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iTAB Star, Oct 2022

Keely Vaudrie from Ontario, Canada.

“I run because I can, and I run because it allows me to be absolutely free of anything else in that day, in that month. and that year.”

Introducing bodybuilder-turned-runner, Keely Vaudrie from Barrie, Ontario, who counts running as one of the most important and empowering passions in her life.

‘When you see that finish line, there’s this drive that I think all humans have that’s really unleashed, it’s the pinnacle of everything you’ve trained for.’

Keely, on the feeling of crossing the finish line.

Hey Keely!

Hey iTAB!

How do you get into running?

I first found myself running when I was competitively bodybuilding four years ago. I didn’t do it for the love of it that I have now, I did it as more of an off-day sort of activity, as I had already worked out every body part that week and I couldn’t really go and weight train anymore. I was also bordering on a very disordered place of over-exercising, which is common in the bodybuilding world. I’m not putting it down, but I think that it’s a very thin ice activity and everybody that does it should be very cautious. I had been using running to kind of fill in gaps of when I couldn’t weight train. Flash forward to sort of losing myself in that bodybuilding world, and I was left with not really being able to train any more.

I had put myself in an overtrained state, and my friends that I’ve surrounded myself were runners, and I was like wow, running is pretty lame. You guys are just run? and they’re like yeah, we just run and then I finally just ran. I realised that you just keep going, and you can pace yourself, and you can train, and you can stagger workouts, and you can sprint, and you can go far, and you can do hills, and you can do roads, and that running is a sport. So, at the beginning of the summer season of this year, when there was still snow on the ground, I started to lace up and just got myself out there. I was like, you know what, I’m gonna run, and my mom was like, be careful because you can overdo things. But I found that running was easier to not overdo, and the fact that you felt more fatigued, and you know that you couldn’t have run rather. Whereas when I go to the gym, I can do a little something even if I don’t feel the best and I can get away with it. Running allowed me to stop pushing myself in the weight room, and to stop chasing arbitrary numbers that might honestly would have hurt me and did end up hurting me. I went through a couple injuries. I was battling a really bad knee inflammation injury where the underneath my kneecap. The tissues were really inflamed from squatting and deadlifting and lunging so that was sort of out and I was having a hard time riding my bike. But running didn’t aggravate anything, even my physiotherapist didn’t really know why. And I was able to run, so then I did. I

I’m too much of a competitive person to not at least try a competition, so I did, and I placed really well. I was fourth in my heat out of 420 girls, and I had never even imagined that. I went into it blissful by myself. Everybody had little pods and I was just like, hey everybody, how’s it going? I was starting to see this social aspect of running, and I was falling more in love with it. I just ran, and I ran fast. I saw the kilometre clicks going and I was like, I’m already at five, I’m already at six. And when you see that finish line, there’s this drive that I think all humans have that’s really unleashed, it’s the pinnacle of everything you’re trained for and you are gassed and you don’t feel like you can even breathe, and your heart pumps, and your lungs expand, and you don’t think about anything. I couldn’t even feel my legs moving, and I passed the finish line and given the endorphins and serotonin, the rush the cortisol, I just fell in love, and I haven’t really stopped.


Why do you run?

It’s a natural instinct that I believe is in all of us, and I think that is one of the talents that I’ve been given on this earth to use my body in a physical way. Whether that be doing my job as a personal trainer, doing my occupation as a student going to school for physiotherapy, it is a talent and it is an amazing ability that I’ve been given to be good at this and not just do it for fun, but I’ve been told by people I’d never met till the day of the race – ‘How long have you been training?’ Like five months maybe not even? And they’re like, ‘You need to pursue this because you have something’, and I think that we all have something. I run because I can, and I run because it allows me to be absolutely free of anything else in that day, in that month. and that year. You leave everything behind you, and everything that’s in front of you can’t get to you. I just run because it’s a natural, beautiful ability that I love, and there’s no feeling better than knowing that you accomplish what you put your mind to, whether that be for time or distance, or you got through the bad weather. I believe that if you can do something, you should do it and you should share it because other people can use it for their thing too.


Best run ever?

The first competitive run I ever did was on the Toronto Waterfront 10k, which is where I got the iTAB from, and that was my favourite experience quite honestly of my life. I had never done a run until that day, and it was along the waterfront that I so wholesomely love, and it was the best time I’ve ever run too.


Hardest thing about running?

Pushing yourself. I’ve never worked with a running coach, I know some people have but I find that the hardest thing about running – and I’m terrible at this – is running too far by accident and then knowing you have to get back. I do 10k’s and sometimes get to go for a long run that’s between 12 and 15. I did 18 by accident because I overshot my return point from the starting point distance, and the hardest part was there’s no one coaching you, there’s no one in the gym to spot you, there’s no voices saying you can keep going, there’s no one saying awesome job. It’s you in your head, by yourself, but that’s also one of the most blissful things about running as well.


How does running make you feel?

Running makes me feel absolutely unstoppable. I always compare it to weight training, because I just I just love physical movement. And I had been so deep down this bodybuilding rabbit hole. I didn’t really imagine myself ever doing a cardiovascular sport. And when you miss a lift and you bail, and the bar drops or somebody has to spot you and you don’t get the weight up, you don’t really feel that great because you actually – and statistically – failed. You did not accomplish what you tried to do, and you can always shrug it off. Hopefully you don’t get hurt, hopefully the bar drops behind you, but with running it’s as if you cannot fail no matter what. It doesn’t matter what speed you go. It doesn’t matter how far you go. As long as your legs are moving then you’re running, and therefore you’ve won.


