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The race that changed Gabriela DeBues-Stafford’s life

The race that changed how the runner considered herself as an athlete

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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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.

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.”

Photo: Daniel.tnf

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.