April 18th, 2017
Dr. Lowell Greib is the president of The Sports Lab, a sport therapy and sport nutrition clinic outside of Toronto. His wife is Dr. Katherine Ahokas, a sports nutritionist at Sport Lab with a degree in biochemistry. Together, they love running and racing, even getting hitched a day after the Victoria Marathon. Yesterday, the two ran the Boston Marathon, an event which saw Geoffrey Kirui and Edna Kiplagat, both of Kenya, come away with the win. (Our own Rachel Hannah placed 23rd and she’ll later share her story). For now, Dr. Greib and Dr. Ahokas share their recollections about grit, smiles and ice cubes at the world’s most famous race.
With birds chirping and clear skies in the forecast, Katherine and I, along with our team mates from the Muskoka Algonquin Runners made our way at 5:45 a.m. toward Boston Commons to catch our school bus for the journey to athletes village in Hopkinton. The journey was smooth and surprisingly quick and upon arrival the team found a shaded area amongst the thousands of runners. After a couple hours of just hanging out, watching the excited runners arrive, and working through pre-race rituals and fuelling strategies, our corals were called. Off we ventured to the start of the 121st Boston Marathon. It was a spectacular sunny, 15 degree morning that seemingly was almost perfect for running. There was even a tail wind predicted—something Boston runners rarely experience. Both Katherine and I were ready to get out there and put the last four months of training and conditioning to the test.
Rise and grind! 4:30 a.m. came too quickly, and I definitely didn’t need an alarm. A crappy sleep before a marathon is good luck, right? I certainly felt like I needed a little luck for the race.
While the journey to Hopkinton was very smooth and the weather was beautiful, my last five weeks of training prior to the Boston Marathon had been anything but smooth. Thank you Lowell for suggesting I was “ready,” but illness and a busier than anticipated schedule definitely left me feeling a little ill prepared.
My plan? To keep smiling, especially when the going got tough!
My early plan was to head out on a pace where my Yasso 800’s put me several weeks ago. My training block was solid and my fitness was definitely there. With the first 20K being primarily downhill, it was a time that I could use to fall into a good rhythm and be comfortable attacking the Newton hills. The first couple kilometres were slower than anticipated as I was caught up in my coral trying to find a smooth pace, but after this, I found my stride, cruising at what would be my PR at 2:55. After 4 or 5K, I realized that I dripping sweat like I was in a sauna and that the beautiful clear skies also held a scorching sun that was acting like a laser beam frying all of the runners on course. And that breezy tailwind didn’t seem to exist. 10K in I was on pace and felt good. Legs were sharp and had found a space in the crowd where I could run my own race.
Similar to Lowell’s plan, I too was going out for a 2:55 to match my PR. Based upon my training, I knew I had to “put a little time in the bank,” which is very atypical of my racing strategy and a potentially devastating plan. I was willing to take the risk and see how long I could “hold on.” The struggle began much earlier than anticipated, at about 10K my legs were already screaming at me. Yikes, this was going to be tough, but I kept smiling.
Wham! An invisible brick wall was placed in he middle of the road at 15 kilometres. Evidently the blazing sun was having its effects early. Pace dropped about 10 seconds-per-kilometer almost instantaneously and I couldn’t find another gear to to kick into. Aid stations were used for a gulp of water and bathing stations to get water on me to allow for more evaporative cooling.
Yup, by 15K, my pace dropped from a 4:07 min/km to 4:12min/km, even on the downhills. Not good. I thought to myself “use the energy of the crowds,” which helped, but only slightly. The sun and heat continued to intensify and if I wanted to finish upright, I knew I had to keep up with my fueling, hydrating and cooling as best I could. I was taking water and fuel every mile. I ran through two “spray stations,” the second being directly from a fire hydrant, which was one of my favourite moments on course for a couple of reasons: a) it was SO cold and refreshing; b) I had just learned how to “operate” a fire hydrant in my volunteer fire training last weekend. Ahhh…the things you think about during a marathon. And I kept smiling.
By the time I hit the half, it was becoming evident that this running of the Boston Marathon (only my second) was going to turn into a torture festival. Every mile was taking a greater toll on me. Humidity was relatively low and from aid station to aid station, my singlets and shorts were dry even after dousing with water.
It was hot, I was slowing, but I kept smiling.
You may ask why someone trained in sport medicine would dump water on himself when sweating subsequent evaporation would be the most efficient means of cooling. The presumption in this equation is that you are sweating! By mile 16, sweat production was really coming to a halt. NOT a good sign! Seemingly as my sweat rate dropped, so did my pace.
If it feels good do it. The science (and Lowell) may say otherwise, but the mind is more powerful than you think. I attempted a new cooling strategy—ice cubes in my bra and shorts—while it may not have physiologically affected my cooling rate, it most certainly distracted me from the pain…and kept me smiling.
From this point onward it was about surviving the race. Periods of walking were necessary to regroup both physically and mentally to make it to Boylston Street. It became all about getting to the blue and yellow line at Copley Square! The sufferfest continued and at mile 23 I came to the side of the course when I saw a fellow club runner spectating and tried to have him talk me into quitting. He would have nothing of it and encouraged me to suck up the last 5km.
