For most of her athletic career, Marie Constantino was part of a team. She played soccer for most of her life and loved it. But during her University years, Marie branched out into solo sports, such as swimming, cycling, triathlons, and eventually, long-distance running.
While being part of a team made Marie appreciate working with others and realize the strength that comes in groups, she cites solo sports as teaching her a lot about grit. Marie elaborates, “[Grit is] pushing through your walls and smashing them while at it; realizing that you can do more than what you thought you are capable of and just having the appreciation of being able to use your body in such great ways.”
In fact, her first brush with solo long-distance running was entirely unplanned and almost unknown. As part of a mountaineering club and a soccer team, she joined several runs with her team to test and maintain their fitness levels. During this time, Marie tried trail running and got hooked.
“My first ultra run was a 50km trail race, and I surprised myself by finishing 3rd female among the participant field. From there, I started yearning for more challenges and greater distances, and I have found myself running from 50km events to a 100-mile event,” Marie says.
In her first 100-mile trail run event, she came in 6th overall and was the only female finisher of the event. It was an impressive feat for a newcomer to the sport. However, the longer races pose many mental battles for Marie. She says that during the longer distances you’re “just telling yourself that you are feeling okay even after hours of running.” She also states that the Canadian landscape and climate also present numerous challenges. The terrain is vastly different from where Marie grew up.
Further, Marie has been very lucky to not experience any injuries throughout her running or sports career. She aims to exercise to optimize and maintain her health, yet she knows when rest and recovery is necessary to do so as well. She adds, “I am not getting any younger so proper rest and recovery are key to keep myself doing what I love until I’m 100 years old.”
When it comes to race day, she jokingly says, “What motivates me? Desserts and pastries after a long run!” In truth, Marie shared that she’s grateful for being able to see the most wonderful places with just her feet guiding her and her heart leading. She enjoys every second of every event. In one particular event in France, she recounts running in the middle of the night and stopping by a ridge. She took a moment to lie down and marvel at the clear night sky with millions of stars dotting the black canvas. She also admits that it gave her a second to rest her tired legs.
Before any event, Marie – like most athletes – gets herself in the right mindset to race. She frequently listens to feel-good tunes, like broadway music, including Rent, The Greatest Showman, and The Lion King.
Typically leading up to a race, she aims to be at the event venue at least 2-3 days beforehand. This allows Marie to acclimatize. The day before the big event, she does a “shakeout run” which is no more than 8% of the total race distance. She further says she doesn’t follow any strict diet, but she does aim to eat fairly well. And with her sweet tooth, she also admits to devouring a few sweets and pastries the day before her event, with many to follow afterward.
Although Marie likes to live in the moment, she’s hoping to continue to participate in running and endurance events for the next 20 years. She will be attempting the Sur les Traces des Ducs de Savoie Race (TDS) in August 2020, which is a 145 km run from Cormayeaur, Italy to Chamonix, France. The event has a total of 9100 meters of elevation gain combined with very technical mountain trails.
But that’s not all Marie is hoping to accomplish. She’s diving into a new career path and enjoying a different kind of journey in that.
As for advice, she’d like to pass down to runners or endurance athletes who are just starting out, she says, “Just enjoy every moment of it. Take the first step, one foot in front of the other until you’re done. There is no magic formula in this. If you love what you’re doing, your body will follow.”