Dayna Pidhoresky has grit. Her story proves it. An injury prone university running career only left room for “a few decent races.” In 2016, the Chevron Houston Marathon, her first attempt at the distance, resulted in running’s most dreaded letters, DNF.
In 2017, the story has been markedly different. Following a victory at the Around the Bay 30K (1:47), Ms. Pidhoresky took the crown as the top Canadian woman at the Ottawa Marathon (2:36) in May—a gritty performance in itself in another year marked by needlessly cruel heat in the nation’s capital. That performance took her to London in August, where she represented Canada in the marathon at the IAAF World Championships.
Perseverance hasn’t been a force in Dayna’s running for just the last few years. She’s been coming back and growing as an athlete since joining cross country in grade school two decades ago. She remembers exactly what hooked her—“I liked beating the boys!”
Grit, according to psychologist and author Angela Duckworth, begins with the interest and romance triggered by thrilling experiences like annihilating the competition early on.
It’s not so simple, however, as just enjoying what you do and thriving off rewards. It’s cultivating that initial spark and deepening it through learning and practice over time. From there, interest becomes passion and passion is powerful.
Dayna credits her father with helping lay the foundation for that growth. “I don’t think he cared if I ran or not,” Dayna says, “but he certainly made sure that if I committed to something I had to follow through, even if it meant just running a couple loops of the park after school.”
Now, working with coach and husband Josh Seifarth, curiosity and commitment continue to nourish progress. As Dayna describes Seifarth, “He’s the brains behind everything and a student of the sport who’s always learning, which I think is paramount. We experiment with different training and our approach is very much dynamic.”
It’s that constant work and learning that’s made Dayna an already 20 year veteran of running who still finds “newness” in her sport, insistent that she has “many more years left in these legs and a multitude of goals I’ve yet to achieve.”
Less than three months separated Dayna’s triumph in Ottawa from the IAAF World Championships in the UK capital.
“The timeline was tough,” Dayna acknowledges. “I was very happy to not have any residual soreness or injuries post-Ottawa, but I struggled to run the prescribed paces for a couple of weeks while building back. Eventually, my body came around, but it was very stressful to wonder if that would ever happen.”
“We got to London having done everything we could in the time allotted,” Dayna says. Jim Bowie of Granville Physio in Vancouver, praised by Dayna as having a sixth sense when it comes to her treatment, helped keep things in check during the interim. In London, she also had the accompaniment of Kimen Petersen from Petersen Wellness Clinic to provide treatment right up to and after the race.
The physical recovery appeared sufficient, but the mental game was its own unique beast. “I think my mind was more fatigued than my body! I now fully understand why people don’t race marathons so close together,” Dayna says.
The goal going in was to run conservatively with a 3:40/km pace and gradually pick off competitors with a hard finish. Dayna would run a 2:56 for a 70th place finish, working out to thirty seconds behind goal pace.
Dayna does express some disappointment in the final result, feeling that she was prepared to run a solid race despite the quick turnover from Ottawa to London. Unfortunately, race day proved to be a struggle. Dayna recalls, “From the start, my legs felt like lead and never came around.”
In the aftermath of disappointment, the passion and studious approach to running meant that London yielded lessons rather than regret. Dayna says with hopefulness, “Despite feeling like I severely underperformed, my confidence is actually at an all-time high. I know I have what it takes to be up there with those girls.”
Much like the adrenalin that came with beating the boys at her first tryout, her first taste of the world stage left Dayna, “feeling excited to get back to training so I can target a top 10 finish in the future.”
Tough day out there. Felt off from the start & legs never came around. Marathons can be cruel but the support I received was beyond words
— Dayna Pidhoresky (@DaynaPidhoresky) August 6, 2017
Dayna will again leverage her thirst for learning and experimentation to refine each element of her training and performance. She’s certain, “I can safely increase my mileage, dial in on race-day nutrition, and focus on the little details to help me stay healthy so I can continue to string together more training blocks.”
With only three marathons in the books, Dayna is not convinced that she’s reached her potential and won’t walk away leaving questions about it unanswered. Dayna states with conviction, “I don’t like to regret things and I also believe I can accomplish so much more. Those two in combination propel me forward. Always forward.”
- Ravi Singh