Caroline Bolduc is a respiratory therapist at St. Joe’s Hospital and she spent her pandemic on the frontlines. Working 12-hour shifts in an ICU, Bolduc saw the ravages of COVID-19 up close and during this period she saw her running transform—no longer was it about qualifying for Boston or hitting a PB, she was running for her mental health.
“It can be a kind of meditation for me,” says the marathon runner, who trains in Toronto with BlackToe Running, owned by Mike and Maya Anderson. “My running is sometimes just a hard workout with great music or else it becomes something different, like a chance to process what I’ve seen during the last couple of days.”
Bolduc began her training with BlackToe when she was new to the sport and appreciated her Tuesday night practices. She says she felt herself getting faster, but also began making deep connections—to running, and to her teammates.
“It’s like a secret club, except everyone’s welcome,” she says. “You find these people who love running as much as you do and suddenly, you’re all training for a goal together and helping each other out, and it’s like you find a family.”
That family notion is important to Mike Anderson, who opened the store with his wife in 2013 and often runs with his son, who sometimes delivers packages for his shop with Good Foot Delivery. Last year, Bolduc began running in HOKA ONE ONE shoes and felt an instant connection—the shoes were comfortable and light and, Bolduc found, they were great for competing in marathons and working long shifts. They fit great and are priced fairly and, when Anderson heard about Bolduc’s profession and that she was wearing the HOKA shoes both to race in and to help people, he felt compelled to help out. He donated 30 pairs of HOKA shoes to St. Joe’s.
“The most important thing for us is seeing that people stay connected to one another and it’s big for Maya and I that we make a difference in our community,” says Anderson, who helped organize a trip to Kenya with BlackToe runners and has been very involved with the local race scene.
The BlackToe crew is tight and supportive, but make no mistake, they’re also bent on posting fast times. The team cheers for each other and supports one another and, Caroline Bolduc says, just like her team, she’s come to depend on her shoes. “I like the Bondi 7 for long runs, but I also wear them on shifts because they’re supportive and cushiony,” says the runner, currently preparing to dip below three-hours at the Erie Marathon in September. “I recently got the Carbon X and it’s been a nice shoe for tempo work. I’m serious about my race goals and the Carbon shoes are a great addition to my shoe obsession—I can’t wait to wear them on the line!”
The feeling of being unleashed is obviously affecting all of us as the school year ends and restrictions subside as second shots begin happening around the country. At BlackToe Running, Anderson has already invited runners at limited capacity back into his store and had social distanced cohorts for his run groups. It’s a testament to the bond between teammates that the group still remains.
“I’ve been proud of the way our team is handling the restrictions and we’ve gone out of our way to follow the rules,” says Anderson, who felt his love for his sport and his team only grow during the long pandemic months. “During everything that’s happened, I’ve felt strongly that running and a close-knit community is important for our mental health and it makes me proud that we’ve been able to give that to our team.”