Gratitude. It helps us through trying times when we can pause and think about how our needs are being met over our wants. We are better when we choose to appreciate all that we do have and that which we are just fine to live without. At the beginning of the pandemic, I posted a daily story on my social media. It started with a picture of a coffee mug (it always had coffee in it) and ended with a note of gratitude before I happily headed out the door for my run. After 40 days I ran out of coffee mugs (yes, we had that many) and I felt I could use a break from so much posting. But I did not stop with the gratitude.
I have a friend, Shannon, who has been writing a thankfulness post every single day since Ontario shut down due to the pandemic. She starts with, “Today I’m thankful for…” and ends with, “What are you thankful for today?” She has been an encouragement to many, and gets a lot of positive comments from others who are also thankful. In one of her first posts, she wrote, “Today I’m thankful for the love of family. I’m thankful for the little smiling innocent faces that keep me going. I’m thankful for political leaders who are making tough decisions for my benefit and putting my stress in perspective. I’m thankful for podcasts that remind me to breathe. What are you thankful for today?”
I admire her endurance and creativity as she has now shared over 65 thankfulness messages. I am sure there are days she struggles to write but she always finds a way. Thank you, Shannon. I think you have brightened many lives, likely more than you know. Today I am sharing about three runners I admire, for whom I am thankful, because of their contribution to our running community. It’s a simple way I can be grateful. Perhaps you can pause, think about it, and post your thoughts on gratitude or thankfulness—tell us about runners (or people) you admire.
Jo Pavey is a humble, kind, inspirational, selfless, and respected woman who sets no limits. She is a five-time Olympian, representing Great Britain in 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012, and 2016. She is the only British runner and track athlete to have competed in five Olympic Games. We share a few things in common: she is a mom, born in the 1970’s, and a Saucony athlete with the same middle name, Marie. When asked about being at the 2016 Rio Olympics she replied, “I loved being on the team in Rio with people who are 20 years younger,” which is another commonality between us. I enjoyed reading her excellent autobiography, “Jo Pavey: This Mum Runs,” which I am happy to own on my Kindle. From the 1500m to the marathon, she has a long list of fast times, records, and podium finishes.
Of all of them, which one is most impressive to me? It’s her win in the 10,000m at the 2014 European Championships, ten months after giving birth to her second child. Also in that race, she became the oldest female European champion in history at the age of nearly 41. She was fifth in the 5000m at the 2004 Olympic Games, and won the bronze medal in the 10,000m at the 2007 World Championships, which she received 10 years later because another athlete was suspended for doping. She is lovely and down to earth, and it was an absolute honour to meet her when we raced the 2017 London Marathon.
Kara Goucher also received an upgrade, to a silver medal, from that same World Championships 10,000m. She’s not afraid to speak out on doping and many other important issues, which is just one of the many things I admire about her. My favourite video clip of Kara, a very well decorated two-time Olympian (2008, 2012), is her post-race interview after just missing the 2016 Olympic team with a fourth place finish at the marathon trials. She’s understandably heartbroken and teary, knowing just how close she was to making her third Olympic team. She could have declined the interview, but instead shared her open and honest raw emotions, just moments after finishing while still rubbing ice cubes on her body to cool it down. She humbly expresses that her competition was simply better than her and that she did all she could in the race. Moments later she is then asked about her former coach, Alberto Salazar, as she was then a whistleblower with doping allegations against him (after a lengthy investigation, he was finally banned for 4 years for doping offences, which he is currently serving). During this portion of the interview, it’s like a flip is switched. We see her express her thoughts and emotions in another passionate way.
She starts chomping on those ice cubes with confidence and authority, unloading on the situation and explaining how she came back stronger, after letting go of all the baggage and stress that went with testifying against him. This video is worth viewing. She wears her heart on her sleeve and is a strong, powerful woman. She speaks out with both a fiery intensity against situations of injustice, and a kind and gentle spirit in support of vulnerable groups. As a young girl, she suffered the loss of her father who was killed by a drunk driver, and as a woman she struggled with infertility. She’s open and honest about these hardships, which I’m sure has helped others through similar journeys. Like Jo, she has many accolades, with my favourite again being an incredible postpartum performance—her personal best of 2:24 and 5th place finish at the 2011
Boston Marathon, just 6 months after giving birth to her son. Our commonalities include being moms, born in the 1970’s, and third place Boston Marathon finishers. Most recently she has further inspired me to start racing distances longer than 42.2 km after her 50 km North Face Endurance Challenge Championships in November 2019.
Silvia Reugger. My heart is saddened when I think about how we lost Silvia just last summer to cancer—far too soon. I was inspired by her Canadian marathon record of 28 years that she set when winning the 1985 Houston Marathon and her 8th place finish in 1984 in Los Angeles, which was the first women’s marathon at the Olympic Games. But what did I most admire about her? She used her accolades as a platform to serve others, something I learned when hearing her speak at an event several years ago. I was able to meet and chat with her afterwards, enjoying the conversation as we discovered our commonalities of being from small towns, attending the University of Guelph, and sharing our Christian faith. I knew that if I succeeded like her, I would want to also give back and put others first.
My most meaningful interaction with Silvia was a few years later, in 2013 when I wanted to break her record, but did so after Lanni Marchant. On route to the awards ceremony when I told her I was disappointed, Silvia comforted me with the words, “It takes more grace than I can tell to play the second fiddle well.” I asked her to repeat it because I knew it would be a defining moment in my life. And it was. Choosing to celebrate being
second fastest Canadian became a key message at my public speaking engagements, particularly at schools. It kept me grounded and humbled. It allowed me to keep working and encouraging others that they can be their best even if it’s not the best. I think of her and am grateful for knowing her when I read 1 Peter 3:15: “Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy.”