Explain what you meant earlier, when you said the ‘social aspect’ of running?

I’ve done bodybuilding competitions, and every single competition I’ve ever walked into, you’re side eyeing people. You figure out who’s in your weight class, you look at their numbers online, you study their moves, you see them warm up and you’re secretly, spitefully, hoping they don’t lift they’re attempts, and you hope that they dropped the bar, you hope the judges don’t see them as well as they see you. There’s an egotistic drive to win in every other sport that I’ve played, whether it be hockey or a physical sport like bodybuilding or powerlifting, you’re by yourself. But when I went to the races – I’ve done three now – as you walk around, you see people with the bibs and the numbers and everyone’s just smiling each other. Hey, how’s it going? How are you feeling? Where are you from? Everyone’s just talking. It’s literally a social gathering, but what really shook me and what I had never felt before was that during the run, if you passed somebody they said Good job, Keep going, Keep it up, Go. I’m passing you! I’m literally leaving you behind me and you’re cheering me on, and it’s contagious. People pass me and I was like you go, you go for it! It didn’t matter who they were, when you run, you run with the 50-year-old man that’s trained for eight years and you run with the girl that might be doing this for her weight loss journey, and there’s three kids waiting in the car, and she’s so stressed out she’s running away from that. It doesn’t matter who’s next to you, you’re cheering everybody on, and that’s what honestly made me run so well. It took one person to say awesome job, keep going, and you just start flying. And then people pass you and you’re like, awesome job, keep going. And there’s this societal bond you form with other people that are as crazy as you to get out there and run for 10k, 15k, a whole marathon, whatever you choose to sign up for, and you all just support each other.

‘ I run because it’s a natural, beautiful ability that I love, and there’s no feeling better than knowing that you can accomplish what you put your mind to.’

Keely, on why she runs.

Greatest running achievement?

It would have been the Summit 700 race that I did at a very wonderful resort in Ontario. It’s north of where I live at Horseshoe Valley Resort, and it was thick woods, running up the mountain. It was called Summit 700 for a reason you went up 700 feet, and I had never ever imagined vertically climbing trees. I was holding on to branches to get up and over I was shaken the entire run because there were little flags keeping on course, there were poison ivy signs, it was a mountain biking course, there are ski hills in the winter, I didn’t know what I was doing. But to know that you’re running through this thick forest and all of a sudden it opens up and you’re on the edge of a mountain, and you can see this glorious view, and it looked like you were in British Columbia, which is a very mountainous, gorgeous Alaskan-style terrain, and you pop out and you see that, and it was like, wow! I just I want to stay here but I gotta go because I’m being timed so had to very quickly snap out of it. That was my greatest running accomplishment, finishing that intact, no scratches, no broken ankles, and with a decent time.

On road or off road?

After doing that, I’m going back to the woods. I want to run in the mountains. I want to, but it’s not anatomically possible, to grow a big thick beard, put a lumberjack costume on and just run to the woods forever. Maybe jump on some bears see some moose, like I want to go deep into the woods.

When you get tired what stops you from quitting?

Knowing how I’m going to feel when I finish and it’s something that I even put on my Instagram stories. We all have those days I’ve had to wake up at four o’clock to be running by five o’clock, to be showered and at work for six o’clock. Those are not fun days, and when your legs feel tired and you know that you have about four kilometres to your home, and it’s dragging. I know, and I remind myself, I am physically capable of this. The only barrier I’m pushing through right now is mentally, and what keeps me going is knowing that I’m given this opportunity right now to run and there are millions of people that would give anything to be in my position. So what do I even have to complain about?

Advice for first time runners?

Stop disabling yourself. There is no soft way to say it, you just have to start. There’s no logical reason to stop yourself from doing anything. Whether that be pursuing a new career, starting a bike ride, or going for a walk. It maybe you’re in a very overweight state maybe unhappy with themselves and you say you just they don’t have the time. I guarantee that everybody has 10 minutes to just walk around your block. And if you can walk around your block, you can jog around the block, and if you can do that then you can do it twice. My advice would be to just go! I’m not gonna say just do it because Nike’s already taken that, but just go, there’s nothing stopping you except for that mental barrier. Don’t think about every reason why you can’t, think about every reason why you can. And if it’s just because I have two legs, then use those two legs to propel yourself.

How would you describe the feeling of crossing the finish line?

Euphoric, absolutely euphoric. There are certain hormones that are released when a human accomplishes something like that. And so, I know that the chemicals in my brain are going haywire, they’re shooting through the roof, but if it barrels down to the very single feeling I have, it would be absolute euphoria of just joyful gratitude for that ability to be surrounded by those people, and then to want to do it again.

Future running goals?

Before the end of the season, I hope to do one more race and I want to go back to the woods. So, my running goals for this season would be to really home in my 10k time on mountain terrain. It’s completely different from a road time, that was a very hard and abrupt lesson I learned on the on the Summit 700. We were holding onto tree branches, my running app paused because I was going vertically, and it didn’t catch the fact that I was still moving. I come back to this instinct of the primal love, this is what humans were meant to do, we’re bipedal creatures, we’re meant to run. So why not climb in the middle of running? Why not use our arms? I mean, we’re not t-rex’s, we have hands, we have arms, we should use them to climb and crawl. So, my running goals would be to do one more map and run, it’s fall now so it’s not going to be really hot, but I definitely don’t want to do it with snow on the ground.


Thanks Keely, you’re a star!

If you want to follow in Keely’s footsteps and run the Toronto Waterfront 10k see below:

Toronto Waterfront 10k