Tag Archives: motivation

Toronto Runner: Kathryn Mitchell

Kathryn holds her finisher's medal after completing the 2009 Chicago Marathon last October.

In 2004, Kathryn Michell took a Learn to Run clinic to prove to her running friends that the sport was not for her. As a goal of the clinic, she complete a 5k road race, which left her in a confusing spot — she had been bitten by the running bug.

“I never dreamt of running,” says Kathryn. “I hated running in high school, but it’s brought me the knowledge that I can indeed take on a challenge and step-by-step break it into the pieces that make it possible to complete.”

Typically running two-to-three times a week, Kathryn has been revving up her training to four to six in preparation for the Chilly Half Marathon this weekend and the Around the Bay 30k Road Race at the end of the month. She also has plans to run Nike’s women only marathon again this October in San Francisco.

“I love to travel. I was six or seven weeks old when my family moved from Canada to St. Lucia, and I was three-and-a-half when we moved back,” recalls Kathryn. “What better way to travel? Finding an event that mans something, signing up, and making it happen.

Kathryn took a dip in the Pacific Ocean after the 2009 Nike Women-only Marathon in San Francisco

This takes a bit of planning, but I try to pick the events I’m hoping to do for the upcoming year and figure out how I’ll be able to financially swing them. Seat sales, deals on hotels and paying for most of it before I actually get there make it all work.

Getting ready for many of the far-away events, Kathryn can be found running with friends all over the city. “I live near the Kay Gardiner Beltline trail and I love the surface of the trail and running through city, while staying in a park,” she says. “I also run a lot in Bloor West, and will often run the waterfront, Humber trails and High Park with others. There are just so many choices in Toronto.”

Kathryn’s running life and professional life got a lot closer in 2004, when she began working for the Beaches Running Room. She became the store manager of the High Park location in 2005, and eventually in 2008 moved to the Commerce Court location where she is today.

Often combining vacations and races, Kathryn is seen here at the 2008 Disney Half Marathon

In the future, Kathryn has her eyes set on more international runs, including the Dublin, London, Paris, and New York marathons, and the Rock’N’Roll series (which includes Arizona, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Nashville, New Orleans, Philadelphia, San Antonio, San Diego, San Jose, Seattle and Virginia Beach).

Beyond the events, bling and sway, Kathryn has found that there are many un-quantifiable rewards to the sport. “Running has brought me new friendships. It’s taught me discipline and its rewards,” she says. “It’s let me know when I have slacked and allowed me to be more open through discussions during long runs.”

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Finding motivation…

Sylvia Ruegger sports her 1984 Olympic jacket. She takes time out of her busy schedule to speak to running clinics using her story to inspire others.

I’m a motivation junkie. I love having goals, a training schedule and a clear focus, but it’s the motivation that gets me through the nitty gritty of it. The 5 a.m. alarms on a -23°c before the wind chill morning where I’d rather just hit snooze and crawl back under the covers like all the other sane people in the world. But that fire in the belly, the need and desire to do something more is amazing.

Tonight I had the opportunity to hear Olympian Sylvia Ruegger speak during our weekly clinic session. This is the second time I’ve had the pleasure of hearing Sylvia — the first was about a year ago when I was in the Learn to Run clinic. The talk that Sylvia gave was more or less the same, but both the passion and enthusiasm with which she delivers her talk, combined with a new perspective and a year of experience on my part, made this time all the more rich.

Sylvia Ruegger ran for Canada in the first ever women’s marathon at the 1984 Olympics, finishing 8th. The Olympic marathon was her second marathon event ever, after running her first in Ottawa to qualify for the Olympic team. Sylvia still holds the Canadian women’s marathon record that she set when she won the 1985 Houston Marathon in 2:28:36. Now retired from professional running, Sylvia continues to run four times a week and founded the Running and Reading program with Kidfest, which look to foster physical activity, self-confidence and literacy in the country’s most disadvantaged kids.

The upper portion is Sylvia's bib from her Olympic run. Below is the piece of paper she retrieved from the floorboards years later.

Sylvia began her running career chasing cows on her family’s farm outside Newtonville, Ontario. While watching the Olympics in her home in 1976, she decided that she wanted to be an Olympian and run in the games. Writing her dream on a piece of paper and hiding in the floorboard of her bedroom, she pursued her love of running on the country roads with her mother driving behind her to provide light.

Whether we’re a recreational runner or we run at an elite level, Sylvia believes that we can each learn and be inspired by our stories. The struggle and tenacity of the human spirit that is inherent in endurance sports allows us each to dig deep and find what it is that motivates us to keep at it even when things get tough. This struck me, because it was this that was behind the inception of the Toronto Runner’s series that appears here weekly. I love Monday posts for that reason — another profile to draw inspiration and motivation from. Another person with goals, and hope that is out there pounding the pavement and pushing themselves — and all right here in our very own backyard.

When things get tough during a race, Sylvia says she thinks of it as a dark tunnel – like the ones you might drive through under a bridge – you’ll come out the other side shortly, all you have to do is hold on and remember that anything really worth doing is going to be hard, and all the richer for it.

One of the most memorable parts of her talk for me was when Sylvia talked about one of the common questions she gets: “you’re goal was to run in the Olympics and win a medal – aren’t you disappointed?” She says what gives her perspective on it is a quote by John Ruskin who said, “the highest reward for a man’s toil is not what he gets for it but what he becomes by it.”

Which begs the question, who have you become by your running?

I’ll finish this post with one final quote that I think is excellent. It’s from Theodore Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and how, at worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

Happy trails.

P.S. This is the only video I could find of Sylvia speaking. The first part of it is her story: