In 2010, while going to school in Hamilton, Ontario to earn a masters degree, Phyllis Tsang wrote an article for her school newspaper. The piece focused on a running store in Toronto. Not being a runner herself, Tsang was inspired by the owner’s philanthropic work to support people in Haiti. The store’s proprietors invited Tsang to join their weekly running group.
Since that first fateful group run, Tsang has completed multiple marathons, several 50K’s, and two 50 mile races, even taking a divisional fourth place at the JFK 50 in Virginia.
What motivates Tsang in the sport, however, isn’t a need to improve her clock time or boast gaudy distances. She states simply that her goal “is to be a better person when I finish a run.”
In 2010, she moved to North Carolina and made the switch from road to trail. She credits the weather and the terrain for the change. “I became a trail and mountain runner in North Carolina because there are so many options here,” she says. “I enjoy the solitude. When I’m injured I really miss the long hours in the mountains”.
It’s on the trail that the self-described introvert and lover of philosophy can get in lots of thinking. She also likes using the time to think of others. “Sometimes, before a long run, I’ll post on Facebook asking friends what, in their lives, I can pray for while I’m out there.”
For the last 10 years Tsang has worked with a non-profit group called Engineers Ministries International. The group of designers and architects offers services to people in developing countries. Through EMI she has traveled to, and run in, some of the most remote parts of the world. “The most interesting run was up a mountain in Ethiopia,” she recalls. “There was a group of men on horses watching me run. I learned later that the group had recently been through the town attaching notices that the residents needed to convert to Islam or move.”
Back home, Tsang has entered a growing list of long distance trail races. Some of her favorites are the Annihilator 50K at South Mountain, the Millstone 50K at Anne Close Springs, and the 50K at Leatherwood all in North Carolina.
Despite her accomplishments on the trail, Tsang doesn’t consider herself a great racer. “I’m not really competitive,” she says. “I don’t think about pace and time. I just enjoy myself while I’m out there,” she says. “The times that I find myself struggling are when I’m rushing.”
She doesn’t train like many competitive racers either. “Some runners like to preview a race course before the race. I don’t. I prefer to run new trails.”
There’s one training tip she offers for new long distance runners. “I run back to back long runs,” she says. “I’ll run 20 miles on Saturday and maybe 10 miles on Sunday. It helps to train on tired legs.”
Tsang is a newsletter editor for the Charlotte Running Club, the largest running group in Charlotte. The CRC maintains a full calendar of weekly events. Their members range from the occasional 5K finisher to some of the most accomplished runners in the area.
Adding more 50 milers and maybe a 100k is inevitable for Tsang. But when she talks about her running future, the focus remains right where it’s always been. “I’d like to maybe get involved with a non-profit like RunningWorks. I want to help others discover the power of achievement and confidence that comes from running.”