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

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

iRun because iEat Sherry Maligaspe , British Columbia

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

Lanni Marchant talks with iRun

May 31st, 2017

Earlier this week, iRun’s general manager Ben Kaplan sat down with Canadian women’s marathon record holder Lanni Marchant and talked all things running, including her experience at Ottawa Marathon Race Weekend, along with answering some of your questions. If you missed the conversation on Facebook, here’s you’re chance to catch up with Lanni in her signature, uncut, unedited style.

How I Race to Combat Getting Old and Grumpy

June 21st, 2017

It was a great morning in Toronto last Saturday at the Waterfront 10K. This was the first time I’ve been at a Canada Running Series event with lululemon acting as a sponsor, and boy, their influence shined. First of all, the weather was terrific and that always helps. But second of all, you could feel the energy on the course, on the sidelines, in the cheers. There were cool things all over the 10K event: a cycle class, a drum line—at one point I ran past a DJ playing Nas.
Of course, all of this wouldn’t mean much if the race wasn’t any good, but the race was terrific. The field was studded with Olympians and racing was Krista DuChene, Natasha Wodak, Reid Coolsaet, Eric Gillis and probably more. Timed by Sportstats, the race had anything you’d need for serious running, hence folks like Longboat Roadrunners were in the house. Photos for the event are free, from Marathon-Photos, and afterwards, a volunteer gave me a beautiful donut. Hell, I told ’em I had two kids and imagine that? They let me take two. Usually I can’t even get a second banana.

Anyway, later walking home, I saw the streets of Toronto studded with people still in their race bibs. People smiling. People wearing their medals. It was a good look for the city, a good look for running, and a day where the community really flexed well. I didn’t take any pictures so I can’t post them here—and, as a funny aside, I saw Natasha (who won) and Lanni Marchant right at the finish line and I was talking to them for a second until this guy said, “Ben, you’re foaming at the mouth.”

It was pretty hot out there and I love racing, I love running hard—I didn’t want to stop for even one second to drink water. I’m 43-years-old and have two children but Ed Whitlock never stopped racing. Never stopped giving it his all. Do we grow old because we stop racing or do we stop racing because we get old? Either way, I don’t want to stop. I want to keep pushing. Keep taking photographs with spit all over my face. Why not? The times don’t really matter. It’s the effort that counts.

Who else raced this weekend? And who ran the Manitoba Marathon? Who’s running Pride this weekend and who’s looking forward to other events this summer? Share your pictures and share your stories. And keep getting out there and racing. Keep showing up at the start and crossing new finish lines. Push yourself. For no other reason than that you can. 

We only get old when we stop fighting.

Six Reasons You Need to Run Manitoba

June 20th, 2017

Before last weekend, I had never been to Winnipeg or anywhere in Manitoba. Bu when the good people at the Manitoba Marathon wanted someone from iRun to cover their event, with Canada 150, it just seemed like the right time to visit the Prairies.

Although Winnipeg might not be among your top running destinations, as I discovered, the city and this event is definitely worth the trek. Here’s a run down on what you need to know and why you need to run in Winnipeg. 

Warm and Welcoming

Friendly Manitoba, is the provinces tag line and the folks in Winnipeg take that to heart. Runners in general are a friendly and welcoming group, but in Winnipeg, everyone you meet is that way. Imagine race day in a city where only runners live and that’s what Manitoba’s race weekend is like. You can’t run (or walk) past people on the street without saying hello. From the bartenders to the retailers enga

Score Your BQ

Yes, this marathon is a Boston Qualifier. Manitoba is one of the Prairie provinces, and while Winnipeg residents will tell you it’s not as flat as Saskatchewan, if you live anywhere but Saskatoon, you’ll find it’s a flat and fast course. Plus as a mid-sided event with some 14,000 runners (TK Marathoners) it’s not as overwhelming as larger city races which can be a bonus for some who prefer less of a crowd.

All in the Family 

After running 39 years on Father’s Day, the Manitoba Marathon has become family tradition. Along with many dads, daughters and sons, more then 4,000 runners participate in the 2.6 mile SuperRun. The race begins shortly after the half marathon and finishes with all the excitement of the marathon, inside the Investors Group stadium, home of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. 

The Beer Mile

If you run the half marathon like I did, you’ll get a chance to grab a quick brew, then continue running! The course weaves through some of the city’s most picturesque neighbourhoods, and for several years a couple of homeowners have offered beer to runners so you won’t have to wait until you cross the finish line to celebrate. In a way, getting that taste is just what’s needed to get you to raising your celebratory brew that much faster.

Finish in a CFL Stadium

There are few races that finish inside a stadium. For the first time this year, runners finished their race inside the Winnipeg Blue Bomber’s Stadium. Crossing the finish line at any race feels like a victory but this makes that feeling a little more sweet. Plus the path you need to walk to get to your bagels and bananas takes you out onto the field. I’m not a football fan, but you definitely don’t have to be to have the appreciation of being on the same playing field as pro athletes. Needless to say, it’s a pretty cool experience.

Don’t Forget The Post Race 

Winnipeg’s food scene is rich with diversity and constantly evolving. In fact, many of the city’s best chefs are locals who  trained at culinary institutes around the globe then returned to their hometown and became restaurant owners. From tapas at Segovia to French-inspired cooking at the Peasant Cookery, locals are enjoying a taste of global fare without ever leaving home. Along with the thriving food scene, the city is also home to a growing number of craft breweries. All the more to enjoy at your post-race celebration!

Ragnar Wisdom: Making the Most of the Run and Your Fellow Runners

June 15th, 2017

(All photos courtesy of Heather Gardner/Tribe Fitness)

Ragnar is, like, so hot right now. It’s not just a race. It’s an adventure and an experience that builds (and perhaps also tests) friendships and stretches boundaries.

A group of 12 women ranging three decades in age got together for their first Ragnar recently, putting in a combined 300+ km over 24 hours from Coburg to Niagara and managing to rank as the top all women’s team. Some had known each other for years as members of Toronto run crew Tribe Fitness, while some only made acquaintance as the race began.

For those aspiring to their first Ragnar, the group shares the following lessons.

