A condensed version of this interview originally appeared in the Spring 2021 Timeout Magazine.
Timeout Magazine: Where did you grow up?
Barb Biggs: I was born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada in 1955 and grew up there with my parents and two younger sisters. My dad’s parents also lived in Calgary and we saw our grandparents often, and ALWAYS for a special Sunday supper! In the middle of my university years, I moved to Edmonton, Alberta and have lived here ever since.
TM: Tell me about your family (siblings/spouse/children/grandchildren).
BB: I have two sisters, two and four years younger than me. Our family was very busy growing up and was involved in a great variety of activities, including many sporting activities at a local club that we belonged to (Glencoe Club). This is where I first took lessons such as swimming, skating and badminton and where we watched our parents in winter curling leagues. In the summer, our extended family spent much time together at our cabin at Sylvan Lake, Alberta. We enjoyed many outdoor activities such as tag, hide-and seek, water-skiing, swimming, and just generally having fun with the family and cousins.
On the more “cultural side”, my sisters and I also took dance and music lessons (and I continued with piano studies into my university years, then became a piano instructor, myself).
I met my husband, Ted, working at Heritage Park, in Calgary. It was great summer employment for university students where we worked “in period costume” and had a variety of jobs in the old town settings. Ted and I later reconnected when I moved to Edmonton for university, and we were married in August, 1979. Ted and I both loved to be active, and in fact, some of our first “dates” were outdoor runs in the university area and playing badminton in the university gyms. Over the 31 years that we have been married, we have dabbled in many activities together including hiking, running, road cycling, mountain biking, kayaking, scuba diving, sailing and stand-up paddle-boarding. We have also spent much time together on the badminton courts, and in the last eight years or so, also on the pickleball courts! Another “given” in our lives has been quality time spent at the cabin at Sylvan Lake, enjoying all the activities that a lake can bring. As well, we always enjoyed our camping and RV adventures with the family. With both Ted and I being teachers, we had many weeks to travel and explore - first in a tent, then tent-trailer, then a trailer! When Ted and I come down to St. George to participate in the Huntsman Games (and enjoy being tourists in the area), we always bring down our fifth wheel to stay in!
We have two great children – Christine, 38 and Steve, 36. They participated in all sorts of school and community sports growing up (such as soccer, hockey, volleyball and gymnastics) and have both continued their love of sports and physical activities in their adulthood.
Christine has been extremely involved in the world of volleyball, which has literally taken her all over the world, especially with her involvement with the Canadian Women’s Sitting Volleyball Team (which competes at Para sport events such as the Paralympics). She also loves to hike and explore and is presently employed as the Women’s Volleyball Head Coach at the University of Calgary.
Steve works as a cabinetmaker in Victoria, British Columbia. One of his main reasons to move to BC was to take advantage of the moderate climate there, enabling him to pursue outdoor adventures such as mountain biking, hiking, skateboarding, wind-surfing, surfing, bouldering and sailing.
Neither of our children is married or has children.
TM: Tell me about your college/career.
BB: I began my post-secondary education in the Faculty of Arts and Science at the University of Calgary. After a couple of years, I took a semester off from my studies to travel to Europe with my cousin – a great backpacking adventure it was! Upon my return, I registered at the University of Alberta (in Edmonton) to continue my studies, and I’ve been in Edmonton ever since! I graduated from the U of A with an Arts Degree, majoring in French. During this time, I was also working on the completion of my music training with the Royal Conservatory of Music, and I received my ARCT Associate Diploma as a piano performer. After a year of working at the University in the Music Library, I returned to university studies to complete an After Degree Teachers Certificate, and then went on to become a school teacher. I taught for several years as a French/ Science teacher until Ted and I started our family. At that time, I switched to my music training as a source of income as it gave me more flexibility in raising our children. I worked at Grant MacEwan College as a piano accompanist for dance classes and also began teaching piano lessons out of our home. When our children reached their teen years, I then returned to teach in the Edmonton Public School system. I taught a variety of subjects over these years, but I ALWAYS was involved in coaching after school – cross country running, relay teams, as well as badminton. This was a huge inspiration and source of pleasure for me. My teaching career continued for many years, until I “retired” in 2012 and became very busy in my “retirement job” as a substitute teacher. I’m still currently employed with Edmonton Public, however, with the ongoing pandemic, I have, unfortunately, refrained from going into classes this year.
TM: Have you always been involved in sports? If so what sports? If you started competing later in life at what age did you start and motivated you?