The crowds became more and more influential racing down Beacon St, onto Hereford Street, and of course down Boylston Street. While I knew my PR was out of the question, I was thrilled to have stuck it out, despite the struggles. I was most certainly still smiling.
After what seemed like an eternity, I turned onto Boylston and could see the blue and yellow arch marking the end of suffering. Even though I ‘ran’ that section of the course my running data would beg to differ. The sense of accomplishment and relief in crossing the finish line was overwhelming! Not exactly how I had planned the race, but I did learn a lot more about taking a greater perspective when it comes to racing.
1) The marathon can chew you up and spit you out at any time she chooses.
2) The human body is a spectacular machine that can endure extraordinary physical and psychological stresses.
3) If you are a conditioned athlete who is well prepared and your wheels fall off, there are likely many others experiencing the same thing.
That was a challenging race. Despite being way off my goal time, I was proud to finish with a respectable time. Crossing the Boston Marathon is always a spectacular feeling, no matter the race outcome. Even better when you smile!
It is these type of epic adventures which help build tenacity and resilience in those who enjoy competing. Although the 121st running of the Boston Marathon will not be one I brag about a result, it will be one that I will talk about for the rest of my athletic life. Likely the most gruelling race I have ever done.
Reflecting on this race I have learned a few things to focus on as I move forward in my running and racing:
- The mind needs to be trained, just as much as the body.
- Training (and racing) rarely goes as planned. Try not to let it get to you, adapt and overcome, and push on.
- Just keep running (and smiling).
April 16th, 2017
On this, the eve of the Boston Marathon, it seems appropriate to tell you all a little secret. No, it’s not about how to run the tangents of a meandering course, or how to start out more conservatively than you have already planned because the downhill start will trick you into thinking marathon running is easy. It’s not to tell you that you’ll actually look forward to heartbreak hill with all of the cheers that await the top after you grind your way up there… or that the actual heartbreak is when you have to start running downhill again and your quads start screaming (and they will – scream – but you will press on because you have worked your tail off to be there).
I remember watching Boston 2013. I remember seeing Rob Watson take the lead with his Team Canada kit on. I remember getting in my car and driving to Nashville after the elite race finished. I’ll never forget finishing my drive and seeing my phone had blown up with missed calls and text messages from people asking if I was ok? Was I in Boston? I remember turning my car radio on and sitting there hearing what had happened and, though I felt loved that so many people had reached out to check up on me, my first thoughts were all of you. Those of you who were running along the street in those moments. Those of you who were there spectating to help celebrate the dreams of your loved ones running. Those of you, who like me, were sitting there hurting because WE had been attacked.
I had my Boston Experience in 2014. As one of the “elites” my experience was slightly different from what yours will be tomorrow. I didn’t have to rise at a completely insane hour to pack into a shuttle bus and wait around for hours in just my running skivvies. We were bused up and hung out in a small church right beside the start line. It was the first time I really felt separate from you at a race… felt separated from the Boston experience I have heard stories about. The beautiful thing about running however, is that as separated from you I may have felt in those moments during my warmup, I immediately felt connected again once the gun went off.
We all get to run on the same course… literally following in the footsteps of those who came before us – the former elites, idols like Katherine Switzer, your friends, your teammates, the millions of versions of you that logged those miles before and after work, in the dark, while children and spouses were sleeping… We all get to cross that finish line knowing we were part of something bigger than our own personal goals.
So tonight, on this eve of the 2017 Boston Marathon, the secret I wish to tell you as you ready yourself for your final night’s sleep is that you are who inspire me. You are the spirit of Boston that has made the race iconic. And tomorrow, when you line up you are showing “elites” like me what running is actually all about.
April 14th, 2017
The Parkdale Roadrunners Ladies Ragnar Relay team are running 304km from Cobourg to Niagara Falls, Ontario, from May 19-20 and raising funds in support of West Neighbourhood House in Toronto. Read their story below and support their fundraising efforts at pdrrladiesxragnar.com.
A neuroscientist, an engineer, a registered massage therapist, an osteopathy student, an AcroYoga coach, a project manager, an occupational therapist, solar consultant, a beauty industry professional, a government relations specialist, and a couple of marketing professionals. All passionate runners and all ready for a new adventure.
That’s the makeup of the Parkdale Roadrunners Ladies (PDRR Ladies) Ragnar Relay team, 12 women diverse in age, experience and ability as runners, and professional background.
According to teammate Melanie Boatswain-Watson, “We meet week in and week out to run together, learn from one another, escape the daily grind, and connect with like minded women.”
Melanie proudly says that the group has developed a bond beyond their status as a run crew, adding, “We are truly friends who share a common passion, have a deep respect for one another and sport, and support each other through life’s challenges.”
The PDRR Ladies. Support their fundraising efforts for West Neighbourhood House at pdrrladiesxragnar.com.
Those friendships will either be tested, deepened or perhaps both in May when the Parkdale Ladies tackle the 304 km relay from Cobourg to Niagara Falls, each runner taking on three legs ranging from 16 to 32 kilometres in total.
