The Black Lungs take their name in tribute to the coal miners of Cape Breton, where the group first ran as a team in the Cabot Trail Relay. According to statements by the founders, the group derived inspiration in those miners’ demonstration of hard work, dedication, sacrifice, and a willingness to take risks for reward.
Lyndsay Tessier, who has trained with the Black Lungs since 2013, may put the men of the deeps to shame. At least miners allowed themselves the pleasure of imbibing at the end of the workday or week. The 39 year old elementary school teacher is damn near monastic.
Ms. Tessier says, “I get up at 4:30 a.m. to have my coffee and sit around for about an hour to get my head around the day and go over lesson plans.” At 5:30, she leaves for that day’s workout, choosing to minimize any chance of surprise by running the same route every day.
Lunches are prepared on Sunday, so after returning home at around 7 Lyndsay can simply grab it from the fridge before departing again at 8 a.m. to switch roles from athlete to educator.
Once the school day ends, it’s “home, dinner, couch, and lights out by 9.” “It may not make me popular,” Lyndsay says, “but I make no apologies for my routine.”
It’s a routine that doesn’t leave much room for error or flexibility and appears to border on punishment.
What makes Lyndsay Tessier special, a figure of so much curiosity and admiration, is that her extreme sense of commitment has never turned running into a chore.
Her personality and willingness to show emotion on the course is akin to American legend Meb Keflezighi. Lyndsay makes superhuman performance look and feel real, like something the rest of us can relate to, and sometimes even makes it seem like fun.
In an ascent to the elite ranks that’s included victories at the Vancouver Half Marathon and a second place finish among the Canadian women at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon, where she recorded a 2:36, Lyndsay maintains that she has never been ultra competitive and has never placed the weight of expectations upon herself.
“Running started for me in elementary school,” Lyndsay explains. “I was too young for cross country, but the principal agreed that if my mom supervised, I could train off school property with the team.” Lyndsay would run until the eighth grade when, “It became more competitive and more expectations were being placed on me, which took away from the enjoyment.”
Rather than go against what she felt to be her own nature, Lyndsay left running altogether, only to be reintroduced to the sport when asked by a friend to join a local 5K six years ago. Lyndsay recalls, “I had such an amazing time and was smitten again. After that I joined a half marathon clinic at the Pickering Running Room.”
The trajectory doesn’t read like that of many elites. In fact, Lyndsay’s story could be that of so many middle and back of the pack runners who were drawn by the promise of a welcoming community and personal growth later in life.
Lyndsay believes her mindset hasn’t shifted from that of a recreational runner. “I love everything about running!” Lyndsay exclaims. Rather than competition, “It’s therapy, it’s confidence, and it’s peacefulness.” As a cross country coach, Lyndsay strives to transfer that mindset to her students. “I’m not coaching my kids to be superstars. I’m coaching character and for a love of running,” she explains.
The night before the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, Lyndsay received a message from Natasha Wodak reminding her that the hurt would begin after 30K, but that she was strong enough and deserving of the nine minute PB she would run that day.
That’s a connection that Lyndsay says she will never lose with every other runner. Everyone who has ever ventured past that 30K mark defied their doubts and found the strength of character that Lyndsay seeks to impart to her students.
“I look at everyone who runs and we’re all the same,” Lyndsay says. When she and her sister ran different half marathons on the same weekend last year, Lyndsay finished thirty minutes ahead, but she adds, “We both felt the same pain at 17K.”
If someone therefore looks to Lyndsay as a role model, she can accept it but says the feeling is mutual. No matter where she finishes, Lyndsay is always reminded that, “For runners, when we see the individual achievements, we’re always so happy for one another because we know where it comes from.”