Going the distance

Whether running the roads or on the trails, competing or training, this sport has become the epicenter of my life and career.

C Blanchette speaking

I grew up on a hobby farm in Trenholmville, Quebec, a farming community and suburb of the tiny town of Richmond in the Eastern Townships between Montreal and Quebec City. They were both too small to make it on the map when I lived there – and are not much bigger today.

Like many kids, I had pets growing up, only mine were a skunk named Patches, a pig named Wilbur and Petit J.A.R., my Shetland pony. The closest large town, Sherbrooke, was about 50 kilometres away, where I would eventually study marketing and print journalism at Champlain College and Bishops University.

It was there that I met my future ex-husband Bob who wanted to move out west. It was Bob who introduced me to the sport of running. Leaving my hometown to go to college wasn’t easy and moving to British Columbia was even harder—like moving to another country. I needed to overcome a number of obstacles along the way, including resentment from my parents for moving out west. I also happened to be extremely shy. It was a work in progress for me to speak in any situation.

Bob was the one who’d been encouraging me to run and when I finally gave in I found it wasn’t easy—I huffed and puffed. Running was a revelation for me but by day three of my introduction, Bob was wondering what he might do to keep up with me. I kept at it and soon found I could endure long distances without getting tired. I was far from athletic growing up and was always picked last in team sports, so those first runs with Bob changed my life.

Little did I know, in 1998 I would be starting an incredible journey toward a career in which running would be the epicenter. I ran my first local 10k race and the feeling was intoxicating, like an adrenaline boost. I knew right then I would explore running for all its worth.

My first marathon was Vancouver in 1999. When I crossed the finish line I was told by Canadian Olympian Carey Nelson that I had qualified to run the Boston Marathon. Boston had never even entered my thoughts. In 2000 I entered my first 50k ultra marathon, which had by then become a bucket list item. Somehow I managed to complete the 10k lap of Elk Lake—which is outside Victoria—the necessary five times, finishing as the second woman overall. It served as a major confidence boost and I felt definitely on a roll with my running.

My life changed again late in 2000 when Bob wanted to move to Korea for a year to teach English as a second language (ESL). I wondered what would become of my running and there was my job at the newspaper I would have to quit. Bob seemed bothered by the fact I was in the limelight at our running club, the Lions Gate Road Runners. I wasn’t sure if I was making the right decision, but I left everything behind and moved to South Korea to teach ESL with Bob.

Little did Bob know that making traction here with my running was just a precursor to much bigger results in South Korea. I ended up winning some races and becoming a celebrity. I will never forget running in the inaugural half marathon race to commemorate the opening of a new expressway. A helicopter came down close to follow me and I didn’t know what was going on. Was I in trouble or what? I learned soon enough, they were taking pictures and filming because I was leading the race. That event made the TV and radio news and the front page of the daily papers.

Coming back to Canada in 2001 I didn’t skip a beat with my running and ended up getting a part-time job back at the newspaper. In 2005 I ran the Boston Marathon. It was an incredible experience to run the most iconic marathon in the world, with more than half a million people lining the route.

The last mile was unforgettable—from the CITGO 1-mile to go marker to the final turn, to sight of the huge finish line banner. The people of Boston were just amazing.

 This edited speech was given at the She Talks lecture series in Vancouver on February 6th, 2016.

This edited speech was given at the She Talks lecture series in Vancouver on February 6th, 2016.

I began writing for the media and that same year I started writing a running column. In the 2008 recession, I was laid off from my job in sales support at the newspaper. Difficult times would follow but I stayed positive and—no cliché intended—it turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me. That’s when I had my epiphany moment—the idea to start my own TV show Run With It on Shaw TV. I drew from limited experience in television media as an intern for the CBC and at Rogers, and from instinct. It took two years to get it to air and the experience was exhilarating. The first episode was not my best work, but I stayed with it.

Along the way I’ve learned a lot more than I thought possible about elite training, proper nutrition and recovery from experts and professionals who appear on the show. It took a team to help me to get where I am today. If not for Doug Lucas, the person who believed in my proposal and helped get the show off the ground, I don’t believe I could have done it. Doug’s name will always be in the credits.

I owe running a lot because it’s the centerpiece of my home business. These days, I occasionally write for national publications like the Huffington Post and OptiMYz magazine, and locally for BC Woman magazine, the Vancouver Sun and the Seattle Times. I have a radio show on running back east at CJMQ radio and I write a weekly running column for the Sherbrooke Record, Quebec’s second-largest English language newspaper. I guess it just goes to show, you can take the girl out of the town but you can’t take the town out of the girl. Run With It is British Columbia’s only running, fitness and health TV show.

I have met a lot of inspirational people along the way. After the divorce, Bob found happiness with a non-runner and I hooked up with a runner-type guy—coincidentally, of course. When I’m not writing about it, or hosting my show, you will find me running on the road or trails, which I think of as my oasis from the rat race. It’s where I lose myself in thought or meditate and think of nothing at all. I still enjoy competing and my favorite type of running is cross country, which offers the added bonus of being at one with Mother Nature. I believe finding your passion—whatever it is—will help inspire others.

To see more of Christine’s work online visit her at www.runwithit.ca, on twitter at @christineruns, or on Youtube at runwithitcb1.

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