The idea began to take shape when Melanie and fellow PDRR ladies Anya Taraboulsy and Morgan Henderson learned that Ragnar was returning to Ontario in 2017 and welcomed it as a challenge to tick off the bucket list. When they found no luck in their search for a team, Melanie says, “…we decided to bite the bullet and form our own team.” Friends quickly came on board and PDRR’s founders gave their blessing for the team to run under the crew’s banner.
PDRR is one of Toronto’s biggest and fastest growing run crews in one of the city’s most rapidly changing neighbourhoods. Parkdale’s boom, however, has not necessarily benefitted all its residents and many are in danger of being left behind.
The PDRR Ladies are taking action to give back to the community that’s given them the space to grow and form the rich bonds that run through the team. “Everyone in the group agreed that we wanted to align ourselves with an organization that was either local, empowers young women, or promotes physical activity and a healthy lifestyle,” Melanie says.
A little research led to West Neighbourhood House (WNH), which has been serving the Parkdale community since 1912 through a wide range of services including after school programs and settlement services. WNH hit all the criteria Melanie described so it seemed an obvious choice for the PDRR Ladies to fundraise on behalf of the organization through their Ragnar adventure.
When the team connected with WNH, they saw a further opportunity to take the partnership beyond fundraising and work together through WNH’s Newcomer Youth Girls’ Leadership Program, which supports young women in developing leadership skills by engaging in media arts, fitness, dance, and conversation circles. Soon, running will be added to that list when the PDRR Ladies lead a “my first race” clinic at WNH.
The Newcomer Youth Girls Leadership Program supports young women in building leadership skills through different activities. The PDRR Ladies will be working with the group to lead a my first race clinic. Support them here. Image courtesy of WNH.
According to Anya, “The training program, led entirely by volunteers from the Parkdale Roadrunners, will consist of weekly group runs, mobility, yoga, strength training, nutrition and recovery work.” The ultimate goal is to get the young women of WNH to either the 5K or half marathon at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon on October 22nd.
Beyond encouraging a love of fitness among the group, Anya adds, “For many of us, it’s been nothing short of life changing to run with such an inspirational and supportive group of women. There would be nothing greater than helping others find that same passion, not just for running, but for being part of a family, a community, a sisterhood.”
In doing so, Anya hopes to pass on the spirit of empowerment and encouragement that defines the PDRR Ladies. “Strong women empower other women,” Anya says, “and that’s what we want this group to do; become the next generation of women who know they’re strong enough to come together and overcome anything life might throw at them.”
It’s a commitment welcomed by WNH. Kaleigh Wisman, Community Relations Coordinator at WNH, says, “Having the PDRR Ladies partner with the Newcomer Youth Girls’ Leadership Group is exactly the kind of barrier breaking and community building that we encourage!”
In the meantime, the PDRR Ladies are adapting their training to the unique experience of Ragnar, working in early morning and late night runs as well as two runs on some days as they work toward, in Melanie’s words,” …sharing this awesome, crazy, out-of-the-ordinary experience with a group of rad friends.”
April 12th, 2017
By Amy Friel
Last summer, I went on a first date that turned out to be pretty special.
Like most single people my age, I go on a lot of first dates; in the age of smartphones and swipe apps, an attractive companion and an evening of polite conversation over drinks is never more than a text message away. Consequently, my generation seems to have been eternally cured of that relic of a bygone era that is pre-date jitters. I am no exception.
But this date was.
On the face of things, it looked like any other evening with a shiny new romantic prospect: microbrews and dinner at a hipster pizzeria downtown. But this wasn’t another dreary Tinder match, with their boring finance jobs, ironic tank tops, and predictable Thailand travel stories.
This was different; I was nervous.
For one thing, he was a runner—a remarkable one, in fact, with national teams and a sub-30 10K to his name. For another, he was a friend— a gifted conversationalist with whom I had debated everything from the IAAF to the beer mile. He was quiet and charming, and looked like the cutest boy to ever help you with your AP chemistry homework. So when he texted me to ask me to dinner earlier that week, I felt elated.
And then the nerves kicked in.
An archetypical millennial dater, I tried everything to assuage the jitters I was so unaccustomed to feeling. I went for a pre-date run to calm my nerves. I agonized over my outfit, finally settling on a jersey sundress and canvas sneakers, a polished-meets-casual combo I’d seen Michelle Obama rock a few weeks earlier—and one which is about as close to the pages of Vogue as my sartorial style will allow. Then I gave myself a truly ridiculous (but sadly necessary) pep talk in front of the mirror:
“Be cool, Amy. Just be cool.”
And in the end, I more or less was.
As embarrassing as my pre-date rituals might have been, they belied something absent from all those Tinder dates that came before: promise.
Nerves can be unpleasant, unsettling, or even downright scary. They can make you doubt your competence and shake you to your core. Walking down the block in my sundress-and-sneakers that evening, all shaking hands and sweaty palms and butterflies in my chest, I wanted more than anything to feel like my usual, cool, detached self.
But I’m glad I didn’t; I’m glad I was a little scared, because nothing extraordinary ever comes out of cool. And even though this particular love story is over now, I can assure you that it turned out to be, in every way, extraordinary.
