Running Talk – With Canadian Marathoner Krista DuChene

This month, our interview series continues with one of Canada’s top distance runners, Krista DuChene. Coming off an amazing year of personal bests, Krista talks to us about striking a great training/life balance, keeping a positive outlook through injury, and why when it comes to the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend, it’s not just about her own success.

Q: How did you come to the sport of distance running? When did you know you were serious about this running thing?

A: I ran track and cross-country in high school and played hockey. In my first year at the University of Guelph, I attempted both cross-country and hockey but with full-time studies and my mom battling cancer a year after my dad lost his battle to cancer, it was too much. So, I chose hockey but ran on the side to stay in shape and because I loved it. After graduating from university, I retired from hockey and got back into running, thinking a marathon might be something fun to try! I guess I knew I was serious about running when I won my first marathon back with a new personal best, a year after my second child was born, while only running 60-80 km/wk. It was on Mother’s Day and that’s when I was first called, “Marathon Mom”. Shortly after that I hired my first coach, Nicole Stevenson, and looked into sponsorships.

Q: You had a banner year in 2012, winning the Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon and Around the Bay, and setting a half a dozen new PBs including an amazing 2:32:06 at the Rotterdam Marathon–this all after giving birth to your third child in March 2011. To what do you attribute all the success?

A: Looking back, 2012 certainly was a successful year and I am very grateful. I’ve always said that God’s given me this gift of balancing work, parenting, and running, and I am very blessed. Ever since my first marathon in 2002, I’ve consistently increased my mileage and intensity and set higher goals. My 3 pregnancies have allowed me to take complete breaks, mentally and physically. I am very ready to return to training after and often aim to race my first 5 km at goal marathon pace. I struggle to do it because I have a bit of excess weight and obviously haven’t been training the same but I persevere and am not afraid of a bit of pain! I listen to my body, eat, hydrate and sleep well. And my coach, Rick Mannen is great. We communicate daily and are always on the same page.

Q: Has being a mom influenced your relationship to sport, or your approach to distance running? If so, how?

A: As a mom, I make the best use of every single minute for training and plan my schedule weeks in advance. I focus on what I’m doing at the time so when I’m training, I don’t feel I should be with my kids and when I’m with my kids, I don’t feel I should be training. As my kids have gotten older, I’ve been surprised at the positive influence I’ve had on them. My husband and I aim to model the behaviour we want to see in our kids so when we see their passion, it’s very rewarding.

Q: You’ve been recuperating from a hip injury sustained at the Toronto Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon, and then very recently cracked a couple of ribs while skating with your kids. How do you maintain motivation through long intense training programs, especially when you have setbacks such as injuries?

A: The timing of these injuries was ideal, when I was not competing and needing a break after two 2:32 marathons in 2012. Because of my Christian faith, I have always trusted God and had peace about various struggles in life so this was no different. There certainly were times that I felt somewhat discouraged but for the most part, I welcomed the change in routine and still set goals. I’ve never struggled with motivation. In fact, I don’t know that I’ve ever had a day I haven’t wanted to work out. I established a steady cross-training program, enjoyed more quality time with my kids, and got a few things done that were low priority in 2012. My coach, Rick Mannen, was also a great help as an experienced marathoner himself.

Q: As well as a professional distance runner and a mother, you are also a nutritionist. How do you balance your various responsibilities/interests/loves while maintaining the intense focus that running at an elite level requires?

A: Communication with my husband is key, in order to balance training, work, volunteering, and the kids’ school and activities. I am always confirming the days’ events and looking ahead in order to keep all the balls in the air. I’ve always had a passion to do so many things so I love the busyness that comes with wearing so many hats! At home we call ourselves, “Team DuChene”, which helps us work together better.

Q: You’ve mentioned that you sometimes make a family weekend out of a race. Do you have any race weekend tips for balancing having fun with your family and being ready to race at a top level?

A: When we travel as a family to race, I make lists and start packing weeks in advance. With young kids, I make sure I put my stuff in a spot that can’t be reached so items don’t go missing! I try to make it as easy as possible for my husband by packing the clothes, toys, books and snacks so that the kids’ needs are met while we are away. We try to stick as close as we can to our normal eating and sleeping routine because it’s best for all of us. As for fun, I will stay back at the hotel to rest while our youngest naps and my husband and the older ones go out for the afternoon.

Q: You’ve had lots of success running in Ottawa. What do you love about the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend? Favourite moment running in Ottawa?

A: The Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend has been successful for me as an athlete and a lot of fun for our family. Because of the fun run, the kids and my husband can participate, which is really great for them. I can cheer them on, and they do the same later for me! Everything is well-organized and there is a great sense of community spirit from the participants and spectators. My favourite moment running in Ottawa was last year in 2012, when my two boys ran with my husband pushing our daughter in the Chariot for the 2 km race.

Q: Looking forward, what are your running goals for 2013 and beyond?

A: Right now our focus is to continue recovering from my pelvis/hip and rib injuries while steadily returning to running. Just like after having a baby, we’ll gradually increase the mileage and intensity while maintaining a consistent cross-training routine. I will definitely be setting the bar high again, going after that 2:28:36 Canadian record so would gladly welcome a few more personal bests this year! Making the standard to run the marathon at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio is definitely the long term goal. Another baby between now and then would be great (?!!) and since I seem to get faster after each baby, it might just work out well (;

Thank you Krista for taking the time to chat with us and we’re rooting for you to get that Canadian record! For more about Krista, check out her blog at: