Regina-born competitive runner one to watch at Saskatchewan marathon event
Medical student embraces the mental and physical challenge of the half-marathon
One of the hundreds of people competing in Saskatchewan Marathon events Sunday morning will be Regina-born Danielle Thiel, a national-level runner who will be racing in the half-marathon.
There is prize money at stake — the winner of the full marathon gets $1,500, the winner of the half-marathon takes home $500 — but Thiel says her measure of success will be doing her best and "hopefully … being able to beat some people."
Thiel began running the summer before Grade 4, when her father decided to train for Regina's Queen City Marathon and got the kids involved.
"As long as your run was farther than to the stop sign and back, when you got home, you got to open the mini fridge and have a Kool-Aid jammer or a juice box," said Thiel.
"So that was kind of the motivation that got us all going."
2-time national track champion
But it took more than the lure of a juice reward to lead Thiel to a competitive running career. She joined a track club in Grade 8 and says it was the social aspect that helped maintain her interest in the sport all the way through her university years, where she competed at the national level.
"A lot of my close friends were from running, so I got to go out every day and hang out with my friends, run with my friends."
Thiel was a two-time CanWest medallist in the 3,000 metre race and the 4 x 800 metre relay. She competed at three National Cross Country Championships, and two National Track Championships in the 5,000 metre event. In 2015, she finished fifth in the country in the 5,000 metre, and in 2016 set a new personal best time of 16:35.
Now, injuries and time commitments — she started medical school at the University of Alberta last fall — have led to a shift away from track events and more of a focus on longer-distance road racing.
She acknowledges it takes a certain kind of discipline to be a long distance runner.
"Especially when it's -40C and you have to get out at 7 a.m. to go for your morning run," she said.
And the challenges are both mental and physical.
Just staying positive
"What's been unique in the half-marathon distance is there's times when it gets really difficult, two or three minutes where it's like 'Oh man, I don't know if I can keep going at this pace,'" she said.
"And then that passes and all of a sudden you start to feel good again and I think it's really just staying positive… and that gets you through and on to the next bit."
What's waiting for Thiel after Sunday's finish line, besides juice? A trip to her family's cottage and a dip in the icy lake.
The marathon (42.2 km) and half-marathon (21.1 km) start Sunday at 7:30 a.m. CST near Diefenbaker Park, followed by the 10 km race at 8 a.m. and the 5 km at 8:25 a.m.
There will be road restrictions in the Exhibition area and along the race route that runs along both sides of the river.
with files from CBC Radio's Saskatchewan Weekend