Silvia Ruegger dies from cancer at 58

Canadian running lost an icon, we saw strong performances at Diamond League Paris and several athletes got the profile treatment this week.


The Canadian track & field world championship team is being announced today. This newsletter is going out before that news hits, so I will cover that in the next issue.

The Para PanAm Games are taking place Aug. 23 to Sept. 1. I’ll recap how Canada did in a future newsletter, once the games have wrapped.

This issue is also a round-up of random news and tidbits from the running world over the past week. Canadian running lost long-time record holder, Silvia Ruegger, to cancer. The IAAF Diamond League had their last regular-season meet in Paris. And I share some links I enjoyed this week.

As always, thanks for reading and keep on running!

Silvia Ruegger dies from cancer at at 58

Silvia Ruegger, who held the Canadian women’s marathon record from 1985 to 2013, died on Friday, Aug. 23 from cancer, according to Canadian Running. She was 58 years old.

Ruegger was born in Oshawa, Ont., on Feb. 23, 1961. She grew up on a farm in Newtonville, Ont., and attended the University of Guelph, where she studied psychology and nutrition. During this time, she struggled with running, thanks to injuries, but she remained focused on her goal: to run for Canada in the Olympics.

Ruegger placed eighth in the 1984 Olympic marathon, the first women’s Olympic marathon. The race was won by American Joan Benoit and became a pivotal moment for women’s distance running.

She ran her Canadian record 2:28:36 run in Houston in 1985.

Ruegger was destined for great things — to run faster, to have an even greater influence on Canadians and on running — but she was in a devastating car accident only a few months after her record-setting run. She tried her best to return to record form and her perseverance and dedication were admirable (and say more about the dedicated, determined woman she was than any record she set), but she would never run as fast again. Still, she ran 2:3153 at the 1987 Pittsburgh marathon, two years after the accident.

After retiring from competitive running, Ruegger began working with Start2Finish, and spent the rest of her life dedicated to encouraging physical activity and literacy in kids. She was the organization’s national director of their running and reading clubs when she died.

To remember Silvia, Canadian Running re-released their 2017 interview for their Shakeout podcast. She spoke to former host Joan Chung about deciding to become an Olympian when she was 15 years old, after watching the 1976 Montreal Olympics on TV. She began running at that time, and became fascinated with elite athletes. “I saw dedication, I saw passion, I saw courage,” she said in the episode. “Those things really spoke to me.”

The episode focuses on Ruegger’s 1984 Olympic marathon experience, which was the fulfilment of a childhood dream and a watershed moment for women’s running.

“As women, it brought change. It brought change because it was recognize that this was possible, for women to run this distance. Excellence was shown that day,” she said.

The Solas Centre for Public Christianity wrote a profile of Ruegger in June 2019 that’s worth reading. Ruegger was a Christian and her personal faith was very important to her throughout her life, helping her through running and also through battling cancer:

“Running is my faith walk with God,” she explains. “My relationship with God influences every moment of my life. In seasons of uncertainty, it has always anchored me. Through my running journey, it was what undergirded me and gave me strength  —  it has been the same through this health journey.”

Krista DuChene, who alongside Lanni Marchant broke Ruegger’s record in 2013, remembered Ruegger for iRun:

I admired most about her was how she used her accolades as a platform to serve others, something I learned when hearing her story for the first time 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.

In 2013, Ruegger wrote a letter to all runners in iRun:

You will able to do it. Although it is a physical battle to be sure, the mental one is the biggy on the day. Even if somewhere along the way your expectations change, it’s not the end of the world. You will extend yourself physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and there is great reward in that. You will never be the same.

Canadians do well at Paris Diamond League

The big Canadian news coming out of Paris Diamond League is that pole vaulter Alysha Newman won her first Diamond League meet and broke her own Canadian record. Congrats Alysha!

CBC Sports has a great recap of the entire meet, which you can read here.

Brandon McBride wins 800m

On the track front, Brandon McBride won the 800m. His time of 1:43.78 is a season’s best for the national 800m champion.

His next race will be the Diamond League final on Aug, 29 in Zurich. Making this year’s final was a goal for McBride this reason, as the 800m Canadian record holder missed the final last year.

The setback has fuelled him, he told CBC Sports, and had him and his coach rethink his approach to the 2019 season:

"It was a good experience and has worked out in the long run," McBride said. "It shaped me as an athlete and forced me to mature in how I manage my emotions and stress away from the track throughout the season.

"I said I never wanted to experience [missing a Diamond League final] again, so it was motivation entering this season."

