iRun because I cannot say no to a second slice of chocolate cakeEmily Shandruk , Vancouver, BC

iRun to stay fit and release those running endorphinsLiliana Plava , Calgary, AB

iRun because I want to qualify for Boston and raise money for charities near and dear to my heartChristine Gracel , Calgary, AB

iRun because it makes me feel good, allows me to spend time with my friends and gives me a feeling of accomplishmentHelen Kolodziejzyk , Calgary, AB

iRun but not enoughMichael Shaw , New Westminister, BC

iRun because I never thought I would be able toGary Morris , Winnipeg, MB

iRun to challenge myself, physically and mentallyKathleen Keenan , Brampton, ON

iRun because people around me inspire mePina Bevilacqua , Caledon, ON

iRun therefore I amDuncan Walsh , Nottingham, UK

iRun because I liveGeorges Schneller , Laval, QC

iRun to be free and enjoy our beautiful countryCheryl Carter , Clearwater , BC

iRun for overall wellbeingTrish McCourt , Halifax, NS

iRun because it makes me a better person, a better wife, a better mother and a better friendNathalie Joncas-Caissie , St-Antoine, NB

iRun because it makes me feel powerfulCarlene Paquette , Carp, ON

iRun because pecan pie, french fries and beer are chasing meTeresa Sterling , Ottawa , ON

iRun because it’s in meMichael Foley , Stittsville, ON

iRun because it reminds me that I am capable of so much more than I have doneJames Sauve , Ottawa, ON

iRun for meKiza Francis , Ottawa,ON

iRun to prove to myself I canLesley McGougan , Brampton, ON

iRun because all the ladies are chasing my sexy runner’s bodyChris Baker , Etobicoke, ON

iRun because I can and I’m gratefulTerry SanCartier , Gatineau, QC

iRun because when I run I feel most aliveMeghan Lynch , Ottawa, ON

iRun to unleash my inner athleteAdelle Densham , Avonmore, ON

iRun because it cleans up my life, because I drink more water, sleep better and eat healthier foodsRobin McIntyre , Ottawa, ON

iRun because of the peace and strength it brings meMichelle Jordan , Ottawa, ON

iRun because I need it to soothe the soul, keep me in shape and for overall wellbeingBeth Neil , Lombardy, ON

iRun because it is my tonic and my salvation Georgia Ioannou , British Columbia

iRun for relaxation and to motivate my two sonsKeith Bradbury , Newfoundland

iRun because endorphins are freeCassandra Chouinard , Ontario

iRun because somebody once told me I couldn’t Heidi Abbey-Der , Saskatchewan

iRun because couch potatoes die young Cathy Andrew , Ontario

iRun because it’s cheaper than therapy Leah Boulter , Alberta

iRun because I like buying running clothes Pamela Blaikie , Ontario

iRun slowly!Jason Hoffman , Manitoba

iRun because it gives me freedom to relax my brainMarie-Claude Gregoire , Nova Scotia

iRun because I learn more about who I am with every kmSteph Mansell , Quebec

iRun because iEat Sherry Maligaspe , British Columbia

iRun and run, and run, and run, and nobody can stop me Andrei Lucaciu , Ontario

iRun because the wall is meant to be broken Jonathan Bird , Ontario

iRun because it has saved my life John Marshall , Alberta

iRun for the challenge to go faster and farther Steven Matejka , Alberta

iRun to my happy place and some days it’s very Doreen May , Alberta

iRun because food tastes better afterwards Patrick Houston , Alberta

iRun because I can’t dance Mario Javier , Ontario

iRun so I don’t say never ever again Linda Klaric , Manitoba

iRun because it makes me whole Denis Ladouceur , Quebec

iRun because it gets my husband out there Tricia LaLonde , Alberta

iRun away from the negative and towards the positive Teri Lepard , Alberta

iRun because running is like breathing to Stephanie McEvoy , Ontario

iRun because I love the solitude Janene Tailleur , British Columbia

iRun for the moment when both feet are off the ground Catherine Anderson , British Columbia

iRun to someday win the race Lindy Dunlop , Yukon

iRun to stay ahead of the weight gainMyra Abstreiter , Alberta

iRun because otherwise I’m grumpy Alexandre Charest , Quebec

iRun because I get foot rubs afterward Kate Howerton , British Columbia

iRun because iLoves my man Beverly Huang , Alberta

iRun because not everyone can Olivia Harvey , New Brunswick

iRun to get to know myself, my strength and my spirit Lisa Groulx , Ontario

iRun whenever I feel the need to escape Iona Hillis , Ontario

iRun because it’s like flying, only lower Glenn Johnson , Ontario

iRun because it makes me feel powerful Sarah Kallaghan , Alberta

iRun because I’ve lost 80 lbs and running has become fun Cheryl Kelly , Ontario

iRun because there is no finish line Claire Kilgour , Ontario

iRun so my daughters know that they can, too Shelley Kirkpatrick , New Brunswick

iRun because it reminds me of how strong I can be Monique Lavoie , Ontario

iRun because it’s a great way to see the world Sherry Mahoney , British Columbia

iRun because my heart tells me to William Martin , Manitoba

iRun to prove to them that iCan Catherine Smith , Manitoba

iRun because it’s fun when it’s done Sue Matte , Ontario

iRun because I am not as clumsy I thought I was Hanna Baer , Quebec

iRun see where my feet will take me todayMegan Dolinskas , New York

iRun for the cool t-shirts! Pina Bevilacqua , Ontario

iRun because I want to be a role model for our six kids Catherine Empey , British Columbia

