When Sylvia Ruegger was 15, she watched the 1976 Montreal Olympics on TV and decided right there and then that she would run for Canada in the Games. On a piece of paper, she wrote down, "My goal: to make it to the 1980 Olympics in Russia and win for Canada." She put that piece of paper under a floor board in her farmhouse bedroom and told no one about her aspirations.
She called it audacious hope. To believe that she'd be able to do it.
She started running, on her own, in the early mornings before school. Her mother followed behind her in the car along country roads, with the headlights on so she could see where she was going.
Ruegger didn't make it to the 1980 Games.
But she did make it to the 1984 Olympics in L.A., and represented Canada in the marathon event – the first time women were allowed to compete in the marathon. She didn't win, but she came in eight place.
My mom and I went to hear Ruegger give a talk at the Runner's Den in Port Moody some time ago, where she showed a video clip of her final lap around the stadium. It was one of the most inspiring things I've ever seen.
She also brought her bib from the race framed behind glass. LA 84. 060. Games of the XXIIIrd Olympiad. Ruegger.
Below it was the piece of paper she had found still underneath the floor board in her old room at the farmhouse.
When I run I often think of Sylvia Ruegger, a great Canadian runner. I like her story. I like the way she set a goal, wrote it down, and followed through. I want to be just like her.
I want to run a marathon. Not in the Olympics, and not to win, but just to be able to say that I accomplished my goal.