As February of 2020 drew to a close,
things were shaping up nicely for accomplished local
distance runner K.C. Gallo.
On the very last day of that month, the soon-to-be
40 year-old had not only nabbed the women's title
at the City of Palms Fort Myers Half-Marathon, covering
the course in an hour and 24 minutes and finishing
fourth overall in the field, but followed up her victory
by warming down with a 17 kilometer jaunt, shortly
after her race was done.
Yes, things were proceeding
nicely in anticipation of her third crack at the Boston
Marathon in April.
On March 1st, Gallo made
her way back to Sudbury. Two weeks later, all heck
"My schedule of
races this year was going to be packed," she
said. "Florida, Boston, Pittsburgh, Sudbury (Rocks
Half-Marathon) - and then I was going to pace Buffalo
the week after Sudbury. For my birthday (in June),
we were going to do a 100 kilometer race, just for
fun, just because we're bonkers."
"I pretty much had
my plan through October - Erie in July, another half
in Sudbury in September, and then nothing until of
October, when we would do the Dublin Marathon. But
everything got picked off, one by one, cancelled,
For distance runners
around the world, circumstances have been challenging.
For someone who also serves as a coach to a good number
of aspiring marathoners and half-marathoners, this
was a curve ball like none they had seen before.
Thankfully, K.C. Gallo
already enjoyed an athletic background that had seen
her adjust on the fly. For starters, this multi-sport
talent attended Mercyhurst University in Erie (Pennsylvania)
on a hockey scholarship, her sport of choice in her
youth. "I probably should have gone cross-country,"
she said with a laugh.
"When we would go
to the gym and everybody would lift, I would skip
out and run the treadmill." An hour later, that
is most often where the coach would still find her.
While most of her teammates could endure the necessary
evil of the 5 km component of fitness testing, Gallo
"Most hockey players
are not built for endurance running," she noted.
It turns out that K.C.
Gallo is not like most hockey players.
And though she would
stay fit through career postings that would see her
pitch her tent in Boston, and New York, and Toronto,
it wasn't until a chance encounter with the Nike Run
Club (Toronto) that Gallo truly elevated her game.
"It was kind of
on a whim, starting out with just one weekly run,
in 2014, and from there, it just exploded," Gallo
recalled. "They asked if I would be a run leader,
and of course, I said yes. I was leading runs three
to four times a day."
Between that community
involvement and her own proficiency as a runner, the
Sudbury native was selected to be part of the "Nike
100" at the 2015 Chicago Marathon, with the corporate
giant providing the experience of a lifetime for one
hundred sponsored runners at the race.
It set the wheels in
motion for a run-related balancing act that Gallo
continues to this day. With her work-related stops
in the big cities behind her, the youngest of three
children in the family (she has two older brothers)
is more than happy attempting to keep her passion
alive through difficult times in her own hometown.
"Here in Sudbury,
it wasn't that hard to just continue running,"
she said. "I could still get my run in, even
if I wasn't necessarily doing the long speed workout,
running 35km. I just scaled it back a bit, ran to
stay in shape, and would top out at between 10km to
20 km. I really don't want to be back in Toronto,
with everything going on."
"If I walked out
of my condo, in Toronto, I would walk out on to King
Street and there are hundreds and hundreds of people
around. I am lucky in that I can go for a run, these
days, and maybe I will see five people, maybe I will
see twenty, but they are not all going to be standing
in one spot."
Of course, while this
works for the coach herself, the reality is that many
of her runners remain in more densely populated areas
- not to mention dealing with the challenge of simply
staying motivated, with nary a traditional race in
sight. "When everything started to get postponed,
we decided to take a week or two to just accept it,
look at it and assess from there," said Gallo.
"I asked the runners,
what do you want to do? Some of my runners wanted
to just go ahead and run the race on the same day
(though not in the same city, obviously), given that
they were at week 14 of the 18 weeks of training.
A few athletes moved from marathon training to something
shorter, looking to do a time trial, maybe a 5km or
"There has been
a bit of a shift, but at the same time, there are
people who are going to do virtual Boston or virtual
Dublin." For her part, Gallo is committed to
doing one of the two in the fall, though not both.
"It at least gives me something to focus on,
somewhat. I'm not going out to run a PB - I am going
out, just to complete it."
It would, after all,
be a shame to step back from the momentum that she
had leading into her half-marathon win in Florida,
a race in which she was most pleased with the comfortable
pace that she maintained from start to finish.
"We were so spread
out, it wasn't like I was running with anyone who
was trying to push my pace faster," said Gallo.
"I had set my watch to what I wanted to do, so
if I was going slower or faster, it was telling me.
I was in that zone, running between 3:58 and 4:02
And while Gallo seldom
plans her running schedule beyond a calendar year
ahead, there are still goals to be strived for, temporarily
shelved, for the moment. "I would love to run
a 2:45 (marathon), but we will see if that happens,"
"I have to stay
healthy and races have to start again."
Then things can shape
up nicely, again, for K.C. Gallo.