iRun to inspire my kids to tryGlen Johnston , Nunavut

iRun so I can eat ice cream Sandy Bolan , Ontario

iRun because I want to live to be 100! Colette DeJean , Ontario

iRun for health, i Run for life Pat Cheung , British Columbia

iRun because it gives my day a boost of energy Sara Campbell , Nova Scotia

iRun because it’s better than almost everything else Nathan Carey , Ontario

iRun at 50 years old because at 43 I couldn’t Peter Cicalo , Ontario

iRun because it is my tonic and my salvation Georgia Ioannou , British Columbia

iRun for relaxation and to motivate my two sons Keith Bradbury , Newfoundland

iRun because endorphins are free Cassandra Chouinard , Ontario

iRun because somebody once told me I couldn't Heidi Abbey-Der , Saskatchewan

iRun because couch potatoes die young Cathy Andrew , Ontario

iRun because it's cheaper than therapy Leah Boulter , Alberta

iRun because I like buying running clothes Pamela Blaikie , Ontario

iRun slowly! Jason Hoffman , Manitoba

iRun because iEat Sherry Maligaspe , British Columbia

iRun because I learn more about who I am with every km Steph Mansell , Quebec

iRun because it gives me freedom to relax my brain Marie-Claude Gregoire , Nova Scotia

iRun at 50 years old because at 43 I couldn't Peter Cicalo , Ontario

iRun because it's better than almost everything else Nathan Carey , Ontario

iRun for my heart, so it runs for me! Cathy Brzoza , British Columbia

iRun to inspire my children! Wendy Bowen , Manitoba

iRun because it sure beats the bus Robin Robbins , Alberta

iRun for the challenge and to remember to fully live Pascale Synnott , Québec

iRun to kickstart my day Sharon Strueby , Saskatchewan

iRun for me! Judi Wearing , Saskatchewan

iRun because it's a great stress release Brooke McKenzie , Yukon

iRun because i love to Mirella Petriello , Ontario

iRun because it helps me see things more clearly Jennifer Pitts , Ontario

iRun to eat Maureen Tritscher , Alberta

iRun to correct years of sedentary living! Mike Scott , Ontario

iRun away from the abyss Charlene Thomas , Ontario

iRun all the livelong day Pierre Saint-Laurent , Québec

iRun to challenge my perceived limitations Cassandra Williams , Ontario

iRun to maintain a strong physical and mental state Tammy Rainville , Ontario

iRun so that I can live longer and stronger Derek MacPhail , Ontario

iRun to feel great Kathryn Rachar , Saskatchewan

iRun because I like to be healthy Melanie Oickle , New Brunswick

iRun to eat more, especially sweet potatoe fries Joanna Skomra , Ontario

iRun for the fresh air and adrenalin Charlyn McGregor , Saskatchewan

iRun for the individual pursuit Robert Pelletier , New Brunswick

iRun to satisfy the irresistible urge Tim Nixon , British Columbia

iRun because I love the sense of accomplishment Amber Moase , Nova Scotia

iRun to challenge my mind, body and soul Sonia Mendes , Ontario

iRun because walking is too slow Barry Knapp , Ontario

Six joint-strengthening foods for runners

July 23rd, 2014


By Patience Lister
Originally published in Issue 04, June 2014

With each stride, a runner’s knees buffer the impact of a force that can be up to eight times her body weight. Without healthy joints, running would be a painful and jarring experience.

Unfortunately, everyone’s joints degenerate and lose flexibility with age. By 30, most people have tears in their cartilage, and after 45, many people begin to experience signs of degenerative conditions, such as osteoarthritis.

In addition to genetics, recovery time and running form, nutrition plays a significant role in joint health. Broccoli, turmeric, blueberries, sardines, walnuts and pineapple contain nutrients shown to reduce joint damage and regulate inflammation related to degenerative joint conditions and injuries—ultimately keeping runners running longer.

Broccoli’s bitter flavour comes from the elite joint-strengthening nutrient sulforaphane. Loading up on sulforaphane throughout the training season can help reduce inflammation in stressed joints and slow the breakdown of cartilage to offset the risk of osteoarthritis. One cup of broccoli supplies over 100 per cent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin K and 90 per cent RDA of vitamin C, ensuring effective bone mineralization and healthy shock-absorbing cartilage in the knees and hips.

Smart Tip: For an anti-inflammatory boost, substitute broccoli sprouts for regular sandwich lettuce.

