There are just so many great running products that making a Gift Guide is a joy. What if money was no object and you could advise your friends on the very best of everything, what would it be? What follows is a selection of products I can vouch for from companies I love that are guaranteed to make your running life better. Is there a runner in your life you want to make happy? Feel like charging up a few things for yourself? As ever, we’d advise you to shop local and independent and, as always, we’re wishing you and yours the very best for the holidays and beyond—long may you run.
ASICS, METASPEED Sky
In the battle of the extraordinary shoes we’ve tested none have come close to the METASPEED Sky. It’s explained that the design is built to keep cadence consistent as a runner lengthens their stride at increased speeds and that could be, thanks to midsole foam and the propulsive carbon plate. After years of reviewing sneakers, I still find it hard to comprehend the technical jargon. However, after running in the METASPEED Sky, especially at the tail end of a long run when it becomes hard to maintain pace, the METASPEED Sky feels like a different animal. At $325, this is a serious sneaker but, if you’re traveling to a race or have your eye on a 2023 PB, this is the shoe we’d recommend (only for someone you really, really love). Get it here, and run quickly.
Athleta, Rainer Tight
The sports line from the Gap is increasingly becoming more popular and, priced right and durable, stylish and warm, pictured above, their winter tights in choice brilliant colours, seem like a perfect gift for the cold-weather runner you love. Keep an eye on this line, and watch for sales—the Gap obviously knows something about merchandising, and comfort.
Canada Running Series
Inarguably the country’s largest race company—with events from Montreal to Vancouver, the Zoo in Toronto to the East Side 10K—CRS gave a home to everyone from Ed Whitlock, pictured below, to Lanni Marchant and continues to set the stage for Malindi Elmore to set records. There’s a half in Montreal in April and the world-famous spring run off that same month in Toronto’s High Park. Find your next favourite race, right here.
Catelli Smart Pasta
After discovering this brand at the Toronto Marathon, the gluten-free, fibre-enhanced penne and vermicelli have become part of my race weekend tradition. Barilla, an Italian-based company, purchased the Canadian brand in February and promised to invest a billion-dollars into pasta production, sites and acquisitions. It’s nice to see something good get rewarded, plus their director of marketing is a marathon runner! Check them out, right here.
Chilly Half Marathon
You’re buying all of this running gear but, without races, that very beautiful pair of gloves you just purchased will basically collect dust in a drawer. Nothing like an early season race on your calendar to ensure that your run stuff doesn’t get mothballed. All of Ontario comes out for the Chilly, and who doesn’t love Kelly Arnott? Get a bib here for March 5, before it’s too late.
COROS, Apex 2 Pro
With a heart sensor and improved GPS antenna, this durable, attractive new COROS watch has a sapphire glass screen and grade 5 titanium outer layer shell, making your wrist-rocket practically unbreakable. Simple to use and excellent in any weather, the Apex 2 Pro is reliable, accurate, water-resistant and attractive. And a special bonus for winter: the large digital dial is easy to use with gloves.
Decathlon Canada, everything
If you haven’t shopped Decathlon, the big European sporting goods store making waves across the country, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Excellent prices, terrific quality and superior customer service, even the great Olympian Reid Coolsaet wears their socks, makes Decathlon a no-brainer to recommend. Everything from camping gear to running shoes to backpacks, make your first shopping stop Decathlon—then take on the holidays from there.
Genuine Health, Deep Sleep
Arguably the single biggest game changer of my 2022, this light, mushroom-based sleep aid is effective without being jarring; the capsules somehow usher in sleep without leaving you drowsy the next day and almost create a psychosomatic, non-addictive cornerstone element of your bedtime routine. Without rest, even sneakers with motors can’t help. Get it here, and you’ll thank us.
It takes a while to get the hang of the recipe delivery service but, once you do, you’ll see it’s a game changer. My 11-year-old got to the point where, when we didn’t have it for dinner, she was mad at me. Surprise yourself and your family with nutritious, delicious, and, most importantly, easy to make recipes, like the Beef Taco Flatbreads my kids love. Click this, and eat well.
New Balance, Impact Run Heat Jacket
Wind-resistant, lightweight fabric is woven and warm with a dropped rear hem. Dressing for the cold is hard—you don’t want to be too chilly or too warm—and this jacket by New Balance, with zippered pockets and a hood, seems to get it just right. At $143.99, it also looks sharp and won’t break the bank.