Don’t think too much…

If your first thought is how difficult it’s going to be to run long distances on little sleep while sharing a van with sweaty and cranky runners, you may not be inclined to hop on board. Instead, Andrea Salin advises, “You never know when or if the opportunity will come again so you need to just jump in then maybe freak out a bit later.”

Recruit those who owe you a favour…

While many Ragnar teams just rotate drivers between then, Anna Kobb says, “…having a designated driver was really nice. In the case of the ‘A team’ van, that driver was my husband, who took a break from driving to run with me for the night leg and to run the final leg with me. I absolutely could not have kept up the intense effort, grinding it out up to Niagara Falls without him.”

Know your strengths…

Team member Damara Nickerson says, “We all have different strengths and interests when it comes to running, so were able to split up the different legs to suit our abilities and preferences. We had so much more fun cheering each other on, knowing we were each playing to our strengths.”  

And your weaknesses…

You may love the people you’ll be running with, but you’ve never spent days with them in a van. Kat Peterson says to voice your concerns and needs before your driver turns the key. Kat says, “If you know you’re going to need a nap between midnight and three or you’ll get cranky, tell your van. If you know you need to eat pizza after each leg, tell your van.  If you know you can’t stand the smell of pizza in a van, suggest you make a pizza stop instead of getting take out.”

Don’t walk around acting like your sweat don’t stink…

Kat adds that no one likes a smelly runner, so change your damn clothes. This will also prevent you from learning what Angela Valdes did the hard way. “I would definitely pack more non-running clothes and bring a warm sleeping bag! We spent a few hours after our nighttime legs trying to get some sleep on the cold cement floor of the Burlington Central Arena. All I had was a bunch of sweaty clothes to lay on the ground,” Angela recalls with horror. Teammate Alyssa Cheung adds that, “…sitting in a cramped van after running is so much comfier in sweatpants and sandals.”

Running during the night and day is…night and day…

Alyssa remembers her latest leg at 1:30 a.m., finding herself, “…getting startled by my own shadow, footsteps and rustling of the leaves. I think I ran faster than I usually would because I didn’t want to find out the boogeyman was real and living in Oakville.”*

Teammate Kim Bergerson says she, “…just felt completely depleted the whole time. Add to this a wall of wind of 30km/h and you’ve got one hell of a race.” The experience reminded Kim how vital the mental game is in running and that, “The body will go where the mind goes, and knowing that Heather was waiting for me at the finish line just kept me going!”

You might actually enjoy it…

Despite the fatigue, cramped conditions, and vans reeking of pizza, it’s pretty unanimous that the experience made for closer, stronger friendships that will likely last beyond the Ragnar van. Amber Renton admits she was a bit nervous, but in the end, “…had so much fun I’m pretty sure I drove my family crazy talking about it for weeks afterwards. I’d do it again in a heartbeat and I’m fortunate for the new friendships I’ve gained!”

Courtney Lundrigan, who put out the initial call on Twitter to form a team, says that despite the challenges of planning this race while still dealing with life’s other obligations, “Ragnar made me fall in love with running all over again, and I have such a renewed love for my running community. “

Kim Agostino found herself amazed at, “…the transformation of our small group of extremely different women, some meeting for the first time, into the supportive, determined and encouraging team we became.”

The team effort and moral support always evens to bring individual runners to  their best. As the group came together to complete the final 200 meters together, Allison MIceli felt the moment summarizes, “The vulnerability, grit, determination, emotion, ambition and sheer commitment from each and every one of them allowed us to all give this 110% on the course, along with tirelessly supporting one another when we were not running.”

*It has not been confirmed whether or not the boogeyman lives in Oakville.

For bonus reading, check out team member Heather Gardner’s blog 5 THINGS I WISH I KNEW BEFORE MY FIRST RAGNAR RELAY

Reebok comes out with a sweet pair of shoes: “We’re re-thinking what a running shoe can be.”

June 15th, 2017

Reebok is a company not immediately associated with running. In the 80s, the brand, part of the Adidas Group since 2005, was heavily into aerobics and older folks will remember their famous Olympic advertising campaign starring Dan and Dave, decathletes who were supposed to go head-to-head in the 1992 Olympics. (Dan never qualified but the clips, which aired in heavy rotation, are still an iconic part of the sports advertising canon).

Fast forward to 2017 and the brand—now based outside of running-rich Boston, where New Balance and Saucony also call home—is investing steeply into running, with the Floatride Run out this season and available at the Running Room, and as many as ten new shoe lines expected this year. Does the running world really need another new sneaker? And with so many shoes already out there, what can the Floatride do that other shoes haven’t already done? Curious about the next iteration both of this company and this new sneaker, iRun GM Ben Kaplan spoke with Dan Hobson, the VP of Innovation from Reebok’s Global head office.

iRun: It’s interesting to see you guys move into running, which feels like, to me, an already crowded field.

Hobson: We, as Reebok, we love running and this is our re-commitment to our heritage. J.W. Foster, in 1894, before the company was set up, built his own running shoes to go faster at his track club in England and our history and spirit is in running. This shoe launch marks us getting back to running, which is what we love.

iRun: But how can you do another shoe launch? Isn’t it yet that anything that can be done has been done?

Hobson: That’s a good question, but we really don’t think so or we wouldn’t have bothered and what we made—the Floatride, is a result of us talking directly with runners. We’re re-thinking what a running shoe can be and translating the current problems runners have with more modern materials. Look, I’ll be frank: between ourselves, and plenty of other companies, if you want a traditional running shoe, there’s plenty of options. The way innovation works is you’ll have a certain material that comes in and the evolution of that continues on that path until a new thing is introduced.

iRun: And you’re introducing something new today?

Hobson: Yeah, we really are. We’re at the tail end of traditional EVAs, foams in particular are coming into play, and there will be another revolution with rapid prototyping.     

iRun: Keep going.

Hobson: The Floatride 1 is the next big step forward in materials, as far as foams go. It’s unlike any foam and it’s what we’ve been working on for two and a half years. You’ll see it in our curring shoe and coming down in iterations of that, down that path, and you’ll see some really high-performance racing shoes come out and some other products, less in the performance space. We’re looking at running as not just being for one runner.

iRun: So do you see it like there’s a gap in the running shoe market that Reebok stands to fill?

