On Feb. 16, third-year hurdler Madeleine Whitestone secured her season-best time of 9.61 seconds in the 60 metre hurdles at the Raven U-Sport Last Chance Invitational, finishing in fifth place. Whitestone had been struggling with a back injury all season so the strong performance was an encouraging sign of her recovery.
Running has always been a part of Whitestone’s life. She started running triathlons when she was young but also played soccer and field hockey. Eventually, she picked up track, too. During high school, Whitestone ran for the University of Toronto (U of T) Track Club so that she could run year-round rather than just during her school’s short track season.
“I was always a big runner […], so I have pretty much been doing track [and] running for as long as I can remember,” Whitestone said. “I joined the U of T track club. It was really close to my house and had some of the best facilities in the country, so I was really lucky with that.”
Growing up, Whitestone mainly ran long-distance, so when her coach threw her into a hurdles race, she was surprised. However, she performed well and decided to stick with running the 60m hurdles.
“Hurdles, to me, are pretty fun because it makes running a bit more technical, as if it wasn’t technical enough,” Whitestone said. “If you’re doing a longer race like the 400 [metre] hurdles, it’s a lot easier to focus on the hurdling than on the pain.”
Track and field is an exhausting, painful sport. As a result, competitive runners are often self-motivated and independent individuals, so completing workouts are personal challenges and victories. For Whitestone, this is exactly the case.
“A motivator for me is focusing on how accomplished and amazing I will feel after the workout is done,” Whitestone said. “Another huge help in getting through hard days are my teammates. They are always so supportive and encouraging, [and] if someone is really not feeling it [that day], someone else will chime in with a motivating comment and keep us all going.”
Racing is mostly an individual endeavour, though Whitestone and her teammates train alongside each other in practice. However, at the 2019 Provincial Championships, she did get the opportunity to run with her teammates as part of the 4x200m relay team.
“Track, despite it being a team, is an individual sport which can put a lot of pressure on you and [lead to] a somewhat lonely journey,” Whitestone said. “Getting a chance to do a proper team event is really great because we all support each other as teammates, but this gives us a chance to be ‘in it together’ which is pretty fun.”
While many of her teammates have specific routines to prepare themselves before a race, like eating only half of a banana, and exclusively drinking blue Gatorade, Whitestone likes to keep hers simple.
“Pre-race rituals are pretty big on the team,” Whitestone said. “I’m boring and just try to eat a sugary snack about an hour and a half before I race, typically a granola bar or fruit. In terms of music, I know how tacky this is, but I like to listen to Drake because it reminds me of home.”
The Toronto native is currently in her third year of an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering. She hopes to work in the sustainability industry and eventually pursue graduate school after working for a year or two.
“I’d love to get involved in research or work on topics such as the circular economy, where I’d be given a chance to use my degree for good,” Whitestone said.
With the outdoor track and field season approaching, Whitestone is preparing to transition back into longer sprints as well as the 400m hurdles. Having just wrapped up the 2018-19 season, she will condition the way she always has: Performing athletic activities that put less stress on her body, like yoga and swimming, to help her heal after all the strain she accumulates over a season on the track.