The next time a sprain interrupts your training, eat some curry. Known for making curry yellow, turmeric also supplies joints with a good dose of anti-inflammatory and painkilling agents that may help runners rebound from injuries faster. A study published this year in Clinical Interventions in Aging found that curcumin, the key nutrient in turmeric, reduces joint inflammation and pain as effectively as ibuprofen. Curcumin also protects joints by stimulating the growth of new collagen in connective tissue and deactivating enzymes that break down cartilage. For runners dealing with rheumatoid arthritis, turmeric can help reduce joint stiffness and swelling to make running more comfortable.

Smart Tip: Piperine in black pepper makes curcumin more absorbable by the body. Eat turmeric and black pepper together for an enhanced effect.

When it comes to antioxidants, these Canadian berries are top contenders. The immense density of antioxidant polyphenols in their skin, seeds, juice and pulp protects the synovial membranes of joints from harmful oxidation by free radicals. This, along with the high water content of blueberries, helps maintain the fluid level within joint cavities for proper lubrication and a smooth, well-cushioned stride. Scientists at the University of North Carolina recently discovered that periods of intense running revs up the absorption of blueberry polyphenols, offering heightened protection when joints need it most.

Smart Tip: Buy fresh local berries during the summer to freeze for a year-round supply of antioxidants.

These little fish pack a first-class nutritional punch. A 106g can of sardines contains almost three times the recommended daily intake of omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. Omega-3s strengthen the cartilage within joints by boosting collagen levels. They help manage the pain, inflammation and stiffness of joints to speed up recovery after intense runs or injury. They also equip runners with 110 per cent RDA of vitamin D and 25 per cent RDA of calcium to synergistically fortify bones and fight osteoarthritis of the knees. To top it off, sardines are one of the most sustainable seafoods available, they are low in marine contaminants, and they are very inexpensive.

Smart Tip: Choose sardines packed in water or rinse those packed in oil under cool water to remove unnecessary fat.

Walnuts are not your typical nut—they are high in the omega-3 fatty acid ALA which is converted within the body to EPA and DHA. This means that runners can eat walnuts regularly to increase bone stability and muscle strength, reduce joint injuries from overuse, and lower their risk of inflammation from arthritis. One cup of walnuts also fulfills 46 per cent RDA of the magnesium runners need for maintaining strong bones and cartilage within their joints.

Smart Tip: Drizzle walnut oil on green salads in place of commercial dressings.

pineapple Pineapple
Pineapple contains an excellent antiinflammatory and painkilling enzyme called bromelain. It is a medically recognized treatment for arthritis and tendinitis that also reduces the swelling and recovery time from sprains. One cup of pineapple delivers over 100% RDA of vitamin C to help repair damaged cartilage and build strong connective tissue in tendons and ligaments. The powerful antioxidant behaviour of vitamin C also blocks free radical damage to slow the progression of arthritis. Because bromelain increases the anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin, pineapple and turmeric make a superb combination.

Smart Tip: Eat pineapple at its peak ripeness to receive the greatest concentration of bromelain. With no pharmaceutical cure for joint disorders, diet is one of the most practical routes towards optimized joint health. By focusing on foods that are naturally rich in joint strengthening nutrients, runners are ultimately rewarded with fewer injuries, a lower risk of arthritis, and a longer, more enjoyable running career.


In the heat of the race

July 23rd, 2014

Inthe Heat of the Race

By The Obsessive Runner, Andrew Chak
Originally published in Issue 04, June 2014

Think summer races aren’t worth sweating over? Think again. Here’s how you can keep cool as the temperature rises and still get in a race or two during the dog days of summer.

As Canadians, we’ll always find a reason to bemoan the weather. As runners, we’ll always want to keep on running—and despite the summer heat, we’ll want to keep on racing. As the mercury rises, however, our cooler heads need to prevail so we can race smart and avoid a meltdown. Our brains can tell when we’re overheating, and will find a way to protect our bodies.

Truth be told, the human body actually has an anti-bake system that will tell us we’re fatigued so we slow down and cool off. Although cold weather is more miserable, the heat actually has a greater impact on our performance. That means in order to race well in the summer, we need to stay a step ahead of our defensive brains.

Pick the coolest race around
With summer races, be picky about choosing those with the right race logistics and don’t be as concerned with—dare I say—the swag. Opting for shorter distances is a smart move, as longer distances basically give you more time to bake in the sun, sweat and heat. Early morning or late evening start times can also help by skirting around the midday heat. Look for races with frequent aid stations every few kilometres and check to see if cooling sponges or misting stations are offered. Another alternative to consider are trail races—these events are naturally shaded and avoid heat-retaining asphalt and concrete.

Become one with the weather
Try to adapt to running in the heat. Check the average temperature and humidity forecast for your upcoming race day and schedule your runs to match those condition. This may mean adjusting the time of day of your training. It takes about two weeks for your body to become acclimatized to warmer temperatures, with the greatest degree of adjustment (and potential sweltering) happening in the first five days. In any case, plan for that acclimatization period ahead of time so you’re not sweating more buckets than you need to on race day.

