Have you ever wondered what Canada’s top female marathon runner thinks about while she trains?
It’s not Olympic glory or the thrill of setting a new personal best. As she runs in darkness around her north Brantford neighbourhood, Krista DuChene has a more immediate goal in mind – breakfast.
“I work hard, but I love it,” said the 35-year-old athlete. “God gives me that energy, that desire, to set my alarm at 4:30 a.m., to get up, to do a 30-km run and be back to have breakfast with my family.”
In 2012, DuChene had the kind of success most runners can only dream of. That success has earned her the title of Brant News Sports Person of the Year.
Brantford’s “marathon mom” was the first woman across the finish line in eight races during 2012, including Hamilton’s Around the Bay Road Race and the Burlington Downtown Dash.
DuChene won the Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon and placed fifth at the Oasis ZooRun in Waterloo before overcoming humidity, rain-slicked streets and a pulled muscle to gut out a fourth-place finish against 25,000 competitors at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.
That track record of success won her the prestigious 2012 Canada Running Series women’s title.
But 2012 will also be remembered for what didn’t happen. Despite a seventh-place finish at the Rotterdam Marathon with a time of 2:32.06 – nearly five minutes faster than the International Association of Athletics Federations’ Olympic standard – Athletics Canada controversially left DuChene off the Canadian team for the London Olympics.
“Sure it’s disappointing when you trained so hard, but to expect a perfect race and perfect training is a little unrealistic,” DuChene said. “You have to adapt to those difficulties.”
The registered dietician grew up on a beef farm and ran high school track and cross country in Petrolia. She took up running full-time after her University of Guelph hockey career wound down.
Her ability to compete at an elite level while raising a family has won DuChene many admirers.
“Like any parent, there are certainly times where you can feel overwhelmed,” she said. “There are days that I want to pull my hair out because the house is just crazy, it’s a mess, the dog has to be let out, I need to make lunches – everything that can make life so chaotic with three kids.
“But I always want to send a positive message that I’m blessed to be able to have it all.”
Running helps DuChene deal with stress.
“It’s a time when I can pray, I can meditate,” she said. “And when I come back, I’m a better person for it.”
DuChene’s intense training regimen eats up her spare time and leaves her exhausted. She credits her husband, Jonathan, and her in-laws for picking up the slack.
“We’re a really good team,” she said. “Communication is key. It’s about love and respect.”
The busy mother tries to model perseverance for her two boys, Micah, 6, and Seth, 4, and her one-year-old girl, Leah. DuChene tells the story of how Micah wanted to train for the 1 km fun run in the Brantford Tournament of Races.
Unprompted, he would ask to go early to soccer practice to run around the track.
“I thought, ‘where do you get this from?’ And then I went, ‘oh, obviously, from me,’” she said with a smile.
When not running outdoors – pushing Leah in a running stroller – DuChene can be found on the treadmill at the Gretzky centre gym, her children under the watchful care of two staff members.
“Maureen and Jeanetta have taken care of all three kids basically from birth,” said a grateful DuChene, who can train without worry and still be on hand to change diapers and deal with any problems.
Under the tutelage of her coach, Rick Mannen, DuChene explores the art and science of running. She and Mannen, a former elite marathon runner, have formed a close bond.
“A huge part of this year was that relationship with Rick,” DuChene said. “We connect so well.”
Coach and athlete traveled to Japan for the 24th International Chiba Ekiden Road Race Relay in November. DuChene’s 5-km time of 16:52 helped the Canadian team to its best-ever finish – sixth among 15 countries – and fastest time ever in the renowned relay.
After a busy year, DuChene is now taking some time off before she ramps up training for the 2013 IAAF World Championships in Athletics in Moscow, Russia, next August. Her first worlds represent an important springboard to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
“I don’t ever want to get caught up in the fame of it,” she said. “I always want to bring it back to the gift that God has given me.”
Her discipline and relentless training keep her in top shape, but it is DuChene’s faith and positive attitude that help her go the distance.