Meet The Coaches: Olivia Long

It’s hard to pinpoint any one start to my running career.

I could say it started as a kid, when playing tag and running like a maniac at recess was my favourite game.

Or I could say it started when I was in competitive rowing and we routinely ran as part of our warm-up and ran a 3k time-trial at the start of each season.

There was also a period where I was a “secret runner”, plodding on a treadmill in the basement of my family home.

I think my true start in endurance running was my very first 16k run when I was 17. After months of building up from huffing and puffing through 10mins to stumbling through an hour long run, I mapped a 16k route and decided no matter how slowly I had to run, I would finish. At the end, my legs were sore, but my breathing was steady. It was a big moment for me. To run
that distance and to feel tired, but accomplished and slightly in awe of the distance I’d covered with my own two feet. I was hooked.

In my first year of unIMG_7409croppediversity I joined the cross-country team. It was the team’s first year and it allowed for a lot of growth for its athletes. We were a bit of a rag-tag bunch, and we practiced with the more established UNB cross-country team. They were all lanky, deer-like creatures that ran incredible times. To my great surprise, I wasn’t too far behind their female runners.

My first ever race was a 5k cross-country race in 2007 at Mount Allison in Sackville, New Brunswick. It was a very panicky first race. I had no strategy, and no clue how to pace. I’d been running all summer, but only trained with the team for a few weeks. I went out fast, and claimed first quickly. There was a very tall girl from Mount Allison. She was probably just a normal girl, but to me she felt like The Mountain in Game of Thrones. I was terrified. I somehow held on to first place, by having two mantras: a fearful repetition of ‘Good God, don’t let her catch me!’ and the lyrics from Kanye’s hit ‘Stronger’ playing in my head. I crossed the finish line hyperventilating. I’d never been in so much pain. In cross-country we say “leave it all on the track”. Meaning, you finish the race knowing you couldn’t have expended one more ounce of energy. In that race, I felt I had truly left it all out there, and while I wouldn’t say that I couldn’t wait to do it again, something about the mania of a race, of pushing my body to its limits, caught my interest.

I spent the next four years chasing first place at cross-country meets and never found it again, though I did regularly achieve second and third place. I competed at the National ACAA Cross-Country Championships in 2008, 2009, and 2010. I helped foster our newbie cross-country team to a established contender on the field. Besides the workouts, what I really loved about running was the camaraderie the team offered. It’s fun to go out with a group, to support each other, and know you’re all working together even while pursuing independent goals.

In 2011, I graduated from university and said good-bye to cross-country. For a long time, I’d wanted to run endurance races. I decided to train for a half marathon and chose to make my debut in Ottawa. I always liked the idea of longer distances, but I didn’t have a clue how to train for it. I knew how to train for and race a 5k, but the idea of racing 21.1k was absolutely foreign to me. I went out too fast, blew up, and managed to cross the finish line with the clock just under 2 hours. I didn’t run another half-marathon until the fall of 2012 and then another in 2013. Training on my own, I succeeded in dropping my time to 1:41:42.

I was happy with my race times, but I missed the structure and camaraderie of training and racing with a team. I wanted a group to both celebrate and suffer with. I started to lose fitness and ran more and more infrequently. I knew something had to change. I needed a new goal; a big goal, one that I couldn’t just muddle through. So I joined the Beaches Running Room Marathon clinic.

I began as most beginners do with the marathon, nervous and unsure. It didn’t take long for me to get into the groove and see that what makes marathon runners so impressive is their dedication to their goal. Inspired by the group, I trained throughout one of the coldest winters on record and completed my first marathon in May in a time of 3:49:57.

Before I had even completed my marathon, I signed up to be the summer Marathon Clinic Instructor. I wanted to push and motivate others, and to foster the team atmosphere I remembered from my varsity cross-country days. I also felt that I could relate to runners chasing their first marathon, and offer my experience as a competitive runner to the established marathoners in the group.

All in all, I have to say teaching the Marathon Clinic was one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had. I am so proud of all my runners, and I hope to continue to see them progress in their running career.

Progress is one of the main reasons I eagerly became part of the Adaptive Running Academy. To truly progress, a runner needs a program tailored to their individuals goals, abilities, and motivations. I’m excited to be part of a coaching team with Stan and Dave, two extremely established runners that I have the privilege of working and running with, to offer this kind of tailoring to our runners.

I’m looking forward to the start of our training for the Spring Half- and Full-Marathon. Let’s have one hell of a season, Adaptive!

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