Be skimpy, loose fitting and synthetic
Summer racing is not the time for long-sleeved sweat suits. Stick to shorts along with either a short-sleeved shirt or a singlet (aka “tank top”). Lighter colours help to reflect sunlight, keeping heat away, while synthetic materials will assist in wicking sweat away from your body, which keeps you cool. For maximum airflow, look for mesh inserts in clothing—but please don’t take this as permission to seek out that mesh tank top. Let’s keep this family-friendly, shall we? A visor is preferred over a running cap as it will shade your face while allowing heat to escape off the top of your head; there’s also the added bonus of not messing up your fabulous race-day hairstyle—very important.

Pace yourself to expect less
Now that you’re fashionably set to race, you need to get into the right frame of mind for racing in heat: start slow. Presuming it’s hot, you’ll want to keep yourself cool for as long as possible by keeping to a slower pace at the start. Heat up too soon and you’ll pay for it later—imagine yourself running soaked to the finish and being unrecognizable as your race-day hair has become limpy and drenched—not good! Stick to a slower pace up front and dial back your expectations in light of the heat.

Liquids are your best friend
One final tip on summer racing: make the most of liquids before, during and after your event. Think of pre-race hydration as filling up your sweat tank to cool yourself off during the run. On race day, be sure to make use of every aid station. I like to use water to cool off my hands, as their high bloodflow makes them excellent conduits for temperature adjustment. I also make sure I take in sports drinks for electrolyte replenishment. I find that swishing it in my mouth helps me feel more refreshed. Just think of aid stations as your essential cooling oasis.

As you embark on a summer race or two, I hope to see you out there. Just look for the sweaty guy melting on the trails trying to keep his hair intact.

Browse all articles from Obsessive Runner

Follow Andrew on Twitter: @andrewchak

#WorkoutWednesday: the back extension

July 23rd, 2014

By Jeremy Cobb

Running is a repetitive, high-impact movement that can place significant stress on the lower back.

So what’s a runner to do?

While lower back pain can be very common, training the core which includes the abdominal and lower back muscles, can help reduce and prevent lower back pain.

One of the most effective exercises to strengthen your lower back muscles are back extensions, which can be done without any weights or special equipment. Plus this exercise can be easily incorporated into your existing training regimen.

Back Extension
1) Begin lying facedown flat on the floor with your legs extended and arms at your side with palms facing up.
2) Flexing your core muscles, slowly lifting your chest away from the floor.
3) Keep your arms still, and the motion controlled to ensure you’re not compromising your form or put addition strain on your lower back.
4) Slowly lower your chest back down to the floor. Repeat 5 times for beginners and increase gradually as your back strengthens.



The completed back extension. Image via Poise Health.

Exercising your lower back will strengthen your core, improve your balance and help keep you running injury-free. Happy Running!

See previous #WorkoutWednesday here. Hungry yet? Try this roasted sweet potato and beet salad.

New Running Lingo You Didn’t Know You Needed To Know

July 22nd, 2014


The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “lingo” as “the special language used for a particular activity or by a particular group of people.” Runners are definitely particular so we certainly qualify for our own special language. As we run and suffer train, we often find that we need new unspeakable words to describe the different elements of our beloved sport. So for your running convenience, here are some new running lingo terms that you didn’t know you needed to know. You’re welcome.


GPS Hailing

The futile act of raising your GPS watch to the sky thinking that the extra couple of feet will actually boost your watch’s ability to more efficiently locate satellites.


A manic state of mind where your eyes bug out and your legs burn like fire as you sprint repeatedly up and down a hill only to proclaim that it was an “awesome workout” afterwards.


An imaginary public toilet often appearing in the form of a tree or a bush when no other alternatives are to be seen.

Pace Tracking

An automatic reflex where your eyes track passing runners and you try to guess their pace. This activity is often followed by a strong urge to run alongside the passing runner to validate the estimated pace.

Photo Face

That face you make during a race when you see a photographer. Usually preceded by an awkward looking condition called “race face.”


A delicate mental condition that occurs in the days leading up to a race where you are extremely cautious of becoming injured or sick. You tend to stay indoors with your feet inverted and avoid any contact, texting or tweeting with sick friends “just in case.”

Lingo-474Posture Running

The sudden ability to self-correct your running posture when you are seen by others during a solo run.

Race Bladder

A temporary, pre-race condition where your bladder requires repeated emptying despite no additional fluid intake.


The long slow drawls of moaning that your neighbours can hear as you foam roll your legs.

Run Envy

That feeling you get when you see someone else running when you’re not.


A vacation scheduled in the cooler off season whereby loved ones were convinced that it was the perfect time to go especially when a “must-do” race happened to be scheduled for that date and destination.


A post-run celebratory meal where you consume copious amounts of food items all in the name of “recovery.” During this meal you are completely unaware that you are still a sweaty mess and the topic of your conversation focuses solely on planning the next run or race.



A photograph that you take of yourself before, during, or after a run to share your runner’s high, your latest running fashion statement, or to show off some form of badassery.


A post-run hunger pain where you have an incredibly strong desire to consume an equal or greater amount of calories than you just burned off.


A runner who cannot but help to drop running related words or topics in every conversation for the purposes of talking about running or finding out if the other person is a runner.