The Boston Marathon is less than a week away. After six months of intensive training and frenzied anticipation, I am feeling a lot of things, but cool isn’t one of them. I’m obsessively checking the weather forecast. I’m fussing over what to wear. I’m convinced I’ve become the world’s biggest consumer of Lysol wipes and hand sanitizer. All the while, I’m trying to keep calm.
The nerves you feel before a marathon are unlike any other. When so many hours, so many miles, so many months boil down to one race, there’s so much that can (and often does) go wrong. And when you’re standing on the precipice of something as epic and storied as the Boston Marathon, it can be hard to imagine otherwise.
But this time around, I’m not forcing myself to “be cool.”
I’m scared, because this race, like that date last summer, shows promise, and promise can be a very scary thing. What if I mess it up? What if I get it wrong?
What if I swallow all my doubts, and risk it anyway?
Courage is something you do, not something you feel. It’s steeling yourself enough to toe the start line with shaking hands and sweaty palms and butterflies in your chest. It’s putting yourself out there when you feel out of your depth. It’s doing the thing you feel you cannot do.
Courage is a crucial ingredient in all worthwhile things, and it cannot exist in the absence of fear. You don’t have to “be cool” to make extraordinary things happen.
You only have to be brave.
April 11th, 2017
Kelly Arnott has been putting on races for 23 years as vice president of VR Pro and this week she was named the recipient of the Tourism Ambassador award from Tourism Burlington. Known for their Santa runs and the Chilly Half, hosted in Burlington in early March since 1994, Arnott and her team are bucking running trends with races and bringing in more than $1-million to Burlington every year. For Arnott, who opened her first running shop in Burlington, the Village Runner, in 1992, the award means everything. “I love living in Burlington,” said Arnott, “and I love putting on terrific events and sharing Burlington with runners.” Ben Kaplan caught up with Arnott soon after she received her award.
Q) Congratulations, sincerely. After all these years in running, what does the Tourism Ambassador award mean to you?
A) All these years bringing people to Burlington, it just really means so much. A lot of these runners are first-time Chilly finishers and we’re introducing people to Burlington while we’re also introducing people, with the help of the Running Room, to our sport.
Q) What’s been the perception of Burlington from the uptight runners from Toronto?
A) Oh, they love Burlington. We’ve had several runners from Toronto buy houses in Burlington after discovering it at the Chilly Half.
Q) How has the Chilly changed through the years?
A) We used to have a different route, but it upset residents because we’d have 2,500 people running a big rectangle and residents would be sort of blocked in, so we moved it to the Lakeshore.
Q) That must’ve been a trying experience.
A) That was seven years ago, and yes, there was some fighting and politicians got involved and things, you know—everyone’s passionate—but we never let it take us down. We believed in the event and believed in the city and knew we could find a way to make everything work.
Q) And then what happened?
A) Everything did.
Q) How so?
A) I just went crazy the last couple of years to get our numbers back. I go to the different Running Rooms and try and bring as many people as I can to Burlington.
Q) What’s your formula for putting on a successful event?
A) You have to cover your experiences, but we go above and beyond to make the best race we can. We spend a lot of money on the shirt, the medal, the chilli, the beer. I mean tons of marketing dollars, but you have to in order to put on a great event.
Q) It’s funny that an event in Burlington in the chilly days of early March has become so popular.
A) Well, it’s three weeks before Around the Bay, and that’s perfect timing if you’re doing that event, or any spring race and there’s about 100,000 people in our area doing spring races, whether it’s Ottawa, Buffalo, Toronto, Mississauga, so, you know, there’s a lot of people we can attract. You train all winter, it’s great to test it out in the beginning of March.
Q) Are races losing their numbers? Have we passed the third great running boom?
A) Some races definitely are and it’s been tough. We dropped recently when we had two bad years with the ice and the snow and we had to fight to get the numbers back. But our partnership with Running Room has been great. From their Learn to Run and half marathon clinics, we have an automatic 1,000 come to the Chilly Half. And hopefully after they race with us, they go on and have good experiences at other races. In running, we all work together—we all work as one.
Q) What’s been your recipe for success?
A) Giving a bagel at the finish line doesn’t work anymore. We have to keep making it better and I know we can and we will.
Q) Could you share a few favourite memories over the years?
A) There was one year we had firefighters from Brantford trying to raise money for a firefighter who died and they were starting this fund. We had 35 of them with their gear and oxygen tanks and it was touching to be involved. Another year, Reid Coolsaet came out and he broke the record and that same year Krista DuChene broke the record, too. Her race was really special because it was her first run back after breaking her femur in Montreal and she was so happy to get out and do well, and then she ran Dusseldorf and that got her to the Olympics. Such an incredible time.
Q) You should feel proud.
I do. And some of these people who have just gotten off the couch and they’re crying and laughing at our finish line—it makes their day, their life, their year, it’s everything they’ve worked on. It’s so much more than the actual race, it’s all the stories. I’m very proud to be part of it.
April 9th, 2017
With the first signs of spring finally showing us the way to warmer weather, now is the time to wake up your tastebuds too. Daily Tiramisu’s Julie Miguel recently created this super simple dish of the #fouringredientchallenge on Instagram and it’s got all the fresh flavours (zesty lemon and leeks) that will make your mouth sing, plus the barley pilaff is a fun spin on risotto. Pick up the ingredients, and you’re ready for dinner tonight!
