On the heels of sharing my sob story on being on the injured list, I was offered the opportunity to interview Krista DuChene, mother of three, Olympic athlete and marathon runner. Krista recently ran the illustrious Boston Marathon, finishing an astonishing third place. Krista has had her share of injuries, setbacks and detours, and as a registered dietitian, Krista is a champion of her industry and sport, an advocate for living well. Hero status unlocked!
Libby Roach- You’re well accomplished, and continuing to achieve goals that women, yours truly included, are downright envious of. Were you always an avid runner?
Krista DuChene- I did every sport I could when I was a kid. I was very active as a child- my mother used to lock me out of the house and burn up all my energy before she would let me back in! I continue to love doing that, getting out there and enjoying the outdoors. I ran in high school and played hockey- I started playing at the age of 4. Those were the two sports I was most passionate about, but at the end of high school I had to decide between the two, in terms of what school I was going to attend. I ended up choosing hockey and attended the University of Guelph as they had a great women’s ice hockey program and a good nutrition program for me to become an registered dietitian. It wasn’t until I retired from hockey that I went out for a run one day, long before we had Garmins that told us how far we were going, and I ended up running 18K, so I figured a full marathon was 42.2, so I set a goal of doing a marathon a year after that, and the rest was history. My first marathon was 2002, I was 25 years old.
LR- You were in 10th place, 7K to go, and came on like a freight train. What happened in Boston that gave you that mental edge?
KD- I ran it once before in ’05. Since then I’ve had three kids, 12, 10 & 7, so it’s been a busy! Going into Boston I had prepared to run a strong race, not a fast race. I was ready for the hills, so my coach Dave and I, who I’ve known since I went to Guelph when he was my track coach worked the marathon build that I trained at sea-level with him, my other build was for the London marathon that I went to Kenya to train for a month for. It was neat to see how things worked out for me, training in Ontario with the weather we had, he taught me to run by feel. Pace doesn’t matter in those conditions. I wanted to kick in when the hills started, that’s when I mentally told myself that the race started. I ran Around The Bay 30K just before and did the same thing, ran a smart race and stuck to my plan. In terms of conditions, it was ideal, time didn’t matter, rain and cold worked to my advantage. I remember looking out of the window on the bus ride there thinking ‘it’s not raining hard enough!’
LR- And physically?
KD- I’ve done my share of tempo runs on the treadmill for years, but I’ve also gone out in every weather you can imagine, which helped that day for sure too. I think our Canadian winters definitely helped.
LR- You’re 41 and you’re making huge strides! You have so much going on, how do you manage it all?
KD- I’m not shy to talk about my faith. There’s a quote from Chariots of Fire from Eric Liddell: I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure. That’s what it is about for me. God is #1, everything else falls into place after that. That’s how our family lives. The Olympics was probably peak for me, I checked that box, and everything else is just icing on the cake, and the icing just gets thicker. After Rio, I won National Championships in Toronto in the fall, and then had stomach issues unfortunately in London after that good month of training in Kenya. I had a stress fracture in my foot which was my body’s way of telling me I needed a season off. Dave had me cross training and I just had such a strong base, I focused on that going into Boston.
What’s next? As long as I wake up every day and want to run, and I have the passion for it, then there’s nothing really stopping me.
People started to ask me if I’m going for the next Olympics, and then I got to thinking that the qualifier is only a year away, so yeah, I guess so! Age is nothing to me, I still feel like I’m learning about this running thing.
LR- And with your chosen profession weaving so well with your sport, you know the ins and outs of how to fuel your body for a race- any tips?
KD- Go to meals-my eating is pretty basic, there’s no magic potions or anything, I’m just deliberate on what I eat. I truly enjoy eating healthy foods. I don’t have to think too hard, being a dietitian. Half your plate is veggies, ¼ is lean protein, ¼ is whole grains with a glass of whole milk. Pork tenderloin with brown rice, roasted veg and salad, for lunch, a tuna wrap with spinach side of veg, and a glass of milk. For breakfast, I have my go-to green smoothie with a bowl of stoked oats oatmeal, with peanut butter, chia, hemp and flax. In the past I’ve been too tight with my diet, but this time I enjoyed a cookie here and there, but tightened it up two weeks prior to race day. Endurance Tap gels are my go-to during a race- it’s pure maple syrup, and if there’s any leftovers I’m putting them on my waffles, ice cream, or cheesecake!
LR- And not to make this about me, but there’s many women out there trying to get a leg up on getting into sport, or working out, what advice do you have someone who’s starting fresh?
KD- When you’re injured, find something you can do, that’s not going to make it worse. It might not replace running but being active is most important. Don’t sit around and feel sorry for yourself. Like pool running, most people hate it, but when I was injured I took it up and now it’s part of my routine. You want to enjoy the sport, it’s important that you go out there and enjoy the opportunity, have fun, work hard. There’s going to be setbacks, but it’s only going to make the highlights of your career that much more exciting. Don’t focus on what you can’t do. When I was laying in the hospital after breaking my femur and getting screws put in my leg my goal was to go across the room to use the bathroom with my crutches. Then it was going home and trying to get over that first step. Then it was walking around the house with a walker and a laundry basket, then it was a cane to a shuffle to a jog, to making the Olympics a year later. My sponsors have been behind me every step of the way too, Saucony has been amazing, and my coach and friend Dave from Speed River is the best.
LR- You also advocate for women in sports, including coaching your own daughter’s hockey team.
KD- I started playing hockey with the boys. There wasn’t girl’s hockey back then. There wasn’t once that I thought I couldn’t do a sport because it was more male dominated. That carried through to running, if I’m in the lead as female, you know who those men are, the ones that wanted to beat the first woman. I recognize that and either try to shrug it off and laugh or use it to pace myself for a personal best time.
*Interview may be edited for length/clarity.