Running Solo 72 KMs & Beyond With Jacqueline Bédard

Updated: Jul 27

Welcome back to another edition of the Chaski Athlete Spotlight series, we interviewed Jacqueline Bédard (coached by Pete Kostelnick) after her recent solo 72 kilometre race. Originally from Ottawa Ontario (Canada if geography isn't your thing), Jacqueline is actively working up to a 24 hour race while pursuing a career in law.

Our conversation ranges from her recent race and finishes with some more personal questions. We hope you enjoy!

First, tell us about the "race" itself. What inspired you to take on a solo Ultramarathon?

I’ve done a solo ultra every month since July. In the past, I have usually only done two races per year (mostly due to cost & time constraints), but this time I wanted to experiment doing more and building off each one. I also wanted to test out different strategies, snacks/drinks, etc. With all the races in my area cancelled, I decided to take advantage of being able to set my own course and schedule.

I tend to get super nervous before races, so I was interested to see if doing more might help get me more used to them and help me be calmer going in.

All my races this summer have been on the same course in my neighbourhood (about 1.5k), and I have always run it in the same direction.

I started doing ultras in 2016 (timed 6 hr races – one on a 400m track and one on a 1k loop). I love running in circles, it means I don’t have to worry about getting lost or anything other than continuing to move forward. Until this year, I had only done timed races.

How has your training been for the last few months? Were you targeting this race specifically? What have your mileage and workouts been like?

My training has been building upon each previous race. None of them so far have been the end goal, more like steps on the way there, and a different way to get in a long run. Since I’ve been doing something like this every month for a little while, I’ve had to balance recovering from one with preparing for the next.

I’ve been super happy to notice that I feel I am bouncing back more quickly than in previous years. Whereas in the spring I had more speed workouts, now they have shifted to more steady distance runs. I am a big fan of doing hill repeats, and I have also made an effort to do more cross-training.

During the summer I got in a routine of doing two to three sprint triathlons a week, going on more walks, and doing at-home yoga. I also enjoy treadmill running for physical and mental training. I find it easier to push my speed on the treadmill because once I set it to a specific number, I would have to actively change it in order to slow down. I also face a blank wall and don’t listen to music. On a good day, it can be nice and meditative, but sometimes it ends up being more of a grind.

How did the race itself play out? What was especially difficult?

I’m happy with how this race went because I think I was able to apply things I learned from the three previous ones this summer, and it was another step towards my big goal: a 24 hour run.

I was looking forward to some cooler fall weather (I’ve only raced in the summer) but it was actually surprisingly warm and humid. All the races in the peak of the summer prepared me for paying attention to my fluid intake. I was also careful to make sure I got enough electrolytes as in the past I noticed I got major headaches if I drank plain water only.

I was grateful to be able to focus on running and not any stomach problems, but the mental toughness I developed during the previous race from those issues was definitely useful. I incorporated training with a backpack in the lead-up to this race, so running without it felt lighter and easier.

By this point, my neighbours aren’t as alarmed when they see me running by in circles for hours on a Saturday morning. Some set up lawn chairs and cheered me on which was an unexpected surprise!

As usual for me, the first 10 kilometres were the hardest. While setting my own schedule means that I can start whenever I want, even the joy I get from running pre-dawn and catching the sunrise was a bit dampened by doubts about my ability to complete the rest of the run. Instead of getting psyched out, I focused on the quiet morning stillness, the brightness of the stars, and the smell of damp leaves. I also kept an eye out for skunks that like to shuffle around my area.

Things started falling into place by 15 k when I fully relaxed into the run and got in a good rhythm. I felt pretty strong for the rest of the race and ended up doing 72 k over 8.5 hours.

While I train alone, during normal races I base my effort off of what other people seem to be doing. I usually pace myself by picking someone to follow and adjusting as necessary. I try not to let people pass me, and to pick progressively faster runners throughout the race.

With that no longer being an option, I noticed that I definitely ran faster from the start but interestingly, didn’t feel as though I was because I had no gauge. I don’t look at the time or my pace during a race, my only benchmark is the number of laps I have done. So it was a pleasant surprise to fini