Inspiring Runners 008. Dianna Christopoulos.

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Dianna. Photo by Colin Aldous (Supplied).

Dianna. Photo by Colin Aldous (Supplied).

Dianna Christopoulos describes herself (via Twitter) to be a Team Pearl Izumi ambassador, volunteer running event coordinator, good friend, and that she laughs all the time. Being based in Vancouver Canada it is therefore pretty natural that she likes to run far over mountains & gnarly trails for pancakes and cupcakes. Dianna is legit.

I’ve been connected to Dianna via social media for quite sometime now and there is always an honesty, sincerity and passion that literally jumps out at me most days. Part of Dianna’s involvement with the trail running community also extends to regular volunteering at events which she seems to get so much enjoyment from on a cultural and personal level. With a personal philosophy and  ‘go get it’ attitude that ‘anyone’ can get involved with the running community on ‘any level’ it’s refreshing to say the least, and so in line with GPR’s attitude towards the sport.

With her heart on ‘sleeve’ life has not been the easiest over the past year or so with some losses of people close to her heart, but the wild is always there for her. It’s a wonderful thing Mother Earth… she has all the answers. The community of runners in Vancouver where Dianna is based seems immense, intense, grass roots and really focussed on getting outdoors as much as possible. This place and the people has always intrigued me, it inspires me and motivates me without reason. Say hello to Dianna who makes me proud in so many ways as a fellow runner. Enjoy.

Just go out to one of your local races, get in contact with the race director and see how you can help. I promise you it’ll be an experience you won’t forget.

Where do you call home?

I call beautiful Vancouver, in British Columbia, home. The only place I’ve ever known.

What is your current occupation?

I currently work in a law firm in the Accounting Department and every so often I work for the Vancouver Canucks.

How long have you been a runner?

I’ve enjoyed the sport of running since about 2008 when I ran my first half marathon. Before that, never touched it and disliked it when they made us do it school, but crossing that finish line of my first half marathon was indescribable. After running my first marathon in Portland, I never wanted to run again. I wasn’t happy and I was at a really difficult time in my life where I couldn’t grasp the idea of putting shoes on to go for a run. It wasn’t until a friend told me to run of of Gary Robbins’ race on the North Shore which involved either running up the mountain, running down the mountain or both. I chose the downhill and loved every second of it. Fast forward 6 years and I was at the start line of my first ultra marathon. The journey from that moment forward has truly been a gift.

Dianna. Photo by Colin Aldous (Supplied).

Dianna. Photo by Colin Aldous (Supplied).

What do you seek when you run? Can you describe your main motivation?

I run because I can, plain and simple. I run because it gives me freedom, it helps me grow and it allows me to deal with the ups and downs of life. Running has given me the gift of family, community, and time. Running has given me the ability, no matter what I’m going through or experiencing, to be 100% at peace with myself. The last two years have definitely been challenging, heartbreaking and a time where I have learnt so much about myself – but being able to run has given me an outlet to process. I run the trails to escape the hustle of the city and disconnect for a while. I run to learn what I’m most capable of and what my body and mind is capable of accomplishing. I run to embrace the doubt that I create in my head, to prove to myself that I CAN. I run because our trail community is something unique. I feel at home with the people I run with and the places it takes me. I run to ignite the fire that’s in me to push beyond the unknown. It’s very humbling to see what the body and mind will let you do to it and I want to chase that for as long as my legs will let me. I also run for pancakes, but everyone knows that.

I run because I can, plain and simple. I run because it gives me freedom, it helps me grow and it allows me to deal with the ups and downs of life.

Could you give us a small insight into your usual running routine? Are you a structured training programme type of person, or do you run more by feel?

When I first started trail running, I had no idea what I was doing and I was so fresh into the trail running world. I trained for my first ultra and it probably was the most difficult thing I had to endure. I knew when I finished that I wanted more and I wanted to see what I was capable of. Lucky for me, I was adopted into this amazing trail community in Vancouver and surrounded myself with experienced, knowledgeable runners. I knew when I wanted to push the line on distances that I would have to reach out to runners that knew what they were doing and able to shed light and experience on our sport. Lucky for me, I have very experienced ultra runner friends in my corner, which one of them is a coach and he was able to help me with a plan and advice. It keeps me accountable and on track but what I also appreciate is that I’m not glued to it. It’s a guideline and I’m not one of those runners that sticks to plans 100% because I believe that one should enjoy their training. If you’re not enjoying it, why do it? I won’t ever turn down the opportunity to adventure. I think as ultra runners that’s important, training is suppose to be about adventuring, new experiences with friends, uncovering new territory and having fun.

Where are your favourite places to run and why?

I’m biased, I love running in my backyard. North Vancouver has some of the most technical, beautiful trails that you’ll find on the Pacific Northwest. We have everything from technical, overgrown roots to stunning mountain peaks that can only be experienced first hand. We have trails with overgrown moss, beautiful single track, and mountains beyond the eye can see. If I’m not running in the North Van, I love the trails down in Oregon and Washington, they’re stunning and different which is an experience within itself.

I’ve always had the philosophy that giving back, regardless of what and what community you’re in, is important.

Do you get a “runner’s high”? if so, can you describe it? What circumstances are you most likely to achieve this?