Hobson: We didn’t look at the market. We started with the runners and said, ‘What do you want?’ And we looked at different types of runners and said, ‘Imagine what the possibilites could be with the ultimate running shoe.’ It was connecting with runners, less about, ‘Hey, there’s a space in the market where we can be.’ It was: what do runners want? What do I want to run in?

iRun: OK, so, what do we want?

Hobson: To feel in the zone. The word we got from people was to be “floating,” that came from runners. I run, but I never said “floating,” but that was what we heard and so it became about: how can we help runners feel like they’re in that place? We want to get them there quicker, and we had our new foam and we knew we can deliver to the consumer—to the runner—the experience that they want of loving to run.      

iRun: What is this crazy foam?

Hobson: There’s one place in the world that can manufacture it and get the material to turn into the foam. The material has been around, it’s just difficult to work with and convert with the polymer to make it applicable. Think about it like this: there are different classes of plastics and this is the highest end of super polyamers and super plastics. We start with the best materials, and you get different properties. With the better foam, you use less of the material, so the walls of each cell are thinner and more consistent. The Floatride maintains a resilient consistency across the material and delivers it at half the weight of a normal foam.

iRun: Less weight, quicker sneaker, that makes sense. Can you talk a little bit about the development?

Hobson: When we were building up run, we were building a racing shoe. The whole thing with Float foam would be “cushioning without compromise,” you want a racing flat to be light and thin and to reduce traction down to the barest pieces, but if we could take a material with full cushioning and make it light, you start getting to interesting places. Energy resiliency is something we’ve been working on.

iRun: It’s just hard to imagine there’s still foams out there that haven’t been discovered yet after so many years of so many new innovations and so many new shoes.

Hobson: The way we discovered it actually is that we were working on a space boot for a company in Massachusetts that makes space suits and they were looking to make their gear lighter, something compatible with their pressurized suit. The boots they use now are 4-pounds each, like old flight boots, and the astronauts didn’t want those clunky things, they wanted a running shoe. So we used the Float foam in the boot and holy crap—it was amazing. That was the same time we were talking to runners and, you know, it was a once in a lifetime project.

iRun: And you’re a Reebok lifer and this shoe is your personal mission, right? You’ve been with Reebok since 1999?

Hobson: Yeah, I started as an apprentice and have been here ever since. I mean, the company went through heavy changes. It was owned by Paul Fireman and bought by Adidas in 2006, and there were different ideas on how you run a company. I lived through that and I think, as far as running goes, we were much broader in the early 2000s and did a lot of different things with performance and running shoes. We were spread pretty thin and lost our way a little bit, but Adidas came in and focussed on fitness and running and I feel like the re-commitment really began three years ago.

iRun: That’s where the journey to create Floatride began?

Hobson: Yeah, we restructured the way the group was set up with the running business unit and there was a conscious effort to reconnect with runners. It was myself and the GM of Running, Scott Daley. It was a big group of people and the people on our team are all runners and we craved the authenticity of a product we weren’t creating. Reebok is running. We really are a running company. We didn’t want to make a gimmicky product. We wanted to make a real running product that we’d want to wear.

iRun: And you feel like you did that?

Hobson: Put it on your foot and see what you think. We love it.

This is part one of a two-part story. Up next, Ben Kaplan takes the Floatride for a ride. 

Three Reasons To Run for Women

June 12th, 2017

As far as races go, I’m competitive with myself but I’m not always about PBs. For me, running is about so much more that achieving a certain time goal come race day. And races really are more than a competition. It’s a chance to be a part of something that gets me beyond logging another weekend training run. So when I had the opportunity to run in the Shoppers Drug Mart Run For Women, in Toronto this past weekend it really underscored many of my biggest reasons for running.


The event, which takes place in 15 cities across Canada brings together runners and walkers, in support of women’s mental health initiatives across the nation. Research shows that participating in aerobic activity, like running, that raise your heart rate for at least 25 minutes a day can have the same affect on your brain chemistry as anti-depressants. And really, let’s face it as a nation, we could all stand to move more and here’s three more reasons and a bonus fourth that should get you lacing up and out the door.

Go Beyond Your Personal Best

After every race my daughters ask if I’ve won. I’ve never placed anywhere near the top three, or top ten in any race in my life but they don’t know this. Every time they ask, I tell them how much the race isn’t about winning or even placing, but that it’s about trying your best. Reality is most of us aren’t winning prize money but we’re winning with better health on many levels and that’s a life long lessons our girls and young women can use. With running, as in life, we’re not always going to be the best. Often times we never are best, but as long as we’ve given it our best shot, that’s all we need to do. Sometimes, some days, it’s good enough that you got out there and tried.


Oh What A Feeling

No matter how crazy the race, how god awful close to vomiting I may feel at any points in a race, in the last kilometer and then the last 500 meters, adrenaline kicks in and I feel like I’m flying. Truth be told, I’m probably not moving nearly as fast as I feel I am but it still feels pretty incredible and at that point in the race that’s all that matters.  You don’t have to have battled through depression or anxiety to know that somedays can be an emotional roller coaster ride. We’ve all been there. As a runner, it’s those days when I might not feel like getting out there that I know I need it the most. On race day, the mood-boosting benefits can be even better, all the more to carry you through your day and even your week.


 Running With Your Tribe

Most races I’m running alone, but in the sea of hundreds and sometimes thousands of runners, you never really are running solo. That’s the great thing about runners, its a pretty friendly crew that easily welcomes new members with a smile and wave. En route to the start line, spotting runners warming up with their race bibs and it seems like you’re all in it together. Its that camaraderie that’s a big reason many of us get hooked on what is often a solo venture. This time out for me, starting and finishing the race with fellow iRun contributor, Karen Kwan (aka Health & Swellness) made the race even more about the friendship that unties us runners.  We’re both pretty independent runners, but hands-down its definitely way more fun cooling down and hanging out with a friend post-race, even if it is only to grab a few post-race photos. 

BONUS: Did We Mention the Medal and Swag?