Secret Rabbit

That other runner that you’re using as a pace rabbit without them being aware of it. You go and shake their hand afterwards congratulating them on a good race because you just sprinted pass them at the finish line.

Weather Stalking

This is when you repeatedly check the race day hourly weather forecast until it displays favourable running conditions.


The activity you do to warmup for your workout, the activity which you do for your workout, and the activity you do to recover from your workout.

Getting with the lingo,


Browse all articles from Obsessive Runner

Follow Andrew on Twitter: @andrewchak


Races should be called ‘Opportunities’ because that’s what they are

July 21st, 2014


This Saturday, I’m lucky to be involved in the Track & Roll series of running events put on by Lululemon in Toronto. The festivities kick off at 3 p.m., and feature 100 metre dashes and co-ed relay runs, and also free barbecue and, of course, beer. I’ve desperately tried to get my gang to sign-up for this event for two reasons: 1) it frames running as a fun thing, and 2) it gives you an opportunity to test out your wheels.

See, running circles around your house and gradually ticking away at your walk-to-run ratio in ten minute clips is how you increase stamina and ultimately build endurance. You can’t learn to run far without running. But, that said, the way you really become a runner is by learning to enjoy it. By running with other people. By becoming part of the community. And by, occasionally, running as fast as you can. Races are good for getting you out of your comfort zone. I just wish that we could give them a new name.

The reason I don’t like to call events like the Track & Roll “races,” is because that implies winners and losers. This isn’t so. In actuality, if you run a race, you can’t lose. How can you lose if you’re outside running around? The real way you “lose” is by sitting on the couch, eating Fritos, and talking about how bummed you are that you skipped your run. If you participate, you win. You have a novel experience. You take a chance. And, at events like this Saturday’s, you get to do something you’ve never done before. That’s why I love Color Runs, Tough Mudders, Rock n Roll Marathons. To me, it makes no difference what the gimmick is. Whether you’re running from zombies or running for your country, the point is still the same: living a healthy lifestyle.

Go running three times. Aim to stay out there for 30 minutes, and gradually decrease the amount of walking you do. But don’t feel handcuffed to your stop watch. Use points along your route to shoot for and try to run from place to place. This is essential: more important than running for an extra minute per ten minute interval is that you make it out three times per week. By enjoying your run, you’re more likely to stick with it. More likely to build consistency, which is the most important thing a runner needs.

So pick a 5K opportunity and sign up for it. It’s very difficult to stick with a training program if all these runs aren’t leading up to something more than a spin around your home. But never forget that your 5K is just a fun way to spend a Sunday morning. Sometimes it’s not what you do, but what you don’t.

Browse all articles from Ben Kaplan’s Feet Don’t Fail Me Now 

Calgary welcomes Sears Great Canadian Run

July 19th, 2014

Showing strength in numbers as teams cross the finish line.

A 100km team-based relay event is enough to spark the interest of runners from seasoned veterans to first-time racers and that’s exactly what the Sears Great Canadian Run is all about. “We’re open to anyone; if you’re an elite runner or a beginner, it about celebrating each runner,” explains Samantha Piercell communications manager for the Sears Great Canadian Run. With 12 to 14 exchange points ranging in distances from three to 12 kms, each team’s journey is different, for example, one Ottawa-based team had all 20 members logging the full 100 kilometres.

Now in its fourth year, the Sears Great Canadian Run has expanded from Ontario event (Toronto on September 24 and Ottawa on October 4) to Alberta with Calgary (August 23) as the host city. It’s a decision that puts significant support behind the Kids Cancer Care Foundation. As the title sponsor, Sears covers the administration costs of running such that teams are thinking more creatively about fundraising, organizing barbeques, community yoga and boot camps, something that helps to raising awareness about the cause and event.“You don’t have to look far to see someone who is affected by childhood cancer,” says Piercell, “all our an event, which means that donors can be assured their money will support the charity, an important distinction as the fight for charity donor dollars remains on the rise.

Although the Ottawa and Toronto events divide the funds raised between local and national initiatives, 100 percent of donations will stay in Calgary. With a minimum of $500 raised per person, Piercell says teams are running for the cause, it’s real life and their connected to it.” With numerous charity events in the running, it has been that sense of community that Piercell believes has made the Sears Great Canadian Run a stand out success. “It’s one team, one goal, it’s happy and sad,” she explains, “there’s a huge sense of comradery, everyone is motivating each other and you open up a part of yourself that you may not have known you had in you.” An emotional event, the Calgary race offers additional emotional impact as runners celebrate the end of their journey with a post-event celebration at Camp Kindle, an overnight camp for children and families affected by childhood cancer; a finish that will no doubt have a lasting impact.

Rally your crew of runners, and join in the fight to #EndKidsCancer as registration for the Great Canadian Run in Calgary, Toronto and Ottawa is now open.

The Longest Most Badass Half Marathon Ever

July 17th, 2014


I freaked out. Elevation charts weren’t supposed to look like this. The chart spiked up and then down and then back up again. It looked more like an electrocardiogram showing heart activity which was fitting because my heart was racing.

What had I gotten myself into?

