“All winners from the start line”
“It couldn’t have come at a better time.”
That’s what Alexandra said to herself when she was asked to be co-spokesperson (with Charles Philibert-Thiboutot) for the Montreal Beneva Marathon. Recently healed from a ski injury that took her over a year to fully recover from, she has been training for two months now. She plans to participate not only in the 5K race on Saturday, but also in the half-marathon race the next day, if her coach, Olympian Pierre Léveillé, allows her to do so.
On the other end of the phone, the voice of the journalist, host, author and traveler is most enthusiastic. “My rehabilitation was long, very long. I spent almost a year on it. I was very disciplined with my physical therapy treatments, but I am hyperactive and not being able to move was a big ordeal. There were moments of anger.”
She confides that she compensated by eating a little too much and drinking a little more alcohol than she normally would. “The problem wasn’t the overindulgence, but how I had to learn the hard way to manage myself to get through it. It’s frustrating to go through, but you grow from it!” The collaboration with the Montreal Beneva Marathon could not have come at a better time, says the woman who has been running for ten years.
Alexandra often describes herself as a “bouncy potato” because “I’ve always been a hyperactive girl, but not an athlete. I run at a magical pace, that of a potato, but always dapper and constant!”
After a 16-year career in journalism (TVA and Radio-Canada), she felt the need to evolve her career. “It coincided with my son starting school and the irregular hours of a journalist no longer suited me.
Alexandra gave herself two years to find something she was as passionate about as covering the news, a field she left without regret after giving it her all. But her nature fears a vacuum. Knowing that leaving such a demanding job would give her more time to herself, she has two options: improve her language skills (she speaks French, English, Spanish, understands Portuguese and Italian, and studied Japanese in college) or… play sports.
“Until that day, I had never really been an athlete. Running came naturally to me thanks to a friend who is a marathon runner and who taught me how to run without judgment. It was with him that she did her first ever run on Mount Royal. “He guided me in all aspects, my stride, my pace, and we completed the ascent and descent in 53 minutes. I haven’t stopped running since.”
That day, Alexandra felt invincible and her boyfriend’s advice saved her from many beginner’s mistakes: overexertion, heel strike and the like. She then participated in several events that led her to take part in the Esprit de corps challenge, a 72-hour Montreal-New York relay race. “At the finish line, I was in such a state of euphoria that I decided to participate again!”
My pace, my race
“When I participate in a race, I get passed, but I also pass myself, that’s all that matters.” Alexandra is not in the performance, but rather in the pleasure and the search of well-being.
Does it seem paradoxical to her to say out loud that she is not competitive but participates in a competition such as a half marathon (21.1 km)? Her answer is unequivocal: “I don’t compete, I schedule myself. Maybe I’ll be the last one there! Not the very last, but almost…”.
“There is an act of humility in being passed. Reality is humbling, even if I gave it my all, if I exploded on the course, I have no chance of winning and that’s fine. I know that I am surrounded by good runners, elite runners, and to be among them, I am already a winner. I could have stayed home and watched the parade go by but I decided to be a part of it.”
The woman who says she loves being surrounded by the best in everything wishes she could manage to “inspire other women to ‘kick their ass’ and jump into the arena. We’re all winners, and that’s from the moment we get to the starting line. It’s the journey that got us there that makes us winners. The medal could be given to us at the start”.
In her opinion, the effort you put into running pays off: mental, emotional and physical health. “Women – some men too – are very hard on our bodies. Most of the time, we are dissatisfied with our body image. After a run, I feel beautiful! I make peace with it and a lot of other things after a workout.”
In the same breath, Alexandra explains to me that she does it for herself first, but inevitably it reflects on those around her. “My relationships are more harmonious because I run.
The time posted on the official time clock and her rank are of no importance to her. “I finish my races feeling fulfilled and happy. Her coach of ten years, Pierre Léveillé, often reminds her that her goal should always be to have fun.
In order to train consistently and diligently, Alexandra uses a training plan. “It takes one, I have a busy life, we have four kids at home and the reasons would be easy to find to skip a run.
But there’s more to life than just running. There’s also food. For the author of the book Fiesta Santé: mes recettes et trucs pour commencer à bouger et être débordant d’énergie, food and the pleasure it brings are a very important part of her life and that of her family. “In life, you have to cook… No need to cook like a chef, let’s keep it simple, but let’s cook!”
“At home, my boyfriend and I are not at the service of our children. You’ll never hear me say, ‘Kids, dinner’s ready! We work as a team, we make meals together and everyone benefits. And that includes washing the dishes. We do the exercise of asking each other what we want for dinner, we discuss it and we prepare it. Happiness!”
Her relationship with food became healthier again once the long recovery from her ski injury was over. “I did some food compensation. I was angry that I couldn’t move and I ate too much (badly). To my loved ones, with my glass of bubbles in my hand and the other in the bag of chips, I seemed happy, but deep inside there was such anger.”
But don’t think she eats perfectly every day. “In my eyes, it’s an impossible goal to achieve and it only brings stress. Sometimes I eat junk food. A stop at the potato stand makes me completely happy and I don’t feel any guilt as long as it’s occasional. I try the best I can and stay away from processed foods, but I don’t make it a disease.”
Looking back, she draws positives from this forced break. Perhaps this year of introspection and downtime will have benefited her. With two months of training behind her, the future looks bright. Does she learn from it? “I now know what it’s like to be at a standstill. At the slightest sign of a possible injury, I calm down in training. I want to “last” as a runner, just as I want to last in my professional, love and family life. I want to be a little old lady who runs.”
While she doesn’t want to become an influencer because she still nurtures her journalistic endeavors, she does want to be an inspiration to any woman who might be thinking about taking up running. “Do it for you,” she says loud and clear.
When she takes part in the two events during the Montreal Beneva Marathon weekend, Alexandra will have a special thought for the two most important women in her life: “My mother Gloria and my mother-in-law Carole. Both left much too early, struck down by cancer. “These two women were beacons in our lives, free spirits, women without judgment towards others. My boyfriend and I share this long mourning. My mother loved me, cajoled me, I am the woman I am today because I did not lack attention or love. My mother-in-law also loved me and told me so and made me feel it. I also miss our enlightening conversations. There is not a day that goes by that their teachings don’t guide me. I run to be worthy of what I have received.”
Do I run with or without music?
I always run with music. I’ve started every workout for the past 10 years to Eminem’s Lose Yourself.
How cold does the mercury have to be to discourage me from running in the winter?
None. You have to know how to dress in peels.
After a good workout or a competition, I guiltlessly indulge in what food?
Anything that gives me pleasure. No story of reward and merit or guilt. Life is short!
Do I ever run on a treadmill?
I’ve done it during my rehab.
The running event I want to participate in?
I run in every city I visit. I want to run in as many cities as possible!
A runner who inspires me.
My 2 children: Henri (16), Simone (13), and my 2 stepchildren: Alexis (11), Florence (7).
An inspiring read
Là où je me terre, by Caroline Dawson, published by Remue-Ménage.
I don’t know the author personally, but like me, Caroline Dawson is a Chilean immigrant. Her book moved me.
In a word, what kind of runner am I ?