Meet Lyndsay Tessier, Elite Athlete and School Teacher
Edited from original story by Michael Doyle for irun.ca magazine (catch the full story at
Lyndsay Tessier doesn’t want you to call her “elite.” She doesn’t even really want you to refer to her as a “runner” first. “I’m a schoolteacher,” she says proudly. “I’m a runner too, but it’s a distant second for me.”
Considering she’s the national master’s record holder in the marathon, and her 2:30:47 personal best ranks her 12th fastest Canadian woman of all-time, the 43-year-old’s running story is surprisingly short. Lyndsay only started running about ten years ago. “My first race was a local 5K, and I was wearing a pair of those Lululemon yoga pants — the ones that belled out at the cuff,” she says with a self-deprecating laugh. She thinks she finished in around 22 minutes, which surprised even her, as it felt freeing. Her friends encouraged the Toronto-based elementary school teacher to continue exploring her ability, and she quickly unlocked a long-hidden potential — little did she know it was Olympic-calibre talent. Since she started focusing more seriously on training in her late 30’s, Tessier has gone from running a surprising 2:54 to a shocking 2:45, to a 2:36—which everyone assumed was her limit—to 2:30, as a 41-year-old.
After smashing the 40+ national record at the 2018 Berlin Marathon, Lyndsay was selected to represent Canada at the World Championships in Doha, Qatar in 2019. The race was situated in the desert and started at midnight local time with the temperature floating around 40 C — it was as if the event was designed to see runners spectacularly fail. But Lyndsay and her coach Steve Boyd saw all these obstacles as her path to yet another breakthrough.
Three weeks before Doha, Lyndsay drove up to Kingston, Ont., where Boyd lives, for her last big workout — 25K at marathon pace. She ran a hilly gravel 5K loop on her own, with Boyd handing her water bottles. “I had to slow her down at one point because she was running 3:28/km,” says Boyd. “She was in 2:26-27 shape going in.”
Leading up to the World Championships, Lyndsay watched Diamond League races, the top track events in the world. “I remember thinking, ‘How am I going to compete against some of these people in a month’s time?’” she says.
Doha was game changing. In the first loop of the course, Lyndsay was at the back of the pack. By the end of the race, she’d passed nearly the entire field of world-class runners, finishing ninth overall. Her performance meant she was in consideration for the Canadian Tokyo Olympics Team.
Being a teacher is what really counts
Covid changed everything. “I’m a teacher first,” says Lindsay. “It was after March break in 2020 that we got the message that school was going digital. That’s when the weight of the world came crashing down on us as teachers,” Lyndsay says. “It was scary at that point.”
Ontario teachers had a week to learn an online platform, and Lyndsay turned her living room into an e-learning production studio. “I’m teaching kids to read, not technology,” she says. “They don’t even know how to type, right? They don’t have keyboard skills.” Lyndsay says that 95% of her teaching is dependent on social interaction with the children. “I can see by their body language and their reaction,” she says. “Now I have no idea how they are receiving the work, if they have any questions or confusion.”
By May, Lyndsay started feeling better about her daily lessons, which she produced with an iPhone and props from the Dollar Store, like a DIY animation studio. The kids began to respond and became more comfortable with the flow of the program. It was after this that Lyndsay started to run again.
But too much time had passed for Lyndsay to run in this year’s Olympics. “Participating in the Olympics was just not to be,” said Lyndsay. “After Doha, I chose to stay fit and ready just in case any other runner wasn’t able to go. But being a teacher is far more important to me.”
You have probably seen Lyndsay running through the neighbourhood. She uses a Garmin to track her effort with each run. And don't forget Ben, Lyndsay's constant companion and he who has the most expressive face.
“I’m really excited to get back to school, and I don’t know a single teacher who would prefer to teach online,” she says of her desire to get back in the classroom this fall. “But it needs to be safe. I’m really hopeful that we will establish a new normal. If there’s one thing this last year has taught me is that teachers, parents and children are very resilient.”
For more on Lyndsay and her career, check out https://professionallyspeaking.oct.ca/2021-06/2021-06-Feature-Story-1-PS.asp