Harris walks away to run hard towards the goal

Wednesday, August 1, 2012 - 10:46am

Note:  Geoff Harris made it to the semi-finals on Tuesday, August 7 - an amazing accomplishment. Here's his interview with the Chronicle Herald.

Imagine you have a rare talent that provides sheer joy to others simply by watching you perform.

Imagine that to develop your talent you have to leave behind everything others take for granted: your motorcycle, your apartment, your social life and your job. Then imagine you don’t know how you are going to fund your training and feed your body.

Former Capital Health casual ward aid Geoff Harris, 25, doesn’t need to imagine. An 800 metre middle distance runner, this is the reality he has lived to reach his dream: the London Olympics.

“At a young age, Geoff loved to race people. People took notice of his ability early on,” says Susan Harris, Health Services Manager at the Halifax Infirmary’s Emergency Department.

Serious wins began as early as Grade 10. By the time he was 19 he had won 20 provincial medals and set two provincial records. He won the Canada Games 800m in 2006, and was the CIS (university nationals) College Rookie of the Year in 2007 with “the fifth fastest run by a Canadian at the time.”

Working as a casual employee at Capital Health meant Geoff didn’t have enough time to train at the level he needed to realize his goal of reaching the Olympics. The job - and all it supported - had to go. Now there would be time for training but few dollars to support it.

“2007 was a turning point. When asked the question, ‘What does your son do?’ I’d reply, ‘He runs!’”

In 2008, injuries set him back just as he was ranked No. 1 in the country. After a year of tending to them, 2009 brought more success. Geoff raced 20 international races and was the second fastest runner in Canada for his distance.

Successive wins and training camps in Western Canada, New Zealand and Arizona developed his speed until that sweet moment on June 30, 2012, when he won the qualifying Olympic race. He’d met the criteria for “rising star”. And still, the financial pressure loomed.

“It’s a tough sport to finance,” said Sue. “There is very little interest [from companies] in runners during non-Olympic years. You can imagine the very strict, extremely healthy diet he is on and travel is a huge expense.” Fortunately, Adidas sponsors his cleats (15 pairs a year) and his workout clothing. That still leaves a gap, one that friends, family and some government funding have helped to narrow.

Despite the challenges, “the sacrifice has been worth it. Making it to the Olympics has confirmed he made the right choices - and what I know for sure is that it takes a whole community to get an athlete to the Olympics.”

Geoff’s first competition takes place Monday, August 6 at 6:30am (AST)* all times are estimates
Semi-finals are Tuesday, August 7 at 3:00pm (AST)*
Finals are Thursday, August 9 at 3:00pm (AST)*

Cheer Geoff on at @geoff800 (whose Twitter profile reads: Canadian Olympian, homeless - and he tweets he wouldn't have it any other way!)