After a competitive career that saw her distinguish herself among her school, province, and country’s best, Sarah MacPherson recently announced her retirement from competitive racing. Her next step may be even more inspiring, as she works as a cancer research assistant.
Why was this the right time for you to retire?
“Since I was dealing with an injury at the onset of the pandemic, I had time to pause and reflect on my career and life in general. Being at home with my fiancé was refreshing and made me realize how unhappy I was in the running environment. I missed my family and friends. I was also dealing with a chronic injury and was questioning whether I would ever get back to full health again. The uncertainly surrounding the Olympic Games, and if there would be an opportunity for me to compete in 2021, made it feel like it was the best time to retire.”
Take us back to the beginning, how did you get involved in track? Was there someone who inspired you?
“I think my competitive juices came from having two brothers. I was constantly trying to be better than them or doing my best just to keep up. I enjoyed the excitement of competing and winning. I would challenge classmates to race around the school over and over again, just chasing that excitement. Once I started competing after college, I became more interested in being the best that I could be. I love that feeling of pushing yourself so far that you surprise yourself. I always looked up to Hilary Stellingwerff, she was always calm, collected and would execute. I was also constantly inspired by Jessica O’Connell’s work ethic and perseverance to overcome obstacles, like injuries.”
Is there something about competing that you love that people might not expect?
“One of my favourite things about competing is probably the end, when everyone is so relieved and high off excitement that you feel like you have just bonded with everyone in the race. I really enjoy that comradery.”
Looking back at your NCAA career, what was your greatest triumph and greatest achievement?
“My greatest achievement at Tulsa was winning the Conference USA indoor mile and setting a new record. This was my best performance, but I am also most happy with this achievement based on the way I handled myself the months and days before the race. I had completely ruptured my plantar fascia in November and was off for over a month. I tried to be smart and come back carefully, but early enough to compete in indoor competitions. I started getting plantar fasciitis in my good foot after a couple months of training, so I took a week off and showed up to the line calm and confident. I am proud of how I handled that situation.
Tulsa was a huge learning curve, where I had a lot of injuries and I was feeling helpless. But this forced me to learn to take responsible for my health, since I know best how I feel and what my body needs. After I took more initiative in my training and focused on my health, things fell into place a lot better. Tulsa was an incredible team environment. My teammates were always so supportive and accepting of who I was. So, I guess they helped me grow into the positive person I am today.”
You won a number of provincial titles and set a record or two, how does it feel to have your name forever cemented in New Brunswick’s history books?
“Having my name put in the history books was always on my priority list. It is great to make the list and exciting to see the athletic growth all around. A big thank you to Geneviève Lalonde for always pushing me and making those records more difficult to achieve.”
Making the FISU/Summer Universiade team was a big moment in your career. What did that mean to you and why is this event such a close second to the Olympic Games?
“My coach Heather Hennigar told me before the meet that it was like a mini-Olympics, and I was not disappointed. It was everything I had been training for. It definitely gave me a glimpse of getting to the big stage. Getting to wear National Team gear and the opportunity to line up against other countries with a fellow Canadian by my side, it is a moment that I will never forget.”
What was it like training with Heather at the West Hub, constantly carving seconds off your personal best and performing well at the National Championships?
“Heather was my dream coach. She took every injury I had seriously and pushed me when I needed to be pushed. She is extremely thoughtful and understanding. My first year, I was anxious about expectations and dropped out of a number of races. Although disappointed, Heather helped me navigate this mental roadblock and many more. I loved the programs Heather put together; easy days were meant to be easy and hard days were HARD. I loved how much the staff at the West Hub was included in my training program; using speed, VO2 and neuromuscular testing to adapt programs and workouts to fit each athlete’s needs. I also always had the support of the internal support team when making decisions about injuries. I cannot express how grateful I am for the development of the West Hub and having the opportunity to be included in it.”