By Paul Gains
– Meteoric is one way to describe the rise of Samantha Jory’s running career which has already resulted in a bronze medal at the 2023 Canadian Half Marathon Championship.
The 28-year-old from Duncan, British Columbia has raced competitively for a little over a year and announced herself locally with a shock victory at the 2022 Vancouver Half Marathon. More than a few bewildered onlookers asked ‘Who was that?”
Her story makes a compelling read as she prepares herself for the TCS Toronto Waterfront Marathon on October 15.
“I think, based on my training, if I have a really good day I could probably run a 2:36. I hope,” Jory offers. “Anywhere around 2:37, I would be happy with. I don’t think about placement as I am going to be more focused on executing the race properly.”
Remarkably her first ever race was the 2022 Vancouver Marathon where she finished 6th in 2:50:22. Nothing spectacular but not bad for someone with little proper training. Indeed, her running only began during the pandemic when she was unable to access her membership at a Vancouver Gold’s gym.
“I needed some outlet for my stress and my energy levels and I just thought I will do what everybody else is doing and that was running,” she explains. “I didn’t have the money at the time for a bike.
“I’d run recreationally, maybe 20 kilometres a week, a handful of times so I thought I would start with a few 5km races. After a few months, I ran my first 10k and thought that was the biggest accomplishment ever. It felt like such a long way. Certainly, it is an accomplishment.”
Jory laughs at the memory. Some friends introduced her to Strava and then she began comparing her times and pace to others.
One day while out on a tempo run in Vancouver’s Stanley Park she crossed paths with Canadian marathon record holder, Natasha Wodak, who called out to her. A short while later Wodak contacted Jory on Instagram and the two became friends. Wodak calls her ‘super talented’ and has been writing a marathon training program for her the past few months.
“Natasha agreed to help me for this (Toronto Waterfront) marathon which is really special for me,” Jory admits. “She has been really supportive. I probably do a little bit more than what she prescribes in terms of distance in a week – I am not really diligent with my rest days. But she doesn’t have to know this.”
Again Jory laughs. In order to get in her roughly 130 kilometres a week she must sometimes rise at 4:00 a.m. in order to get in a morning run. With a Master’s degree in Health Leadership and Policy, she is often ‘on call’ in her capacity as an organ donation specialist with BC Transplant. It’s a stressful job.
“It involves meeting with families and going over consent,” she reveals, “helping the Intensive Care Unit work with the patient up to becoming a donor in terms of diagnosis and blood work, then doing all the recipient matching and organizing the operating room with the recipients, with the surgeons, with the family involved. So it’s a lot of organizational work.
“I am part-time with this team right now. When I am on call I am on call for the whole province so it can be really long days and really long nights when we have multiple cases on the go.”
Jory studied nursing at the University of Alberta where she also played rugby for the varsity team. Having played high school rugby and earning a spot on the BC provincial team she received a small scholarship to play for the ‘Pandas’ club. In her first year she was a member of the team that beat the University of Guelph to win the 2013 Canadian Interuniversity Sport (now U-Sports) championship.
“Yes we did win CIS my first year,” she says showing her excitement. “I actually got to start because one of our senior players was injured. So I played the whole game which was special for me as a rookie.”
After graduating in 2017 she remained in Edmonton for almost three years working in the Cardiovascular Surgery Intensive Care Unit at the Mazankowski Heart Institute. She admits the circumstances she encountered were sometimes intolerable. How did she cope?
“A lot of debriefing with colleagues,” she remembers, “and their camaraderie helps a lot. And some therapy here and there but mostly it’s something you just become accustomed to, unfortunately.”
Backed by the Canadian record holder and with a consistent training program these past few months Jory’s build has been going well.
Last weekend in the midst of her marathon training she finished 3rd in the Under Armour Eastside 10km (34:42) twenty-seven seconds behind two-time Canadian Olympian Andrea Seccafien. Will a new Canadian marathon star show herself on the streets of Toronto? Her story just gets better.