All Photos by: Ruby Photo Studio

Speed was the name of the game in the third week of the Lane 6 mentorship program, a collaborative effort between Canadian Running, Nike and Toronto Community Housing. After two weeks of working on pacing for longer distances, this is what the kids had been waiting for. This was their chance to kick it into high gear.

Upon the arrival of our mentees, a brief introduction to sprinting and a quick surveying of the group revealed that these kids were already very familiar with the world’s fastest men—Usain Bolt, Canada’s own Andre De Grasse and even the controversial Justin Gatlin—but notably absent was any mention of their female counterparts. Instead of making a scene right then and there to sing the praises of superwomen Melissa Bishop, Elaine Thompson and Dafne Schippers, I decided to contain my outrage and make it my personal mission to help my 13-year-old mentee, Sabrina, realize through this training session that women, too, could dominate the track.

I knew the moment I saw her race her brother that first week, that sprinting would be her forte.

Unfortunately, a stomach bug meant that she wasn’t feeling her best on this particular morning. In fact, she said she didn’t even feel like running at all, and she definitely didn’t have that usual spring in her step. I encouraged her to drink some water and take it easy during the warm up. So she did, while telling me all about the tattoo she wants to get when she turns 18—a tribute to her dearest mother—and what she plans to do with the $50 burning a hole in her pocket, an early birthday gift from her aunt.

Then it was time for the fun stuff. Coach Joel showed us the two different starting positions we could choose from, and gave us a rundown of the various techniques we could use to tackle the different distances.

We started with three 50-metre sprints, and maybe the stomach ache was to blame, but Sabrina had trouble finding her speed in that first set. We then moved onto two 100-metre sprints, where she really found her groove, so much so that I couldn’t even almost keep up. We finished off with one 200-metre sprint, which proved to be too long for my under-the-weather mentee, as she burned out about halfway through and let her brother take the win. “You’re lucky, Joseph!” she yelled after him as she slowed through the finish, admitting defeat. And maybe I’m biased, but I think if we had another shot at that distance she would have made a comeback. We then gave a group relay a try—mentors versus mentees—before cooling down, refuelling and stretching out our tired muscles. Sabrina was feeling better by then. Running, it seemed, really was a cure-all.

In a serendipitous turn of events, the session ended with what was supposed to be a 200-metre race between the two male group leaders from Toronto Community Housing, but ended up being a race between them and our most eager young runners. To my delight, 14-year-old Faithy, whom we might very well see tearing up the Olympic track some day, won the race, leaving all the boys (and men) in her dust. Usain, who?

Mission accomplished.

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