By Julie Miguel
Lemon-kissed Barley Pilaf with Simple Sautéed Shrimp Topped with Zucchini Ribbons
2 cups cooked barley
1/2 leek, finely chopped
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
1 bag (350g) jumbo shrimp
Lightly-dressed Zucchini Ribbons
1 zucchini, cut into ribbons
1 tsp extra-virgin Olive Oil
1/2 tsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper, to taste
ONE: Heat an oiled large sauté pan to medium/high heat. Add leeks and cook until the leeks are softened, about 4 minutes. Deglaze the pan by adding lemon juice and zest. Add the cooked barley and incorporate it with the leek mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste then divide amongst 4 bowls and keep warm.
TWO: In the same sauté pan, heat the pan to medium-high heat and add a tsp oil. Add the shrimp to the pan and sauté until the shrimp are cooked through and opaque, about 6 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Divide the shrimp among 4 bowls.
THREE: Add your zucchini ribbons to a medium-sized bowl and lightly dress with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Divide the zucchini ribbons and top each of the four bowls with the zucchini ribbons. Serve immediately.
Julie Miguel is an iRun food contributor, where you’ll find a selection of weekly recipes and food ideas. She is a home cook, and food influencer and has worked with a national television, print and online media outlets. You can also follow her food discoveries and travel adventures at Daily Tiramisu.
April 8th, 2017
In trying to talk about my experience at today’s Race Roster Spring Run Off in Toronto’s High Park, I have to set aside any notion of “journalistic objectivity.” The act of running is itself subjective. With 4,000 runners on the course today between the 8K and 5K distances, there were 4,000 reasons for lacing up and 4,000 reasons for running toward that finish line.
Today, I ran on two anniversaries. First, I ran the 8K race on my 29th birthday, celebrating more years than I thought I was ever going to get on this planet.
A few weeks prior to this race, I sat down to lunch with friend who was also set to run this race and she asked me if I was familiar with the concept of “Saturn Return.”
Celebrating with winner Natasha Wodak. Image courtesy of Brandon Teed.
“No, I don’t believe I am,” I replied.”I can see how much you’re rolling your eyes,” she said and laughed.
I’m not and have never been one for astrology, but for fun we pulled out Google. According to our friends at Wikipedia, “a Saturn return is an astrological transit that occurs when the planet Saturn returns to the same place in the sky that it occupied at the moment of a person’s birth,” approximately 29 years. Wikipedia continues, “Western astrologers believe that, as Saturn ‘returns’ to the degree in its orbit occupied at the time of birth, a person crosses over a major threshold and enters the next stage of life. With the first Saturn return, a person leaves youth behind and enters adulthood.”
Essentially, 29 can be thought of as a time when one finds a stronger footing in life and a greater sense of contentedness, free from the precariousness and lack of direction that accompanies youth.
Looking back at the 24 year old me, the one that laced up on a whim to drag his ass along the Kingston Waterfront toward the infamous Kingston Pen and back for four kilometres that I couldn’t run without stopping to walk, Saturn’s Return seems to have a very odd resonance, nonsensical as astrology remains. Of course, we also know that lack of direction doesn’t vanish in one’s late 20s.
Nonetheless, that resonance is there and can’t be divorced from running and from the community of runners in Toronto.
A community serves many purposes, one of the most noble being a devotion to the well being of all those who belong to it. When I returned to Toronto following graduate school in Kingston, defeated and directionless, my time on the course provided the first waves of confidence I had experienced in years.
From my first half marathon at the 2013 Scotia Toronto Waterfront Marathon right up until today’s race, every single race in this city has provided both a space to be accepted with all my blemishes and one to grow.
Charging up Spring Road hill. Yes, I am carrying a cardboard cutout of myself. Long story. Image courtesy of Tribe Fitness.
As I trudged along as a 2:30 half marathoner in all the wrong clothes and with none of the knowledge about fuelling, recovery, apparel, etc., my run crew at Tribe Fitness somehow always believed that I was something more. They believed that I was much faster before I became faster, that I should be far more confident before I felt I had reason to be confident. They were proud before I really achieved anything. And today, my happiest moment came when that same group that accepted me from the get-go greeted every runner on their way up Spring Road Hill. Being my birthday, I had the bonus of being gifted a cardboard cutout of myself at the bottom of the hill which I carried to the finish, eliciting some interesting looks from spectators.
Everyone who summited Spring Run Off’s notorious final climb up Spring Road was greeted by the good folks at Tribe Fitness, whose shouts of encouragement could be heard hundreds of yards away and signalled to every runner, right through to the final finishers, that their dash up that hill was worthy of recognition. Canada Running Series doesn’t just organize a race. They throw a party and bring the glowing spirit of this city’s running community to the forefront so that it spills into the life of every participant.
Among those runners was my very own dad, who ran the 5K on the day that followed the 15th anniversary of his heart attack. He ran some and walked some, but was still welcomed at this race with cheers and support and lauded like royalty. For him, I hope this race was a very tangible reminder of how damn far he’s come.
Dad bringing it home. Image courtesy of Tribe Fitness.
