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A conversation with Nathan Meraw and Nathan Hay

There are plenty of faces that make up the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees track and field and cross country teams. Nathan Meraw and Nathan Hay are two accomplished athletes who represent the Gees. 

Meraw is a second-year biomedical-mechanical engineering student from Pickering, Ont. Remaining true to the student-athlete label, last December he was recognized as a U Sports Academic All-Canadian for the 2019-20 Varsity Cross Country season. 

Hay is a fourth-year electrical engineering student from Thunder Bay. A multi-talented athlete as a freshman, he was a member of the Gee-Gees men’s swim team during the 2017-18 season. Last December, he was recognized as an Academic Merit Award Winner for the 2019-20 varsity track and field season. 

The Fulcrum (F): What got you into running? Do you have any Inspirational figures?

Meraw:  “For me it was more of a fitness thing because I used to be chubby, I used to get made fun of. I started randomly running around the block one day just to get in better shape. Every day I would increase the amount of laps I’d do around the block, first week I began with one and eventually worked my way up to running on the track. And on the track, I’d do like twenty laps. 

By the end of grade seven, I was doing  12km every day in the summer and I literally dropped like 50 to 60 pounds I would say. So, I turned into a toothpick. [But] I’ve loved running ever since then… Not really any inspirational figure just more so myself, just trying to better myself. 

Hay: For me it was honestly just being a kid [like] at recess playing tag. I remember like in grade three, I tried out for the track team and that was a big deal because the track team was only for kids from grade four to grade six. But me and my buddy tried out and we qualified for the team for the 800m and 1,500m races. 

We were racing all of these older kids which was cool. And it went on from there, I was always into running. I was always known as one of the kids who was pretty good at it. Inspiration wise I was really into Simon Whitfield, famous Canadian triathlete, who won the gold at the 2000 Olympics, and in 2008 got the bronze with a crazy sprint finish. 

(F): How have you maintained fitness throughout COVID-19? What sort of adaptations did you have to make to your training? 

Meraw: Well first and foremost, obviously there’s no indoor facilities to train at. To adapt to that it’s just been a lot more outdoor running than usual. I’d definitely say this is the most mileage I’ve done outside in a winter. That was a big change, especially being in Ottawa because it’s so cold and I don’t like the cold, but we’re making it work. I’ve turned to a lot of mileage, tempo runs, less short speed stuff and more strength and endurance things. 

Hay: We can’t use the indoor track anymore, everything is outdoors. I’m not a huge fan of running in the cold, I try to avoid it if possible. For me the big thing this winter was cross country skiing, I’ve been logging kilometres on skis [and] also, an indoor core routine. 

(F): What keeps you motivated to train? Any goals in sight?

Meraw: Definitely the potential for there being an upcoming outdoor club season, getting back to training with the team and with the boys in the spring and hopefully club races in the summer. And since they [recently] announced cross country nationals in Ottawa this coming fall that will be pretty cool, too. Definitely trying to improve upon some core, more strength stuff, hopefully lifting more weights when gyms open. Just getting stronger. Getting rid of some of the lank.

Hay:  It’s hard to stay motivated right now with no end goal, no final race. But I think right now I’m starting to map out how I want my spring running to look like and just making personal goals. Rather than race goals, maybe setting like a 5km or 10km personal best.  

(F): Tell us about your most memorable moment as a Gee-Gee athlete. 

Meraw: Probably making the Reseau du Sport Étudiant du Quebec (RSEQ) Championships last year for cross country, I barely made the team. They take like the top six runners or something, I didn’t expect to make it. Me and all the other top guys got to go to Quebec City to run the 10km race there. That would probably be the top moment. I got shown up there, but you know. 

Hay: I wouldn’t put my racing as memorable; I’d say morning practice at the Immaculata track, when we were starting to hit one-kilometer repeats. We were going like sub three minutes pretty consistently and that was when I felt we were becoming stronger runners. Like those early morning practices where you’re grinding, you know? 

(F): Tell us about the best aspect of running in Ottawa.

Meraw: Hands down the scenery. Coming from Toronto, there’s not nearly as much scenery. Even Ottawa is a big city, but Ottawa has the canal, that’s definitely a go-to for me. Usually when I head out for a run, it’s ‘am I going for the canal or am I going along the river?’ Pretty much those two trails. 

Hay: It’s pretty much the same for me, except I come from Thunder Bay so there’s a little less nature in Ottawa. But as far as cities go, I’m pretty sure Ottawa is known as a garden city, it’s spread out in forestry and plant life is built into the city. There’s a lot of scenic routes and pathways [where] you can always do something a little different. Just this last year I discovered the Rockcliffe area which is another good area that you can go running in. I always just thought it was the Canal and Strathcona park. But there’s tons of areas. 

(F): What is the most important thing you learned from your time as a Gee-Gee? 

Meraw: Honestly, I’d say time management. Because on training days you know you’re going to have to take a whole three hours of your day to take the bus down to practice, then train for an hour or two, then take the bus back. So definitely time management is a big thing if you want to be able to manage the two. It’s just something that I easily picked up. Training keeps me on top of my schoolwork because it gives me less time to slack off. 

Hay: Always trying to be involved with some sort of school activity. Originally, I was on the swim team in first year, but then in second year I took a year off with no involvement really on any sort of Gee-Gees team and it was such a worse year. I found that it was just about school. It’s nice to have those sideline goals and stuff you want to do for yourself. And that’s why I joined the cross-country team. 

(F): Entering your final year in the Fall, what do you think you’ll miss most about being Gee-Gee? 

Hay: The friends aspect, the friends you make in university are those that stay as your lifelong friends for the most part. I would say the team aspect but there hasn’t been much team aspect, there’s only so much you can do with an online screen. In general, the friends aspect. 

Diego Benitez trains with both Nathan Hay and Nathan Meraw as a Gee-Gees track athlete.