Brampton native Kate Van Buskirk has been running since she was a little girl. She joined her first track club in grade six and has been in love with the sport ever since.
Van Burskirk has racked up many impressive awards over the last couple of decades. She was an eight-time OFSAA (Ontario Federation of School Athletic Association) medalist in track and cross-country, three of which were gold. After she graduated from Turner Fenton Secondary School, she received an athletic scholarship to North Carolina’s prestigious Duke University. At Duke she was a two-time All-American and even set an NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) record with a time of 2:41.00 in the 1000m.
Van Buskirk represented Canada at the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Foundation) World Cross Country Championships in 2005 and 2006. She went on to win the Canadian National Championships in 2013 and competed in the IAAF in Moscow. Then, at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014, she won a bronze medal in the women’s 1500m.
Dealing with setbacks
Not long after her 2014 victory in Glasgow, Van Buskirk grappled with major physical and personal setbacks. A torn hamstring was the first injury to befall her. This resulted in four months of rest and rehab.
After returning to training in early 2015, she began experiencing frequent pain in her pelvis and lower back. The pain was so bad she could hardly roll over in bed, much less exercise or run. Manual therapy helped somewhat, but her pain continued. An ultrasound showed severe inflammation and further testing revealed Van Buskirk possessed a rare gene called HLA B27. Finally, doctors diagnosed her with spondyloarthopathy, a chronic condition related to arthritis.
In an interview, she revealed how the condition impacted her life. “I’m prone to anxiety and depression to begin with, so that definitely was playing in just given how long I’d been hurt. It was a combination of the disappointment of it all, but it was also just being in chronic pain for many, many months at a time. It really wore on me.” She took time off from running and returned to the sport in the spring of 2017.
Recounting her struggles in a 2017 article for the CBC, Van Buskirk stated, “I am now almost entirely pain-free in my daily life. My love of my sport has been tested and I have come out the other end knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that I want to continue pushing my boundaries, pursuing fast times and medals, and learning what I’m made of.”
Van Buskirk’s determination paid off well. On January 27, 2018, she broke Sheila Reid’s Canadian mile (1609m) record of 4:27.04 by running 4:26.9 at the Dr. Sander Invitational in New York. This also shattered Van Buskirk’s own personal best of 4:30.14.
Not one to steal the spotlight, the runner made sure to thank her team and coaches for her victory in an Instagram post. “I 100 per cent could not do what I do without them, and am ever grateful for the opportunity to share this journey with so many amazing friends!”
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A win, Canadian Record, Meet Record, World Champs standard, & PB of 4:26.9…. Can't ask for much more in a season opener! • So thrilled with today, both for the result and the experience. I love racing at @armorynyc and the energy today was electric! Huge thanks to @heathawilson for her superb pacing duties and big ups to the other incredibly strong chicas in this race! 👭💪❤️ • As always, what this photo doesn't capture is the team that stands behind me, offering their unwavering support, love, belief and encouragement. I 100% could not do what I do without them, and am ever grateful for the opportunity to share this journey with so many amazing friends! • Thanks for all the love, and here's to keeping the ball rolling through 2018!!! • @myodetoxperformance @ryu_apparel @flynnsports @athleticscanada @athleticsont #bebetterthanyesterday #respectyouruniverse #beautifultough #trackgirls #canadian #nyc #instarunner #fitfam #strongwomen #trackandfield @joefresh
A week later, Van Buskirk broke another personal best. She ran 8:49.02 in a competitive 3K at the Millrose Game. Then, on Februrary 3, she won the mile at the Canadian indoor national championships,
These accomplishments were followed by another major achievement. After winning the mile at the Canadian indoor national championships, Van Buskirk was named as part of Canada’s team at the IAAF World Championships in Birmingham, England in March. There here she ran a personal best of 4:09.42 in the 1500m.
Plans for the future
Currently, Van Buskirk leads circuit classes at Myodetox Performance in Toronto where she works as a trainer. She hopes to reach the world standard in 5Ks this year and plans to race at the NACAC (North American, Central American and Caribbean) championships in Toronto in August.
Feature Image – Instagram @k8vbeast