Tom Power is a musician and radio broadcaster in one of the most visible roles in Canada media, the host of the CBC flagship art’s show, q. Power, who is 33 and from St. John’s and now lives—and runs—in Toronto, was moved by the feedback he earned when voicing his initiation into our sport. “I received something like 300 responses when I sent my first running Tweet,” marvelled Power, recently from his home. “I was just blown away by this community.” Ben Kaplan spoke to the runner-in-training for the Telly 10-Miler this August (whether or not the event will be virtual, remains to be seen).
Tom Power: You interviewing me about running is a lot like Mozart interviewing a kid learning Chopsticks. I’m not good.
Ben Kaplan: But that’s what makes you so endearing—you’re the Everyman runner, and we need more of that in our sport. You stoke joy.
TP: Five years ago I was on Reddit and learning about the “Couch to 5K.” I wasn’t feeling great about my body and the way I looked and I spent nine weeks on the treadmill, and I did my 5K. And then I stopped.
BK: That totally happens. You put so much on a goal and then when that goal is accomplished, it’s like—beautiful. I’m finished. Now I never have to do that again.
TP: Psychologically, I just was like, ‘Great, now I can’t stop thinking about it.’
BK: So what made you dust off the shoes again?
TP: Hypochondria, at the beginning of COVID. I got nervous about my lungs and my general health. I was ready to start running again.
BK: And this time it’s stuck?
TP: This time, it wasn’t about looking a certain way. It was about wanting to be in shape. We’re all under immense stress and I knew running could help.
BK: Of course, being at CBC, you’re in cahoots with our running friend, Matt Galloway.
TP: Oh, yeah, and when I talked to him about it, he was, ‘Of course, you have to lace up.’ He was sweet and encouraging, so I put on my sneakers and went to a little track up the road from my house.
BK: It can be hard, taking those first few steps.
TP: I was sorta ‘good enough.’ I started out walking a minute, running a minute. I just found my old sneakers from five years ago, and grabbed an old pair of shorts and an old T-shirt, from when I went to Spin classes.
BK: I find this so refreshing to hear because sometimes, me and my running cronies, obsess over the latest sneakers and watches and gadgetry and forget how simple the sport can be.
TP: I don’t want to disappoint you, but I have gotten more gear since I started. My sneakers haven’t changed, but my shorts changed, and I did get a watch eventually, over time.
BK: So what’s different this time, pandemic notwithstanding? How will you make running stick?
TP: I’m more forgiving with myself. Like I said, vanity was driving my first time out, but this time that’s not a motivator. I now have a better sense of my self-worth and have worked a lot mentally, through therapy, and overall I’ve just gotten myself to an OK place.
BK: Do you run a lot?
TP: A half hour three times a week, and I think maybe because of that 30 minutes, I might be doing OK at this lockdown. I like the feeling. Of course, I’d be lying if I said I like the feeling of being out there all the time. Matt says that once you get past 40 minutes, it feels incredible. I’m not there yet. I’m huffing and puffing at 30, 35 minutes. But I keep going. I like getting outside.
BK: I swear to God I’ve been running seriously for probably the last 20 years and I can’t remember a time when it’s ever felt absolutely so essential to my overall mental health.
TP: I really like what it’s done for my mental health. In September, I stopped again. I don’t know what happened, but it was getting a bit cold and so I started taking long walks, but I’d see other people running and wished I was going faster. It was like my body needed to get something out.
BK: I absolutely had that feeling when I first started running. It’s like you unleash this secret power.
TP: That’s it. And it was like I didn’t have a choice anymore. I restarted my running and I’ve been back at it ever since.
BK: So where are you at now? What’s the plan to keep running for the holidays and the ghastly grey February mornings?
TP: I have breaking news for you here—I bought a cheapo $300 treadmill off Kijiji. I went to a guy’s house in Vaughan. We were masked up and I tore the walls up in my apartment getting this thing down the stairs, but now I’m set for the winter.
BK: Do you like treadmill running?
TP: It sucks.
TP: It’s just not as good as running outside. It’s boring, so I’m trying to get out as much as possible while the weather’s still nice, but I have this problem, and it has nothing to do with masculinity or body image, but I’m not one for the tights. They keep falling down.
BK: Dude, they’re probably the wrong size.
TP: I was nervous to buy them and the store where I bought them from, the guy wasn’t nice about it. He wasn’t incredibly encouraging, so maybe they are sized wrong. I know I have to get the gear in order to keep doing this through the winter.
BK: I understand you have a running goal.
TP: Every August in St. John’s, there’s the Telly 10 Mile race, and it’s a real community event. When I was young, everybody knew somebody who was running in it, and I’d walk the streets eating a slice of pizza—watching it. I’ve always wanted to do it.
BK: That’s a great goal.
TP: I don’t know. I can’t seem to get past 5K.
BK: Have you done 5.3K?
BK: So that’s the way, just a little bit further every three weeks. And maybe go a little bit slower when you know you’re trying to break new ground in terms of total distance. You can do this.
TP: The running community has been incredibly encouraging and I’ve made some really good running playlists. Songs with 180-beats-per-minute, like The Middle by Jimmy Eats World is exactly my running pace.
BK: That’s a great running song. Can you take us out of here with just one last story about the love you’ve received from our community?
TP: It’s not a great sign when you doing any kind of physical fitness becomes the news.
BK: It’s because people love you.
TP: The expectations around me, are like: ‘Really, running? This guy?’
TP: It’s been overwhelming. From professional runners and Olympians to all these people around the country that run, people have been encouraging and helpful.
BK: I love that.
TP: It’s funny because there was a time when I thought this community was scary. I’d go for a walk to get a beer and 40 runners would run past me and I’d get scared, but it’s been cool seeing how warm and wonderful and welcoming the community is.
BK: Well, we’re glad to have you in our community and wish you all the best, and will be cheering you on as you get ready for your big race.
TP: Thanks, man. And thanks to all the runners. You know, I often hate getting out and sometimes even hate being out there, but I never regret having done it. I guess I’m learning the appeal of the sport.