A few months ago, I discovered that The North Face Endurance Challenge was hosting its inaugural Canadian race at the Blue Mountain Ski Resort in Ontario. Because I just love The North Face (TNF) gear, I just had to sign up. Being a new event, the race course wasn’t finalized at the time of my registration, but I signed up anyway. The only thing I knew about the course was that it was going to be a trail run. Little did I know that it was going to be more like a trial.

A week before the event, the race guides were finally published and we got our first glimpse of the course and its corresponding elevation profile. The total elevation change was 1,704m. One-thousand-seven-hundred-and-four metres. We were going to climb up and down more than a vertical mile. This was going to be freaky.

Elevation Chart

I still shudder when I see this elevation chart.

Rain Denial

Race day loomed and I embarked on my regular habit of weather stalking – I would lookup the forecast and if I didn’t like it, I would hit “refresh” on my smartphone until it changed to something more desirable. Unfortunately the forecast called for rain and no amount of refreshing changed it. So on top of extreme elevation changes, it was going to be a wet one.

As runners gathered near the start area, there was a lot of chatter as to how tough this course was going to be especially in wet conditions. There was an up front hill climb up front that had slippery mud patches. Another runner (thanks Carmy) warned me that the grassy fields were slippery. We were told that the stone steps up and down the course would be wet and slippery. And then the race announcer warned us that the wet wooden steps and bridges would be, you guessed it, slippery.

Pre race trail face

The trail face is ON.

The Goal: Survive

With every race that I enter, I cannot help but set a goal for myself. With road races, I usually focus on finish time and in smaller races I’ll even aim to place within my age category. I chatted with Christa and we both had the same trepidations (a.k.a. “fears”) and we were steeling ourselves for the ups, downs and falls that were likely ahead of us. I had a chance to meet Angela and Janice at race start and we all joked that this would likely be a “PW” or “Personal Worst” in terms of the longest half-marathon any of us would ever run. In fact, I really think that TNF should market this as the most difficult 5K, 10K, half-marathon or full-marathon that can be done in Ontario – because it is.

And then, we were off.

Start selfie

Pre-hill smiling selfie with Angela and Janice

Up The Grind

The course gives you a big wake up whack as you climb 800 feet up a trail fittingly known as “The Grind.” There is no mistaking that we were all lunatics barreling up a ski mountain when there were perfectly fine ski lifts taunting us overhead. As I sought trail running wisdom from other runners, I was reassured (thanks Alex!) that there was no shame in walking up a steep incline. In fact, walking uphill was advisable as running used up a lot more energy without much gain in speed.

Whether fast or slow, those hills were hard. I had to consciously keep my chin up to avoid hunching over and compromising the oxygen flow to my lungs. We were mostly single track and the wee bit of pride that I still had within me kept me forging on so as not to slow down the person behind me. I was fortunate to have a runner ahead of me who served as a tour guide as she would call out rocks, mud and whatever other hazards which might cause a misstep. Trail running is such an absorbing activity that you have to be mindful of every step you take but I was getting it done.

Just one of many hills on the course.


The Majestic Trails

After The Grind, we had to climb over a fence via a ladder (this is as close to obstacle racing as this un-crosstrained body gets) onto the adjacent Scenic Caves property where we were treated to a cross-country ski trail. Wide paths and gently rolling trails replaced the single track and steep inclines. Fifty-foot trees flanked our pathways and gave us a most majestic scene to be engulfed in. It was everything that I dreamed that trail running would be.

For that brief period of time, I could appreciate the freedom that trail running so generously gives. It’s the freedom to explore views that others are likely to never see. This cross-country trail was normally covered in white, but on this day, I had the privilege of seeing it in a glorious green. My legs were inspired and energized by the beauty of the scenery and I carried on.

Tree-lined trail run.

The majesty of the trails.

Up, Down, Repeat

We climbed over another fence and exited the Scenic Caves area and were back on the ski hills. This final section of the race was a repeated cycle: run down through a trail, avoid slipping and killing yourself, climb (or most likely walk) back up a ski hill and go down through another slippery trail again. I had made it this far without injury and I was determined to stay that way.

The last decent of the race was the trickiest or in trail speak, “technical.” The route down is called the “Cascade” as it follows a small, cascading waterfall down the mountain. The pathway was packed as all the runners from different race distances that day converged onto this section. Every so often I would hear, “Are you OK?” when a runner had slipped and fallen – nothing too serious but enough to make me extremely cautious and content to simply follow behind whoever was in front of me.

With a sigh of relief, I had hit the bottom of the trail and I could hear the finish. Instinctively, I bolted. I don’t know why because I hadn’t cared about time at all throughout the race, but I bolted nonetheless – I guess it makes for a more exciting looking finish, right?

Finish area photo.

One badass trail runner.

I crossed the finish with a great sense of relief and a greater sense of satisfaction. It was the longest, most badass half-marathon I had ever done. It wasn’t nearly as scary as I had spooked myself out to be but it was certainly more gratifying than I could have imagined. I had been shown a glimpse of the beauty of the trails and I gained a greater appreciation as to why trail running is really about the experience and the accomplishment of finishing.

