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Jun 8 2017 - JDLF Athlete Profile: Sarah MacPherson

As our team prepares for The Jeux de La Francophonie in Afirca , we will be featuring ANB athletes from the team over the next 6 weeks. We start today with our incredible athlete and academic, Sarah MacPherson


Sarah MacPherson : Why I Love This Sport

Words by Grace Annear

Sarah MacPherson is one of the sunniest people you will ever meet. Tall, dark-haired, and lanky, her smile and cackling laugh brighten up any room. A 1500m specialist, she spent the summer of 2016 breaking out onto the elite Canadian scene. She qualified for the final at the 1500m Olympic Trials and earned a berth on Team Canada--Nouveau Brunswick for the World Francophone Games. As if that wasn’t enough, she also sets fashion trends by sporting obnoxious crew-length socks.

Born and raised in Fredericton, Sarah currently lives in Victoria, BC. In high school, her talent and work ethic earned her a scholarship to a NCAA Division One school. “I contemplated about staying close to home, but ultimately decided that if I was going to try the NCAA athlete life, I needed to go big and go all the way to Oklahoma,” she says. After completing a degree in Biochemistry and racing for the Hurricanes, she moved to Victoria to pursue a Masters in Biochemistry. Now, she holds a causal research position at the B.C. Cancer Agency and trains with Athletics Canada’s WestHub.  

Sarah has been on the track scene since grade school, competed in the NCAA, and now lives as an elite. After so many years in this circular world she’s a seasoned veteran, and it’s the pursuit of excellence that keeps her hooked.

“I love the fact that track lets you become the best person version of yourself. It’s a realm without limits, or rather, a place where the only limits are those within you.”

The pursuit of personal excellence keeps her pretty busy. At the WestHub, she trains in three-week cycles. One week is intensity-based, followed by a volume week, which is followed by recovery week. During these weeks, she lifts weights Wednesday and Friday. Workout days are on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, with long run on Sunday. Every afternoon features a second run, and each Wednesday she attends an evening recovery session. To cap it off, throughout the week, she seeks physio, chiro, massage, and sports psyche.

“Whether it’s a workout or a race, every day I get to challenge myself. Doing the little things matter – like stretching and taking my iron -- but when it comes down to it, the most important part of being an athlete is being able to step up and perform on the day.”

She recalls one specific workout that tested her limits. “Last year, in May, I did a 4x400m workout where all the intervals needed to be a hair faster than 60 seconds, which is pretty quick for me. On the first one we went way too fast  -- 58 low. I was in agony the moment we crossed the line. Gasping for breath, I started to laugh -- I tend to find life hilarious when I’m exhausted, especially when I know I have to get through an impossible task. After number two I was dead, and completely blew up in the fourth. But I was also so satisfied for having made it through.”

“I love when I hit the point where I think I can’t go on. Because when I get to that place, I always surprise myself with what I am capable of. I keep going. That I can surprise myself after all these years makes me love running.”

That ability to push through, and enjoy the push, paid off in 2016.

“When I ran my PB [the time that qualified her for JDLF] I thought I was screwed halfway through the race. I was competing at the Portland Track Festival, in Oregon. The pacer went through 800m in 2:18 – 4 seconds too slow. And, she paced it unevenly, which is super tiring!” Sarah laughs. “I was so mad!”

“At 500 to go, I considered dropping out and saving my energy for another race, because the final time was almost guaranteed to be slow. Instead, I decided to practice kicking. So I did that, and the kick was good, and the time turned out to be a PB!”

“Track tests you. So often you hit a point where you think you can’t go on, or you think that if you do go on it’s going to be terrible. What I love is that I get to choose to keep going, and that when I do that, I surprise myself. That I can still surprise myself, that I can still find new possibilities after all these years, makes me continue to love running.”

Of her decision to move west, she becomes reflective. “The west and the east are both very different cultures. Whenever I go home, I can feel the community and how everyone is so close. I love that home feeling and I have a lot of great memories growing up on the east coast.”

“These days, on the West Coast, I feel like a little person in a big world, which is the exact opposite of home. I like both feelings, but when it comes to running, feeling like a little person makes the world your oyster. I feel like there’s so much I can accomplish, and with my incredible team and circle of friends, and I feel like there are no limits to what I can do.”

What’s next for the up-and-coming athlete? “So far my race plans for the summer include races in high performance meets in Arizona, Oregon, Washington and California. I will also compete at Nationals in Ottawa. Internationally, I will go to the Francophone Games in the Ivory Coast to represent New Brunswick. I would also like to make the World University Games in Taiwan. World Championship in London are also on the radar, but we will see how my races this summer go.” If her progress in 2016 is any indicator, these goals are well within her reach.

For now, though, she’s not fixating on those big goals. Instead, she focuses on the day to day. “I love training every day because it makes me the best version of myself. Every day I get to push myself to be better, and that’s a reward in and of itself. I love the pursuit of this sport.”

Sarah’s athletic lifestyle is chronicled in a series of stories, titled The Adventures of Sarah and Grace. To follow Sarah’s journey, hop over to, or check out her social media @sarahrmac6

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