Rowing to running, retired Olympian Urbaniak remains active

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Rowing to running, retired Olympian Urbaniak remains active

This story is part of an Olympic.ca series on running called Canada Runs.

From the obvious equipment and element variations to the types of bodies that dominate each sport, distance running and rowing couldn’t be any more different.

Yet Olympic rower Dorota Urbaniak has long used running to help her throughout her career, one that includes an Olympic bronze medal from Sydney 2000.


“For me as a rower that was one of the caveats. My teammates didn’t necessarily support it, neither did my coaches, but I did a lot of cross training. I ran and biked as well.”

Dorota Urbaniak, third from left, after Canada wins women's eight bronze at Sydney 2000.

Dorota Urbaniak, third from left, after Canada won women’s eight bronze at Sydney 2000.

Urbaniak was a member of the women’s eight crew that won Canada’s only Olympic rowing medal in Australia that year, finishing third behind Romania and the Netherlands.

“It balanced me out,” Urbaniak said of adding running to her training, “kept me more mentally sane and focused and I was able, I think, to avoid a lot of the pitfalls and injuries that happen when you’re doing just very, very sport-specific stuff.”

More than 14 years since standing on an Olympic podium in Sydney, this past weekend Urbaniak took part in the annual Canada Running Series eight-kilometre Spring Run-Off at High Park in Toronto to fight prostate cancer. The Canadian Olympic Foundation sponsored Urbaniak’s entry.

The start line at High Park in Toronto as the Canada Running Series' annual Spring Run-Off gets underway.

The start line at High Park in Toronto as the Canada Running Series’ annual Spring Run-Off gets underway.

The 42-year old was expecting to be somewhere around the 50-minute mark but surprised herself with an official personal best of 41:48. Elite Canadian runner and Olympian Eric Gillis won the race in 24:17.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity, the Olympic Foundation is sponsoring the race for me,” Urbaniak said. “It’s a worthy cause, I actually know someone very close to me that’s dealt with prostate cancer. It’s a great event to support and be in the community as well.”

Urbaniak has remained active since retiring from her sport. With husband Rob Makurat she takes part in adventure racing.

Dorota Urbaniak is kissed by then fiancé Rob Makurat after winning bronze at Sydney. The two now take part in adventure racing in Urbaniak's post-Olympic life.

Dorota Urbaniak is kissed by then fiancé Rob Makurat after winning bronze at Sydney. The two now take part in adventure racing in Urbaniak’s post-Olympic life.

“It’s like an off-road triathlon,” is how Urbaniak describes it.

“Running is cross-country, so more trekking and orienteering, you’re running through – a lot of the times – unknown territory.”

“Because you’re trying to keep a fairly good pace over several hours, you’re running through the night, you might be biking through the night or paddling through the night.”

Olympian Eric Gillis breaks the tape to win the 2015 Canada Running Series Spring Run-Off at High Park.

Olympian Eric Gillis breaks the tape to win the 2015 Canada Running Series Spring Run-Off at High Park.

Before she gets her racing season going, Urbaniak had to conquer High Park, which ends with an infamous 400-metre hill leading up to the finish line.

“The hill wasn’t too bad it was the distance marker of ‘400m’ to go before the hill that gave me mixed thoughts.”

“Definitely the running here is going to be good training for me for some upcoming races.”

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