How BC runners Butterworth and Townsend pushed each other on their journey to the worlds of athletics


It promises to be a memorable Thursday night for Brit Townsend when two Canadian women face off in the 800 meter heats at the World Championships in Athletics.

The stage at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon will take the retired middle-distance runner back to Helsinki and the world’s premier competition in 1983 when she placed eighth in the 1,500m final before moving up to seventh at the Games. Los Angeles Olympics the following summer.

It’s also the first time Townsend has seen more than one athlete compete in a single major championship since she began coaching track and field and cross country at Simon Fraser University in 1998.

“It’s special, especially since one of them is my daughter,” she said of 24-year-old Addy before leaving Burnaby, British Columbia, for the world championships. “When you get on stage at the Olympics or world championships, it’s something that you can’t really experience in other areas of your life. For that, I’m grateful to him for getting that experience. “

Addy Townsend will make her world championship debut, following a fourth-place finish last month at the Canadian Championships following a mysterious illness that sidelined her for a month. She will be joined by training partner and SFU alum Lindsey Butterworth, who finished second in the same race in Langley, B.C., and is making her third appearance at the world championships.

A two-time Canadian champion, Butterworth made her Olympic debut last summer and prepared for the world championships with her third performance of the season in under two minutes (1:59.89) on July 9 at the Oxy Invitational to LA

Brit marvels at Butterworth’s consistency in staying healthy and strong – ‘she will never miss a weightlifting session, even if she has to do it on the deck of her apartment’ – and noted that the serious athlete and composed brings a relaxed attitude to practice.

WATCH | The “deep and exciting” women’s 800 meters can also be tactical:

Lindsey Butterworth thrilled her family is cheering her on in Oregon

Originally from Burnaby, British Columbia, Lindsey Butterworth is thrilled to have her family with her in Oregon to see her run the 800 meters.

“They complement each other because Addy is so fun and full of excitement in training,” Brit said. “She kind of lights up the space and Lindsey shows that you can balance things other than sports” in her work as SFU Athletics’ NCAA program coordinator and academic advisor who is also working on her master’s degree.

Aim for your personal record

Butterworth is eager to lower her personal best of 1:59.19 from last year’s Olympic trials, said Brit, who believes the North Vancouver, B.C. native can run faster and wonders if being in a world championship environment will make the difference.

A year ago, COVID-19 restrictions in North America deprived Butterworth of the opportunity to practice race tactics and strategies at multiple championship-caliber events and properly prepare for the Tokyo Olympics, where she placed 32nd despite still feeling fit.

Conversely, Butterworth’s pre-World racing schedule included the World Indoors (where she finished sixth in 2:03.21 in March), the competitive USATF Golden Games in Walnut, Calif., and two meets on the Diamond League professional circuit.

For the two Diamond League races in Birmingham, England and Rome, she and her coach discussed positioning, emphasizing the race process rather than the outcome.

You have to be ready for anything, and that’s what you have to be able to do if you want to move forward [to Friday night’s semifinals].— Coach Brit Townsend on Canadian 800m runner Lindsey Butterworth

“I think [those races] were super valuable and [Butterworth] took advantage of it,” Brit said. “We talked about where she wanted to be in the first 100, the first 200, the first 400.

“[At what point] do you make a move [on the opposition] if you are not in a good position? It’s good to talk about these lessons learned but we have to apply them [at worlds].”

WATCH | Butterworth 7th in the women’s 800m after a 3-year absence from the Diamond League:

Hodgkinson is dominant in 800m win, Butterworth finishes 7th

Briton Keely Hodgkinson won the Diamond League race in 1:58.63 while Canadian Lindsey Butterworth took 7th place in 2:01.20.

On Thursday, Brit would prefer Butterworth to race with the lead group from the start of his heat and position himself to control the race.

“I hope she will [be in position to] make moves when she needs to,” the trainer said, “instead of being last in the top 200 [metres] like she’s in Tokyo and then it’s just a battle [to recover].

“We don’t know if it’s going to be slow or fast in the first 400 [of Thursday’s heats]. People can try to make a race plan, but you have to be ready for anything, and that’s what we have to be able to do if we want to move forward. [to Friday night’s semifinals].”

On the way to the Commonwealth Games

Butterworth placed 36th on her 2017 Worlds debut in London and two years later was 41-100 seconds from the final qualifier for the final in Doha, Qatar.

After these world championships, Butterworth will travel to Birmingham and represent Canada for the first time at the Commonwealth Games.

For Addy Townsend, being selected for the world championships is a dream come true. But the former soccer star from Coquitlam, BC, isn’t taking anything for granted, given his recent health issues.

She missed meets in Nashville, Guelph, Ont., and last month’s Harry Jerome Track and Field Classic in Burnaby due to dizziness and a high heart rate, but she was tactical, her mother says, displaying a time of 2:01.30 against “good ground” at the Nationals.

Addy was also unable to compete in the NCAA with SFU for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the closure of the Canada-US border.

“She missed so much without the NCAA [events] and also had the mono,” Brit said. “Just a lot of setbacks she’s been through and finally being rewarded for her commitment.

Revolutionary performance

“The Worlds will be a valuable experience for her, the way she manages [the moment] emotionally, physically and mentally. Walking into a full stadium, I remember it was an incredible [feeling] at the world championships and the Olympics, but you have to separate it from your performance.”

I thought she would win an NCAA title that would throw [her running career] but she is thrown into [worlds]. She is ready and excited.— Brit Townsend on her daughter, Addy

On April 14, Addy learned a lot as she took on some of the best athletes in the world in a breakthrough performance at the Bryan Clay Invitational meet in Azusa, Calif., where she crossed the finish line third in a season and a personal best 2:01.24.

“I knew she had the ability and the talent, but it takes a lot more than that,” Brit said, adding that Addy was selected to run the 1,500m at the NACAC track and field championships Aug. 19-21. in Nassau, Bahamas. “When she started to see it and believe it and realize it, I knew it could happen. She started doing the [necessary] little things like being more focused and disciplined.

“I thought she would win an NCAA title that would kick off [her running career] but… she gets thrown in [worlds]. She’s ready and excited and pretty good at getting into tough situations.”

In six years with SFU, Addy was a five-time Great Northwest Athletic Conference outdoor champion in the 800 and was named GNAC Female Indoor Track Athlete of the Year in 2017 and 2020.

She entered this season with better work habits and a vision of what was possible in her future. Attitude is the biggest change Brit has noticed in her daughter on the runway.

“She was carded [funding from Athletics Canada] and it was an injection of confidence, realizing that people believed in her and [AC] was targeting her for the future in the sport,” Brit said.

“I don’t put any pressure on him. [The experience at worlds] gives you incredible strength, self-confidence and self-esteem, and that’s what you want for your children. I’m excited for her and for the journey she’s about to begin.”