Great Strides

Bri­anne Theisen-Ea­ton: Marathoner

Canadian Running - - SEPTEMBER & OCTOBER 2017 -

“When I suck, peo­ple are go­ing to say ‘What’s wrong with her? She’s an Olympic ath­lete!’”

These days, Bri­anne Theisen-Ea­ton’s life is look­ing a lot dif­fer­ent than it did when she was train­ing at the high­est level in the world. Af­ter years as a pro hep­tath­lete, the Cana­dian Olympian won bronze in Rio, and de­cided to re­tire at the start of 2017. Now, she’s ad­just­ing to a less reg­i­mented rou­tine.

Days go like this: wake up at 6:30 a.m., take the dog out, answer emails over cof­fee, work out by 10 a.m. Af­ter that, she man­ages her and her hus­band, Ash­ton’s, web­site wea­reeaton.com (her hus­band Ash­ton Ea­ton, who com­peted for the U.S., re­tired at the same time and is the world record holder in the de­cathlon). It aims to help oth­ers eat right while also giv­ing up­dates on the cou­ple’s life.

Speak­ing of up­dates, here’s the lat­est: Theisen-Ea­ton is run­ning a marathon. The Olympian is swap­ping out seven field and sprint events for the streets of Chicago, where she’ll run her first 42.2k as a mem­ber on Team World Vi­sion.

“As a hep­tath­lete, it’s very much about speed and power,” TheisenEa­ton says. “We trained do­ing 400’s, which is one lap of the track, so it wasn’t for dis­tance,” she says. Prior to this, Theisen-Ea­ton’s long­est run in prac­tice would have been about 1,200 m. “So do­ing a 10-minute run, I was like, ‘Are you kid­ding me?’”

Ath­letes are nat­u­rally goal-driven. Af­ter re­tire­ment, TheisenEa­ton felt at a loss. “When you’re done and have noth­ing, it’s like, ‘What am I even do­ing with my­self ?’” she says. While Theisen-Ea­ton threw her­self into other fit­ness classes, work­outs be­came a chal­lenge, grap­pling to find a new pur­pose for phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity.

Hav­ing a marathon on the sched­ule is fill­ing the void. But don’t as­sume this Saska­toon-born track queen is set­ting any lofty time goals. She’s de­cided not to set a time goal, and not even pay at­ten­tion to pace-per-kilo­me­tre splits. “The pace I run, I have no idea what that means,” she says. “I’ve al­ways wanted to run a marathon – that’s what’s im­por­tant.” If you’re new to the 42.2, you might be sur­prised at how much you have in com­mon with her. It’s not ev­ery day that an ath­lete who has stood on the podium on the world stage tells you that less than a year later, a couch-pot ato-to-r un­ner prog ra m is her guide.

Had it not been for the be­gin­ner plan, the hep­tath­lete may not have com­mit­ted to Chicago. She started with the ab­so­lute new­bie work­outs. “I didn’t stay too long in that phase but it made me feel bet­ter that if you have to walk, walk,” she says.

Ever feel like other run­ners are judg­ing? Theisen-Ea­ton has been there. “When I suck, peo­ple are go­ing to say ‘What’s wrong with her? She’s an Olympic ath­lete,’” she says.

When sign­ing up for Chicago, her hus­band warned her about not let­ting her com­pet­i­tive side go wild. “Af­ter the toll that pro com­pet­ing took men­tally and phys­i­cally, he said to en­joy this now. I wouldn’t have got that ad­vice if we hadn’t both gone through that to­gether,” Theisen-Ea­ton says.

When Theisen-Ea­ton de­cided to run for World Vi­sion (a cause near to her heart) it was April. At the time of re­port­ing, the marathon is three months out. So far, she has worked her way from 1,200 m to 21k. “I’ve done a half-marathon. That’s my far­thest so far,” she says. “I did a 13-mile run, which ab­so­lutely killed me.”

Al­ways sup­port­ing her is de­cath­lete and hus­band, Ash­ton, who is likely to cheer her through the tough stretch, just as he was in the stands in Rio sport­ing the red Canada hat that brought on a storm of an­gry tweets from pa­tri­otic Amer­i­can view­ers (and ap­plause from Cana­di­ans). “He saw it and was like, ‘I’ll wear this!’” says TheisenEa­ton. “Lit­tle did we know…”

Lead­ing up to her first marathon, Theisen-Ea­ton’s tone is chip­per. Even though work­ing up her mileage has been a grind, she’s in high spir­its. “I don’t care if I’m an Olympian and peo­ple think it’s slow. I’m do­ing it for me and for a good cause.”

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