I Spy Interview: Maman Marathonienne Sylvie Mallard

It’s a good thing we can follow Sylvie Mallard, aka @MamanMarathon, on Twitter. In real life, it would be tough to keep up with her.

She is a mom and a video editor for Radio-Canada who blogs about training for marathons and ultramarathons. She ran her first marathon in Philadelphia in 2007, her second in New Jersey in 2008 and, after a “pause grossesse” for the birth of her daughter in 2009, resumed training, pushing herself to the next level.

She’s also one of those crazy winter runners. On January 2, Sylvie participated in what she describes as “the coolest event” she has ever done: Frozen Ass on Mount Royal. It’s six hours in the snow, people!

I interviewed Sylvie to find out what makes her run.

I Spy Montréal: You’re running the Fall Colours half marathon in Ottawa in October and the full New York City Marathon in November, and planning to run the JFK 50 Mile – an ultra marathon – in 2011. What makes you push yourself toward these goals?

Sylvie: Running was always a passion for me. As early as I can remember, I dreamed of running a marathon. That dream came true on November 18, 2007. A turning point in my life. Training for and running a marathon gave me strength and courage in my everyday life. I’m the kind of person who is very curious about “what’s next”.

After running 2 marathons, I just wanted more. I want to see how far I can go. And to continue on my journey as a runner, I need challenges. One might say that running a marathon is enough of a challenge … and as true as it is, I just want to go further. So my next goal is to gain experience in the marathon distance so I can move on to Ultra Marathon distance. An Ultra Marathon is any distance more than 42.2 km. As a minimum, there’s the 50 km, after that, you can run the 50 mile distance, then, there’s the 100k and 100 miles distance. It is a vast world of possibilities.

My choice for my first ultra is the JFK 50 miles held in the state of Maryland in the Appalachian trails in November every year. I’m hoping to be able to run that distance in 2011. I just hired a personal coach who will help me become a long distance specialist. I’m very happy about what the future holds for me and my running shoes 🙂

I Spy Montréal: How has becoming a mom affected your training? Do you take your daughter running with you? Also, your boyfriend is an Iron Man athlete – is it hard to fit in everyone’s training?

Sylvie: Being a mom only solidified my desire to continue to push forward and to accomplish my goals as an athlete. Having a partner who is as active as I am is great because I have his full on support and so does he. My boyfriend works at home as a day trader and has a pretty flexible schedule so it makes it easier on us to schedule our workouts. During my year long maternity leave, it was very important for me to have my “me time” and I got it while I was running.

Since I got back to work, I manage to get my runs in depending on my work schedule. When I’m on my day shift (7am to 4pm), I either run really early in the morning (crazy early, at 4:30am!!) or at lunch or I leave work in my running shoes and come back home running! I sometimes run after my little girl is in bed but I prefer not to, because I’m a morning person. When I’m on the night shift (4pm to midnight), I run during the day. Sometimes with my girl in the baby stroller if my boyfriend needs time alone to work but most of the time, I run alone. I truly believe in the balance of things.

If I can get my runs in, I get my doses of endorphin and I’m a much happier person, mother and friend, I’m more patient and much more fun to be around!! Our secret as a family to make it work: commitment, communication and understanding. Each morning or each night, we make the time to talk about who does what and at what time and how (with or without our girl) for the upcoming day. We support each other and it makes it all easy. With that level of support, I can go out and run with no guilt. For me, having no guilt and full on support it’s the ultimate gift my partner can give me and in a way, it’s my idea of everyday affection towards each other. It definitely makes us stronger. We also do have the amazing support of my boyfriend parents who take care of their grand daughter once or twice a week to help us get our workouts in. Without them, it would be much harder.

I Spy Montréal: What is your ideal run?

Sylvie: Most definitely in autumn, when I can run on dead leaves on Mount Royal’s Olmsted trail. Alone or with a good friend, or with my little family. It’s my idea of a perfect day! Add to that a hot tall latte at the end of the run and I’m in heaven!

I Spy Montréal: What is a typical week like for you in terms of exercise?

Sylvie: These days, I’m training for the New York City Marathon so I train 5 to 6 times a week with 4 to 5 runs a week (between 50 to 65 km) and from time to time, I add a great bike ride with some friends on a Sunday or a few laps at the pool of the Olympic Stadium to change things up. Mondays and Fridays are off and it’s usually on those days that I try to get a massage in.

I Spy Montréal: When you’re running a race and the pain and fatigue set in, and there’s still a long way to go, what keeps you moving ? What is going through your mind?

Sylvie: It varies a lot. I’m a pretty positive person by nature so, mostly, I go through my mantra in my head to keep a positive spirit. I like to repeat these phrases: Pain is temporary, pride is forever. Don’t think, just run! When you think it is over, there’s still more in you. One more step. One more kilometre. One more minute, etc! This is a long process of experience, because at the beginning of my running 6 years ago, I got down on myself a lot and felt horrible and cried after bad runs.

With experience, I developed a way to become stronger in those not-so-glorious moments. It’s still a work in progress, but I find that it gives me strength to keep a positive mind in difficult times. I try to laugh as much as possible and to not take myself so seriously. That helps, too. But I do allow myself to feel defeated from time to time as it helps me grow from that experience. Right there, it is why I love running so much. It’s not just about putting one step in front of the other, it’s about life and living it to the fullest.

I Spy Montréal: Can you share a favourite weekend activity that you do as a family?

Sylvie: Our daughter is still young and just starting to walk so we haven’t really explored the possibilities of kid friendly activities. For now, we like to keep it simple. We love to hang out on the Plateau Mont-Royal. Grabbing a coffee and walking on Mont-Royal and hanging out at the Parc Lafontaine is a pretty typical day for us. A really great and kid-friendly restaurant is Byblos on Laurier St. They have the most amazing omelets and the coffee is really good. Great decor and friendly staff. I’ve spent a lot of time there with my daughter during my maternity leave!

I Spy Montréal: Thanks for the tip! Great to meet you, Sylvie.