Home > Runs & Races

The art of the enormous personal best

Emily Setlack and Melanie Myrand on Rotterdam and how they shaved huge amounts of time off their personal bests

Melanie Myrand

There are two kinds of personal bests: tiny improvements that are indications that you’re going in the right direction, and enormous leaps forward that are known as breakthroughs. Both Emily Setlack of Cold Lake, Alta. and Melanie Myrand of Lachine, Que. have recently experienced breakthroughs.

Emily Setlack
Photo: Emily Setlack/Instagram.

RELATED: Huge runs for Setlack, Myrand and Mason at Rotterdam Marathon

Myrand ran a 3:04 marathon in 2014 and made some life changes to run a 2:39 in 2017 at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. Since that 2:39, she had another breakthrough running a 2:34 in Chicago in the fall of 2018 and just last weekend a 2:33 at the Rotterdam Marathon. “Since 2014 a lot has happened. I went back to school to do my Masters of Nursing to become a nurse practitioner in primary care. This meant I no longer worked in the ICU as a nurse doing nights and shift work. I ran varsity again with McGill for just over two years, switching training stimulus to shorter distances and cross-country. Once I was done my Masters I started working as an nurse practitioner, choosing to work three times a week versus five times a week to give this crazy running passion a chance.”

RELATED: Melanie Myrand surprised herself at Chicago in the best way possible


Every year Myrand and her coach patiently added a little more mileage and difficulty, incorporating altitude and weight training into the routine as well. The Chicago-Rotterdam turnaround was the tightest timeline Myrand had ever worked on. “For Toronto 2017 and Chicago 2018 I had a year in between, allowing me to forget what the 42.2K race and her ugly parts entail. As I stood on the line in Rotterdam I hadn’t forgotten this time around – I was completely aware and somewhat hesitant. But when the gun went off, all was OK. I had a goal of 2:32 or under if I was feeling good. Emily Setlack and I found ourselves next to each other within the first K and worked with a group of men for roughly 21K.”

Krista Duchene after the Rotterdam Marathon
Krista DuChene. Photo: Rotterdam Marathon 2015

Myrand ran a personal best through the half at Rotterdam, and going forward has the Olympic standard in her sights. “I’m hungry for more and I usually don’t feel this way so soon after a marathon. I would love to get to that 2:30 or possibly the 2:29:30 standard, although that all seems like another crazy goal right now.”

Setlack competed at both the World Half-Marathon Championships and the World Mountain Running Championships in 2018. Since those two events, she’s come back to marathoning, running an 11 minute personal best last Sunday. Setlack credits mountain running and a change of stimulus to get huge breakthrough. “World Half-Marathon Champs was a struggle for me, probably one of the worst races I have ever run. I was really disappointed with my performance. I had to step back and find some positive racing experiences again, for me that was mountain running and spending time on the trails. It grounds me and reminds me to focus on the pure process of racing and running. No clocks, no time. It’s pure in every sense.”

View this post on Instagram

Road blocks are part of the process. After making some fairly foolish mistakes in the past, I have learned the importance of being proactive when dealing with setbacks and taking “minor” aches and pains seriously before they develop into major setbacks. I was having tightness and pain in my achilles so I booked an appointment with @rightmovept. . I am grateful for the knowledge and help that I received from Ian Budge at The Right Move Physiotherapy in Kingston. I cannot recommend enough, Ian was able to spot an imbalance and gave me activation exercises to do before each run. After two treatments of shockwave, I have been able to resume PAIN FREE mileage and workouts. I am beyond thankful. . Pay attention to little aches and catch them before they turn into something that's going to sideline you. There will always be other races waiting for you, look after your body and get help before it turns into a major injury. If you live in Kingston, book an appointment with @rightmovept and let them help guide you to pain free running. #HealthisWealth @sauconycanada #WeWhoRun #achillestendonitis PHOTO: @eyebrows_the_internet #CanadianRunningSeries @runcrswest @runcrs

A post shared by ET (@emilysetlack) on

Since her foray into mountain running, Setlack has come back to the roads even stronger than before. “I made it to the start line healthy, with a good build. Training had gone very well and my coach Jim Finlayson and I thought 2:33 – 2:35 would be a good target.” Setlack and Finlayson were bang on, she ran a 2:35:44.

The runner is feeling really excited about the year ahead. “I am already looking forward to taking a few more minutes off my marathon time, but next up is Ottawa 10K and the Canadian Half-Marathon Championships. It’s an exciting time to be a distance runner in Canada.”