on Saturday. The University of Guelph alumnus is the Canadian record holder in the 3,000m steeplechase and a 2016 Olympian.
The steeplechaser didn’t completely commit to running cross-country until October of this fall. “I had it in the back of my mind as September approached, although I hit my knee and hurt my achilles near the end of my track season so I was pretty banged up. I didn’t know if it would happen.”
With her coach Dave Scott-Thomas, she formed a plan to race nationals in November. “We put it in the plan for the fall but just took it step by step. I ran a few road races in New Brunswick and I did my very first trail race in Quebec to test my fitness and general health.”
Steeplechase is known as the cross-country of the track, and Lalonde loves both. “I love that anyone can run cross-country. Much like trail running, courses are always variable, and conditions depend on the day. Cross-country is also really enhanced by the fans. Having people come out and tough the conditions with you makes it feel like they are also running the race, and helping you along. That is extremely special.”
Lalonde has known that she wanted to be a runner for some time, but not just any runner, a really good runner. “Even when I was seven years old in dance class I wanted to be the best runner. That was a little bit odd for my dance teachers.”
But records have never been her goal, they’re a product of her hard work. “Canada has so many strong distance runners, so just to be considered in that group is kind of a dream. Records come with wanting to be the best I can be. I have never really chased them, most of the time I am aware that they are there, and if I break them it’s just another cool thing that I can add to the list of great experiences I have had.”
Lalonde’s love of running started young. One of her favourite running memories is attending her older brother’s dry-land hockey training. “My goal every week was to beat another player on the team. It began with the goalie, then the girls, and then slowly crept towards my brother’s friends. My brother was getting frustrated so I was no longer allowed to attend.” Her parents enrolled her in other sports instead. She jokes that to this day her brother still tries to beat her at her own game.
The Canadian record holder says she still gets nervous before races, but her coach helps provide some perspective. “He always reminds me that my family will still love me, and we can always go get a treat at dairy queen to celebrate regardless of the outcome.”