We didn’t, so here it is. Some races award medals, the Run for Women rewards runners with a specially designed bracelet for supporting women’s mental health programs. Then there’s the swag, basically a shopping bag packed with many of your favourite brands available at Shoppers Drug Mart. Like you needed any more reasons to get out there and run. We didn’t think so. While the last event rounds out later this month in St. John’s NL, grab your running pals and get ready for next year.


The Great Thing About Running Is That It’s Running

June 9th, 2017

Tim Baker of Hey Rosetta! on what he says “we’re supposed to be doing,” running, and what it feels like to play a show before a running crowd

Hey Rosetta! are a seven-piece rock band from St. John’s, Newfoundland, whose last record reached number one on the Canadian album charts. The band, known for their crescendoing anthems, dynamic instrumentation and soaring choruses, are a tight-knit group of friends, men and women, led by frontman Tim Baker, who’s currently at work on his first solo project. Baker’s music was used at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and his band is playing this summer in Muskoka, Ontario, at the great Band on the Run 5K, 10K and half marathon. iRun caught up with Baker as he prepared to play an outdoor show in the company of thousands of runners.

iRun: It feels like your music in particular is similar to running, in that there’s a great physical and emotional, cathartic release. Do you make that connection?

Baker: Definitely, it’s like a driving thing, and you certainly feel that playing onstage. If you’re honest with yourself, it’s much more difficult not to move, to sit still—when I hear all kinds of music, I feel like we all want to run.

iRun: What do you like about running?

Baker: The great thing about running is that it’s running. What’s better than that? We’re built to do this and you feel like a kid when you’re doing it. It’s a joyful action, you don’t have to convince anyone bodily to take part in it.

iRun: I always say that, like when people ask me how to run. Just go out there and do it. Don’t worry about anything, pretend you’re catching a bus.

Baker: It’s sort of become this regimented thing and that’s a shame because as a means to an end, running in itself is beautiful.  

iRun: Your music with the band has this tremendous buildup and release and I find it great to run to; have you heard that before and does that make sense to you, as a songwriter?

Baker: I’ve heard that many times and it makes sense to me, both as a writer and as a person who moves to music. I definitely run to music, I cycle to music, I’ve done classes where they have horrendous music played really loudly.

iRun: Tim, I love you. But you are losing all of your street cred.

Baker: No, it’s true, but I’ve also been in a spin class (oh God, I’m just killing myself, I know), and heard one of our songs come on and think, Yeah, that actually works. It’s never quite as bright and as brash as the pop mixes, but I can see how at some point in your workout, when you’re grasping at anything you can get your hands on to push you over the hill, something dramatic or emotional or impassioned will help you and I try to make our music full of those things.  

iRun: I think when you’re running you want messages of hope, of defiance, of perseverance and strength.

Baker: I’ve been writing new music for the last year or so and am putting together a little solo project and I’ve noticed in the music there’s constant recurring themes that I write about. You know, you struggle and you suffer, but you also take heart in little things that eventually can reveal to you that it’s going to be OK.  

iRun: I think for a lot of people running does just that—gives them a moment of sanctity to gather the will to go.

Baker: That’s like my thing and I feel like if you’re given a microphone and you have to figure out something important to say, that’s what helps me sleep at night and makes it all OK for me and that’s what I want to share with others.

iRun: It’s a nice thing to share with runners.

Baker: Yeah, I can see how that might be a good soundtrack when you’re literally struggling physically.

iRun: What do you do to stay so fit, given the demands, and temptations, of performance and spending so much time on the road?

Baker: I need to exercise every few days and blow off a little stress, especially on the road when you’re beset by stressful situations, constantly. I do anything I can do to release the valve. There’s a joy in movement and I think it’s fun and I think it should be fun, when you think about it. I feel like if force myself to sit at the desk all day long I force myself to ignore my human animal body by sitting; that’s when my body complains, when I sit in the van or play guitar for three hours. That’s what’s unnatural—running around and being free, that’s what we’re supposed to be doing. I get at it anyway I can.

iRun: How do you resist the usual rock star temptations?

Baker: I don’t worry about fitness, I worry more about mental health. I have to sleep a lot on the road but it’s true that after a few days without any exercise, it’s better to get up early and run then sleep in, you feel much more energized. Anyway, I’ve never been very good at being a rockstar. I find the toll of doing sets night after night doesn’t leave much left to go out partying. It’s physically and spiritually draining—you have to be there and give it all every night.

iRun: It sounds like running a race.

Baker: There is a certain weightlessness to it, when there’s people all around you, it inspires you. Maybe I’d be good in a running race, just to run and get back to being a kid, being a creature in the world, running around.

For more on Hey Rosetta! and Tim Baker, please see The band plays St. John’s on July 31.

Natasha Wodak Changing Her Perspective On Running

June 9th, 2017


By: Ben Kaplan

A smorgasbord of male runners laid strewn at her feet. Wodak, born and raised in Surrey, B.C., not far from where she still lives a 45-minute drive from her parents’ house, had reached the greatest heights of any long-time competitive Canadian racer: competing for her country in the 2016 Olympic Games. But something felt lacking in her journey and, after being slowed by a toe injury, she wanted things to be diffe- rent in her return to the sport that she loves.

At the shoot, Wodak was generous with her time, experimental with her pictures and entirely at ease, at least seemingly so, with her place in the world. It’s hard to imagine this smiling and friendly, albeit, ferocious racer who goes by the nickname T.Fierce, was once saddled by depression, anxious and unable to sleep. What compounds this contrast but serves as a reminder to all runners, elite or back-of- the-pack, is that Wodak was at her unhappiest when she was in her best shape, physically, and about to step on the largest starting line of a life spent in sports. Even Olympians are humans, Wodak discove- red. She tried being a machine, it didn’t work.

“I was in a place in my life where I didn’t feel settled and coach Richard and I were battling and I was single and 34, wondering, ‘Am I ever going to meet someone?’ I felt lonely and like I gave up a lot for the Olympic dream and it didn’t feel like I thought it would,” says Wodak, whose frank, matter-of-fact nature is disarming in person and a bit surprising, given her appearance makes her look more like the models who usually create the congestion on Queen Street West than the Olympian that she is. “Here I was training away, and not happy. I didn’t get to do the races I wanted and every race was really important and stressful. Really, I missed having a life, having fun.”