BB: As mentioned earlier, as children, we were involved in dancing, swimming, badminton and skating. In school, I loved participating on the school sport teams – I was not a specialist in any sport, but loved to participate in all of them! As a teenager, I took up skiing with my friends. Living close to the Rocky Mountains, we enjoyed many day trips to both downhill ski and cross-country ski. When studying at the University of Calgary, I joined the Cross-Country Ski Club and headed out on most weekends to enjoy the beautiful country.
During the time that Ted and I were raising our children, as a family we skied, hiked, camped, and, of course, enjoyed lake sports and activities! Once the kids were “launched”, Ted and I got into mountain biking with friends for many years, with the main incentive being our participation in (and raising funds for) the annual MS Bike Mountain Biking Tour in Hinton, Alberta. Indoors, we still enjoyed playing badminton a few times a week as well.
I had always enjoyed jogging, but just on a “casual” basis as means to stay in shape. Then, in my late 40’s, I decided to challenge myself to complete a half marathon, and then, soon after, a full marathon! After a couple of years of these runs, I realized that, with a bit more concentrated training, I could perhaps be more “competitive” in these events. So, I began training with more “purpose” to challenge myself - it certainly paid off in better race times and great race results! When the World Masters event was held here in Edmonton in 2005, I won the 8 km Cross Country run event in my 50+age group and came third in the 10 km road race. That’s when the competitive spirit really kicked in – I really wanted to keep up these good results! In addition to competing in these distance runs at the Masters Games in Edmonton, my badminton friends and I created a team and we trained, then competed in badminton as well. Although we did not succeed in medaling, we had a very rewarding and fun time working together toward this event and competing!
Badminton has been a very major part of my life, in particular, from my 40’s until recent years! Ted and I played together in Edmonton clubs before we had children. Then, when we had more time ourselves, we began to play regularly once again. I have been playing around three times a week for over 20 years. I have also entered many tournaments and travelled to many Canadian Masters Tournaments since retirement. Then, in more recent years, I have added pickleball as a major source of activity and challenge! I enjoy this sport mostly outdoors, both on our winter stays in Arizona and here at home. It is always fun to take up a new activity and challenge yourself to see how far you can progress in it – of course, all the time having a great time and making new friends!
It was one of our badminton friends, Norm Carruthers, who first told us about the Huntsman World Senior Games. He and his ball team had been competing for many, many years. So, in 2013, we made our first trek down to St. George, Utah, USA, to compete! As we wished to experience as much of the Games as possible, we entered in multiple events! Ted entered several cycling events, badminton and pickleball. I entered in the 10 km and 5 km road races, the triathlon, badminton and pickleball! I need to mention that it was not me who decided that I should attempt my first ever triathlon at the Games. My husband and a very good friend, Mike Cooper (who was a very talented triathlete himself), decided to enter me! So, for this event, I had to really brush off my swimming skills (I had not swum any distance at all since I was in my 20’s and I had never been a speed swimmer). I ended up having a great triathlon event, except for my transition times! Our friend, Mike, pointed out to me (with a hearty laugh) that had I not “lollygagged” in my transitions, I might have medaled! I DID fix that for the next year!! We had a terrific and busy time that first year at the Games, both competing and cheering on our friends who were competing in a variety of events. It was a very easy decision to come back the following year!!
TM: Why do you value the opportunity to compete?
BB: Competition provides me with a purpose and incentive to train with more intensity. I get great satisfaction from practice and training, and I love the rewards and encouragement that training provides. I always find it fun and satisfying to “have a plan” and to be working toward a goal in competition, both in individual sports (distance running, cycling and swimming) or in team sports (badminton and pickleball). I really love training and drilling with my racquet sport partners!
The social connections of sport and recreation have been precious to us, as well. We have met many wonderful people through competition and sporting events over the years. Many of these people have become great, close friends, both at and away from the sporting venues!
TM: What does active aging mean to you and why is it important to you?
BB: Active aging, to me, means being in great shape so that you can take full advantage of seeing and doing things as they come up in your life. For example, when we travelled to Europe in the fall of 2018 (missing the Games that year), we were able to do some amazing hikes and lots and lots of walking, enabling us to really experience Europe at its fullest. When we visit Utah for the Games, we are also ready to explore on foot, bike, or even scooters!
I love the routine of starting the day with exercise – it gets my brain and body activated and ready to take on the day, whatever that may hold!
In these pandemic times, I am so grateful to be able to get out for almost daily winter walks with Ted and friends. Through exercise, we are keeping our friends connected to us, as we all keep fit and enjoy the wonderful outdoors.