It was the wide-eyed spirit of adventure that brought Canadian-born Jana Daigle to the
turquoise-blue Caribbean waters of Costa Rica after graduation to do an internship working with sea turtles.
Fast forward almost 20 years later and the strength and joy of community she’s found here has formed deep roots to this magical place, where she today manages a boutique hotel among the central valley’s lush green rainforests and rolling, majestic mountains.
“We have 16 rooms and there’s a farm with goats and horses. A whole little community in itself,” says Daigle, a Run Like A Girl Social Media Team Ambassador who’s originally from Hamilton, Ontario.
“I love working in tourism. I work in three languages every day and get to take people out biking in the mountains, trekking to hidden waterfalls, and trail running around volcanoes. It’s kind of neat because I’m often guiding Costa Ricans who are visiting from the city. Even locals in my area will ask me to bring them on adventures because they know I’m always out here exploring. When I do my running routes past the sugar cane and coffee fields, people recognize me. They’ll wave and say hi. They’ll ask me where my dogs are if I don’t have them with me.”
Daigle wasn’t always an active, outdoor multisport enthusiast. But, as she shares, after she moved to Costa Rica her love for a lifestyle energized with movement grew with her affection for
this county and its people.
Finding her stride – with a little help from her friends “I was a little heavier and I was afraid to run. So my original plan was to start with biking so I
could lose enough weight to run without injuring myself. A friend introduced me to a small mountain biking group where everyone was just super nice and would wait for you regardless of pace,” says Daigle, who after about four months of biking, began dipping her toe into running.
“The hotel here has a huge line of palm trees that’s about a kilometre long. I thought, ok, my first goal will be to run the length of those palm tress. Then I kept going for longer and longer distances. Eventually when my best friend came to visit from Canada, we decided to do an 8 km race together. I came in first place! I’m still part of that mountain biking group and I’m also part of a trail running group now, too. When I turned 40 during COVID, I told my friends I wanted to do a 50 km run for my birthday. There ended up being 16 of us and we turned it into a donation drive for the food bank. A ton of people came out to support us. It wasn’t about my birthday anymore – it was about community and supporting one another. And that’s what biking and running and just being active together with people here has really become for me.”
Getting acclimatized to heat, humidity, and new heights “A lot of the races have really good aid stations because hydration is just so important in a hot,
humid climate,” says Daigle. “And the temperature’s pretty steady so layers aren’t really a thing here – you’re not peeling off clothes during your run. But while we don’t go into seasons like hot
or cold, you could get drenched at any point since we’re in a rain forest! A lot of people will wear sleeves and that kind of becomes your jacket. If I’m running in the mountains where it’s a bit cooler, I’ll have my neck covered and then maybe just a tank top and leggings.” She adds that she and her friends will train together for higher altitudes runs by running, biking, or hiking in areas where the air’s thinner to get their breathing used to the conditions.
Finding community in sport. Participating in trail running and mountain biking groups has helped her meet so many different people and become part of the community, says Daigle.
“Humans are pack animals and crave that sense of relating to someone, to bonding over shared experiences regardless of where you come from or what you do for a living,” she says. “In both my trail and mountain biking communities there could be lawyers, doctors, school teachers, construction workers, coffee pickers, and farmers. Sport brings everyone together. We go out together and we all come back together. If you’re struggling, someone will always stop and walk with you. I think about the people who helped me when I was first starting out. I want to be able to give that back. A lot of people will reach out to me because they want to do a trail route or race together. This wasn’t something I was intentionally seeking, but it’s turned into a community and that’s been so important to Costa Rica becoming my home.”
Giving back to the home that’s given her so much. While biking and running came a bit later, yoga has always been a part of Daigle’s life. She says when she moved from the coast to the central valley she noticed that, unlike the yoga spas and retreats that are so prevalent near the water, yoga in the inland areas is harder to come by.
“It’s very rural here so there really isn’t much yoga in terms of classes you can take,” says Daigle. “I’ve always enjoyed the lifestyle that comes with yoga. People here work so hard and I really wanted the community to experience the mind and body benefits of this practice. That’s why a couple of years ago I decided to get my yoga teaching certification,” she says, adding that
she regularly offers classes for free as a way to give back. “I teach local adults, teenagers, even kids now. We’ll start in Spanish and move to English, and it becomes a way not only for people to improve their wellness through yoga, but to also learn more English.”
Considering an adventure? Be fearless.
Daigle says when she left Canada almost two decades ago for her internship, she’d always known she wanted to live in another country. But when it came time to decide whether to stay in Costa Rica permanently, some simple words of wisdom really stuck with her.
“Someone told me, hey what’s the worst thing that could happen? You come home and start again. That said, it’s never actually occurred to me to come home – my community is here now. If I’m having a bad day, I’ll go out and run with my group, and they’ll give me a hug, and I’ll shake myself off and start again. When I race, I have a little Canadian flag. I have it in my vest
when I cross the finish line and when there’s a photographer I take it out. People may think I just came for the race, but no, I live here – my friends here have been my friends for a long time now. I love adventure and I think if you have that in your heart you should listen to it.”
Written By RLAG Ambassador - Connie Smart.
Story from RLAG Ambassador - Jana Daigle