Photo by Chung Chow
A few years back, in elementary school, Josh Woolgar and his classmates got a grounding in cross-country running. He showed a knack for it and wondered with training where that could take him.
A few weeks ago, the Grade 12 Richmond Christian student reached the top podium at the B.C. high school championships. With a relentless work ethic and God-given talent, it's reasonable to believe even more success is in the offing.
"I put in a lot of hard work during the past six months and did a lot of little things like eating healthy, getting plenty of sleep, working on my core and upper body strength, and leg care," the thoughtful Woolgar says. "I stayed really focused and was in a good mental state going into the races (leading up to provincials) without getting too excited about the results. Peaking properly for the big races was something that my (club) coach (Scott Kent) helped me with tremendously. Specifically, he advised that winning the races was determined by my kick, so I tried to stay within a five-metre striking distance of the leader in the last 200 metres to make sure I could pull ahead."
An accomplished soccer player, who played at the elite rep level until this year when he decided to hang up the cleats to fully concentrate on running, part of Woolgar's success can also be attributed to his taking nothing for granted.
"I am fortunate to have a very supportive community including my fellow teammates at my track club and Richmond Christian School, as well as my friends and family who have allowed me (to tackle the) tough training that's needed to compete with the best in the province," he says. "(Coach Kent) has truly transformed me into a more seasoned athlete. Also, my physiotherapist Travis Wolsey helped me through a bad knee injury last year and has kept me healthy while I log all the training miles. Utmost, I need to thank God for giving me my abilities to run and for my health, allowing me to improve and follow my passion for the sport."
Runners like Reed Brown, Justyn Knight, and Drew Hunter—widely regarded as some of the best in the sport—and coach Kent's unwavering belief in his protege's ability inspire Woolgar to run even faster and achieve results few believe are possible.
Sacrifices, plenty of them, are an unfortunate but realistic by-product of pursuing such success. But Woolgar is prepared to pay the price.
"I'm usually running seven days a week and take about two days off per month while logging up to 80 kilometres a week along the way," he says. "Adding core, strength training and stretching to that and my training adds up to upwards of 20 hours a week. (But) I like being able to put in a lot of hard work and see the result that comes from it. Exceeding expectations is something I strive for. My teammates are my good friends, which makes the training process a whole lot more enjoyable, being able to joke around and have fun during what shouldn't be fun. Racing is the best feeling in the world, before, during and after."
Woolgar grew up playing several sports including basketball, but his mom Tamara says he always showed a particular fondness for soccer and running.
"Some of my fondest memories of Josh as a child were watching him on the soccer pitch and running cross-country," she says. "He loved soccer. Even back then his agility and speed were evident as he dribbled the ball down the field determined to 'put one in the net' for the team. And he has always loved to run! Whether it was track and field or cross country, he's always embraced the opportunity to run his best race. His determination, competitive spirit and passion for running already shone through at a young age."
Woolgar says participating in a variety of sports helped develop me as an overall athlete—soccer in particular with leg speed and strength, which has helped him close out races.
When he's not training or competing, Woolgar welcomes the opportunity to hang out with friends. An ardent lover of the outdoors, his favourite spot to relax is at the beach or backpacking on the West Coast Trail, as he did last summer.
"It was super fun, wet, and memorable," he says.
Next up, Woolgar has some specific goals on the track. He'd like to run under four minutes in the 1500 metres; under 8:30 in the 3,000 metres and under 5:55 in the steeplechase. Then he'd like to unlock his full potential at the university level where he hopes to study health sciences "and use my career to help others wherever that may take me."
John Woolgar is proud of his son's sporting success, and even more of the dedication he’s shown.
“He makes sure he gets his training and runs seven days per week in all kinds of weather," John says.
"This is really character building for him, and the skills and dedication he is developing here will help him with whatever direction he takes in his life.”