Every runner has it: the moment something clicked in and we realized that running was going to become something that stayed part of our life. Because it’s one thing to run a few blocks and try a 10K once to fundraise, but something else entirely when you plan vacations around races and have more sneakers than dress shoes. “I started running as a way to get back in shape and as a stress relief. I started to love my short runs, and realized I loved the “runner’s high.” I completed my first 5km race and realized I wanted to run longer distances. I got hooked on running competitively and was utterly shocked I could run 21km,” says Joanne Merritt, pictured below, an Ottawa-based runner. “Next on my bucket list was a marathon, and since then I got hooked on marathon running and I never looked back. Running gets in your soul and it’s something that becomes a part of you.“
Joanne’s evolution—from 5K experiment to full-time marathon addict—matches the pattern of many runners, including my own. I started running looking to make a lifestyle adjustment and, taking to it during the Ontario winter, my buddy told me how much more I’d enjoy it when I didn’t have to wear two pairs of gloves. I ran a 10K, then half-marathon, 30K Around the Bay, and finally crossed the finish line at my first marathon: I remember being so sore afterwards that I couldn’t bend my legs.
But I was hooked. That was 2010 and I haven’t looked back.
“It was 20 years ago that I fell in love and I remember that day vividly. I was running up the hill to get back home, and it was my first time running 40 minutes non-stop. All of a sudden, I was overwhelmed by a feeling of joy—the sun seemed brighter, the sky bluer, and I knew then, that I couldn’t go back,” says Sylvie Michaud, a runner in Gagnon, Quebec. “I would be running for the rest of my life and, once in a while, that wonderful feeling is there again. Running makes me who I am.”
It’s amazing how many of us, outside the elites, find our identities in our running. We post pictures on our social media feeds and eat spaghetti the night before races; we listen to theme from Rocky during training and have a special relationship with Terry Fox. Bagels, bananas, even music—all of these things have taken on new meaning since we first laced up our shoes. We run for our mental health, to get exercise, to get out of the house, to find peace, to feel satisfied, and we run as part of our community.
The relationships we form in our sneakers keep so many of us coming back out to races and training again and again. I must know two dozen people who met their spouse through our sport. And for some of us, it’s the shared interaction with a loved one that’s best.
“Wasn’t any of my races when I first fell in love, it was when my wife finished her first 5K, and we finished together. She took it all in and said, I could get used to this,” says Jon Yu, pictured at the top, who runs with his wife and baby in Toronto. “I loved that feeling that she discovered that she could accomplish more than she thought. Realized we both could.”
I know this story is starting to get long but I just love hearing people’s first times. “I started running almost 21 years ago. I had three surgeries in less than two years and was worried I wouldn’t get to live to watch my children grow up,” says Dean Moratz. “So I signed up for my first 5K one month after my third surgery alongside my wife and I have run regularly ever since. I have completed seventeen marathons and running has been a huge benefit to both my physical and mental wellbeing.”
Running has given all of us so much: an outlet, a hobby, an adventure, a chance to meet people, be healthy, and see the world. Let us know what it was that made you fall in love with our sport.