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Alumni profile: Roslyn Smith ‑ Physical activity needs to be a lifelong pursuit

Posted by Kathy MacFarlane on June 23, 2021 in Alumni & Friends
Roz Smith is hoping to run the Royal Victoria Marathon, in-person, on October 10, 2021!
Roz Smith is hoping to run the Royal Victoria Marathon, in-person, on October 10, 2021!

Roslyn ‘Roz’ Smith (BPE’71) has completed 31 marathons in person and 2 marathons virtually.  Roz is a 72-year-old ‘road runner’ who holds Canadian masters records in the 8k (37:44, W70), half marathon (1:39:06, W65), and marathon (3:39:35 W65; 3:52:20 W70). In 2019 she won her 70-74 age group at the Boston Marathon which is one of her proudest wins. But she is most proud, “if I have been able to encourage people to take up running”.

Having grown up on both the east and west coasts, Roz knew she wanted to be a physical education teacher and hoped to stay in the east. UNB had the only BPE program at the time so her choices were limited, but in 1966 Dal offered a degree program and she was accepted into the 2nd class in 1967. This year she is celebrating her 50th anniversary from graduating from Dalhousie University!

Her teaching career began in the Maritimes, but she was drawn to the outdoors and a curiosity to see the north. “It was a chance to experience a way of life that is very different and possibly exciting! Who knew it would be 30 years in the NWT!,” she says.

Roz was a physical education teacher at a secondary school in Inuvik for 4 years and then for the next 25 years, she worked in recreation, supporting many communities in the Inuvik region. Later, while in Yellowknife and still with the NWT government, she worked in a wide range of recreation positions in leadership, facilities, and volunteer development.  

Indigenous way of life

There was limited cultural awareness in the mid-1970s when she went to Inuvik. “In hindsight, it was quite apparent we were using a very 'southern' approach to learning. The Alberta curriculum for senior high was the same curriculum used in the NWT. The elementary curriculum was developed in the NWT with the best intention to make the learning appropriate for Indigenous children. This is difficult to do when the authors are not familiar with the Indigenous way of life and thus it is a challenge to reflect their culture and values,” she says.

Roz says that her recollections on her northern experiences are infused with what she has learned from Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, and other teachings since her days working with the north. “At the time, there was limited awareness or knowledge of the students’ family situation or any appreciation for understanding cultural awareness. I tried not to patronize my students and genuinely saw and appreciated their considerable strengths, resilience, and stoicism. I have come to greatly admire the strength of those who through finding their roots and learning their culture, managed to lead successful lives,” she says.

Find your passion

Roz competed in cross country ski races while in the north and competed in her first marathon in Whitehorse in 1980 and ran the Yellowknife Marathon 3 times. She also competed in the first Terry Fox Run in 1981 and continued until 2005. This race was very important in the north. “Terry Fox is an inspiration to Canadians and that includes me. He inspires me with his determination, modesty, and thinking of others first. He has inspired me to continue running,” she says.

Although a runner for 45 years her focus changed in 2005 when she retired to Comox, BC, at the age of 57 and joined the Comox Valley Road Runners. “The weather in Comox is ideal for training year-round. It is very temperate, with snow maybe 1 week a year. It is a good running community with coached weekly speed sessions with strong, competitive running on the Island with a running series from January through to April.”

When asked about the secret to her success she says, “find your passion that keeps one active. It can be any activity that you enjoy and becomes part of your life. Certainly, walking is a lot easier on the body than running! I cross country ski, cycle, and hike recreationally as cross-training activities.” She has remained competitive over the years and plans to continue to be competitive recognizing the inevitable slower pace. “Running competitively has to be fun and injury-free and when it isn’t, then perhaps time to hang up the running shoes,” she says.

Her advice to students and alumni is no matter how busy life can get, “take time to stay active, physical activity needs to be a lifelong pursuit and not something you did in your school days.”

Dal memories

Her greatest memory is playing varsity field hockey first and second years at Dal. “Going into my third year I was invited to play for the junior varsity team. The main reason this happens is as a result of one’s performance. I do not recall if the coaches told me or I figured it out, but I played much harder in my third year so that I could get back on the varsity squad for my fourth and final year. I learned a lesson about giving your best effort and this has become my guiding principle that I applied when racing on snow or the road,” she recalls.

So what does the future hold for this Golden Grad? Well, not surprisingly, Roz has no plans to retire from running. She is hoping to run the Royal Victoria Marathon, in-person, on October 10, 2021. Go, Roz!