The Ironman finisher, Sportstats president Marc Roy, pictured above, swears by this post-training air compression system and, given their unusual look, we were wary. However, at Mr. Roy’s home following the Ottawa Marathon, after being scrapped off the road, we understood what he meant. If you have big goals for 2023, big recovery will be essential. Nothing works like NormaTec. Trust us: we believe.
It’s as if I never really knew what shoes felt like until I wore them on the Peloton Tread. Much different then running on the roads—and, be careful, equally addictive—the Peloton Tread, with their animated instructors and, let’s face it, opportunity to not go outside, is fun, sturdy and easy to use. It integrates with Strava and has yoga, classes and workouts, plus training plans at all distances. Honestly? I never used a Peloton before this month. Honestly? I’ll never not use one again. Try it, you’ll see.
Quebec City Beneva Marathon
Hard to say what the country’s best race is. That’s like saying what’s our best city. However, the answer is probably Quebec City, which makes this race absolutely essential to any runner in Canada. It kicks off September 29 so there’s time to plan. But trust us. There’s no course more beautiful, or nowhere better for your after-race beer.
Beer and running go together like chafing and vaseline but, what if you could enjoy that sensation without the hangover? Rally Beer, founded by two Canadian athletes, make light IPAs and non-alcoholic Pale Ales that give you the reward of a job well done without the punishment of too much imbibing. The Canadian company is growing and well worth your while at your run club’s holiday bash. Drink it up, here.
Rideau Canal Skateway 15.6K Virtual Challenge
With in-person racing’s triumphant return, let us not forget the communal, cross-country fun of a nationwide virtual run. The Rideau Canal in Ottawa is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the finest skating rinks in the world. But it’s in Ottawa. For everyone else, this virtual event—which can be run, walked or, indeed, skated—is a great way to stay ice skate sharp this winter. Check it out, and challenge your family and friends, here.
Running While Black by Alison Mariella Desir
Probably the buzziest running book of the season and a must-read for anyone interested in not just split times, but how the times have to change. An entry in Sasha’s Stories, iRun’s new book club hosted by the great Sasha Gollish, please read Alison and let us know what you learn.
Saucony, Endorphin Pro 3
The shoes I wore in my best race this year, the Endorphin Pro 3 is light, with a thick stack of foam cushioning, of course the carbon-plate, and the overall spring and pop of a child’s bouncy ball. Also a beautiful-looking shoe, a Lamborghini, and the kind of shoe you put on that just makes you want to move. I saw a lot of these in Hamilton. A really, really fine shoe.
Servus Calgary Marathon
The longest running distant event in the country returns this May with a new title sponsor and that great Western energy making this monster marathon—with everything from a kid’s race to a 50K—perfect for locals and a smart destination race for everyone else. See you there on May 28? For your bib, before the prices increase, click here.
Sunglasses by Marsquest
At the TCS Waterfront Marathon, plenty of companies had fantastic booths, but none generated the excitement of Marsquest, a Canadian sunglasses company with energy, and great styles, to burn. Their shades are affordable and functional and won’t make you look like a volleyball from the 1980s on your next winter run.
Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend
The largest race in the country, judging from the excitement around the Waterfront Marathon in Toronto, there’s no way that the party this spring won’t be in our nation’s capital (presided over by Ottawa’s new Mayor, Mark Sutcliffe, founder of iRun). If you haven’t run this event—which features the 10K Canadian Championships in addition to races at every distance, plus kid’s runs—this is your year, as the post-pandemic energy is making our sport explode. Get your Ottawa race bib, right here.
The Toronto Marathon
It’s a fast spring race in downtown Toronto and there’s a reason why Kathrine Switzer comes every year—Canada’s first big spring race is a hometown party, with great crowd support, massive medals and a course designed for your next PB (I still haven’t bested my time from 2017). With the Mississauga Marathon moving to the half marathon distance, their website already crashed with excited new registrants. The run is May 7, and here’s where to sign up.
Tracksmith, at BlackToe Running
Let’s say you’re a serious runner but also, on occasion, you care how you look. With respect to Lululemon, no one makes prettier clothing then Tracksmith. Now, through a partnership with the mighty BlackToe, you can get the Boston-based clothier in Toronto. Do you need a $100 singlet? Probably not. But as my 9-year-old said, the holidays are about what you want, not what you need.
Under Armour Base Layers
Continually making the best running clothing—and improving their high-end shoes every quarter—the Under Armour base layers for winter are affordable, durable, form-fitting, and able to sustain multiple washings after multiple years (I still have UA clothing from 2015). Watch for Under Armour in 2023.