His personal best, which is the Canadian record result he ran last summer, is 

You can watch the Paris 800m race below:

Canada wins gold in 4x100 relay

The men’s 4x100 relay team, which was comprised of Aaron Brown, Gavin Smellie, Brendon Rodney and Jerome Blake took home gold. Their time of 38.26 was a season’s best for the team and a meet record.

You can watch the race below:

Aaron Brown places third in 200m

Aaron Brown, Canada’s reigning 100m and 200m champion (he jusssssst edged out Andre DeGrasse in a dramatic 100m showdown), ran 20.13 to place third.

American Noah Lyles, who won the race, broke Usain Bolt’s meet record. He ran 19.73. Second place finisher, Ramil Guliyev of Turkey, ran 19.65.

Brown has qualified for the Diamond League final in Brussels.

Before the Paris meet, CBC Sports spoke to Brown about running in De Grasse’s shadow and the big dreams he has:

"If I'm still in the shadows, that's OK, I'm used to that," Brown said at the Canadian championships. "Even if I'm getting more recognition, I like to keep that chip-on-my-shoulder mentality because that's helped me in training when I need to push myself that extra edge."

You can watch the 200m race below:

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Jerome Blake: rising Canadian sprinting star

Jerome Blake is a rising Canadian sprinting star. He was on the PanAm Games team, where he competed in the 200m and the 4x100 relay, and placed third in the 200m at the Canadian national championships this summer.

Blake, who was born in Jamaica and is currently based in B.C. (he came to Canadian with his family in 2013), wants to be a “one percenter,” he told Athletics Illustrated in June of this year — that is, he wants to run under 10 seconds in the 100m and under 20 seconds in the 200m.

In the same Athletics Illustrated piece, Blake talked about how important relay experience is for him to get better as an individual:

“I want to represent Canada on the main stage,” says the personable Blake. “Of course I’d like to run as an individual, but the relays are a great opportunity to get a medal.”

He acknowledges that the others all have experience running relays in major international events, but says he’s determined to make the best of any opportunity he gets and make the decision even more difficult for Canadian coach Glenroy Gilbert.

“That’s something both my parents drummed into me,” says Blake. “If the opportunity comes, you’ve got to take it. I am an opportunist. I have nothing to lose and everything to gain. On any given day anyone can beat anybody. I just have to run and see what happens.”

Blake is being mentored by relay teammate Aaron Brown:

“I love racing against him,” Blake said in a recent interview. “Me and Aaron are close. Ever since we met, he’s one of those guys who’s always been there for me, giving me tips, always helping me.”

In a sponsored series, CBC Sports profiled Blake and his rapid rise to racing competitively on an international scale. You can watch the profile below:

Three Canadians running New Balance 5th Avenue Mile in NYC

The New Balance Fifth Avenue Mile is one of the most fun and most prestigious mile road races out there. The race is a mile straight-away on Fifth Avenue in New York City.

This year, three Canadians are in the elite field:

Geneviève Lalonde, Canadian steeplechase national record holder, reigning national champion, who is coming off a PanAm Games steeplechase gold record and Games record performance

Jessica O’Connell, who won a silver medal in the 5,000m at the PanAm Games, and broke the Canadian 3,000m indoor record earlier this year.

Mariah Kelly, a 1,500m specialist who placed third in the distance at the Canadian national championships.

The women’s race has been won seven times in a row by American Jenny Simpson.

There are no Canadians in the men’s pro field.

The 5th Avenue Mile will take place on Sunday, Sept, 8.

Toronto Sun profiles Rachel Cliff

The Toronto Sun profiled Canadian marathon record holder Rachel Cliff, just as she wraps a successful summer track season and starts to look towards Tokyo 2020.

Cliff is currently the only Canadian runner with the Olympic marathon standard.

She talks about her heartbreak after not making the 2016 Olympic team and how she thinks she can run even faster:

“I think I can run faster, and I’d love to run faster,” Cliff said last week, after returning from the Pan Am Games in Peru, where she won a bronze medal in the 10,000 metres. “But, especially in the marathon, so much can go wrong, so your primary goal is to get to the start line healthy. I’ve had two very positive experiences in the marathon, so we’ll see what the number is.

“If I end up doing the marathon at the Tokyo Olympics, it’s not going to be fast because it will be so hot. If I do that, it’s right in the middle of the year, so it likely impacts where else I can do marathons, too.”

