Running Our Race

An Interview with Heather Sarsons

Passionista #3

An Economics Honours student and Math Major, Heather Sarsons is in her 4th year at UBC.  She is currently working for Professor Patrick Francois who conducts research in economic development with a particular emphasis on the implementation of laws in society.  This track passionista makes us proud of our blue and gold with her incredible efforts on the Varsity Cross-Country team.

Before we get chatting, let me share some fun facts: Heather was born and raised “amongst fields of wheat and green pastures” (that’s how she puts it) in Saskatchewan, and loves hiking, lentils, and organic trail mix. 

Ok, here goes!

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T: How would you describe the role running plays in your life?

H: I’ve been doing it for so long – it’s like a routine that keeps me grounded, it’s stress relief, a social activitiy.  A lot of people look to different things to ground themselves and for me, it’s running.  Especially when school gets really stressful, practice puts things into perspective and I realize that school isn’t the only thing that’s important. 

T: How did you get into running?

Haha well, my parents had this rule that we had to play at least one sport all the time.  And I was like the un-athletic child of the family. I tried all these sports and I didn’t care that I sucked when I was little but then it got to the point where I couldn’t be on the team. I got into high school and I realized I didn’t actually know how to play hockey!  But I still wanted to do a sport – so then I thought, running doesn’t  look like it’s going to require skill…and that was it!

So I joined the cross country team in grade 10 and my coach told me that I should consider something else. But a friend of mine convinced me that if I enjoyed it I should just continue. And so I ignored that coach and continued with track for the simple reason that I enjoyed it…and then in the summer I started practicing to prove him wrong. 

T: That’s cool stuff…so what is it that you enjoy most about running?

You get out what you put in – the more I put in, the more I get out, and for me, that’s so satisfying. 

T: What is it like for you to deal with the competition? 

I’ve never really worried about my placing but my personal improvement. I’ll never be the fastest on the team but being able to say I improved by this much makes all the difference.  And I’m really lucky to have great coaches at UBC.  Here, it’s always a team effort- and my team is the same way – they don’t expect number one. They want dedication and commitment and that’s what I’m there to give.

T: Running for the varsity team certainly requires quite an investment in terms of time and energy. What is it that keeps you going?

H: It’s a big time commitment but I’m more disciplined when I’m in track than when I’m not. It keeps me on top of things and it makes me happy.  I also look to my friends for support.  And when I just take a moment to realize that other people are going through challenges as well, it kind of gives me the reassurance that I will be ok too. 

My dad also keeps me going but in a ‘tough-love’ way.  He always makes me evaluate my commitments. He doesn’t really say, “It’s ok, you’ll get through it,” but he’s comforting in the sense that he challenges me to reconsider my priorities and evaluate my choices in life.   

And I also have this weird thing where I go to people’s blogs – people whose interests coincide with mine and who are working in areas that I am interested in pursuing…this motivates me!

T: That’s not weird at all! What kind of work or profession is it that motivates or excites you?

H: I’ve become really interested in research for development. Not just international development but community development, educational development.  There’s this stream of research – “Randomized Evaluations” – it’s kind of hard to explain but it’s basically about designing surveys to assess the impact of policies. It can be applied to any field.

This changes monthly but as of right now, this is my life plan.

T: Are you a big planner and list-maker?

H: I used to be, but not anymore. I’ve just realized that I should be grabbing opportunities as they come.  I never seem to do what I plan really. I mean, I have goals and plans to some extent but I’m open to new opportunities and new experiences. 

T: That’s awesome!! And what a combo – running and research – keep it up!! Thanks for your time Heather and all the best

H: Thank you! I think the Passion Project is great!

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So maybe we can’t all be athletes or track superstars, but we all have a race to run.  So get ’em shoes tied up and say “HELLO WORLD.” Show up, and ‘just do it’. (I thought I’d stick with the running theme here!)

Until next time,

T

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