Well into April, Leslie Peloquin was at the track with a warm smile, signing in Learn to Run participants, encouraging them to reach their goals.
Leslie joined the 13-week Learn to Run program in 2011 as part of an office initiative — and her involvement in the running community only blossomed from there. From 8km, to 10K, and then a half-marathon, she became a running coach, volunteered as a race marshal for the Skeena River Relay and was race director for the Cannery Road Race from 2013-2016.
But that first time on the track was logged in her memory, and in one of her letters to Learn to Run participants, she shares that experience.
“The others were fit and worked out and then there was me. Working out for me meant going from the sofa to the kitchen. So, I sign up and get the program. They want me to run how long? Sheesh. So down to the track for the first run (I am thinking that I will never be able to do this) and low and behold I managed to run the first session,” she wrote.
Coach and longtime runner Ray Leonard remembers when he first met Leslie.
|Leslie Peloquin joined the 13-week Learn to Run program in 2011, after she became a coach for new and experienced runners in Prince Rupert. (Shannon Lough / The Northern View)|
“I was coaching with the Learn to Run and jogging back occasionally to check on the back of the pack, and there was this little lady clearly struggling, but cheerfully plodding on. We chatted as we ran, and I was immediately impressed by her attitude and determination. She finished that run, and completed the Learn to Run program, and then came back for many more years to share her enthusiasm and to inspire hundreds of others as a coach herself.”
In 2013, she joined the Rupert Runners executive committee as the club secretary, leading her to clock in more volunteer hours with the many events the Prince Rupert club organizes throughout the year.
Even when Leslie was diagnosed with cancer, she continued to dedicate her time and energy into the running community. On April 18, she emailed her fellow coaches, apologizing for missing a few Learn to Run sessions, and announcing that she will be travelling to Vancouver to try some new therapies to help with her cancer.
“I leave on Sunday and will be gone for awhile. Thank you all for taking such good care of the Learn to Run program,” she wrote.
On the morning of June 5, Leslie passed away after a long battle with cancer.
Throughout her years with Rupert Runners she made friends, inspired many, and went on to run several half marathons.
In 2012, she convinced Stella Kafka to join the club and program. They soon became part of the unwavering running trio with their good friend Lynn Daniele.
“We were always at the back of the pack, which can be discouraging, but she was always positive and inspiring. Without the encouragement from her and Lynn, I never would have believed I could run a half marathon, but with their support I ran my first BMO half and then a bunch more,” Kafka said.
The trio volunteered together to co-ordinate the Cannery Road Race for a couple of years in a row.
Past Rupert Runners president, Learn to Run coach, avid runner, and race director, Amber Sheasgreen remembers Leslie fondly. They joined Learn to Run the same year in 2011, in their respective office challenges.
“We were on the same page since day one, starting with ‘I don’t run unless someone is chasing me,’ and growing into our love of running,” Sheasgreen said.
Over the years, they both became more involved with the club, with Sheasgreen saying she would only retain the role as club president if Leslie was part of her team.
“She was my rock, and always there to lean on. I was fortunate enough to run and volunteer alongside her in the club for more than seven years. Leslie was always there for us to turn to for advice, support, and that spirited smile. From tedious head counts, to long hours race marshalling the Skeena River Relay, to late night race bag stuffing, and tallying results, Leslie did it all,” she said.
Past vice president, race director and enthusiastic Learn to Run coach Crystal Sawatzky said their shared love of running made them closer as friends.
“She was always there to listen and offer a shoulder when needed. She was a fighter right to the end and a great friend you could count on,” Sawatzky said.
For the past six years they coached the Learn to Run program together. Even when Leslie was working out of town, she supported from afar, sending out the weekly emails with words of encouragement to all of our wonderful runners. “This past Learn to Run session was hard for both of us since neither of us were able to run. She was my motivation to keep going and keep showing up, and she still is today.”
Leslie’s energy, enthusiasm, and dedication to the running community will not be forgotten.
Shannon Lough | Editor
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