In his 1959 novel, ‘The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner’, author Alan Sillitoe paints the picture of an isolated athlete running alone for miles and miles, pushing through pain and fatigue to build the endurance required to compete.
And like, the central ﬁgure in this book, Paula Schnurr committed herself to hours of lonely training and ‘pounding pavement’ to become one of Canada's leading cross-country and track athletes in the 1980s and '90s. Unlike the runner in the book, Paula was one of the most popular and sociable members of the runner’s fraternity.
Born in Kirkland Lake Ontario Paula and her family moved to Burlington when she was 6 years of age. At an early age, Paula joined the Burlington Legion Track Club and became an ardent runner. Her prowess in the school system was exceptional and from local and provincial competitors she went on to an outstanding career at McMaster University.
A winner of 28 Ontario Women's Intercollegiate Athletic Association championship medals, 18 of which are gold, Paula was named the McMaster University Female Athlete of the Year on four separate occasions.
In 1988 she set three competitive records all of which stand to this day, a remarkable 22 years later. One is the Ontario Women's Intercollegiate Athletic Association 1000 metre record and the others are the Canadian Intercollegiate Schools 1000 metres (2:42:81) and the 1500 metres in a truly outstanding 4:16:41. She was named a C.I.A.U. All-Canadian Athlete of the Year ﬁve times.
At the international level, Paula represented Canada in Track in 1992 at the Barcelona Olympics where she ran a personal best of 4:04:80 in the 1500 and 1996 in Atlanta where she competed in the 1500 metre event. It is worth noting that rather than drop out in Atlanta, she completed this grueling race with a partially torn Achilles tendon, which she had incurred three weeks earlier. She is a Silver medallist from the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria, once again in the 1500.
The running career of Paul Schnurr is a testimony to perseverance over physical talent. Though blessed with great physical abilities, Paula readily admits that she didn't possess as much natural talent as some of her competitors. However, what she did have in large doses was courage, determination, strength, and toughness. She “knew how to win races" and she did, often.
Today, Paula works with young, aspiring track stars through coaching and clinics. She works with youth of all ages, always encouraging them to be the best they can be, while also stressing the pure enjoyment of the sport she loves. What a wonderful legacy she has left our community. It is an honour to install Paula Schnurr in the Burlington Sports Hall of Fame.