Moncton runner Geneviève Lalonde taking a break from competition
Lalonde said time away will help her prepare for 2024 Olympics in Paris
Olympic runner Geneviève Lalonde of Moncton has announced she is taking a break from competition. But she isn't retiring.
The 30-year-old who reclaimed the Canadian record in the women's 3,000-metre steeplechase at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics said she hasn't stopped training or competing since she began her athletics career nearly two decades ago.
Lalonde said she is opting out of competing this summer season, which is the most strenuous time for track athletes as they train and compete between April and September.
"I've been competing in athletics since I was 12 years old and the thing with distance runners is we have no off-season," she said in an interview from Victoria.
She said the constant pressure and hard work, on top of some more recent traumatic events, have caused her to lose motivation.
"The past couple of years it's been pretty intense," she said.
In the last Olympic cycle, Lalonde said she competed in every national team she could.
Lalonde said she left an unhealthy training environment in Guelph, Ont., during that time. She was there for a decade.
"It was a pretty psychologically traumatic time … we uplifted our life and moved out to Victoria at the end of 2019," she said.
"Not only did we move across the country, we had to set up a whole new team and coaching team and begin to prepare for the Olympics."
Lalonde said experiencing the trauma and dramatic changes in her life, on top of enduring a pandemic, took a big toll and she now needs to take a mental and physical break.
Next summer will be crucial. She will need to compete in order to qualify and prepare for the 2024 Olympics in Paris, making this a good time to step away.
She said she first realized this break was needed when her coach pulled her aside, noticing she wasn't entirely herself.
"It was the first time someone had said, 'You don't have to compete this summer,' and I think it was something I knew, but just needed to be vocalized, and I realized that was the best decision for me," said Lalonde.
She said the decision was scary and difficult, but it got easier with the support of coaches, Athletics Canada and her community.
"I'm really thankful," said Lalonde.
Lalonde said she hopes this leap inspires other athletes to make hard decisions for the betterment of their health, to know they have support around them and that they are more than their sport.
Plans for the summer
Lalonde plans to continue running during her break, but wants to try trail running and doing the sport she loves without the pressure of competing.
She also plans to travel with her husband on a trip unrelated to sports, a first for the couple.
She also wants to visit her home province.
"Being from Moncton … I think it's so cool that I got to look up to people in my hometown, see them succeed and then come home to celebrate with them," said Lalonde, "I think that's been one of the best parts of my journey."