Meet Ottawa’s fastest woman, Becky Pieterson
It may have all started when Becky Pieterson’s parents would pay her five dollars for every sport she played as a child, but it wasn’t until university that her coaches helped her discover her love of running and she started to take the sport more seriously. Pieterson is motivated by how running continually gives her something to work towards. To her, the feeling of always trying to get more out of oneself is like nothing else she has experienced.
Pieterson may look familiar to those in the local running community, as she can often be found on the finisher’s podium at local road races. Most recently, she defended (and kept) her title of Ottawa’s Fastest Woman at the 2023 Desjardins Run to Empower with a first place finishing time of 17:18.0. She claimed the title for the first time in 2022 when finishing in 17:05.0. Pieterson was also the women’s first place finisher at the 2023 Otto’s Ottawa Canada Day Road Races 5K with a time of 17:34.0, followed by first place overall at the Hintonburg 5K- the first woman to ever do so in its 15 year history with a time of 17:02.0.
After being at the finish line to see so many of her recent race achievements, we wanted to learn more about what goes on behind the scenes for Pieterson. Does she have a race plan? Does she think about strategy, does her strategy change during the race? What goes through her mind before a race, and what about during a race? Would she have any tips or advice for runners to help them run their best races?
So many questions! Read on to learn about what goes into becoming Ottawa’s Fastest Woman.
Before every race Pieterson has a basic plan regarding pacing that she bases off her workouts leading up to her race. The goal for most of her races is time-based and she t aims to run as fast as she can. When the field is more competitive, there is more strategy involved. She tries to learn the course beforehand, and plan out some surges on hillier parts of the course or around corners. Pieterson has found that each race is unique, so by aiming toget the most out of herself regardless of how the race plays out, allows for Pieterson to have the best outcome.
In the lead up to her race, she tries to keep busy and keep her mind off of it as much as possible. She finds that she can get some pre-race anxiety otherwise. On race day, she likes to remind herself of the hard workouts she has done to help herself trust that her fitness is on point. She keeps the 3 hours leading up her race the same for every race and finds that the routine helps her brain remain focused on tasks rather than thoughts.
During the race
During races, Pieterson tends to cycle through a few different thoughts.
“You knew this was going to hurt, you can push more.”
“You’ve done harder things, be tough.”
“Only 10 mins left, you can run for 10 more minutes.”
“Oh look, a cute dog!”
Ultimately positive self-talk is very important to her overall success and she just tries to keep her brain focused on that.
For Pieterson, each race is different. If she finds herself pretty solo, she will mostly focus on keeping her pace up. In deeper fields, she tends to always assess the runners around her, listening to their breathing, watching how they respond on uphills to try to gaugetheir fatigue levels. She will try to throw in a surge or two to see how they react…and if she can get a little distance, she will try to push to increase the gap.
During the Hintonburg 5K, she didn’t think she would be able to catch the leader and for the first 4km she just focused on running as strong as she could. In the last kilometre, Pieterson started to notice the leader losing steam and took that opportunity to surge and close the gap. It wasn’t a planned strategy, more a reaction to the circumstances. Races are hard to predict, so she finds having a more flexible approach to be helpful.
4 quick tips from Ottawa’s Fastest Woman
- The most important thing that she has learned is to enjoy what she is doing. Pieterson has found she can get so much more out of herself if the process brings her happiness. So try to find a training method that works best for you.
- The best way to get better at running is to run. It seems simple, but she has found it to be extremely true. A lot of people tend to focus on the little things, when in reality the majority of progress comes from putting in the work. Stacking up consistent weeks of training will pay off huge in the long run. The majority of Pieterson’s training is easy runs that are around 1:30 – 2:00 min per km slower than her race/workout pace. By running at a pace that allows her body to recover properly for about 80% of her weekly mileage, she can push harder during her workouts.
- Pieterson finds having a goal race is helpful for her motivation. Winter running brings her no joy, so signing up for a spring race helps get her out the door when she would rather stay inside.
- In the words of Ottawa’s Fast Woman: “remember to be grateful for your body for allowing you to be able to run. No matter what distance or pace you run, remember that it’s an achievement and to be proud of what you accomplish.”
Pieterson was able to claim the coveted title of Ottawa’s Fastest Woman by capturing first place in the women’s only technical event at Desjardins Run to Empower for two consecutive years. Will she own the title again in 2024? Desjardins Run to Empower, part of the Run Ottawa Race Series, supports and promotes the advancement of women’s running in Canada while shinning a spotlight on remarkable local talent. Learn more about the 2023 edition of Desjardins Run to Empower.