I don’t run for a living, I run for a better life, and I do so because the fathomless generosity of race organizers, volunteers, and my fellow runners. Like Saturn, I suppose I had to go very far and see a whole lot before I came back home but today I was reminded just how good a home I have.
April 7th, 2017
Earlier this week, we featured a discussion with Rachel Hannah
, the 30-year-old marathon phenom who already earned bronze at the Pan American Games on only her second marathon attempt. Next month, Hannah will toe the hallowed line at the Boston Marathon
, and she’s doing so after recovering from a painful foot injury. As a follow up to our previous discussion with this exciting young race star, we asked her to dive deeper into her injury and injury prevention.
Q) Take us to the beginning of your injury story. What happened and what did you have?
A) It started with Plantar Fasciitis (PF) on my right foot shortly after STWM 2016 and this was particularly bad during Nationals XC. I was able to mostly train through it after taking some scheduled down time in December and doing some extra cross training days if it was too painful to run on.
Q) What does that feel like and do you think the training with PF was a bad move?
A) PF feels worst first thing in the morning when getting out of bed and tends to feel better as the day goes on. The same thing with running, it tends to be sore when you first start out into your run but then feels better towards the end. Mileage runs and slower pace efforts were fine but doing anything faster and with less supportive shoes tended to flare it up. I don’t think it was a bad move to train through it since I was able to eventually get rid of it with proper strengthening and a change in my orthotics. But it might have resolved sooner though had I have taken at least a week or two off. At least I learned ways to make my feet stronger in the process to eventually recover from it without having to take too many days off.
Q) What adjustments did you have to make?
A) I learned the right activities to “load it” and get my foot stronger from Desmond Fung and I do these everyday for about 10-15 minutes. Jim Marando made me a new pair of orthotics that had more cushioning in the heel and encouraged my foot to land more on the outside of my foot to alleviate the pressure and help with the PF. Both of these adjustments helped it go away after about 3 1/2 months.
Q) Do you think the PF was a result of your running style? Where do you strike the ground and, importantly, where do you think us middle-of-the-pack folk should aim to land?
A) Yes, after a lot of thorough assessments of my alignment and running on a treadmill, Desmond figured out what was causing this. I was crossing over my mid line on the right side and landing harder on my right foot with every step. I tend to strike more towards my heel on the right side as a result of my form. My form was also related to a weaker glute muscle on the left side and tight adductor muscles on the left. I now do hip alignment drills and glute activation techniques before every run to make sure I am in the best possible alignment before I start my runs. It is best to try to land mid foot when possible and really try to toe off on every step to generate more power.
Q) In February, your PF went away, but it still wasn’t smooth sailing. Can you continue your story from there?
A) Yeah, after the PF went away almost immediately after I was completely pain free I had another issue start with my cuboid/ankle/subtalar joint area on the same foot. It was basically a tugging sensation when I ran fast and with a normal stride. It also hurt when walking normally. Again some cross training days spent pool running and lots of treatment with Desmond, Aly and Jim to figure out the issues.
Q) So again you sort of kept training through the pain? Is this advisable? I know it’s so hard to stop for all of us, but for an elite athlete like you it must be close to impossible.
A) I did continue to train through this one since I had NACAC XC fast approaching and it seemed to be getting better about a week before but there was still some pain and the worst during and after workouts. I would not advise to push through any pain that tends to hurt at night after a workout and feels worse the next day. Also, if it’s affecting the way you walk then you should cross train until pain free again. You would think I would have learned my lesson after all these years running but now I really do know when I can run through something and when I need to take time off.
Q) So to continue your story, you’re feeling a tugging sensation but now the Pan Am XC championships are approaching.
A) It got a bit better before NACAC XC so I still went, but my last workout on the Wednesday morning before we left did not go well and I was in pain. Right there I should have not gone on the trip to Florida, but I went anyways feeling hopeful that with a few days off it would go away. NACAC XC did not go well since I was running through pain and I learned a valuable lesson that day: listen to your body and don’t run through pain!
Q) I think that’s an important lesson for all runners to hear. How do you differentiate between the pain you ignore and the pain that actually makes you take off your sneakers?
A) A pain you can work through is one that tends to get better as you run and doesn’t flare up or get worse after the run and is not making you alter your stride or the way you walk in any way. Any pain should be properly assessed by a professional though to determine what is causing it and the best treatment plan to get stronger. Pain usually isn’t the best indicator of an injury that’s why it is important to reach out and get treatment right away. A pain that gets worse as you run or is sharp and makes you alter your stride or is very sore afterwards is one you should not ignore and should get treatment right away for. Cross train until the pain is gone and you can run normally.
Q) You must’ve been nervous with Boston fast-approaching and all these assorted ailments. What happened next, after the Pan Am XC?
A) I took a complete week off at the start of March and got lots of treatment to figure out the issues. My cross training included pool running, a bit of swimming, rowing and stair climbing either in my mom’s condo or on the stair climber machine at U of G. After a few adjustments from Jim to help with my cuboid and ongoing treatment with Desmond and a few sessions with Aly, I finally felt some relief and the tugging sensation went away. Then it was a matter of getting my foot stronger, moving properly and not overdoing it now that I could run again. I built back really slowly the first two weeks and would combine running with cross training right after for extra minutes. We were very cautious and it paid off.
