Bethany Johnson isn’t slowing down for anything

Bethany Johnson radiates positivity. In the summer between grade seven and grade eight, she experienced a slipped capital femoral epiphysis (a broken right hip due to fast growth). When asked about it, her opinion is that it is one of the best things that ever happened to her (though her parents tend to disagree) as it opened up a world of possibilities for her in para sport. When she isn’t working on completing her final year at Collège Churchill, Bethany is playing sledge hockey, working out or curling but her true love is wheelchair basketball. She competes with the Manitoba Junior Provincial team (she is on the team for the Canada Winter Games) as well as with the provincial club team. She even competes with the Saskatchewan women’s team (as Manitoba works to attract more female participants for the sport), and is training to make the under-25 Women’s National Team.

In 2017, her wheelchair basketball coach asked the team if anyone was interested in participating in the Manitoba Marathon to bring some attention to para sport in the province. Bethany was of course game, and in 2018 she placed first wheelchair in the 2018 Intrepid Dezine Half Marathon. With all of this drive and potential, we can’t wait to see what Bethany sets her sights to accomplish next.

What was the most personally challenging race you have ever completed and why? 

My first half marathon was definitely the hardest. It was pretty recent, the 2017 Manitoba Half Marathon. I along with a bunch of my friends and teammates from the wheelchair basketball community all raced together. Most of our younger athletes pushed the Super Run, while eight of us participated in the Intrepid Dezine Half Marathon. Our head coach, Jarrett, also raced as a runner. We all did it in our basketball wheelchairs, except for one hand cycle, and I don’t think any of us had a particularity easy time of it. It was pretty cold, with a light drizzle: absolutely terrible conditions for people essentially running with their hands. My legs got so, so stiff, and the way my wheels got slick and sandy at the same time was a perfect recipe for big blisters. Also I wore a hoodie which, in the cold morning air seemed smart, but once I got to the overpass I figured out what a big mistake that was. Somehow this was the race that convinced me that yup, I totally wanted to do more of it! The challenge was what made me want to do it again.

What is your favorite post-workout snack?

No food at all for about half an hour. Then it depends- did I actually push as hard as I could? If yes, probably a protein bar containing about 10 grams of protein, a banana and water, water, water. If I feel like I was lazy then I usually eat a lot more – a big supper with lots of meat. But always water!

What is your number one method for injury prevention?

Hydration. I can stop rolling muscles, I can stop stretching but if I were to become dehydrated before, during, or after physical activity I think I’d probably disintegrate. There’s a bit more forgiveness when it comes to other injury prevention strategies.

What do you find to be your biggest challenge in competition? How do you overcome these obstacles?

My biggest competition challenge is probably being ready to go too early. I get myself all psyched to race and then I remember I’m not even at the starting line yet, in fact I’m still in my pajamas. Then I lose my “psyched-ness” and have to get all the way to the race before it starts coming back. It takes about 500 metres into a half marathon to get amped up the way I was when I woke up.

 What goals have you set for yourself in the past year? How have you worked to achieve them?

I actually haven’t set any goals for racing yet because I keep changing the wheelchairs I race in. Equipment in para sport is absolutely everything. Also I should mention that I don’t train at all specifically for racing. My first race that I pushed in a basketball wheelchair, in June 2017, was about 2:13. Then I got a very ill-fitting racing chair (imagine trying to push a wheelchair that fits more like a La-Z-Boy recliner than a piece of sporting equipment) for the WFPS half marathon in October, and I pushed a 1:53. Then Colin Mathieson provided me with a racing chair that fit beautifully before the Manitoba Marathon in 2018. I pushed a 1:42, and I had to stop for a couple of minutes as I did not check my wheelchair before racing and my right wheel actually fell off in the middle of the race. So just through equipment improvement, in the span of one year with zero training, I cut off just over a half hour. Next Manitoba Marathon, I’ll be doing a full marathon!

What is your number one “get pumped up for a great race” song?

I don’t really have a song! Instead I find some random mix of bass-boosted instrumental music. I have no idea why this works for me, any other time I would get annoyed by that music.

Do you have a role model or a training buddy or coach that keeps you going or contributes significantly to your training?

Jarrett Yaworski and Chantelle Horel always deserve shout outs! They are the coaches for wheelchair basketball in our beautiful province, and they have both worked so hard for wheelchair basketball and para sport in Manitoba. Jarrett was the one who came up with the idea of all of us racing in the Manitoba Marathon, and I’m pretty sure Chantelle trains the most for the Manitoba Marathon and also the WFPS half marathon. They are definitely the reason I am where I am right now, and I wouldn’t be half the athlete I am without everything they have taught me over the last four years.