Vancouver’s Leah Pells, who now resides in the suburb of Coquitlam, ran from a very early age and enjoyed it as a sport and as a form of escapism. It was perhaps a form a therapy. Her love of running turned into an international career.
At one point she was ranked as high as fourth in the world in the 1500 meter distance and had achieved a fourth place finish during the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games final. She also competed in the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games and the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Additionally she competed in six IAAF World Track and Field Championships and won silver in the 1999 Pan American Games.
Today she holds two degrees in Psychology and Education and has completed her Masters in Counselling Psychology. She teaches full time and operates her own practise, Karuna Counselling. Below she reflects on the Victoria Commonwealth Games and Centennial Stadium.
1500m – 4:03.56
Mile – 4:23.28
3000m – 9:10.10
CK: Currently you are a teacher and at the same time you are now running your own practice, utilising your Master’s degree, yes?
LP: This is correct. I teach full time at CABE in Coquitlam, which is an alternative secondary school. I love teaching and I learn so much each day from the amazing kids I have the pleasure to work with. I have also finished my Masters in counselling psychology at UBC. I’m a registered clinical counsellor now. So I have a private practice as well. What I love about the counselling program is that it is helping me to be a better listener and communicator and that is great for all areas of life.
CK: I understand that you still run every day. How far away from race fitness are you? Do you think you will one day, for fun, try to go for some age-group records or wins?
LP: Right now I am very far from race fitness. I know my body so well and I would say I am about a year of hard running away from being in a place where I would race. I raced for many years and I have no desire at this time to race. I have moved my energy from running to writing, teaching, being a Mum, and my Masters. I still run about 5 kilometres a day and longer when we are on holidays. Running is me, and I am running, it will always be this way, but I do not “need “to race to get what I need from running. I am really enjoying the freedom of just running; no watch and no intervals. I run as I feel on that day. The only thing that is constant is my love of running.
CK: When you were competing at the top of your game, how many weekly miles of training were you putting in?
LP: When I was competing, I ran between 50-70 miles a week (80 to 96K). I was very consistent, but never did huge weekly mileage. It was not necessary for the 1500 meters. I liked to feel fresh and strong for all my track sessions with Mike (Lonergan), and so we found that between 50-70 (depending on the season) was the right amount.
CK: During the Commonwealth Games 1500m you finished fourth in 4:10.82, would you consider that race to be tactical? Was there a lot of surging throughout or did it come down to a final kick?
LP: Yes it was a pretty tactical race, with a solid 200 meter kick. I was just starting to feel more confident in regards to my kick. That was a good race for learning.
CK: Did you have to travel much for serious competition back then? Any envy for those who get to race in the National Track League?
LP: Yes I travelled a ton. It is something I do not miss, I love being home now. I am very content and happy here in Coquitlam, with a low key life.
CK: Would you have benefited then in having the National Track League as we do now?
LP: I am sure it would have been great to have the National Track League, but the race directors were great, we had loads of great Hershey Harrier track meets and Jerry Tighe would always find rabbits to make the races fast for us.
CK: Having competed internationally for several years, when it came around to the 1994 Victoria Commonwealth Games, how did those games compare competitively-speaking as well as emotionally to other events?
LP: The Victoria Games were very emotional, as they were home. My family and friends were able to come. I found the Games well run and organized. As an athlete, I was just starting to find my confidence and race more aggressively. I was very motivated after to be one of the best in the world and I knew then I could do that.
CK: Did the Centennial Stadium provide a favourable environment for you to race in?
LP: Yes, it is a gorgeous place to race. I love Victoria.