Happy trails,


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Follow Andrew on Twitter: @andrewchak

One to watch: Rachel Hannah

July 17th, 2014


Rachel Hannah after setting a new course record (15.57.5) in Ottawa at the Sports 4 Emilie’s Run 5K.

By Bridget Mallon

Rachel Hannah, 27, is having a stellar year, including a bronze medal in the 5000m (16.01.7) at the Canadian Track and Field Championships in Moncton a few weeks ago. Before that she set a new course record in Ottawa at the Sports 4 Emilie’s Run 5K (15.57.5). In April, the Toronto-based runner won the Toronto Yonge Street 10K (32.32.5) and the Canadian Half Marathon Championships in Montreal (1:13:37). We had a chat with Hannah after her recent win to find out what her plans were for the rest of 2014:

After all the success, what’s next?
After Moncton I took a week off to recover and now I am regenerating for the next training phase. This fall I will focus on step-by-step development and strive for new personal bests. I will be following a well thought out plan for my races, which will be a combination of road and cross-country.

What do you like about road races vs. track competitions?
I love the energy that comes from the spectators, volunteers, race organizers and fellow competitors at road races. It is hard to describe the excitement I feel when I wake up in the morning of a big road race. Raising money or awareness for a greater cause is also a benefit of road racing.

Track has also been more of a challenge for me as I believe my true strength lies in cross-country running. I am working on the psychological aspects of track and pacing. I would say a true turning point this year was at the Speed River Inferno meet where I ran a personal best in the 5000 metre (15:50:31).

Who do you admire? 
I admire my parents for their ongoing support over the years and for raising me in a healthy environment where physical activity was a major staple in our lives. They have traveled many miles to support my running and I am forever grateful.

What are your favourite strength moves or cross training activities?
Planks, push ups and pull ups to name a few. Pool running is the preferred cross training method. I started working with an expert in the field: Greg Lehman (Medcan Clinic and The Urban Athlete) early on this year. He has advised me on various hip strengthening drills and other activities to keep me running healthy and improve my form. I now incorporate these activities into my daily core routine.

Any race day rituals?
Knowing where the restroom is in relation to the start line is a must (I am sure I can see some nodding heads here from fellow runners). I always start my morning off with my usual cup (or 2) of coffee, oatmeal with yogurt and a banana. I also try to minimize distractions to focus my energy on the big race.

How much do you notice fans and spectators in a race?
I notice fans and spectators in races and appreciate the support and kind words they have, but when I am approaching the finish line I am very focused and tend to have more selective hearing at that point.

A memorable moment was at the Toronto Yonge St 10K in 2013 where I saw my mom in uniform (Toronto Police) cheering me on as she was controlling traffic. I also never know where to expect New Balance’s David Korell out on the course as he often pops up in the most unexpected spots.


Bridget Mallon is an Ottawa-based runner-writer who shares her recent DNF (Did Not Finish) experience in the upcoming July 31 issue of iRun. She’s also the author of the popular article, 21 Tips for Running Success.

A proclamation: Nine months!

July 16th, 2014


Nine months.
No, I am not pregnant. It’s almost as good.
I am running again! Well, jogging…but still! And I’m doing it with goals and dreams.
Big goals and dreams.
And I couldn’t be happier.
Everything has fallen into place beautifully since fracturing my femur, 11 weeks ago.
The glass remains half full. God is good, all the time!

So here are my big goals and dreams:
1. My goal is to run my first marathon in April 2015, nine months from now, one year after my major injury. So far I have surpassed all of my little goals along the way, while recovering from this busted leg, so why should this be any different? You know me—set the bar high, achieve, and repeat. Originally, I thought I’d be on crutches for 2 months; it was 5 weeks. I thought I’d need a cane for 3 weeks; it was two. We thought I would return to running at 3 months; it was 10 weeks. Etcetera, etcetera. There is no stopping me.

2. My dream is to make the qualifying standard within the qualifying period to represent Canada at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. There, I’ve said it. You read it here! The bar is set. I’m moving forward!

It certainly won’t be easy but like Bethany said in the movie, “Soul Surfer” when returning to training after losing her entire arm to a shark, “I don’t need easy. I need possible”. I’ll be honest, I kept my return to jogging quiet, mainly because I didn’t know how it would go. Speed walking is one thing. Running is another. Despite reassurance that the plate and screws are securely in place, I had no idea what it would feel like. I don’t know many athletes with hardware in their femur, trying to make a full return to training and racing. But, there are some, somewhere. And I hope to be one, sometime.

So let me go back a few weeks since my last post. On June 20, I had a bone scan, which confirmed that the critical blood supply was indeed not affected by my injury. I had been told this by the surgeon in Montreal, Dr. Jarzem, but a thorough exam nearly two months after the injury and surgery would give us a clearer picture. At this appointment and upon discussing my continued, positive progress, Dr. Dill then moved my next appointment up a few weeks. On July 4, I had an x-ray, which again showed continued healing in the bone. I again cringed when I saw that hardware drilled into me. I rarely think about it unless telling someone so when I see it on the screen, it seems very foreign. And like watching the iRun video of me finishing the race, I shudder.