Q) It seems like working with experts and taking it slow, you were able to rebuild and heal.
A) I have now had two weeks of regular Marathon training and am feeling strong. I still have some sensitivity in the muscles in my foot since they are still adapting and getting stronger. It has been over a month since I have not worn orthotics and I have been wearing them for over 5 years now. I will continue to get treatment 1-2 times a week and do my pre-run activation activities and strengthening drills for at least 30 minutes each day.
Q) Now that we understand the physical, can you talk a little about the mental anguish that all runners can relate to—that feeling of missing a run, breaking your program and falling behind?
A) I never gave up during this process and kept a positive attitude. I cross trained very hard and put in extra minutes since that is what is needed to replicate running. This injury taught me the importance of resiliency when faced with a setback like this in my Marathon build leading up to Boston. I also learned that fitness doesn’t disappear overnight and that injuries often lead us to figuring out areas of weakness and the things to do to get stronger. So take time off and cross train hard if needed when faced with injury and find the right professionals to help you along the way to get back to pain free running!
Q) Good luck in Boston, Rachel. Can you leave us with your final take away?
A) The hardest situations teach us the most valuable lessons in the end.
April 5th, 2017
I have quite enjoyed journalling for iRun.ca while at the High Altitude Training Centre in Iten, Kenya. Here’s a list (with links) of my seven “diaries”, including this final one.
“My Worthwhile Struggle of Daring to Dream”
Arrival to the HATC. Days 1-3. March 7-9.
Volume II “Landing on Solid Ground”.
The HATC Facility. Days 4-6. March 10-12.
Volume III “Eating on the Run”.
The HATC Food. Days 7-9. March 13-15.
Volume IV “The People, Places and Faces”.
The Kenyan People. Days 10-13. March 16-19.
Volume V “Running Down a Dream”.
Friendships with the HATC People. Days 14-17. March 20-23.
Volume VI “The Big One”.
The Training. Days 18-21. March 24-27.
Volume VII “The Finale”
Departure from the HATC. Days 22-30. March 28-Apr 5.
Highlights of my final 9 days:
Day 22. Took a matatu with Bekele to do a tempo with Tarah on the tarmac road. Had some chai tea at her home afterwards. Pizza was served for dinner!
|The pizza was definitely a food highlight of my entire 4 week stay. Loaded with vegetables, pineapple and meat…it was so delicious. You can tell that everyone was excited!
Day 23 FaceTimed with my son on his 9th birthday. Easy afternoon run with Lynn and Tarah then had mango-carrot juice with them at the club afterward.
Day 24 Did 25 x 1’/1′ fartlek on Lornah’s track with Bekele. Julia and George also did workouts. Picked up the kids’ bracelets from Johanna’s, “Olympics Corner“.
Day 25 Had my first fall due to some heavy legs. Fortunately just a few scrapes to my hands.
Day 26 Last long run with the group. Did 10 km easy then 26 km to Eldoret. Didn’t have a set pace plan and was pleased with how my body naturally progressed along the way for the 36 km total. Breakfast at the club, massage, trip to the Kerio View and incredible fish for dinner!
Day 27 Rest day. Went to the club for masala teas and mango juices as a send-off for Manuela and Frank.
|They are fun, outgoing, supportive and welcoming to everyone!
|Looking forward to running with you again, Manuela. Hopefully we can line up some marathons together. #2016Olympians #KenyanBFFs
Day 28 Met Emmet and George at 6:20 for a run along the fartlek loop. I added on a few at the end to make 23 km then met them and Jayson and Ken for breakfast at 8:30. Later in the afternoon I did 13 km, my last core class and some stretching.
Day 29 This morning Jayson, Ken, George, Emmet, Bekele and I did a workout at the new track. George joined me with Bekele pacing us through 4 x 1 mile repeats with 2 easy laps between sets. I had my last massage at 2:00 pm with Dan then met Tarah. I gave her my shoes and clothing and we had a nice chat and drink at the club before saying goodbye. Finished packing my belongings.
|Tarah had the shoes and clothing clean and drying later that day.
|I survived by washing my clothes in the shower or in the buckets with detergent but suggested she give them a proper wash, in her washing machine, before distributing them to the athletes at the Transcend Running Academy.
Day 30 My final day. I decided I was going to run whenever I was up and ready, which happened to be at 5:50 am. I could have joined the group a bit later but thought it would be nice to take in my last run, solo. I took my headlamp and phone, taking pictures along the way and enjoying the beautiful sunrise. Many other runners were also out, rising with the sun. I had breakfast with the group, said goodbye then started my long journey home.
Running as the sun rises-definitely a highlight of my trip.
|Many fall in love with the chapati in Kenya and plan to make it upon their return home. For me, it was the chai tea at Wesley’s parents’ in Charangany, and the tea masala. Perhaps Steve, my brother-in-law with The Black Peppercorn could create a recipe for me. This picture was taken at the “Java House” where many people kill time while waiting to enter the airport.
