by Katie Idle
If it is important enough to you, you will find a way. If it is not, you will find an excuse – and this has never been more true that in the case of Lise Gillis, mother of three, who is training for her second Spartan in Calgary, while looking after her Dad with dementia and her Step-Mom, who is dying of cancer. Like a true Spartan, Lise shows bravery and an inconquerable spirit by taking on the challenges head on, and giving back to others every inch of the way.
In December last year, Lise signed up and started training for the Toronto Spartan, to be held on June 24th, and persuaded her brother in Calgary to join her for the Calgary Spartan in August. Lise’s life was already busy with three kids and her son’s girlfriend at home, a husband, three dogs, and a full-time job as an Office Administrator. In May this year, just one month before the Toronto Spartan, Lise found out that her step-mom, the sole caregiver for her father who has dementia, had been diagnosed with cancer, with just seven months to live. Attempting to cope with an aggressive course of Chemo, Lise’s step-mom became very sick and was physically and mentally unable to take care of Lise’s seventy-five year old Dad, whose dementia was progressively worsening. Lise stepped in to take care of them both.
“Everyone was telling me not to do the Spartan race, that I had too much on,” says Lise, “but I had to have something to look forward to and get excited about, I needed to do the Spartan for myself.” Through a supreme effort, Lise finished the Toronto Spartan with her son and daughter, and now proudly hangs her medal in her car so that she can look at it every day. “It reminds me of what I have achieved. I was so happy to finish the race, I hugged the gladiators – they must have thought I was crazy!”
Now Lise is busy training for the Calgary Spartan on August 18th. She goes to a bootcamp at 6am, works 9am,-5pm, and spends the evenings either cooking for her step-mom and dad, or taking her dad for walks or swims. Every Saturday, Lise takes her step-mom to the hairdressers, and she takes her Dad out for trips to the driving range or other activity.
“I’m very thankful for the support I have from my husband and kids which enables me to do all this,” she says. Since the Toronto Spartan, Lise was also bridesmaid at her brother’s wedding and took on organizing the bridal shower and some of the other wedding preparations.
Lise is unstoppable! “I go full out as I truly believe that if you do something, you need to do it 100%,” she says. Lise loves a challenge and she learned to skate and took up ice hockey a few years ago, and this has become a passion for her. At forty-five, she also took up snowboarding, does hot yoga in her ‘spare time’ to bring her calmness and is taking a bootcamp to train her for her next Spartan race.
“The Spartan Races are the best thing. The obstacles are crazy – who comes up with these ideas?” she laughs. “Everybody should do them. It doesn’t matter if you come in last, just finishing is a huge achievement. It’s such a great atmosphere – you see everyone out there – young, old, all shapes and sizes, races – and the everyone helps each other.”
We look forward to seeing Lise at many more of the races – maybe a Super next?