Wodak did a few things in short order to get her life back under control. She saw a doctor and was prescribed pills to help with her sleeping. She met a man who was stable and kind and, as doctors operated on her toe, fell in love. And then Natasha found a new coach. While still on good terms with Richard Lee, a famous Vancouver-based coach who has trained Dylan Wykes, Richard Mosely, Sue Lee, his Olympian wife, and countless more, Wodak signed up with Lynn Kanuka, who’s not only an old family friend and Olympic bronze medalist but seemed to share a similar ethos: the goal is to run faster times—indeed, Wodak will be competing at the IAAF World Championships this August in London. However, no more agonizing over every race, every training run, every practice, every pound. If Wodak is going to devote her time and attention—her heart and her soul—to running, she’s going to approach the sport differently. Her gift is no longer a sentence. It’s a chance to be free.

     “She’s a hard worker and very committed and, at the same time, she’s well-rounded. I use the term ‘spunky,’” says Kanuka, reached in Vancouver after a training session with Wodak and her son, Jack. At today’s session, which focused on cadence and speed—Kanuka believes that for Wodak to get faster in 10,000-metres (10K), she needs to get faster first at 1,5000 and 5,000-metres, get fast at the short stuff and you’ll be faster when you run long—the weather was typical Vancouver, wind and rain. But instead of getting discou- raged, the team ran in the trails, enjoyed their morning and, by the time they returned to the track, the weather had cleared.

“Natasha’s best running is still very possible in her future; she has a lot of mileage in her back pocket, but at this stage of her life, she knows herself and knows that you have to feel like you like what you’re doing in order to succeed,” says Kanuka. “We’re having fun and not worrying about too much of anything other than that.”

Indeed, following her shoot, Wodak had a glass of red wine and a plate of sushi, smiled and said: “I feel so much more happy and settled since the Olympics that whatever happens next with my running, honestly? It’s just icing on the cake.”

This is the part where Wodak’s story gets exciting and why running can bring so much pleasure to not just participants, but also to fans. The next morning in Toronto, at the Race Roster Spring Run-Off 8K, Wodak won. It wasn’t a deep field and her time of 27:55 didn’t rewrite the books, but she smiled as she crossed the finish line and, even though she’s without a sponsor and still working through a delicate toe, she radiated joy at the childlike pleasure of being able to run.

“She had some down times, but she’s back now and it’s great to see her run free of pain, it’s exhilarating,” says Patti Wodak, Natasha’s mom. “Natasha has grit and she goes for it—our family motto is, ‘Never Say Die.’”

For Wodak, the race was the start of a rapid comeback, but the experience was taken in stride. “I feel fortunate to feel happy and healthy because I know where I was,” she says. “I’m thankful for my struggles because I learned appreciation and Alan, my boyfriend, Lynn, my coach, and I, we all feel excited about what the future may bring.”

In road racing, the future is never far off and in quick succession, Wodak raced again and again. After the Race Roster 8K in April, Wodak competed in May at the BMO half-marathon in Vancouver,

her hometown race. At the start line, she flashed the peace sign. Again, there were no expectations. Again, Wodak took the win for the Canadian women, running so quickly that she was only six seconds off the course record. The girl from B.C. felt thrilled to race among family and friends. “My plan for the race was to go out conservatively and I was waiting for the pain to set in, but it didn’t come,” says Wodak, relaying her experience with a measure of thrilled disbelief.

Wodak’s PBs are all over the Canadian records. She holds Canada’s national record in 10,000 metres, set in Palo Alto in 2015 at a speed of 31:41:59, and the national record for the 8K distance—running 25:28:5 in 2015 in Saanichton, B.C. Of course, Wodak’s older now. But as all runners know, lots of factors come into play on any given day’s perfor- mance. Wodak has always had drive, strength and power. But now she has experience, grati- tude and belief.

In the fall, after the World Championships in London, Wodak wants to take a shot at Lanni Marchant’s Canadian women’s record in the half-marathon, a time of 1:10:47. (Her PB is 1:11:20, third fastest Canadian women’s half-marathon of all-time). And for now, the professional racer just keeps doing her work.

In late May, after Vancouver, Wodak lined up at the Canadian 10K Championships in Ottawa and took second place among female Canadian women to Rachel Cliff. And though she was disappointed with the outcome—a result of running too fast too soon and unde- restimating the heat—she has the Toronto Waterfront 10K in June and remains feeling happy about both her recent efforts and her state of mind.

In Ottawa, we met up with Wodak a few hours before her race, as she took in the expo with Alan by her side and posed for photo- graphs with fans. Again, she was generous with her time, smiling, not the least bit vain about appearances or seemingly nervous about her race, which was the Canadian championships of all things. Natasha Wodak, T. Fierce, Olympian, seemed to be having a blast.

“Do I think I have faster times in me? Of course I do, or I wouldn’t be training so hard, but I’m going to do it my way,” she said. “I know, running and otherwise, the way I want my life to be. Coming from where I came from, let me tell you—I’m thankful for today.”

Where the Trails Have No Name

June 9th, 2017

Ron Johnson explores the country for trail running’s hidden gems.

Everybody has a secret spot. That beauty of a trail that has it. The “it”
is always subjective. It could be the steepness that defies gravity, the soft forest floor underfoot that feels like you’re running on air, the epic views or your craft brewery that sits waiting at the end of the trail. Often, it’s the solitude. We cherish time with our fellow bipeds on race days, and training with clubs, but on long runs in the woods, it’s nice to imagine just us alone in the wilderness. So, we’re not always quick to divulge the coordinates of our fave runs to just anyone. Luckily, we convinced a gaggle of the country’s in-the-know trail runners to let us into their worlds for a brief moment. Enjoy, be inspired, and please share your own fave local trails on social media after reading this issue with the hashtag #irunsecretspots. Explore.

