UBC Okanagan men’s and women’s cross country running coach Malindi Elmore knows a thing or two about competing in marathons.
In fact, her career as a competitive runner might be described as one.
Growing up in Kelowna, Elmore had a passion for running. Naturally fast, she began competing, turning heads and winning races. Her dream was to run in the Olympics — and in 2004 she did that, racing in the 1,500-metre event. While she retired from competitive racing to raise a family, she kept active, testing her skills at triathlons and racing every distance from 800m to 41.1km marathons. While she increased her distances, she also increased her speed.
A UBCO alumnus — she graduated with her Bachelor of Education in 2013 — Elmore has re-invented herself and her running career. Now, the mother of two young children, and Canada’s woman’s marathon record holder, will run the 42.2-kilometre event for the Canadian team on August 7.
So how does a full-time runner, coach and mother juggle it all? Especially, since the bulk of her time at UBCO, she’s been working under the guidelines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
How did you cope, starting a new job as coach of both the women’s and men’s cross country teams during COVID-19?
I was two months into coaching the cross country program when we had to pivot. But we had definite silver linings as once we knew the cross country season was cancelled, we moved the team up to Big White for the fall. The athletes were able to live in bubbles and train on the mountain and have a really cool experience that was possible since all academic classes were online. It built a great team culture and I know that it made for a memorable experience for the athletes.
What skills can you bring from your training to the young athletes at UBCO?
Being an athlete absolutely helps me as a coach. One of the key messages I try to convey is being committed to the process — loving what you do, committing to it, and not expecting results to come overnight. I think that by focusing on the process versus the goal, we create a healthy environment that leads to a lifelong love of running – and also is applicable to other aspects of life such as academics and career.
During the pandemic, have you been able to travel and train with other Canadian athletes? What about competitions?
I have had a really amazing extended training period for the last 18 months – I did not race or travel during this period and mostly just stuck to training on my own or with the UBCO cross country team. I think these breaks are great opportunities for me to build longevity in my career – I have had a few breaks thanks to retirement and pregnancy (and now COVID). It meant that I was able to back off from the intensity of training and racing for most of 2020 and get refreshed and fit heading into this year. Now the extra year off has motivated me to set my sight on 2024.
Your children are young, your athletes need your time and expertise. Not only are you juggling two careers, but you’re at the top of your game. How do you find the time?
I am so fortunate that my passions overlap. I run with the UBCO athletes when it is possible so many of our “meetings” are on the go. My husband is my coach (he competed in the 1992 and 1996 Olympics too) and is a great co-parent, especially during evening and weekend practices. I am lucky – I am living my dream right now with running, coaching and parenting.
Speaking of dreams, as a child you always wanted to run in the Olympics. Any advice to the young athletes out there?
It takes a long time to achieve your dreams. It obviously takes hard work and commitment, but it also requires the ability to pivot when challenges arise. I have had so many challenges along the way that have required changing courses but I think in the end it is what makes the journey more significant. I never imagined I would be racing the Olympics at 41 years old in the marathon – sometimes life is hard to plan so just keep showing up. And honestly, cool things can happen.