The article discusses Cliff’s sponsorship deal with Swiss shoe company On. On made this video profile of Cliff this summer:

Melissa Bishop-Nriagu ends 2019 season

This isn’t the season I had planned on paper. A post pregnancy body isn’t the same as a pre pregnancy one. I made the tough call to end this season and get ready for #tokyo2020. My fitness is there, but the body structure changes and makes it increasingly difficult to stay in one piece. It makes me sad that I can’t perform and show the world the work we’ve done. It’s there, I promise. Don’t lose faith yet, I haven’t. Patience will be my biggest test
#tokyo2020 #yabish #motherrunner
August 24, 2019

Canadian 800m record holder Melissa Bishop-Nriagu has decided to end her 2019 season early.

After taking a year off to have her first baby, Bishop-Nriagu was focused on making the 2019 world championship team. She failed to meet the standard of 2:00 before the qualifying window closed.

On Instagram, she cited how much her body has changed since giving birth:

“My fitness is there, but the body structure changes and makes it increasingly difficult to stay in one piece. It makes me sad that I can’t perform and show the world the work we’ve done. It’s there, I promise. Don’t lose faith yet, I haven’t. Patience will be my biggest test.”

Her focus now is making the Tokyo 2020 Olympic team.

CBC Sports wrote about Bishop-Nriagu’s decision, looking at how she’s trying to balance motherhood and competitive running and how placing fourth at Rio in 2016 was one of the most painful moments of her career:

Bishop-Nriagu said she is ready to run fast again and reaching the podium in Tokyo is the goal.

"Fourth is something you never want to be in again, ever. It feels like a pain in your side that won't go away," she told Anson Henry of CBC Sports in August 2017.

"I don't have [an Olympic] medal. That's like the biggest box [unchecked] on my list of things to do in life."

Malindi Elmore talks to Manitoba Marathon

Malindi Elmore, who made her marathon debut in Houston this year and is going for the Olympic standard at Toronto in October, did a Q&A with the Manitoba Marathon.

Earlier this year, the Manitoba Marathon hosted the Canadian half-marathon championships, which Elmore won, setting a course record in the process.

In the piece, Elmore talks about returning to running after a long time away (She ran the 1,500m for Canada at the 2004 Olympics), reinvention and her time as a triathlete (she was a competitive Ironman for a while before returning to running), her nutrition and more:

Congratulations on your win on Sunday! Not only did you set a nice PB for yourself, but you also crushed the previous course record. What do you think were the keys to your success?

I believe in consistency and patience with both training and racing. Sunday’s race was a result of several months of regular training and commitment to event.  During the race, I also locked into a good consistent pace and even though I felt really good early on, forced myself to stay patient because it inevitably gets tougher toward the end.

You have had quite the career so far: you started out as a middle-distance runner, then after retiring from that you started competing in the Ironman, finishing third in your first go in Arizona in 2016. Now you are moving into full and half marathons. Can you talk a little bit about that evolution in your career as an athlete?

I believe in re-invention, new challenges and keeping things fresh. I like to have new goals to keep things interesting for myself and to be excited by the “unknown” of trying new events. There is a learning curve that goes along with new pursuits and it is really fun to dig into the challenge and to be a bit vulnerable with trying new things when you are unsure of how it will go and how you will do. Ultimately, I love to compete and bring my best to race day regardless of the distance and event.

CBC profiles Kenyan runner Leonard Chesoo, who is chasing his running dream in Canada

Leonard Chesoo grew up in Kenya and came to Canada in 2018.

This summer, he won the lululemon 10K in Edmonton in dominant fashion and mainstream media took notice of the 24 year old.

He currently attends the Concordia University of Edmonton, where he runs on their cross-country team. He was named the 2018-2019 Alberta Colleges Athletics Conference (ACAC) rookie athlete of the year.

He tried to get a running scholarship to the United States, but when that failed, approached he Concordia University of Edmonton himself. Coach Matt Norminton said yes, and ever since Chesoo arrived, he’s been making waves:

On July 7, Chesoo established himself on the national running scene when he finished first in the annual Lululemon Edmonton 10K race.

He finished with a time of 29:27, beating out one of the country’s top marathon racers, Vancouver’s Evan Esselink, by 30 seconds.

Former Canadian Olympians Cam Levins finished third at 30:14 and Reid Coolsaet fourth with a time of 30:15.

Norminton watched in disbelief from the sidelines.

“I mean he won the race by over 30 seconds,” he said. “He beat Reid Coolsaet and Cam Levins by 45 seconds. It was a really, really big run for him.

“He'd never broken 31 minutes before. Then to go out and win a big race and run under 29:30, I don't know if he realizes how big a deal that is.”

The final kick

That’s it for this week! Next week’s newsletter will be coming your way on Tuesday, Sept. 3 because Monday is Labour Day!

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