NAME: Nick Elson
PROVINCE: British Columbia
THE SKINNY: National men’s mountain running champion Nick Elson moved to Squamish, B.C. to pursue climb- ing, but eventually returned to running. Instead of roping
it up the sheer granite face of the famed local landmark The Chief, he spends many days scampering about on the other side of the mountain lapping tourists on the hiking trails.
“The trails on the Chief tend to be quite steep — in fact on most of my ‘runs’ I do a fair bit of hiking going up. In the forest, the terrain is characterized by lots of roots and rocks. Below the summits, the forest gives way to open granite slabs. The standard trails are very popular with hikers but there are a number of more obscure trails that make it pos- sible to avoid the crowds. I often run on Slhanay. A peak connected to the Chief that is much quieter.”
THE SCOOP: In addition to living large on The Chief, some of Elson’s other favourite areas include “Crumpit Woods, Alice Lake, and the area above Quest University.” Elson also recommends local restaurants “Mags 99 (Mexican), Essence of India, and Oryzae and Sushi Sen. Capra Run- ning is a great local trail running store.”

NAME: Mario Srinik
THE SKINNY: Mario Srinik is a Calgary-based outdoor adventure athlete who made the move from rock climbing to trail running and found his Mecca in Kananaskis Country about 40 minutes outside the city: namely Moose Mountain.
“There are ways around it that people don’t usually run, different approaches. The way I really enjoy running it, you start at Ings Mine and run up to the ice caves. It’s a short hike and there is a big cave, and even in the summer you can find icicles. If you have a headlamp you can wander pretty far in that cave. At this point, most people turn around and go back, but I go up to the ridge, which is roughly a 600-me- tre vertical climb over the scree. From the ridge there is an open plateau and Moose Mountain is across the valley on the other side. Most people do the Moose Mountain trail out and back, or up to Ings Mine and back to the car, but you can connect them into one big loop and it’s 28-30K with about 900 metres of vertical. It’s a very alpine feeling being only 40 minutes from Calgary.”
THE SCOOP: In Calgary, Srinik runs his own personal Tour de Calgary, an 80K loop around the city utilizing bike pathways and trails along the Bow River. In other words, get creative. His go-to for a post-run snack is Cafe Rosso.

NAME: Karon Mathies
PROVINCE: Saskatchewan
THE SKINNY: When Saskatoon native Karon Mathies turned 60 she decided to run a 100-mile ultra and succeeded. This was promptly followed by her first race, the Lost Souls Ultra and she hasn’t looked back. Her favourite running spot is tucked along the beautiful South Saskatchewan River. “We in Saskatchewan are known as flatlanders because we can see forever with no apparent hills in sight but looks are deceiving. When I go for a run I like the lower trails of the Meewasin Valley. These run all along the South Saskatchewan River but can’t be seen from any main road. They are tucked away with single track, trees on both sides and relentless roller- coaster hills. I love how I can get away without having to leave the city.”
THE SCOOP: “Around the city less within an hour’s drive we also have Cranberry Flats which offers single track trails with a beautiful view of the river and Black Strap Provincial Park. One of my favorite places to eat or relax after a run is D’lish. Her soups are a must have.”

NAME: Blair Mann
PROVINCE: New Brunswick
THE SKINNY: 42-year-old Blair Mann is a software engi- neer and family man in Moncton who raced his first 50K in 2011 and hasn’t looked back. Although it took a few times to actual locate the mythic trails of Halls Creek, once there, it was worth the wait. “Originally, I had heard that it was only a few kilometers of biking trails. As a result, I didn’t bother checking it out. At some point, curiosity got the best of me. Wow! Stunning single track for miles along side a flowing creek, beautiful ferns and just about every type of landscape you could hope for: rocks, roots, steep climbs, flowing creeks, runnable sections, bridges, board- walks. The beauty and seclusion would fool you into think- ing you were in a remote, protected land reserve when in reality you are in the middle of the city.”
THE SCOOP: In addition to Halls Creek, Mann recommends the Northwest Trail and Riverfont Trail (Moncton, River- view, Dieppe). “This is the primarily rail trail (gravel bike trail) that runs throughout Moncton along the Petitcodiac River as well as the surrounding towns of Riverview and Dieppe. Its flat and great for long hours of turnover.”
When it comes time to rest the dogs, it’s Cafe Codiac, “locally roasted organic coffee,” as well as the Tide & Boar Gastropub. “Heck, they even brew their own beer!”

NAME: Dwayne Sandall
PROVINCE: Manitoba
THE SKINNY: Dwayne Sandall ran his first marathon in 2002 and has been running ultras for the past dozen years. He also works as a race director, which means he’s always on the lookout for primo trails. He stumbled upon 440- acre Pembina Valley Provincial Park near the sleepy town of Carman, in the southern end of the province just before the American border, by looking over maps of provincial parks. He put his trail dog in the car and drove 90 minutes out of town to have a look. “It’s a beautiful park with a fairly short trail network of maybe five trails, the longest only seven kilometres, but you can loop around for a nice long run. For Manitoba, it’s a place where you can get a lot of good vertical and a wide variety of terrain from wide trails to singletrack. It’s a really quiet place, literally a hid- den spot.”
THE SCOOP: In Winnipeg, Sandall’s go-to trail running spot is Birch Hill Park preceded by a trip to Parlour Cof- fee in the town’s French Quarter. He also recommends Pizzeria Gusto for pre-race carb-loading or an indulgence after a long day on the trails.

NAME: Shawn McCardle
PROVINCE: Prince Edward Island
THE SKINNY: PEI trail runner, cabinetmaker and race orga- nizer Shawn McCardle lives in the rural farming commu- nity of Lady Fane. He doesn’t have to travel too far to his favourite local running spot. It’s out his backdoor. “I can run along the edges of some fields, eventually getting to a provincial forestry woodlot which has trails cut through it. It is about a 10K out and back run. I am probably the only person who runs there and rarely do I see motorized ve- hicles. What I do see is lots of wildlife: foxes, coyotes, and regularly a great horned owl, even during daytime runs. On a clear day, I can see the Confederation Bridge 20K away. Another favourite spot is the Brookvale Provincial Ski Park.”
THE SKINNY: For visitors, McCardle recommends the Bar- none Brewery, a local craft establishment in a converted barn. “On a Thursday night, you can get your growler filled, and go up to the loft and listen to live music.”

