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The legendary Arthur Lydiard training program is often misunderstood, even by people who believe that they fully understand his methodology.

Julie-Anne Staehli is a Canadian Olympian who specialises in the 5000m distance.

She is an entrepreneur, and philanthropist and has an MSc in Sport Psychology. The 28-year-old Lucknow, Ontario native now resides in Boston, MA, training with Team New Balance Boston under coach, Mark Coogan.

Competing at Canadian Cross Country Championships. Photo credit: Mundo Sport Images

She launched ReRUN, a non-profit organisation in Canada that donates shoes to underprivileged communities in five cities.

Staehli’s best performance in terms of time may have come in the 5000m where she achieved a personal best of 14:57.50 at Griswold Stadium in Portland, Oregon in May of 2021.

Personal bests

1500m — 4:04.82
3000m — 8:43:55
5000m — 14:57.50

The interview

Christopher Kelsall: Now that you are back from vacation, where were the palm trees located that you rested under?

Julie-Anne Staehli: Cancun! Spent a week enjoying some downtime with a friend.

CK:
Welcome back. Growing up in Lucknow, Ontario, how did the smaller town environment influence your sporting pursuits? What sports did you play as a child and teen?

JS: Coming from a small town has always meant a lot to me, especially now living in a big city (Boston). I grew up running on these backroads, so coming home to the place where my running career began is pretty special.

I played all sports throughout elementary school, but running was always the thing I was best at. By high school, it was more a process of elimination rather than selection as seasons began to overlap, and I chose cross country and track. 

With parents, Cathy and Mathew Staehli

CK: At what age did running click for you, where you thought, that’s it, I am going to fully focus on this sport? Was there a particular turning point?

JS: I can not recall a specific moment in time, but having the opportunity to join Team NB Boston last September for the chance to go all in has been an incredible shift from elite to professional.

CK: How did running for Queen’s University Gaels inform your current training and racing?

JS: University was when I specialised in cross country and track, training year around. I made my first national team (FISU World University Cross Country Championships) in 2014 and became the first five-time All-Canadian in Queen’s history. This planted the seed that I could one day, compete at the Olympic Games.

CK: Tell me about your Olympic experience, was it all that it was expected to be?

JS:
Making my Olympic debut has definitely been the highlight of my running career. I did not set any specific expectations leading into Tokyo, but I knew I would race to my potential, and whatever the result on that day, I knew I would walk away proud to have represented our country on the biggest stage.

CK: Apparently, you enjoy a fair amount of reading. What genres are you into at this time? What are you currently reading?

JS: I currently have A Promised Land by Barack Obama and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid in rotation. I enjoy a range of genres, but usually something challenging and entertaining. Depending on the time of year and what season I’m in, I will usually choose a book that compliments what I have going on (sports research/motivational books during training camps/competitions and mystery/romance novels during vacation).

CK: Seven husbands doesn’t sound romantic at all.

JS: I’m halfway through and it just keeps getting more tangled.

CK: Oh, the tangled web we weave. Have you read Out of This Air by runner and anthropologist Michael Crawley?

JS: I have not.

CK: It provides amazing insight into the top-end of training going on in Ethiopia and the very different and unique relationship that they have with running. Tell me about the ReRUN Shoe Project.

JS: ReRUN is a non-profit organization that donates lightly used shoes to underprivileged members in the community. We are now based in five cities across Canada (Kingston, London, Waterloo, Calgary, and Edmonton), where we have ongoing drop-off locations.

CK: Are you planning to expand to the east and west coasts and up north eventually?

JS:
I do not have any specific goals for the project, it has more or less grown organically. Ideally, we would be able to provide to all major cities across Canada.

Photo credit: Mundo Sport Images

CK: What has changed in your training where you went from about a 16-minute 5000m runner to a sub-15? 

JS: I can now run a little faster and longer in workouts, but more than anything, it is consistency over years of training. Building a solid foundation while prioritizing my health has led me to have continued success.

CK: When you were building that foundation, are you referring to an aerobic base of higher mileage? What does a typical training week look like for you when not in racing season?

JS: Building a foundation is typically done through gradual increases in training load and volume over time, both in distance and intensity. The most important piece is staying healthy, and your body will dictate how much and when you can handle these increases.

For me, a typical training week is as follows:

Monday: 60 min AM / 30 min PM

Tuesday: Workout AM / 30 min PM + strength

Wednesday: 60 min

Thursday: 60 min AM / 30 min PM

Friday: Workout AM / 30 min PM + strength

Saturday: 30 min

Sunday: 90-110 min + mobility

Weekly Mileage: 120 -130 kms (75-80 miles)


CK: As a psychologist, will you be pursuing a Ph.D. and a career in the discipline? 

JS: I do have an MSc in Sport Psychology and a teaching degree. My dream position would be at a University working with student-athletes in an education and wellness capacity. I do not plan to pursue a Ph.D., unless necessary.

CK: Currently, you are on the national team competing in the World Cross Country Championships. Have you seen the Bathurst course yet? Even though you declared that you wouldn’t run on grass again, what type, of course, works to your strengths?

JS: I have not seen the course, but I assume it will be extremely dry (February is summer in Australia). Coming from the track, I would have said my ideal course is relatively flat, but after nationals, I think I’m capable of almost anything!

CK: Surely. Goals for 2023?

JS: Goals for 2023 is to stay injury-free and compete at these three major championships: World Cross Country Championships on February 18 in Bathurst, AUS, World Outdoor Championships Aug. 19 – 27 in Budapest, HUN, and Pan Am Games, Oct. 20 – Nov. 5 in Santiago, CHI.

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