Gabriela DeBues-Stafford set another Canadian record on Friday–her fourth, to be exact. Her newest record is a 4:17.87 mile from the Brave Like Gabe Mile at the Monaco Diamond League. DeBues-Stafford’s ascent to the highest level of running seems sudden from the outside, but those close to her know performances like this were a long time coming.
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"That was the worst race I've ever seen. But you get a pass because you ran a good time." I knew that that was exactly what the boss was going to say after that race. Very all over the place today; my race execution still needs a LOT of work, but the Monaco Magic didn't disappoint, and I forced something together in the last lap. 4:17 – PB, NR, and 3rd place at the Monaco Diamond League @bravelikegabe Mile. Not sure how I let myself fall so far back, that shouldn't have happened, but the race isn't over until you cross the line. So I am happy that I rallied. Thank you to everyone for tuning in, your energy and support 💖 also peep the second photo from the one and only Leah Pells. This message gave me chills. So grateful to be part of a community of amazing Canadian women who lift each other up. @leahpells_counselling thank you for inspiring and elevating a generation of young athletes. 📸:@ufnoof (photo from Pre not Monaco) #LikeaG #FamilyYoung #BraveLikeGabe #nike #justdoit
Stafford began her record board rewrite in January of this year, opening her season with a 5,000m Canadian record. She then followed that up with a new indoor mile record, and ran her first-ever outdoor 5,000m at the Stockholm Diamond League, where she set a third Canadian record.
She’s followed up these world-class performances with several near misses at the Canadian 1,500m record of 4:00.27. She’s come within a second of the record, but has yet to break it. Her mile time from Friday converts to a 4:00 1,500m–it’s a record that, given the right race, will surely be hers.
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On y va! Une autre course! @bravelikegabe mile tomorrow at 3:20PM EST (Friday July 12) at the Monaco Diamond League. So grateful that this season I am back in a place where I am loving racing, and what a thrill to be afforded opportunities to do so on the biggest of stages. May we all strive to emulate Gabe's strength and courage tomorrow. @cbc.sports is live streaming. You know the drill 😉 #cyathen #RoadToTheFinal #LikeaG #FamilyYoung #BraveLikeGabe #MonacoDL #nike #justdoit 📸: @cortneywhite_
There are two races that reframed the way DeBues-Stafford considered herself as a runner. “On a smaller scale, making the national team in cross-country in grade 12 was a big turning point for me. I went from never being on a team to making a team and that was the first time I thought, ‘I could make the Olympics.'”
She continued, “On a larger scale, the first time I thought I could be really great at this was Stockholm. To be kicking for first in your first-ever outdoor 5K was really unexpected. If I keep at this I could run for big things. I’m not just a number in this race, I’m a contender. I’m becoming someone who can shape the race.” DeBues-Stafford’s goals have gone from one day making a world final to medalling in one. “I want to be one of the best in the world–to vie for a place among them.”
Everything about Stafford’s life has changed in the last year. She got married, she moved from Toronto to Glasgow, she got a new coach and she reached an entirely new level of running. “It’s been really exciting and lots of fun. Everything feels like the right move, which is really nice. I got off the plane in Glasgow today and felt like I was home.”
She credits her quick adjustment partially to having her husband with her. “I think doing this big change with Rowan has been huge. I don’t think I’d be so well adjusted if he wasn’t going through this with me. I think it could’ve been a lonely experience if he wasn’t doing all of this with me.”
But she says it hasn’t all been easy. “I feel a little bit in shock sometimes with all of the racing and the travel. I think I’m handling it well but I kind of hit me this past weekend that it’s been a lot. I know it’s catching up to me a bit because I’m feeling a little emotional these days, but I get to come home next week for nationals, so it’s good timing.”
DeBues-Stafford is running the London 5,000m next week and then coming home to Toronto in advance of the Canadian National Championships.