After a busy few months that included her getting married, Bracebridge native Natalia Allen is ready to step onto the track again for the 2023 World Athletics Cross-Country Championships.
“I’m feeling very excited,” says Allen, who may be better known to many in Muskoka as Natalia Hawthorn. Allen made a name for herself in the track and field scene while attending Bracebridge and Muskoka Lakes Secondary School.
When speaking to the MyMuskokaNow.com newsroom from her home in Vancouver, she pointed out that it was raining. “I’m even more excited to be catching some sun in Australia,” she says with a laugh.
The competition is being held in Bathurst, Australia, to be exact. It starts on Feb. 18 and it is the first World Championships to be held since the 2019 edition in Denmark. “I’m excited to reconnect with a lot of girls, teammates, on the team,” says Allen.
Allen competed at the event then. However, Hawthorn then versus Allen now are two different people, she says. “I went into it exhausted,” she says. At the time, she was balancing work with her running career. During the event, she said she suffered from heat stroke and had to be taken off the track in a wheelchair. “I was fatigued with my work-life balance,” she explains.
Hawthorn will be competing in the afternoon on Feb. 18 in the senior women’s 10-kilometre race. In the same event, she finished 86th in 2019.
However, with more running under her belt, including competing at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Allen says she is ready to step up to the challenge. “It’s so exciting to be a senior now on the team and see the juniors getting the experience,” she says. While only 28 years old, Allen says it gives her an opportunity to reflect on her career so far.
With age comes wisdom and one thing Allen says she’s learned since the 2019 Worlds is that she needs to give herself time to recover. Allen said in July 2021, shortly after being named to Canada’s Olympic team, it was during the event she decided to take a step back from her job and put more focus on her running career. Allen says having that balance is important to her success. “It’s not only so taxing on your body physically, but also mentally,” she says about being a high-performance athlete. “It takes so much energy to be focused for that time leading up and focused in the moment of competition.”
In her off time this year, aside from getting married, she says she took up mountain biking. However, she says she’s feeling “super excited” to get back on the track.
Allen says, no matter where or when she’s competing, she enjoys the support she gets from her hometown. “Whether it’s my gym coach, whether it’s a gym teacher sharing words of inspiration, or anyone from my hometown that’s cheering me on,” she says. “It’s very special to know they’re behind you and cheering you on.”