Interview #7 - Audrey Giles

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Audrey Giles interview by Steve Weiler, Tuesday, April 28th, 2020

Photo: Julia Thomas (right, Queen's XC and track alumna) and Audrey Giles at the 2018 Cabot Trail relay, where their mixed team placed 2nd.

Steve Weiler: Hey Audrey, tell me something nice!

Audrey Giles: I'm a foster parent for the Ottawa Humane Society! My current foster dog is Bubba (I named him). I was told I was getting a Rhodesian Ridgeback! I was excited to take it for runs, as my dog (Echo) has a back injury and can't run. When I went to pick him up, I realized that the closest he'd come to a Ridgeback was perhaps eating one! At 104lbs, this big guy is no more a Ridgeback than I am! He's a lovable dog who hates getting up in the morning. I'll have him until the pandemic is over. I'm putting my Queen's phys and health ed degree to good work by trying to convince him of the merits of good nutrition and lots of exercise!

SW: Dogs are the best! Have you fostered many dogs?

AG: He's number 12. Number 8 was adopted by Queen's distance alumna Veronica Allan! I believe that all runners should have dogs!

SW: Before we get into your running background, can you give a summary of your professional and educational background?

AG: I did a BPHE and BA at Queens from 97-01, then a PhD in Physical Education and Recreation at the University of Alberta from 01-05. I found out I had a job interview at uOttawa on the day I defended my PhD. I moved to Ottawa in 2005 and have been a professor in the School of Human Kinetics since then! I study injury prevention and physical activity promotion with Indigenous communities in the Arctic and Sub-Arctic, and dabble in other areas. I recently published an article on a KFC branch shutdown in Yellowknife!

My grad students now have "finger-lickingly good" data analysis in all letters of reference from me...

SW: In 2001, you were awarded the Marion Ross Trophy - a significant award given by Queen's Athletics, putting you in fairly elite company. Can you tell me more about the significance of this award to you, personally?
(link to Marion Ross winners: https://gogaelsgo.com/sports/2008/9/23/MarionRoss.aspx?id=57)

AG: Wow - you dug deep to find that! The story behind that award is that I had amazing teammates who made me look good! After my first year at Queen's, my running went downhill. I had a misdiagnosed back injury - told it was something that would only get worse and never heal. I was devastated. I also had a collection of other injuries that really limited my running. There's only so far you can go on 2-3 runs a week. I managed to go to CIAU/CIS as part of the XC team at Queen's for all four years. I was always the 6th or 7th runner and had some terrible races. While my running was pretty horrible, I made life-long friends with my teammates. So, to me this award was really just recognition for being fortunate enough to be surrounded by amazing teammates and coaches who never gave up on me (thanks, Shane and Mel!). I was always told that I wouldn't remember how I placed in the races, but I'd remember the friendship. Looking back 20 (!) years now, I know that that is in fact true.

SW: Going back a bit further, how did you first get into competitive running?

AG: There was one cross country meet when I was in (I think) grade 3. I did alright - nothing special. I think we trained about 3 times. I started to run more consistently in Jr. High, where we had track and cross country. I was pretty good in terms of city placings. In high school, I had a big breakthrough in my final year (grade 13). I was 15th at OFSAA Sr Girls XC, which was about a 30 place improvement over my other years. I had a great high school coach. It wasn't until after that race that I joined UTTC. The summer before my first year at Queen's, I came 5th in 5,000m in a weak field at Jr. Nationals (all the fast girls ran the 3,000m - 5,000 was still very new).

I was lucky to live with a built-in training partner: My twin sister!

Photo: Audry and Sarah Giles at the Twinsburg, Ohio, Twins Festival - go team Wombmates! Note: Sarah is an emergency room and family doc who is working the COVID front lines in northwestern Ontario.

SW: I was planning to ask about her; tell me about the Twinsburg, Ohio, Twins Festival, where you ran a race and...what else happens there?

AG: I just had to take a deep breath. I don't know how to adequately express the bizarreness of the Twins Festival in Ohio! It's the largest gathering of twins in the world. My sister and I, who are insanely close but were never twinny or dressed alike, decided that we should go there as part of our 40th birthday celebrations. I thought it was going to be a geekfest, but these people are HARDCORE about their partying. It's like a 4 day tailgate party for twins. We're talking toga parties, the Double-Take Parade... All the townspeople line the streets to see what some might describe as a freak show. There are lots of contests, including a 5km race (we were Team Wombmates - Sarah ran more than a mile for the first time in 20 years by competing with me in the 5km race). The year we went, there was a pair of identical twins who married identical twins. They were married by twin ministers (or "twinisters," as we called them). They had a honour guard of twins. TLC covered it. Honestly, I couldn't have made up something more bizarre if I tried. I should probably note that she would love to run but can't due to surgery on both legs.

SW: I take it that stands as the weirdest race you've competed in; what be would another memorable race for you?

AG: That's a good question. Give me a sec to think about that! ... CIAUs for XC were at Waterloo in '98. Our team won bronze. It was one of the worst races ever for me, but I digress. While I remember the joy of winning bronze, I also remember that teammate Julia Thomas was in front of me on the line and managed to rake a spike down my thigh. I was bleeding a bit at the end. I was totally fine, but I like to tell her kids that story (she lives a block away). She claims that it's because of her height. Our constant debate is whether or not she is uniquely disadvantaged by her height. We have this debate on runs all the time. I maintain that the fact that she can have an excuse for drawing blood on a competitor means that she actually holds the advantage...

SW: So, you have a nearly 22 year long 'on the run' debate - that's the longest I've ever heard of! Any other notable ongoing run conversations before we get into the Finishing Kick?

AG: Not that I can think of!

SW: Okay, what is your favourite running quote?

AG: I shared this one with Olympian Dylan Wykes when he and his wife (Francine Darroch - my former PhD student and running superstar) called me from a tattoo parlour to make sure the grammar for Francine's tattoo was correct. Then Dylan went and had my favourite quote tattooed on his chest! Shakespeare: Bid me run and I will strive with things impossible.

Photo: Queen's Alumna team at XC Nationals in Kingston.

SW: Complete the song lyrics of these Kingston bands: 1. And this ones about rock 'n' roll and
a) having a nice time with your friends
b) comic books and bubble gum
c) jazz

AG: It's terrifying for a prof to be on the receiving end of multiple choice question! This is sweet payback for my former students! B!

SW: Haha! Alright, 2nd one - The last
a) of the unplucked gems
b) lap of a 10,000m
c) american exit to the north land

AG: No idea, but I imagine the last lap of a 10,000m on the track would feel really damn good (if I can extrapolate from 5000m)... So I'll go with B.

SW: Oh no, that's the only answer that wasn't a song lyric by a Kingston band! 3. This one is a bit tricky, as it’s a cover - Tweeter and the Monkey Man were
a) neck and neck at the finish line
b) hard up for cash
c) physically distancing by staying 2m apart

AG: In solidarity with those who've lost their income due to COVID-19, I'll go with B.

SW: Yes! What’s the last song you played on your ukulele?

AG: The Rainbow Connection. My 16 year old online teacher tells me I'm making good progress. He's so professional, I'd swear he's at least 18.

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

AG: Most of the past interviewees have said friendship, which is a solid answer! But I've been isolating alone for over a month now! I'm going with companionship!!!

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