From conventional office to oval office. I am not your conventional runner. I never medaled at OFSAA (Ontario high school track and field championships). I never medaled at national championships (no wait, not true, but that was because there were only 3, maybe only 2, people in my event). I was not a ‘track darling.’ But I always loved to run.
Growing up my mom was a runner. She did it because she loved it. From what I remember she never competed, although I’m sure she competed within herself each and every run. When I was 12 we did our first charity event together, the inaugural CIBC Run for the Cure. My mom told me to lead the way, so I did; my mom broke 20 mins for 5k. That’s my moment where I remember being ‘hooked’ to running.
Fast forward. I had no idea what (or who) I wanted to be graduating high school. I still loved running, competing on the track and XC, workouts, long runs. I decided to stay with my high school coach, who was becoming the varsity coach at the University of Toronto. Program you ask? I went into commerce, it seemed like the right blend of math and no science for me. Two year’s into my program I hated what I was studying had no interest in working in that field, and worse I hated running. I was injured. I was burnt out. I thought my time with competitive running was over.
I started again, well I started university again. I went into a civil engineering program at the University of Western Ontario. I wanted to leave home so I did, Toronto to London, it wasn’t a big move, but it was just enough. I wasn’t sure I wanted to run; that decision was easy when the coach and I butted heads and he said I had to switch into a less demanding program. Switch? I loved everything about engineering, creativity blended in mathematics and science, my true inner nerd was coming out.
There I was on the conventional path of go to school, get a job, meet a guy (turned out he was a major jerk), and start a family. Good thing I’m not a conventional kind of gal.
From private sector to public sector and back to the private sector, I had finally found a job I loved. I could have done without the commute, but I really loved what I did and who I worked with. I worked in road safety, I worked in a job where my goal was to make the roads safer for all road users; yup, pretty cool in my geeky engineering eyes.
On the activity side, well I think I was doing everything and anything. I started to run again, but for the love of running; I had no intentions of ever being an elite again. I played quite a bit of ultimate frisbee. I bought a road bike and fell in love with it. So much so that I was up and on my bike at 5:30am before work almost everyday of the week (thank you Morning Glory Cycling Club). While I was never a strong swimmer, nor did I like it, I combined my love for running and cycling to do Duathlon, sometimes I ventured into the water and did a few triathlons. I went to World Duathlon Age Group Championships twice. Summer 2013 I embraced my Jewish routes and competed in the Maccabi Games, competing in the Maccabi Woman event (a 4 event blend of running, cycling and swimming). Alpine skiing was my absolute favourite; I couldn’t wait for winter to arrive every year. I was a ski coach for entry-level kids up in Collingwood, I would head out west with my parents for some powder hunting, and every so often I would find a very fun place in the world to go check out (no friends on a powder day!).
The short story back to running, in the spring of 2014, my girlfriends sent out an APB; I had been working 7 days a week that winter, road safety engineering midweek & alpine skiing on weekends. ‘Come back to running they said,’ ‘ok’ I said back. It hurt so much those first few weeks coming back, I could barely finish workouts let alone do long runs after! Slowly, then really quickly, my form came back. Back to the track, over to Europe to race on the track. Fast forward to summer 2015, I won my first national medal, I managed to make my first Canadian Track Team, the Pan American Team for the 1500m; and I won a bronze medal in my hometown with my friends and family watching me missing half a shoe!
Coming back to running I decided I would always love it. If I started to fall into my old traps, then I would change something. I wasn’t going to quit because I didn’t love it. Nor would I quit when things got tough (because really those are the moments I love the most because you learn something). I did promise myself that I would live and train by a few things.
Always Play: Give credit where it is due, thank you Princess Bunny. I promised myself I would always have fun running. Those first few workouts back, laughing and smiling with my teammates, I knew that’s why I was back. I have always been addicted to the exercise endorphins, but the exercise endorphins mixed with friends, it’s a mega rush. I know the only way to get better at something is deliberate practice, but too often deliberate practice burns people out. Deliberate play is a blend of deliberate practice and having fun, except most of the research is for young children. I’ve decided that Deliberate Play is the future, that’s why I ‘always play’ at any workout, run, session, whatever I have to endeavour.
Make Choices Not Sacrifices: Long before I came back to running, I started living a life through a positivity lens. Life is generally tainted by and lived through the negativity bias. Take a moment to think about that, how often do you get down, upset, put off by something, when something negative happens? I try hard every day to let go of the things I cannot control, the things that can be negative, and if/when something negative happens, I spend some time finding the positive or learning from what happened. When I eventually made the decision to leave my full-time job to pursue running, I knew the decision was a choice, not a sacrifice. And every run, every practice, every weight lifting session, I remind myself I have a choice to love what I do and work hard or to see as my time away from conventional life as a sacrifice.
Eat Real Food/Feed the machine: I remember when I ran in high school and early in university, I remember all the girls who were self-conscious about what they looked like, how they would starve themselves to look a certain way. And I’ll be honest I was self-conscious about my body too at times, but never so much I turned down ice cream or chocolate. I promised myself that I would always eat well, I would eat balanced foods, I would not deprive myself of treats, and that I would be a role model even if it was only to myself. I think my ‘healthy’ attitude paid dividends in the end. Your body becomes what it needs to become, it morphs, it changes, it becomes what it needs to be. And saying this I know I sound like an anorexic runner, but my favourite food is salad, because with a salad topped with protein and a variety of other things you can hit all your macro- and micro-nutrients. Just eat the good stuff, the stuff that grows out of the ground, stuff you can pick off trees, real food. Eat what makes you feel good, what makes you smile (yes, a really good salad does make me smile!). And try as best possible to avoid those processed foods.
Work hard: You can be anything you dream of, but you have to work really, really hard. I grew up in a house not with expectations but the support to challenge yourself to be great. However, to be great we were shown that you had to work really hard (thank you parents). I thrive on working hard, it’s not a desire to impress anyone else, but a fire that burns in my belly to be the best I can be everyday at whatever I endeavour. I know the only way to do that is to work hard. And I work hard because I am passionate about what I do and it matters to me. While my recent running success wasn’t traditional, it was still based upon a lot of blood, sweat, and tears (aka hard work).
Be An Ambassador: Fast & Female. SisuGirls. Prissy Tomboy. These are all organizations that are dedicated to the empowerment of girls through sport, organizations I belong to and support. But more than that, and outside of that, I want to be an ambassador for sport, for engineering, for mathematics and science, for young girls out there. I want to inspire and encourage more girls to stay with sports, to sweat, to do what they love, and for them to know they can be anything they want to be (see #4).
Here we are summer 2016. I’m chasing an Olympic birth. I am pursing a PhD in Performance Engineering at the University of Toronto through the Civil Engineering Department. I remind myself that I am not defined by successes or failures. I am not defined as a runner, a student, an engineer. I am a holistic collection of all of these things put together. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts (Aristotle). I’m so glad I made the choice to try to be a professional runner and a performance engineer. No matter what I will look back and know, no regrets. Smile. Always Play. Love those around you. And celebrate your life and others, each and every day.
If you would like to book me for a public speaking event, special engagement, endorsement opportunity or anything else, please fill in the form below.
I also work as a consultant with McCharles Consulting. We develop and implement personalized programs that are designed to enhance the performance of athletes and professionals.