Returning to running after a successful 20 year hockey career allowed me to pursue and live a dream of which I was initially unaware. My husband and I desired a family after establishing our professional careers. I then thought it would be fun to run a marathon, a simple bucket list item. Immediately I got the itch for more. Chipping away at faster times and having babies became my style. I wasn’t until 2009 that I realized where this sport could lead me. The next ten years would take me further than I ever could have imagined.
2009: Mississauga Marathon
My last marathon before having our first child was the 2005 Boston Marathon where I ran a nine minute personal best of 3:00:46. When asked if I was disappointed about just missing the 3 hour mark, I hadn’t really thought about it; I somehow knew that it would happen. Four years later after the birth of our second son, I entered the 2009 Mississauga Marathon on Mother’s Day and won it with another nine minute personal best of 2:51:38. It was at this race that I was given the title, “Marathon Mom,” and took my husband’s advice of seeking a coach to take it to the next level.
2010: Ottawa Marathon
Fittingly, my first sponsorship came in the form of a Thule Chariot double running stroller, which I would use to log hundreds of kilometres with our children over the coming years. Pushing that much weight up countless hills was key to my success at several hilly Around the Bay 30 km races. Under the tutelage of Coach Nicole Stevenson, I lowered my time by twelve minutes when I won my first national championship in 2:39:07 at the Ottawa Marathon. I was also thrilled to represent Eload Sport Nutrition and Saucony with their sponsorship support when competing at this event.
2011: Year off for life.
When being interviewed after my national title, which was my fourth marathon in 13 months, I mentioned that I was hoping to take another baby break before getting back at it again. I specifically remember saying that I felt like I was just getting started. Our daughter was born 10 months later. There was no 2011 marathon.
2012: Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon
After winning the Around the Bay road race at a pace that could earn me the Olympic standard, Coach Rick Mannen and I decided it was worth it to travel to Rotterdam to give it a shot. I had just finished breastfeeding our 13 month old before making my first trip to Europe. It was there that I met Lanni Marchant with whom I roomed and made our mark on the international stage, just missing the standard by two minutes. My 7 minute personal best of 2:32:06 that spring was followed by another 2:32:14 at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon (STWM) later that fall. This was the first time since my first marathon (3:28:08), ten years prior, that I did not run a personal best. But I was pleased with my gains and still hungry to chip away for more.
2013: Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon
After a disappointing DNF (my one and only Did Not Finish, ever, in any race distance) due to heat exhaustion at an extremely hot IAAF World Championships in Moscow, I returned with Lanni Marchant to the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon for redemption. We both had the same goal of beating Silvia Ruegger’s 28 year old record. While Lanni succeeded, crossing the tape 32 seconds ahead of me, I became the second fastest Canadian, a title that didn’t quite have the same ring to it. Walking to the awards ceremony with Silvia afterwards was one of the most meaningful memories of my entire life when she responded to my disappointment with her incredible words of wisdom, “It takes more grace than I can tell to play the second fiddle well.” I immediately asked her to repeat it because I knew its significance would be a defining moment in my career. It certainly was.
2014: Montreal Half Marathon
While aiming to defend my Canadian title at the Montreal Half Marathon I ended up hobbling to a third place finish due to an undiagnosed stress fracture that grew to a full fracture during the race. It required emergency surgery for the placement of a plate, 1 large and 2 small screws. While in the hospital recovering, I was already setting goals. The day after surgery, I told myself I would get that Olympic standard in two years. Two days after the surgery, I changed it to one year. I was unable to compete in the Commonwealth Games in Scotland that summer.
2015: Rotterdam Marathon
Exactly 11.5 months after fracturing my femur I returned to the Rotterdam Marathon with the same goal as before – to get that Olympic standard. With a third place finish and time of 2:29:38 I became the first Canadian woman in 20 years to get the qualifying time for the Olympic Games. Later that fall I would have to withdraw from entering the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon due to a stress fracture in my foot.
2016: The Olympic Games
I was fit, healthy and prepared for the heat that would be expected at the Olympic Games. Going into the race I was ranked 50th but worked my way up to a 35th spot with my 2:35:29. I ran into the arms of my loved ones, into a sea of red t-shirts with my favourite quote by Eric Lidell, “I believe God made me for a purpose but he also made me fast and when I run I feel his pleasure”. I could call myself an “Olympian”! To this day, it remains my absolute favourite moment of my career. Lanni and I represented Canada with Eric Gillis and Reid Coolsaet. Two months later I took advantage of my fitness and heat training, securing another national title at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon with a 2:33:59.
2017: London Marathon
For my 40th birthday, my husband and kids sent me with their blessing to train for a month at altitude in Iten, Kenya. It had been a difficult bucket list item to check off the list with young children. Now training under Dave Scott-Thomas, I was excited to take it to yet another level. While 2017 didn’t produce the marathon results I wanted with my stomach problems at the London Marathon and another withdrawal from entering the STWM due to a stress fracture in my other foot, I will forever be grateful for the cultural experience, friendships, and deep gains I made in Kenya. While at altitude I completed two weeks of 190 km, giving me the confidence to know I had more.
2018: Boston Marathon
I returned to the Boston Marathon after 13 years, thinking it would be an honour to compete in the elite division, and hoping to place top 3 masters and top 15 overall. I far surpassed those goals with a surprise 3rd place overall finish and masters win due to some weather deemed favourable by those of us living north of the border. It was definitely the most fruitful day of my running career, allowing my family to upgrade our van and invest more into our children’s RESPs. Later that fall I returned to my favourite STWM, placing third at the National Championships with a 2:36:46.
2019: Ottawa Marathon
After a disappointing performance at a warm and humid Boston Marathon I took a short break before resuming training to give myself a second chance at my spring marathon. I sat in the sauna and completed several runs on a treadmill in a room with space heaters and kettles in order to be prepared for similar conditions in Ottawa the next month. Finishing just behind Dayna Pidhoresky with a time of 2:38:45 had me satisfied and pleased that I was still in the game. After a thorough recovery, I got back to the track for speed and to the road for mileage in order to be at my best for the Berlin Marathon. The day would have to be absolutely perfect for me to run the required 2:29:30 for the Tokyo Olympic Games. I ran another 2:32:27 and placed 12th overall, which was three minutes off the time standard and two places off the top 10 at a world major marathon that would also give me the Olympic standard.
My top 10 marathon times between 2009 and 2019 averages 2:33:54.
My top 5 marathon times between 2009 and 2019 averages 2:30:59.
Likely in another ten years our oldest child will have graduated while our second will be in the midst of completing his post-secondary program. And our baby will be an adult at 18 years of age. I can only hope that my legs, lungs, heart, mind and soul will still be out on the roads and trails, in every winter, spring, summer and fall, absorbing every kilometre I can. Maybe our own children will be chipping away at something they don’t know is bigger than their biggest dreams. And I will be their number one fan, waiting to embrace them with the same tears of joy and elation they shared with me.
Entering 2020 will bring some changes and also my 20th marathon where I will be giving it my best to qualify for another summer Olympic Games. It’s been an incredible decade. Thank you.