Lynne Wawryk-Epp competes on the track.

At age 67, Lynne Wawryk-Epp is tearing up the track

Lynne Wawryk-Epp may never have started running if she hadn’t first been a smoker.

Wawryk-Epp, now 67, picked up her first cigarette in high school and kept up the habit throughout her early adult years. When she was 22 and married to a non-smoker she decided to quit — and knew she needed something to replace the physical act of pulling a cigarette out of the pack and lighting it. She decided to give running a try.

“I basically replaced smoking with running. And it just worked well for me,” Wawryk-Epp recalls.

Running became an integral part of Wawryk-Epp’s life. It was a social activity and form of stress release. In her 40s, when her sister died, Wawryk-Epp ran through the grief.

“Running really has been a huge mental release for me,” Wawryk-Epp says. “It’s a way to decompress and get back to a good space in my head and not carry stuff with me because it’s not good to carry it. You’ve got to let it go — and letting it go through a run is a really good way to do it.”

In addition to running, Lynne Wawryk-Epp is a prolific cross-country skier. Here she is at the 2022 Ganghoferlauf in Seefeld, Austria. She was second in her age group for her event.
In addition to running, Lynne Wawryk-Epp is a prolific cross-country skier. Here she is at the 2022 Ganghoferlauf in Seefeld, Austria. She was second in her age group for her event.

As a naturally gifted and competitive athlete, Wawryk-Epp has seen a lot of success racing on the roads, often landing on the podium or winning her age group despite no formal coaching until her mid-60s when she joined the Top Notch Masters track and field club. Top Notch Masters founder Judy Warick had tried for years to persuade Wawryk-Epp to join the team and Wawryk-Epp finally agreed in 2019 when her long-time running companion stopped running for health reasons, leaving Wawryk-Epp looking for new running partners.

The first workout with the team left her hooked.

“I was so impressed with the number of masters and what they were doing — not only on the track, but with high jump and shot put and discus and all of all of the events,” she recalls.

Since then, Wawrky-Epp has set the Saskatchewan W65 records in the indoor and outdoor 800m, 1,500m and mile events. She’s now coached by Running Wild Athletics track club and, after retiring from her job as a psychologist in December, is enjoying training and competing full time for both track and cross-country skiing.

She has a busy month ahead of her with two world masters events on the calendar: the cross-country skiing Masters World Cup in Austria starting March 18 before dashing off to the World Masters Athletics Indoor Championships in Poland, which kicks off March 25.

Harvey Weber, who coaches Wawryk-Epp at Running Wild Athletic, describes her as “super talented,” and has high hopes for her at both events.

“She is very smart at training and listening to her body when she needs a break or recovery from small injuries. She will be in both sports at an extremely high level for a long time,” he says.

Though Wawryk-Epp is presently monitoring and rehabbing a minor injury, she says she is thankful for a body that has largely allowed her to push herself for decades. She’s also grateful for a family that finds joy in being active together. She loves watching her grandkids learn to ski and her upcoming trip to Seefeld, Austria for the Masters World Cup will be her second trip there in two years; she and her husband travelled there last year for a ski trip to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary.

In addition to knowing how to listen to her body, Wawryk-Epp credits some of her longevity in sport with not taking anything too seriously. Two of her most memorable races were marathons in far-from-fast conditions: the Everest Marathon that ran from Mount Everest base camp to Namche Bazar and the Marathon des châteaux du Médoc in France, which involved a team costume and regular pit stops to drink wine. “Those were incredible events in my life,” she says.

Wawryk-Epp is registered in the 10km, 15km and 20km skate ski races at the cross-country skiing Masters World Cup and in the 800m and 1,500m at the World Masters Athletics Indoor Championships. While the events won’t involve mid-race wine, she hopes they’ll be similarly memorable life experiences.

Recommended reading: During her decades-long career as a psychologist, Wawryk-Epp often recommended the book SPARK: The Revolutionary New Science Of Exercise And The Brain by Dr. John Ratey. “The book is brilliant as it focuses on the benefits of aerobic activity for overcoming depression, anxiety, and attention problems as well as improving one’s ability to learn and remember information. His research among others solidified my initial instinct to run my way out of my addiction to cigarettes. It just felt so good to run and I eventually learned why it was so good for my body and my mind,” Wawryk-Epp says.