Coach Rick came with me to the appointment because of the possibility of me being allowed to start jogging, provided the x-ray was good. Sure enough, Dr. Dill was pleased so we started discussing how I could safely ease into it. We understood the great importance of being very careful. Very careful. The bone was healed enough that I could gradually start but was still healing. Doing too much, too soon could be very problematic. I remember being told in hospital to be very careful in the first 48 hrs after the surgery due to risk of dislocating the hip. It was concerning. And I was very cautious. The last thing anyone wants is a major setback. We talked about using soft surfaces (treadmill, trail, dirt road), continuing to cross-train, walk-jogging, and paying great attention to being slow and steady, stopping if it was painful. Rick explained how I eased into it after the last injury, saying that we expected this return to take longer.

So we left the hospital with smiles on our faces, ready to start the next chapter. Of course, I started with a few shuffles that very day. I just had to! And it was neat because Crossroads Christian Communication (100 Huntley St.) was there as they are covering my story in my attempt to recover and participate in the Toronto 2015 PanAm Games. After our taped discussion about my story, they filmed my first few shuffles with Rick by my side at the North Park track in Brantford at the Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre, where I train. They will see some big improvement when they tape me the next time!

On the first day, I likely did about six, 10 second shuffles with walking between. The next day within my 45 minute walk I did 8 x (0:15 shuffle & 2:45 walk). Since then, I’ve daily added a few more sets with a few more seconds, working my way up to a 60 minute walk with 22 x (1:10 jog & 1:50 walk). I started wearing my Garmin and doing the math in my head to begin estimating my “mileage”. Week one was 11.2 km and today was 4.4 km total. It’s thrilling to see it in writing!
It took less than a week to go from a shuffle to a jog but I know it will take much, much longer to go from a jog to a run. What I mean by a run is heading out at a steady pace, for a decent length, not thinking about anything. I know I can—and will—do it!

As for how it felt, the various areas of soft tissue were tired by the end of the day, especially due to the increased walking that week. Most importantly, there has been no bone pain! The most entertaining aspect of my first few shuffles was the “jiggly” left cheek compared to the solid right. But even that has improved by leaps and bounds in just over a week. I am into a great routine with my morning walk/jog with stretching and exercises, my afternoon bike and pool time, and evening plank, averaging 2 hrs daily.

Oh, and one more thing about the nine months. Just like I gave up any sort of junk food for 3 and 6 months prior to my last two marathons, I’m doing it again. Yep, bye bye goodies until April 2015! It’s all good, folks!



Harvest Half promo fun with CTV news


Healing nicely!


Bye, Bye Peanut Buster Parfait!


See you again in 9 months!


Get your tickets on-line

Themed fun runs: a family affair

July 16th, 2014

Run or Dye a family affair
From left: Taylor Hayden, Jai Qi and Mike Hayden after Ottawa’s Run or Dye. Photo: Sheila Holmes

By Jeremy Cobb
When many people think of running a race, they usually think of timed starts, gruelling distances at uncomfortable speeds, a participation medal and (if you’re lucky) a bagel and a banana.

Increasingly however, fun themed runs are growing in popularity. These runs are often not timed, instead, they focus primarily on getting people out to try something new in a fun and exciting way.

Father–daughter training team Mike and Taylor Hayden have taken advantage of these runs’ relaxed atmospheres to train and race together.

Mike was a university level basketball player who ran in order to train. In 1994, he took up “running for running’s sake” and in 1996 he ran the New York City marathon. Since then, he has dabbled in the sport, taking his children for runs in the stroller when they were young, and getting out for runs whenever he can.

Taylor has since left the stroller and is now a middle-school track athlete who enjoys running and says she plans on doing some longer runs in the future.

The duo, which often includes Taylor’s neighbourhood friend Jai Qi, set up a 6-week training regimen to prepare them for the race. Although Mike is quick to admit ‘we don’t stick to the plan perfectly,’ they say that training together really helps keep them motivated.

“I like having someone to train with, I’ll get home from work and Taylor will be ready to go… I’m definitely not dragging her out with me.”

So far, the Haydens have participated in two 5K runs. In October, they participated in the Rattle Me Bones 5K. Even though they missed out on registering for the zombie portion of the run, they had a great time running in the relaxed race that raises money for the Ottawa Hospital research centre for bone cancer. While training for the Rattle Me Bones 5K run in Ottawa, Mike would pretend to be a zombie at the end of their training runs, but the kids always managed to escape his un-dead clutches.

Their second was Run or Dye, the popular 5K run where participants have various colours of powdered dye thrown at them, resulting in some very colourful participants. Mike, Taylor, and Jai Qi got hit with the dye but because they didn’t pre-soak their clothes, much of it didn’t stick—something they make sure to do the next time.

The Haydens plan to continue to train and race together, and while they may try some longer races in the future, they are content to stick with the fun runs they have been doing. By taking advantage of the fun runs in the area, they are pursuing a healthy life style, spending some quality time together, and having a blast doing so!

Sound like fun? Find a Canadian colour run near you!

Next issue: July 31, 2014
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