Interview #2 - Clara Langley

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Clara Langley interview by Steve Weiler, 

Wednesday, April 8th, 2020

Steve Weiler: Hey Clara, tell me something nice!

Clara Langley: Hey Steve, thanks for reaching out today. Something nice...well, in honour of one of my heros, John Prine, passing away yesterday from COVID, I'm listening to his music today pretty much non-stop, some of the albums on loop, you know. His music has always been a comfort but especially in these dark times we are in, his stories and messages of human kindness, compassion and love are just really nice to listen to again.

SW: Would you recommend any specific albums, or suggest committing to working through the entire discography?

CL: Hmm well my favourites are Fair and Square (2005) and Bruised Orange (1978) but it's all worthy of a listen

SW: Will do! How did the eternal life bond between you and teammate Cleo Boyd - who provided background research for this interview(!) - first begin?

CL: Haha Cleo and I eternally bonded - sounds about right. There's certainly room for debate as to the exact origins of the bond, but I reckon it starts with the K-town Kids of Steel race in 2003 or 2004. It was my first race ever and I came dead last. Cleo came in first. At the time we didn't know each other as I was in the very nascent stages of my participation in the sport. We only made the connection of that race recently actually. Or one might look to the slow heat of Canadian (Junior) 3k when it was held in Moncton in 2010, I believe. As new teammates, Cleo and I were instructed to share the lead by switching 1-2 positions every lap. I think around lap 6 I neglected my duty only to blow by her in the last 200m. I have and probably will never live down the shame of that haha hence the eternal bond.

Photo: Clara Langley (l) with Cleo Boyd (r)

SW: Skipping ahead a few years, you ran a Half Marathon PB of 1:16:21 in 2018 at STWM. That was a very successful comeback race for you; can you speak to the context of that achievement and what it felt like to put everything together on race day?

CL: Sure thing. That race stands out for a few reasons. As you mention, it was a comeback race: it was the first solid performance that I was able to hit after many years of toiling away with training to no avail results-wise. It was confirmation that I still had some stakes in the game after so long of doubting my ability as a runner. More remarkably, though, that race was sandwiched in between some pretty hard personal times. I was coming off of a big injury that summer before STWM, and around the time of the race, I was in the throes of an otherwise debilitating mental health situation. Being able to run 1:16 while wildly depressed... it was satisfying, redemptive, and inspiring for me.

SW: Do you want to pursue the Half more in 2021 and beyond?

CL: Yes, definitely! My main ambition is to eventually move up to the marathon, but I'm sure getting my half time lowered will be part of that whole process.

SW: I’m told you’re not one to mope around and have the pictures to prove it; can you tell us about the Vancouver Sun Run where you experienced an injury, then went to the beach after to have a nice time?

CL: So, I was set to have a great race at the 2018 Vancouver Sun Run, but at around 6k I took a step and I broke my right fibula (don't ask me about the physics of how I managed that). Whoever wished that I would "break a leg" before the race... But anyway, Cleo was in town and it was the first time I had seen her since I moved out to Vancouver and she moved to Boulder, CO. I wasn't about to let a broken bone get in the way of the fun to be had!

SW: In your open letter to Queen’s that was posted on IRun, you mentioned that you began running as a coping mechanism. It's a pretty stressful time for many of us right now; can you speak a bit to engaging in healthy physical activity during stressful periods of time, how that's helped you and how to moderate vs. overdo things?

CL: There's a great quote of David Foster Wallace's wherein he says, "Fiction is one of the few experiences where loneliness can be both confronted and relieved... [it is one place] where loneliness is confronted, stared down, transfigured, treated." Running is for me the place that Fiction is for DFW - a place where I can lean into my pain, both physical and existential or emotional, and come out on the other side of the exercise feeling relieved. There's also, of course, the analogical connection between a runner's daring to push their body to its limits and thereby daring to feel pain and the way that we can process heartache or grief: by going through it, not around it. But of course, there needs to be some moderation, like you said. So I guess it's a matter of not avoiding the pain of the current moment - feeling it deeply and meaningfully - but also not letting that pain consume you entirely.

SW: Your letter was one of the most powerful things I’ve ever read and I want to thank you for having the courage to share that publicly. Do you have any favourite ‘conversations on the run’ or any memories that you’d like to share before we get into the Finishing Kick (series of short questions to finish the interview)?

CL: Oh well thanks for letting me know that. I'm glad it reached people. And, this'll probably sound cliche and cheesy, but I’m sure everyone is feeling this way right now as we collectively lament for times pre-COVID and social distancing, but my fondest memories come from normal days and ordinary easy runs with the very extraordinary people I’ve met through running. Kingston becoming a hot-spot for Canadian women’s running over the last few years especially has meant that I’ve been able to train and become friends with some of the best in the sport: Leslie Sexton, Emily Setlack, Mel Myrand, Claire Sumner, the MacDougalls, the Queen’s uni teams, and many more. All really really lovely people. I met one of my very best friends, Lyndsay Tessier, at a workout in Kingston three years ago. I love y'all. OK - let's try for a strong finish here.

Photo: Clara Langley (l) with Cleo Boyd (r)

SW: What is your favourite running route in Kingston?

CL: Out and back on HWY 2 and Abbey Dawn Rd.

SW: Physi-Kult will host the next two Ontario Cross Country Championships on the historic Fort Henry course in Kingston; will you be around to race?

CL: Oh hell ya

SW: How excited are you for the Senior women’s race?

CL: Way excited - wish it were nationals though...

SW: You just finished a tough workout and you’re really happy with how it went; what is the best local pizza place to order from and what beer are you pairing this with?

CL: 241 pizza for the memories, paired with something fine from Oldster's (Steve Boyd's) fridge: obviously Heady if its on hand.

SW: Final question, what is the most valuable kind of ship?

CL: Companionship! Give me a couple of really good pals and I'm happy!

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