Running to the Top

Ryan Noel-Hodge Running up the Cross Country Ranks

  • Photo Luciana Dykstra

Whether you grew up amid the skyscrapers in the big city or the stalks in the cornfields, you’re a product of your environment.

Concordia’s Ryan Noel-Hodge is a long distance runner from the farms of Quebec’s Eastern Townships. Growing up, he didn’t need the training facilities of a big city. Instead, the young athlete made use of the open fields that farm life provided.

At the end of June, Noel-Hodge added to his trophy case by bringing home a bronze medal in the 10000-metre race at the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Calgary.

These days, Noel-Hodge runs. And then he runs. And then he thinks about running. And then he runs again. And, almost like a home away from home, running still evokes feelings from his childhood, where he can turn his concentration to running in the open fields that he grew up in.

“As a person, he is ‘country,’ as they say,” said Concordia Cross Country head coach John Lofranco. “That’s a compliment. He has an old school work ethic. That is to say he doesn’t shy away from it, as many do these days.”

Noel-Hodge focuses on the task that’s in front of him. When he’s running or training, he isn’t trying to figure out what he’s eating for dinner.

“My worst races, or the bad ones, are the ones where my mind wanders,” Noel-Hodge admitted. “I start thinking about how tough it is, and how much it hurts, or how far the finish is, or how hard it is to get up a hill, or how terrible I feel while watching someone slowly drift away from me.”

Having only started running long distance competitively in 2008, he’s still fairly new to the sport, but he still managed to end his first year competing in the Canadian Junior Cross Country Championships.

Now, with five years of competition under his belt, Noel-Hodge’s goal is to be a part of the Canadian senior cross country team and qualify for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

“He has good natural biomechanics, and he has a good build for a runner: tall and skinny,” said Lofranco, “When he is ‘on’—that is to say, confident, healthy and fit—he can push himself very, very hard, and essentially distance running is a contest of will.”

What keeps Noel-Hodge motivated, he says, is the joy he gets from running. Breaking down self-set barriers while continuing to create new goals, he continues to push himself.

“It’s mind-blowing when you finish a race or a workout and do something you didn’t think was possible on that day,” he said.

“Each time that happens, you become more of a running machine, and those small steps feed the engine, which creates a vicious cycle. I always come back wanting more.”

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