NAME: Denise McHale
THE SKINNY: Adventure racing, ultra marathoning super couple Denise McHale and her husband Greg first visited the Yukon in 1996, and relocated from Ontario per- manently in 1998. They settled in the 300-strong town of Carcross near White- horse where they operate a tourism business, along with a coffee shop and bar. Although their little slice of the Yukon is developing a reputation for world-class mountain biking, their favourite trail running spot is located in Whitehorse. “Miles Canyon is this very scenic canyon in Whitehorse. You can run maybe a half-mile into it and you come to this bridge across a massive canyon (with the Yukon River below). You can run along the ridgeline there for a while, and then you get into the forest and it’s not super technical, but offers a little bit of everything.”
THE SCOOP: According to McHale, in Whitehorse, outdoor-loving insiders fre- quent the Midnight Sun Coffee Roasters, “it’s a coffee shop right inside a bike shop,” says McHale, currently gearing up for a new local race, the 50-mile ultra Reckless Raven.

NAME: Jodi Isenor
PROVINCE: Nova Scotia
THE SKINNY: Jodi Isenor, race director of the Salomon Sonofa Gunofa run, de- scribes himself as a “map geek,” who works as a survey tech for the province in St. Margaret’s Bay, Nova Scotia. He says the main rail pathway in St. Margaret’s Bay is a well-trampled fitness thoroughfare, but there are numerous secret paths that spindle off the main trail that are a dirt runner’s dream.
“Most people run past them every day, but they don’t see them since they’re not signed. The only people we see on these trails are our running friends. Most of the trails are quite steep (think black diamond ski run steep) which also deters a lot of folks. A memorable moment was finding that first little trail up Dauphinee Mountain.”
THE SCOOP: Although he loves his home turf, Isenor also recommends the gor- geous trails of Pollett’s Cove in nearby Cape Breton Island and basically every trail in the Wentworth Valley. In St. Margaret’s Bay, his go-to caffeine provider is the Bike & Bean Cafe, and Lefty’s Pub in Tantallon for post-race festivities. “It’s basically initiation!”

NAME: Caroline McIlroy
PROVINCE: Newfoundland and Labrador
THE SKINNY: Trail runner Caroline McIlroy of St. Philip’s, Newfoundland cannot get enough of her beloved East Coast Trail—a massive footpath of more than 300 kilome- tres. And with three adult children who love to get active, she is never short of company. It’s no surprise that her fa- vourite event is the East Coast Trail Ultra Marathon and her fave spot is the Sprout Trail. “Starting from Petty Har- bour you run along the sea shore accompanied by crash- ing waves. There are often seals in the ocean and further on, you run along precipitous cliffs. There are towering sea stacks, one of which with a bald eagle’s nest on it. The trail continues along the cliffs to a lighthouse from which you frequently sea humpback and minke whales in the summer. The trail turns into a bay and ends at Bay Bulls. During the spring you can sea icebergs all along the trail. It’s a wonder- ful piece of wilderness only 15 minutes from St John’s.” THE SCOOP: Around St. Philip’s, McIlroy spends her lunch- time running the trail up to the top of Signal Hill. For post-race fixin’s, McIlroy recommends the Inn of Olde, a quirky old pub in the town of Quidi Vidi, as well as Chafe’s Landing in Petty Harbour. “Petty Harbour means great fresh fish. I go there with my children after an evening run out from Petty Harbour to Motion Head.”

NAME: Jennifer Coleman
THE SKINNY: Jennifer Coleman likes the Bruce Trail. So much so, that her and her “trail sister” Gemma Kitchen are planning on running the length of the massive Ontario route this year. Coleman, also the founder of the 250-member Burly Trail Runners club, explores the fertile trail network along the Niagara Escarpment in the Hamilton area. “My (not so) secret spot is in the Dundas Peak, Tews Falls, Spen- cer Gorge and Christie Lake area. It is unbelievably scenic with panoramic views of Hamilton and Dundas and not one but two beautiful waterfalls—Hamilton is the city of waterfalls. To visit all the areas is about a 20K loop. From the top of Dundas Peak you can also take a side trail down the steep escarpment to the main Bruce trail. The trail possibilities are endless!”
THE SCOOP: “My trail running crew tends to frequent the Smokey Hollow Con- servation area in Waterdown. Lots of hills, technical rocky sections and even a beautiful waterfall right at the start parking area (free parking! win win!). We enjoy having post run food and drinks at the American House Bar and Grill and also in town is the Copper Kettle. They’re well known for their yummy apple fritters made fresh in house!”

NAME: Sebastien Cote
THE SKINNY: Sebastien Cote started trail running as a way to put a new spin on his old hiking haunts across Quebec, including his first race in the Eastern Townships. Wanting to help a friend of his with Multiple Sclerosis, he put two and two together and decided to organize his own race for the cause, Ultra-Trail Harricana, which has turned into one of the top races on the planet. His secret trail running gem is located an hour north of Montreal. “There is not-for-profit organisation named ‘Comité régional pour la protection des falaises’ (CRPF) that buys up land in the Laurentides region of Quebec to protect the land from development and develop other parts for recreation. In the town of Prevost, there’s a 10K loop that I love for training. It’s very technical with some good drops and each 10K loop gives you about 400m of vertical elevation gain. Lots of fauna including frogs, beavers, birds of prey.”
THE SCOOP: In Montreal, Cote can be found at least twice a week running in his go-to park Mont Royal, which he calls “a trail-running haven in the downtown core of a great city where I’ve seen owls, fox, raccoons and plenty of trees and flow- ers, combined with some awesome views.“ He recommends local farmer’s market Marche Maisonneuve and at the Hochecafe (“I am a huge latte addict”).

A Global Running Day Celebration: Why We Run

June 7th, 2017

By Karen Karnis

Since the 150 Runners issue of iRun came out, there’s been a lot of buzz. I have heard from a lot of people who have enjoyed the stories and found nuggets of motivation all over the place. 