My last of four weeks at the HATC seemed to be slow, particularly because I ran out of topics to write about! My husband suggested I go through the 500+ pictures from our 2016 Rio Olympic experience and/or write more about the HATC people I met, including where they were from, how they got there, and why. So at breakfast I passed around a pen and piece of paper and got some more writing material. I figured I could save the picture-sorting for my long (door to door = 36 hours) travel home.
While at the HATC I wrote down the countries represented by the people who were here during my stay. I decided to go with residencem but if that country was already on my list, I included citizenship. As of April 3, the total was 28.
We believe there were seven from the 2016 Rio Olympics:
Poland – female 1500 m finalist, male steeplechase
Turkey – female steeplechase, male steeplechase, male 5000 m
Belgium – female marathon
Canada – female marathon
Many people arrived alone whereas others were together in groups of 3 or more: Israel, Turkey, Poland, England.
In my final week, the Purosangue Athletics Club arrived. From their website, “Purosangue is an international project of Supportive Running, active in Italy and Africa since 2011, spreading the culture of clean and social sports. It collaborates with associations, companies, institutions, sports events and athletes by promoting a new vision of running. Purosangue is also a sports club and has several training camps in Italy and Africa.”
The further removed I am becoming from the High Altitude Training Camp in Iten, Kenya, the more I will be able to appreciate, savour and be incredibly shameful for this amazing month. Similar to my return from the Olympics, I won’t be able to answer the simple question, “So, how was it?”
So here’s a taste of what I loved about the whole experience, the smell of freshly baked buns, the massage oil, and a sparkly clean room.The sound of birds, chickens and cows in the morning, Kenyan music, and the staff singing quietly to themselves while working. The taste of chai and masala teas, cold mango juice, three fish dishes, one pizza dinner, and three club breakfasts after returning from our long progressive runs to Eldoret.The sight of the Rift Valley, morning sunrise, people walking everywhere, and children walking to school or running alongside us in flip flops or winter coats while carrying backpacks.The feel of the soft red dirt roads, and a hot shower and clean sheets after a hard training day.
Sharing mangos and avocados at mealtimes.
The friendships made, particularly with my “Kenyan BFF” and fellow 2016 Olympian, Manuela Soccol from Belgium.
Seeing in person and better understanding Tarah’s life and the work of the Kenyan Kids Foundation.
Visiting Wesley’s home village of Cherangany in rural Kenya. Texting my husband at the beginning of my day and end of his, always feeling in touch with home. FaceTiming with the kids while out and about, showing them the people and scenes along the way. Learning from SpeedRiver and Coach Dave Scott-Thomas particularly succeeding in easing into training while at altitude, maintaining an easy pace on recovery days, and running more by feel in hard efforts. Lastly, living a month to train for a personal best at altitude in an amazing country with wonderful people while being completely supported by my #TeamDuChene at home.
April 3rd, 2017
JP’s Team is a collection of more than 2,000 runners across North America running to raise awareness and funds in support of services for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Led by 2014 Canadian Runner of the Year Jean-Paul Bedard, JP’s Team is incredibly diverse in terms of age, experience, and ability. Many members are therefore naturally inspired by one of the most atypical runners we’ve perhaps ever seen, Canadian legend Ed Whitlock.
Ed passed away in March at the age of 86, only a few months after setting a new world record for fastest marathon for the 85-90 age group at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.
JP’s Team pays tribute to Ed Whitlock at Toronto’s Mount Pleasant Cemetery. Photo credit: Cathy Vandergeest.
Members of JP’s Team came together this past weekend to honour Mr. Whitlock with a run around Toronto’s Mount Pleasant Cemetery. Ed famously did all his training runs around a cemetery located near his home in Milton, Ontario, famously remarking, “You know you’re in better shape than everyone around you.” JP’s Team was kind enough to let us share some pictures from the run along with some remembrances of Ed from team members.
“I think running and competing were Ed’s fountain of youth. I was on the sidelines of the 2016 Toronto Waterfront Marathon when he crossed the finish line. There wasn’t a person there that didn’t have goosebumps from seeing that huge smile on his face. There was absolutely no age in that smile–just pure joy.” – Cathy Vandergeest
“He proved that age is just a number and that the only limits we have are self imposed. He showed you don’t need to have the latest gear and fancy gadgets to be a runner. He was humble and did it for the love of the sport. I’m sure we all expected him to be around forever. I think I’m still in shock.” – Melinda Ciffolillo
Photo Credit: Cathy Vandergeest
“When I did my first 5k at over 40, Ed was one of the first people I looked up to. I’m still at the back of the pack, but I still enter races. I’ll never win a race, but I still finish them with my head held high. Ed taught me that just because you are aging means nothing if you have the ability to put your heart into something you believe in.” – Mike Holliday
“To me he was the epitome of running happy! He always had a smile on his face.” – Johanna Lopez
Photo Credit: Petja Taivassalo
“I saw Ed a few times over the past few years and was always in awe of his physicality first and foremost, but also of the aura that seemed to surround him. He had an air of calm and humility that made you feel like you were in the presence of something special. I’m disappointed that I was always too shy to say anything to him. Running today was my way of letting him know what an inspiration he was to me. I didn’t start running until my forties so it was always encouraging to see him keep going. May he rest in peace and long be remembered.” – Nancy Brooks
– Ravi Singh