In December 2020, I took on the virtual challenge of running two kilometers a day for a month. Was I already a runner? No. I would say I was a sporadic jogger at best. It was hard ? Absolutely – but not as hard as I had expected. I managed to get out almost every day and the sense of accomplishment was amazing. My favorite thing was to finish my race on a descent to enjoy the truly unbeatable thrill of speed. I chased the top of this runner fairly consistently throughout 2021. But this year’s routine was marred by starts and stops.
I was looking for inspiration to help me get back on track when I had the chance to chat with André De Grasse. The Scarborough-born sprinter and co-author of the motivational children’s book Race with me! recently landed in Toronto to launch its new partnership with Tre Stelle and the company’s new product, Cheezmade, a meat alternative made with 100% Canadian cheese. He had just won Team Canada’s gold medal in the men’s 4×100 meters relay at the World Championships in Athletics, where he ran the final leg in a fast time of 8.79 seconds. And yes, I asked the most decorated male Olympian in Canadian history how I could become a better jogger.
During the interview, which has been edited for length and clarity, we also talked about what it was like to fight COVID-19 on its road to victory and the charitable efforts that keep it going.
Congratulations on your gold medal! What was the sweetest part of the victory experience?
Just knowing that we’ve made history…it’s been [more than] 25 years since we’ve done anything like this. So it was nice to have some kudos from the guys that were there before – Donovan [Bailey]Bruny [Surin] and robert [Esmie] — and, of course, other members, our relay coach.
We went to two Olympics together as a team, and we won bronze and we won silver, so we just wanted to have that opportunity to try and win gold. So it’s really good.
You recently recovered from COVID-19 for the second time. What impact has this had on your training for the World Championships in Athletics?
There will always be ups and downs and things you can’t control. Of course, not being able to train at my best for the last three weeks after contracting it – that was tough. But, you know, I wanted to try to make sure I was there for my team.
I scratched 200 meters [race], then I focused on trying to be ready for the relay and finish the world championship in style. So, it feels really good to be able to have that and say, “OK, I mean, it didn’t start well, but at least it ended well.” And I think that’s life.
I hope you can help me as a budding runner. What are your tips for getting the average person to run better?
It’s all really in the technique. You know, making sure you pump your arms. And I think for the average person, just start by doing a few laps around the track. Try to feel this momentum. Take your time, of course, pace yourself…if you’re trying to run fast, you don’t need to get ready so fast for this moment.
I tell people that as a runner, I don’t run fast all the time. I am literally warming up. I’m outta here. I do warm-up laps at a much slower pace. And then, of course, you have to do exercises to keep your technique.
Definitely, I think if you work on small details and start slow, and do those things first, then you can kind of get into running. But don’t just run fast because that’s how you get hurt. You gotta take your time, relax, calm down [and] obviously make sure you are hydrated.
So do these things and finally, perhaps Can I run 100 meters in 8.79 seconds?
Well, you will definitely have a personal record! It’s funny, because I had a [virtual running] challenge … the goal was for everyone to run 400 meters, and literally every week you come back and try to beat your time again. So a lot of people, as they kept doing it over and over, actually ran a little bit faster each time, even if it was by a second…it was kind of cool to see that.
Age didn’t even matter, to be honest. We had people in their 20s, 30s, 40s, they were just running. And I think that’s what it’s all about: it’s just practice. Once you practice, everything falls into place.
The Andre De Grasse Family Foundation and the Andre De Grasse Future Champions Scholarship Program help empower young people by giving them access to activities such as sports, healthcare and education. Why is it important to you to give back to young people?
I was lucky to have a lot of support throughout my career. And I still want to be able to return that favor to a lot of those kids. Really, I just saw, especially when I went back to my old athletics club, how many kids were so good. And being able to, you know, help them get a scholarship, go to college, and maybe want to pursue their sport, it’s really rewarding for me to see that.
How can Canadians support your projects?
Our next project is coming soon. In fact, I’m having a wine luncheon to help raise money for the foundation. So all the proceeds will actually go to my foundation – to help kids with their sport… and anything really to do with this educational piece, because we want to make sure they don’t just become sports stars , but also that they can also have their education. To be able to be a productive citizen in the world. You can go to AndreDeGrasse.com and find out more.
Until fall, what are you going to focus on?
My sport is all year round. Even if we are not in competition all the time, it is all year round. So I mean, literally, I train six days a week. So when fall rolls around, I’ll be back training here and preparing for another year. Next year we have the world championship in Budapest, Hungary, and it’s kind of a stepping stone for me to prepare for the  Paris Olympic Games. So it’s definitely a lot of that, a lot of family time. It’s kind of my schedule right now.
Ingrie Williams is a Toronto-based freelance beauty and style writer, and co-founder of the T-Zone, who lives for a glossy lip and big hair. Follow her on Instagram @ingriewilliams.