Pulling the stories together for this issue is one of the hardest assignments I have ever done, but it was also one of the most rewarding. Since it’s Global Run Day, I thought I would share a bit of what I learned.

As I am sure most writers and editors would agree, holding someone’s story in your hands is always an honour and a privilege. But to take on that many at once was intense – I laughed, I cried; I had to walk away and take breaks.

Every story was wonderful, and I couldn’t possibly choose criteria to select the “top 150,” so I went with the first 150 we received. In reading the stories and exchanging emails with these runners, I got to meet some pretty incredible people. 

My task was much like I would imagine a diamond cutter’s to be: carefully chipping away at something that is already beautiful to get the size and clarity that is needed without destroying the core of it. To all of you that participated, thank you for trusting me with your diamonds – I sincerely hope that all of you feel that your voices and key messages are intact.

In 150 stories, there were literally hundreds of reasons to run – all as unique as the runners themselves. But despite their uniqueness, some common themes emerged.

We run for challenge

Walter Faion’s most magical running memory was the day he came from behind to win the Sudbury Marathon. At 70 years old, Murdock Hiscock continues to win awards at races. All of us run to be better than we were yesterday – and for the feeling of accomplishment that brings.

We run to find ourselves

Like Kevin Marchment, fighting his way back from alcoholism to the runner he used to be; Colleen Mahoney who runs to combat generalized anxiety disorder; John Doyle who took up running to cope with seasonal affective disorder; Carley Toye,  Andree-Anne Ouellet, Angela Maciocia and countless others who are always outrunning darkness. So many of us run for clarity, for confidence, or to quiet our minds.

We run to give back

Yves Desrosiers raises money for cancer treatment. JP Hernandez and the Justice League Runners raise funds for youth mental health. Tracy Shouldice raises funds for Team in Training, children’s hospitals, and mental health causes. John and Ryan Farrell raise money for Team Diabetes. Lee McCarron coaches people to support them in reaching their goals. Sylvie Michaud also shares her knowledge and experience as a coach. From saying the right thing to another runner in a race to making a donation when we register, every single one of us has used running as a way to give back.

We run to be strong

Like Nancy Girard who was paralyzed to her bed for six months and fought anxiety and depression; Like Marie-France Kenyon, Dayna Talsma, Jessica Burns, Charlotte Flewelling, Pierre Marcoux and more who ran their way back from accidents or surgeries. Like Lee Anne Cohen, Sheila Kohle, Roch Courcy, Mike Hsiao, Wendy Moore and so many more who started running to begin healthy weight loss journeys and never looked back. We all find strength in our sport.

We run to remember

Dominique Narcisse ran with her son until he was murdered in 2014; now she runs in his memory. Julie Drury runs to remember and cope with the loss of her young daughter. Susan Harvey first took up running to honour a friend who died of breast cancer. Scott Shafer tool up running to cope with a loss. So many of us use a kilometre, a race, or our training to remember someone and work through grief and loss.

We run for community

In the stories and my conversations with the authors, almost every single one of them mentioned the running community and friendships they have made along the way. We have all both contributed to – and benefitted from – this supportive, inspiring, amazing community. 

And in the end, that is what 150 Runners is all about. From the outside, running seems like a lonely sport, but we know better. We may run in our own heads, our own bodies, and for our own reasons, but have all found friendships, motivation, and support in this indescribable collective. 

To the 150 Runners: You have motivated, inspired, and moved a nation – and I can’t thank you enough.

Paving Their Own Roads: The Salluit Run Club

June 6th, 2017

There are no roads leading into Salluit, an Inuit community with a population of 1400 located in the far north Nunavik region of Quebec. The Salluit Run Club, the subject of a documentary featured at the upcoming Canadian Sport Film Festival, running June 9-11 in Toronto, is the story of a group of youth who paved their own roads in the region.

The Salluit Run Club is the brainchild of Maggie MacDonnell, a teacher who has worked in Salluit for the past seven years. The recipient of the Global Teaching Award, Maggie arrived in Salluit after seven years working in community development across the globe, incorporating a strong focus on sports and recreation into her work. Both Maggie and her husband Abdullah, who directed the film, are strong proponents of sports as a means to better mental and physical health and to building self-esteem.

The Salluit Run Club in Hawaii. All images courtesy of the Canadian Sports Film Festival.

Maggie describes Salluit as a community where residents are, “living with the traumatic experience of Canada’s colonial history, including the forced relocation to residential schools.” The community is also characterized by a shortage of 1,000 housing units, resulting in many youth living in overcrowded spaces and experiencing precarious access to shelter.

“We lost 10 youths between the ages of 13-27 to suicide in the last two years,” Maggie says, “and I see it as an extension of their stresses from lack of housing and food insecurity.” Maggie notes that Canada’s Inuit population ranks as the most food insecure indigenous group in the developed world.

The Salluit Run Club was Maggie’s attempt to make inroads to Salluit’s youth and leverage running to help them adopt a healthier lifestyle and change their perceptions of themselves. Those roads have led to Nova Scotia for the Blue Nose Marathon and more recently to Hawaii for a half marathon, documented in the film.

“Two things are happening,” Maggie says. “When you move, you can’t help but feel good, but these runners are also connecting with other young people and building the social supports they need.” In addition to participants quitting smoking or confronting mental health issues, Maggie also mentions that, “Some have even been inspired to return to school after dropping out because they’ve built relationships with those still in school.”

For Maggie, her little experiment reminded her that, “What I love about running is that I can take my super athletes but also work with those at risk of diabetes or struggling with mental health issues and have them all report greater self confidence,” Maggie says.

Maggie hopes that this film will change the narrative around Inuit youth, who are often depicted in crisis rather than seizing opportunities to be physically active and change their lives. She hopes also that the film will illustrate the power of opportunity. According to Maggie, “If you offer youth a healthy recreational alternative that was fun and consistent, a lot of youth want to seize it.”

“They are sources of inspiration and agents of change,” Maggie says of her runners. With their story now public, she already sees them inspiring other youth to pave their own roads to a better life.

The Salluit Run Club is screening at the Canadian Sports Film Festival on Saturday June 10th. More info available here.

  • Ravi Singh
Current issue: Issue 4. 2017
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