Plenty of children like to run around for seemingly no reason at all, fueled merely by the innate urge to move.
Leah Pells was no different in elementary school, spending her lunch breaks running laps around her school’s field for fun.
“I don’t know if I was just an odd kid or what,” Pells said in an interview ahead of the 2023 Bell Canadian Track & Field Championships, taking place in Langley on July 27 to 30.
Steve Read taught Pells in grades six and seven, and it was him who took her running journey to its next step: joining the track club.
The club was small, made up of less than 10 kids with the same naturally occurring love of the sport.
“It was just his car and us kids, and then this old track,” Pells said.
Their training grounds were nothing fancy. Pells described it as an old black track that bore a tough surface, nothing like the nice new one there now.
That was the Langley Track Club’s place, though.
In 1976, Read went to the Olympics in Montreal. Upon his return and sharing stories of his experience, Pells made up her mind.
“I want to do that,” she said to Read. To which he simply replied, “OK.”
That was the official starting line for Pells. It wouldn’t be an easy one however, and the track star said she experienced a number of failures before finally making it to the top.
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“I tried to make the team in 1988, finished dead last. I made the team in 1992 and ran the 3000m that they offered then but I didn’t make it out of the heat, I think I finished dead last,” she said.
“I was kind of like wow, this is a bit harder than I thought, and do I have the capacity to continue?”
As it would turn out, she did. Pells said that from a young age running taught her how to set a small goal, and achieve it. Once she made her first Olympic team, she said she knew that no matter the goal, every single one she set for herself, she was going to achieve it.
“At the 1996 Olympics, when everything really came together and went well, a moment that I really recall is after I finished. I jumped on the athlete bus all by myself and went back to the warm up track. We were the last event and there wasn’t a person there. It was just me. I had my moment where I was like, ‘OK, I did that,’” she said.
No matter the goal she reached however, she never forgot where she came from.
“I love Langley, I still feel like I’m from Langley. I still feel like a Langley girl,” she said.
Bell Canadian Track & Field Championchips in Langley
The national meet, set to take place July 27 to 30 at McLeod Athletic Park in Langley, will bring Canada’s fastes runners, highest jumpers and strongest throwers to the Lower Mainland, in what will be their last attempt to represent Canada in the world championships in Budapest.
Tickets are on sale online. Adult passes are $30, youth passes are $15, and kids under seven can attend for free.
Pells says it’s not an event to be missed.
“I don’t think people really get what a big deal Canadian national track and field championships are until you go,” she said.
“You see the cream of the crop, these are the athletes that are going to be at world championships, at the Olympics next year. You get to go and be this close to the best of the best.”
Pells continues to spread encouragement and shares her goal-setting mentality to anyone who shares an interest in running.
“Kids are always like, ‘I wanna do that,’ and I’m always like ‘You know what? Someone has to go to the Olympics, why not you? Go!”