U of R alum running professionally
Kelly Wiebe is turning his Cougar success into pro schedule
The sports that are focused on at the U of R are normally football, basketball and hockey, while many of the others, like track and field, fly under the radar. Kelly Wiebe, a former Cougar athlete who is now a professional runner, is doing his part to put sports like track and field back on the radar.
Wiebe has been altitude training in Flagstaff, Arizona for the past five weeks and is planning on staying there until September to prepare for the fall racing. I spoke to Kelly a couple of days after he competed in Santa Cruz, California where the runner wasn’t all-too-happy with his performance.
“I was looking to do better this past weekend, but that’s how it goes sometimes. My body was tired.”
Not to worry, however, as this race was just, as he put it, “an indication race to see how my body was responding to altitude.” The recently turned 26-year-old also learned his lesson in his Santa Cruz race, saying that he now knows he needs to give his body more time between training and competition.
The native of Swift Current, like most kids growing up in Saskatchewan, played an assortment of different sports that included hockey, baseball and basketball. However, by grade 11, he decided to give up playing those sports competitively so he could focus his time and energy on his passion, which was track and field and cross-country.
“I saw a future there, and I knew there was a chance at getting a scholarship.”
There definitely were some bonuses to playing an assortment of sports at a young age, as Wiebe said, developing coordination, strength and a competitive attitude. That same competitive attitude, however, can get you into trouble as a runner more so than in team sports, according to the former Cougar athlete.
“When running you can’t go all out all the time, and be overly competitive with your teammates, if your training leads to ‘racing’ all the time in practice, burning out is inevitable.”
This can be hard for some to grasp as everyone that is a high level athlete wants to beat the other person all the time, but, as Kelly states, “if you can contain the fire during training, the fire burns hotter in competition.”
Being a newly-turned pro-runner looking back on his days at the U of R, it is easy for Wiebe to see just how far he has come as a runner and athlete.
“I started my first year thinking I was already doing a lot, but in reality, I was doing nothing.”
When asked what caused his transformation as a runner, Kelly gave full credit to his former coach/ father figure, Doc, simply saying, “Doc was everything, if it wasn’t for Doc, I wouldn’t have won any major titles, I wouldn’t have done as well in school, and I wouldn’t be the person I am today.”
It is obvious that Kelly learned many lessons under the guidance of coach Doc, but none were more important than that you can always be better. One way Kelly applied this lesson after university was to his training. Even though he isn’t running as much as he was at the U of R, Wiebe says he is getting more out of his training. Due to the increase in time that he now has, he can pay closer attention to the smaller things, like how he utilizes his rest before key sessions, and recovery after these sessions. Continued focus on his weaknesses and the smaller things will surely see Wiebe continue to climb the ranks of Canadian runners. A recent article on Wiebe, claimed that he might be next in a long line of elite Canadian marathoners, but when asked about it he does his best humble pro-athlete impression.
“I think it’s a nice thing to say,” he says with a laugh, “but it’s a title I will certainly have to earn. There are a lot of runners that will be trying to prove it wrong, but I will do everything I can to prove it right.”
Based on his recent success and current training there definitely seems to be a good track laid out, for the Saskatchewan born and raised, runner to achieve elite runner status.
It hasn’t been all smooth sailing for the 26 year-old Wiebe since leaving university. Last April, Kelly became very ill due to a blood clot that became infected and, had it gotten any worse, could have threatened his life. Twenty-five at the time and just recently graduated from university, a life-threatening illness would be a very terrifying experience that could alter plans and even change someone’s outlook on life, especially as an athlete if you miss months of vital training. That wasn’t the case for Kelly. Instead of his outlook on life-changing, it was reinforced. Some people go through life with out taking risks, but that’s out of the question in Kelly’s eyes.
“You have to do what you love,” he says with a smile. “What makes me happy is what I’m doing now. Pushing myself, and trying to better myself as a runner and ultimately a person, even if it leaves me struggling to get by.”
With his determination, anything is possible for him, so when I asked him what’s next in his career, he replied, “The ultimate goal is to make the Olympics and compete to my highest potential.”
If the Swift Current native is going to achieve this he is going to have to go back to school.
“The best in the world aren’t just great athletes, they are students of the sport; constantly learning and trying to better themselves.”.
From all of us here at the U of R, and your newest fan, good luck and we hope to be cheering you on at the Olympics one day.