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Age Group Inspiration: Kris Graci

Kris Graci finally decided enough was enough. Over an 18 month period she’d lost nine important people in her life. She looked in the mirror and saw a woman who was in desperate need of a change. So she took to the gym, then started running. She’s never looked back.

Kris Graci
Kris Graci

“I started running when I turned 50,” Graci said in an interview after last weekend’s Nevis Triathlon. “Before I turned 50 I had lost nine people in my life in a matter of 18 months … my mom passed away on March 28, 2011 and three weeks later my husband died. I attribute my healing time to running. I was over 200 pounds, almost a size 20, living a horrible lifestyle and not taking care of myself. I said “enough” and joined a gym. I started getting some weight off, then I joined the Running Room and started with the “Learn to Run 5 km program” in Stoney Creek.”

Graci’s adventurous nature quickly had her moving up through the running distances – once she got that 5 km run done, she figured she could set her sights much higher, and promptly signed up, and ran, the Cincinnati Pig, a challenging, hilly half marathon in Ohio.

It was the beginning of a love affair with endurance sports. She’s since gone on to run numerous half marathons and one marathon. Next April she’ll take on the Paris marathon, too.

Her journey to the world of triathlon also began through a running event. She was the highest fundraiser for the “Strides 10 K” race in Hamilton, a fundraiser for the Hamilton General Hospital, where the Stoney Creek native’s husband was treated. The prize? A road bike.

“My friends talked me into doing my very first duathlon in 2014,” Graci said. “I did three. I never thought I would do a tri because I couldn’t swim – I’ve never been able to put my head in the water. So I started swimming lessons … and then I did a sprint.”

Since taking on that first sprint distance event in June Graci managed to work her way up to an Olympic distance race by September, where she still managed to win her age group despite a bike crash that left her with a fractured rib and a bruised lung. Last weekend she took on the Nevis triathlon, convinced to do the race by her friend Vanessa Gardiner.

Canadians Kris Graci and Vanessa Gardiner were on hand for the race in Nevis.
Canadians Kris Graci and Vanessa Gardiner were on hand for the race in Nevis.

“I panicked a little bit in the water, but I got around it,” she said. “The swim is amazing. Then you get on the bike … and it’s an incline for, what, a million miles? I live in Hamilton and Snake Road and Sydenham Road – they have nothing on this hill. They call it the Anaconda … it should be the dual Anaconda. But if you have the heart and the desire you can make it up, then you have the downhills and the beautiful views. The view when you’re coming down those hills is breathtaking.”

Graci doesn’t look to be slowing down on her endurance habit any time soon. The legal Assistant for Borden Ladner Gervais, a Bay Street law firm in Toronto, has a busy schedule set for 2016 that includes a number of running events and her first half Ironman in Muncie, Indiana.

There’s one event that will have to wait, though – a Ragnar race that she wanted to run in Hawaii conflicts with her daughter’s wedding.

There will no-doubt be lots of other races, though, most likely including the Nevis event one more time. As she packed up her gear in the transition, the outgoing Graci had already befriended another athlete from the island, who offered up a spot in her house for next year.