Imagine working a high-demanding job as a nurse while also studying to complete your masters degree. Then add elite-level running to the mix.
Welcome to Lisa Brooking’s world.
“It is a balancing act, but if you enjoy what you do …” she said with a laugh, failing to finish the answer.
The 29-year-old Murrayville resident is a busy woman these days.
She works as a critical care nurse in the intensive care unit at Peace Arch Hospital, is working towards completing her masters nursing degree at Trinity Western University and is also a member of both the Spartans cross-country team, and a part of the Canadian national team program.
Brooking ran at the university level while completing her bachelor of science degree at the University of Windsor, being named a Canadian university all-Canadian in both 2007 and 2008 and finished eighth overall in the country that latter year at the CIS (now U Sports) championships in the 3,000m.
Following graduation, she put her aspirations aside to focus on her career.
The Orillia, Ont. native came west, earning her critical care certificate from BCIT and then entering the workforce, working at the Abbotsford Regional Hospital and Royal Columbian Hospital, and now Peace Arch Hospital.
After six years as a full-time nurse, Brooking enrolled at TWU in the fall of 2015, settling on Murrayville for its proximity both to her work and school.
The decision to run competitively — she had two years of eligibility remaining because injuries only allowed to compete in three seasons for Windsor — was more or less to train for half marathons while chasing old times and also as a distraction from her hectic life.
“My running is my stress release,” she explained.
“Same with school, I have my best thoughts when I am running, so it works out well that I run so many miles a week because I get a lot done. I debrief from work and think about my thesis.”
But a funny thing happened as Brooking got back onto the competitive running scene — her times kept improving and all of a sudden, someone who had never even made a Canadian junior national team, qualified to represent her country as part of the senior national team program.
“Obviously she has genetic gifts to go along with a lot of mental tenacity,” said Trinity Western coach Mark Bomba. “Not a lot gets in her way.”
When she arrived on the Langley campus, Bomba said his new runner showed potential but her training was lacking some of the necessary structure.
The coaching staff also had to pull her back to cut back on the training.
“It has been tweaking some of her training to make sure she wasn’t overdoing it,” he said, using an example of Brooking working the night shift, finishing at 7 a.m. and wanting to train at 8 a.m.
She was also able to glean some tips from other elite former TWU runners, such as Sarah Inglis and Fiona Benson, who have also competed internationally.
And all of that has paid off.
This past weekend saw Brooking wear the Maple Leaf for a second straight year as she represented Canada at the world cross-country championships in Kampala, Uganda. Brooking placed 65th individually out of 100 racers and helped her country place ninth in the world out of the 18 teams competing.
She also competed at the Pan-American cross-country championships in 2016.
“This was not something I was expecting; with this whole Team Canada thing, I have just been trying to embrace it for whatever it is and how long it lasts,” Brooking said.
The Olympics — the pinnacle of competition — remain a possibility with Brooking eyeing the 2020 Games in Tokyo.
Bomba believes her future in the sport is at the marathon distance.
“I have a lot to learn and lots of growing to do,” she said. “And if this transpires into something, that is very cool.
“But at the end of day, I am always a nurse. Nursing is my life.”