Motivation “Just believe that anything can happen.”

“Just believe that anything can happen.”

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The 2019 iRunner of the Year is Dayna Pidhoresky

The Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon website tells us, “This is our city, but it’s your moment. A moment months in the making. A moment shared with 25,000 others on the same path of self-discovery.” While Dayna Pidhoresky, native to Tecumseh, ON, now claims Vancouver, BC as her stomping grounds, it was most certainly her moment when she was the first Canadian woman to cross the line with a seven-minute personal best time of 2:29:03 at the October 20, 2019 event. Her moment guaranteed her selection for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Team.

It was Dayna Pidhoresky’s moment after well over 100 months in the making. When asked in her post-race interview what made the difference for her breakthrough performance, she simply said, “I don’t know. Honestly, I feel like I’ve had that in me for years and it just came together at the right time.” After running 1:11:46 at the Niagara Falls International Half Marathon in 2011, it’s doubtful that Dayna thought it would be another eight years for her marathon breakthrough. She had been on the verge for so long. 

It was Dayna Pidhoresky’s moment shared with thousands of others, most significantly her husband/coach, Josh Seifarth, who embraced her at the finish line after years of what she would say was him “reminding me to stay patient.” Her dad and elementary school teacher, Mrs. Hayes, who were instrumental in igniting her joy for running with a strong work ethic, were also part of sharing Dayna’s special moment. 

It was Dayna Pidhoresky’s moment of self-discovery as she explained after her victory how she’d arrived at her breakthrough. “We didn’t do anything special,” she said. “I actually had probably the rockiest build I’ve ever had.” This is what makes her so relatable, and our sport so exciting. You never know what can happen, and that’s why we keep showing up on that starting line. 

“Going through this rough build,” she said, “I’ve never really explained this before, but I really just had to rely on God because…it’s fine, I’m not enough, but with Him, I can be enough.” When asked how she approached her event, she said: “Just believe that anything can happen.”

There were no clear indications that Pidhoresky would be the fastest Canadian female marathoner of the year. Many—although not many of her friends who’d raced against her, including myself and Olympians like Natasha Wodak and Lanni Marchant—thought perhaps the University of Windsor Honours Biology and Psychology graduate was more suited for the half marathon and 30K events than the marathon. She’d run an impressive 13 sub-1:15 half marathon performances and she’s a four-time Around the Bay 30K winner over the last 10 years. Clearly, Pidhoresky had talent. However, her marathon record did not reflect her hard work. She had more DNF’s (Did Not Finish), DNS’s (Did Not Start) and disappointments than she had successful marathons. 

Here’s a brief list of her marathon finishes:  

  • Fall 2015, STWM, DNS: injury
  • Winter 2016, Houston Marathon, DNF: gastrointestinal issues
  • Fall 2016, STWM: hobbled to finish, injury; finishing time: 2:40:38 
  • Spring 2017, Ottawa Marathon: secured her spot for the IAAF World Championships; earned a personal best: 2:36:08
  • Summer 2017, IAAF World Championships: struggled, but gained valuable experience; finishing time: 2:56:15
  • Fall 2018, Chicago Marathon, DNF: illness (despite excellent fitness)
  • Spring 2019, Ottawa Marathon: challenged by heat, missed the Olympic standard of top five by placing sixth; finishing time: 2:37:18 

Dayna Pidhoresky nearly considered giving up. She thought about not continuing to pursue her dream of making an Olympic team after her most recent disappointing marathon performance earlier this year. There’s only so many marathons someone can run. And Pidhoresky is 33 years old. That’s not old, but it is two years older than Canadian record holder Rachel Cliff. Every runner knows that years of heartache can easily nurture negative selftalk, which requires tremendous mental fortitude to overcome. I’ve had several heartfelt moments while competing with Dayna over the years. I specifically remember her saying after Ottawa this May that she thought she should maybe get a real job, that it was maybe time to move on. I didn’t really know what to say. We all have to be realistic, and yet, chasing dreams is what all athletes do. 

I remember seeing her barely cross the finish line—after leading much of STWM, 2016—due to a painful sacral stress fracture that would take weeks to heal. I also remember talking openly with Dayna, while riding the bus for one of the Canada Running Series races several years ago, as she was slowly climbing her way back to fitness after yet another injury. None of this was easy, but nothing we treasure ever is. 

For the last few years, Dayna has expressed joy and happiness with running on her blog and in various social media posts, but has also exposed her honest and raw emotions as she struggled, mentally and physically, to stay on the gruelling path toward a goal she sometimes thought she may never attain. All of us have been there. This year, Pidhoresky crossed the finish line at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon as the first Canadian woman. She earned her berth to the 2020 Olympic Games. 

“Crossing that line was both invigorating and validating,” Pidhoresky says. “It was the pat on the back that I needed to continue chasing my dreams, and Toronto’s win was certainly a dream come true—but I have bigger goals I want to achieve in the future and that fire is now reignited. Now, onwards.”

Thank you, Dayna, for inspiring a nation with your epic performance when it mattered most, for not quitting, for believing in yourself even when the chips were down, and for showing all of us how to believe in our dreams. It was truly an incredible moment for you and your team, as well as thousands of others aiming to create their own moment some day. You have taught us to continue to follow a passion despite the many hardships and setbacks that we all go through. You continued to grow through your difficulties, which fueled your determination, and you turned a negative emotion into a positive action and stunned the world. But deep down I think you didn’t surprise yourself. You always knew you had it in you, and you were right. We will remain behind you, my friend, following your progress and cheering for you when you proudly run another 42.2 kilometres. Dayna Pidhoresky, your 2019 iRunner of the Yearwell deserved.