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Posted: June 15, 2006

Athletics: Emilie Mondor: Running Against Time

On June 24th, one of the brightest stars to shine on the Canadian running scene will be racing in the first-ever RunnersWeb5K.com Race for Women. She plans to cover the race, which follows the Aviation Parkway, in just under 16 minutes. For Emilie Mondor of Mascouche, Quebec, that should be like a moderate tempo run.

“I used to be able to do 15:10 pretty easily but now 15:45 to 16:00 is a where I’m at in my training. For Mondor, 25, the fact that she is running at all these days is a miracle. And she says it’s thanks to the “wonder drug” Forteo, which she has to inject into herself every morning.

Mondor only started training again a few months ago. That was after two years of being sidelined with a series of stress fractures – the result of a rare medical condition that prevented her bones from absorbing calcium.

Once one of the world’s top distance runners, with PRs of 31:10 (10kms) and 14:59 (5kms), she suddenly found herself with the body of a 50-year old woman with osteoporosis. She tried treatment after treatment until she discovered Forteo. At $10,000 a pop for an 18-24 month treatment, it’s not cheap. But it’s keeping her running.

Normally the drug is injected into the fat below the belly button or into the quadriceps but at less than110 pounds on her 5’6” frame, it was just too painful. So she started injecting it into her buttocks. “Luckily I’m not afraid of needles, “she says. “My dad almost went unconscious thinking about it.”

Mondor plans to use the RunnersWeb5K.com Race for Women as a tune-up for the Canadian Track Championships in Ottawa on August 4th, where she’ll try to win back her national title of 2004. If she keeps going the way she’s been the last few months, she may be breaking 15 minutes for the second time in her life.

“I want to promote road racing in Canada. I’ve always been impressed with Ken Parker and his support of the sport. When Ken talked to me about coming back to Ottawa for the RunnersWeb5K.com, I decided to go for it.”

After only three weeks of training, Mondor surprised herself with a solid second at the Sporting Life 10kms. She followed that up with a come-from-behind performance at the Nordion 10kms to take third in 32:27, the second best time of her career. After the race, she announced to race committee that she plans to come back next year and go for the record.

With times like hers, why doesn’t opt for the more lucrative races in the States? She says she wants to stay close to home this summer, keep things low-key, and focus on the August Nationals in Ottawa. She says she’s proud to run in Canada, she finds the competition is good here and she likes to be close to her family. Besides, like other Canadian runners, she’s disappointed by the bonuses US races are now offering only to American runners. “With so many Kenyans, Ethiopians and Russians grabbing the top places, I can understand they want to have some incentives for American runners. But it’s too bad they don’t try to support North American talent.

Sure Mondor has talent. She showed that early on, running 16:10 for 5kms at 16 years old in Montreal’s Parc Lafontaine and running herself into the top 10 at the World Cross Country Championships that year.

But it’s more than that. She is forged-steal tough. And she has the heart of a lion. “I feel I’m cheating in a race unless I’m in deep pain. That’s why I hate tactical races. I think it steals the victory.”

If she can hold her body together, she hopes to move up the marathon one day. While she won’t make any bold predictions, you can bet that she’ll be going after the Canadian record there too.

…On Training

Once a 200kms a week runner, Mondor follows the less-is-more philosophy these days. Self-coached, she says her training is more in line with the African mentality. She trains mainly on her own. Her main workout of the day is 60 to 90 minutes (maximum) of non-stop running. It usually adds up to 14 to 17 kms. Within that, she does speed work three times a week and it’s usually fairly unstructured. Since she’s training for 5kms for the next few months, she’ll do shorter intervals, say 200 on/100 off for 25 minutes or so as her primary workout. She rarely runs longer than 15 minutes for a tempo run. (Of course, for Mondor, that just about adds up to 5kms.) She usually gets on the Elliptical trainer for an hour as her second workout of the day.

…On Running a Marathon

The London and New York marathon race organizers have been after her to move up to the marathon, which she’d like to do one day. What does she expect to run? Like any elite runner, she’s won’t share her real target, but with a 1:08 half marathon, you can bet she’s looking at a 2:29 or better.

On Government support

Mondor says she’s less and less attracted to the track. “Track is so hard on the body.” She much prefers racing on the roads but she sees it as a necessary evil her in Canada, if she wants to continue to get national funding, which adds up to $17,000 a year. “We lack a national term structure here at home. It’s a big weakness compared to other countries.” She says that if she doesn’t make standard this year – despite the fact that she is undisputedly one of the top female distance runners this country has ever produced – she could lose her funding. Nonetheless, she’s happy to race here at home. “While the system isn’t perfect, I’m still proud to be Canadian.”

Photos from www.emiliemondor.com.

Related Websites: RunnersWeb5K.com.

© Copyright 2006 Lynne Bermel

Lynne Bermel, a former world-ranked pro Ironman competitor, is a senior marketing & PR consultant living in Ottawa. She is also a freelance writer and TV sports show host. You can reach her at: lynnebermel@rogers.com.

You can access previous columns by Lynne at: LB_Columns


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