I do experience that Runner’s High all the time but in a very different capacity, when I’m running the trails and running up mountains, I’m 100% in my happy place. Standing at the top of a mountain after you’ve worked tirelessly to get there, crossing the finish line of a race you’ve put everything into, watching friends accomplish goals and embracing doubt, volunteering at a race is my runners high.

Dianna. Photo by Colin Aldous (Supplied).

Dianna. Photo by Colin Aldous (Supplied).

What facet of running do you enjoy most?

The thing I most enjoy about trail running, is by far the community. The knowledge, experience, and most of all the friendship that surrounds all of us is such an important part of who I have become. Definitely as you push the distance, you push beyond what you’re comfortable with and open new doors to new experiences. Honestly, the best experiences are the ones with friends and new runners as well. Our trail community in Vancouver is a branch of my extended family. This community just isn’t a community that you run with or see each other at a race, it’s so much more. They are there through life’s milestones, weddings, babies, watching kids grow up, life’s ups and downs, everything.

The thing I most enjoy about trail running, is by far the community. The knowledge, experience, and most of all the friendship that surrounds all of us is such an important part of who I have become.

How is running important to you and your life and it’s direction?

Running is important to me, it’s not the only important thing to me but it definitely keeps me grounded in who I am. I never want it to consume me but it has shaped who I am. It’s just opened up this world to me that I sometimes wonder who I would be if I wasn’t a runner.

You volunteer a lot of your time. Why do you give so much of your time as a volunteer? What do you get back from investing in the community this way?

Oh, I have so much to say on this… Where do I begin? I give back to our community by volunteering because I think it’s important and it TRULY makes me happy to give back. I’ve always had the philosophy that giving back, regardless of what and what community you’re in, is important. I think in the trail community – these events and races don’t happen without our volunteers. All of our volunteers are dedicated, passionate, loving people that come out time after time and go above and beyond what we ask them to do. I’m always so touched as to how many people are willing to give their time to help these races be successful . As a runner that also runs these races, it’s good to see what it takes to make these races work and what race directors go through to make these runs happen. The best part about giving back, other than having a successful race is honestly making sure every runner, volunteer, spectator and everyone involved experiences what trail running is all about.

Dianna. Photo by Colin Aldous (Supplied).

Dianna. Photo by Colin Aldous (Supplied).

You have picked up an injury or two of late, and from the outside you seem to cope with this reality very well. What is your approach to dealing with being sidelined from trails when injured?

Well, when things go pop on the trail, you know it’s not a good thing. Being injured sucks, no other way to put it really. It’s so disappointing to put in all the training, time, effort, and heart into your goal to have it taken away from you by an injury. But let’s face it, injuries happen. My advice – first, take a deep breath. It’s ok to wallow and commiserate and feel super bummed about it, they’re not fun. I’ve been fortunate enough to have minor injuries that only sideline me for a bit. The second piece of advice – make sure you have a good team of professionals behind you that support what you’re doing and will work WITH you on getting you better, safely and properly. I’m so blessed to have a RMT that is an ultra runner himself and just seems to “get it”, he’s in my corner working along side me to make sure I’m hearing properly and safely. Third piece of advice – this is where your network and community comes into play. Just because you can’t run, doesn’t mean the world has ended. Funny hey? You have to remember there is a world outside of running.

Running is important to me, it’s not the only important thing to me but it definitely keeps me grounded in who I am. I never want it to consume me but it has shaped who I am.

Music or no music when running? If so what do you enjoy listening to?

Typically I’m a no music kind of girl but every now and then I’ll throw in the earphones and hit shuffle. I have been known to throw down to a little Ice Ice baby :)

Do you have a certain philosophy regarding running and the concept of community engagement and advocacy? Do you think running can benefit the wider community in more ways than increased fitness?

My philosophy regarding running as of lately actually has been, to make sure you’re enjoying it, whatever capacity that may be and to never forget where you came from. Be engaged in your community, stay humble, don’t take it all too seriously (unless we’re talking pancakes – that’s serious business) and stay true to who you are. Each experience you go through curves and holds you in a better person. Have fun.. yes all the miles we log aren’t always 100% fun but if you’re not enjoying it, why are you doing it? Running isn’t for everyone and that’s ok. I do believe it benefits numerous people, I know I certainly have benefited ten times over but everyone should find something that makes them happy and healthy.

Dianna "two thumbs up for trail running!" - Photo: Coast Mountain Trail Series. - Ultra Inspired (http://ultrainspired.blogspot.co.nz)

Dianna “two thumbs up for trail running!” – Photo: Coast Mountain Trail Series. – Ultra Inspired (http://ultrainspired.blogspot.co.nz)

Where to from here? where do you see yourself in 5 years from now ?

Doing the same thing I’m doing now; Exploring mountains, trails, new territory, and places with friends by my side.

Your top three tips to achieving happiness or balance in life?

Patience, humbleness, authenticity.

Any advice for runners who wish to become more involved as a volunteer at running events?

Just go out to one of your local races, get in contact with the race director and see how you can help. I promise you it’ll be an experience you won’t forget. You will feel a certain buzz when you’re an aid station watching runners come in, experiencing a finish line and just being out there.

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Paul Petch
Director of Good People Run, pro photographer, tutor and a recovering 'runaholic'. Based in Auckland City, my work is at www.paulpetchphoto.com
Paul Petch

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