The official magazine of iRunNation

RUNNING DOWN A DREAM

 Jamal Burger and The Kickback

Aren’t Waiting for Change—

They’re Making Change Happen

Right Now    

There’s a lot of power in sneakers and Jamal Burger, a 27-year-old from Regent Park, knows this better than most. The Kickback, his non-profit organization that started in the neighbourhood where he’s from and has quickly expanded, began with distributing new or slightly worn shoes to local kids with unequal opportunities. Footwear, as runners all know, provide a function, but also provide something richer: confidence.

 

“When I was a kid, you needed shoes to play basketball or to go to Catholic high school, but these things cost money and when you grow up and your mom’s job isn’t paying enough to help you present yourself in the way that you want, you take the opportunity that’s presented to you—almost like a trap,” says Burger, a photographer, youth worker and entrepreneur, who has made community service and education twin pillars in his own pursuit of success. Citing systemic racism in Regent Park and areas like it, plus an unfair judicial system, entrenched poverty and a lack of resources to explain pitfalls occurring in his community, Burger wanted better for his neighbourhood.

To disrupt the cycle, he distributed sneakers, and added an understanding of the business behind marketing shoes, designing them,

owning your own company and feeling opportunistic about your place in the world.

It all began with a new pair of shoes.

“Shoes are an identity piece that speaks for itself—it lets people know your sense of style and can also provide access and opportunities,” says Burger, who, along with Macaulay Madrigal, began a run club in 2018 that brought scores of new runners from the underserved downtown communities to the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon and the Lululemon 10K. “Human beings are designed to pursue what we believe in and when I’m helping others I believe I’m helping myself because I don’t want to wait for change to happen. I want to give you a template to address the things we need the most, right now.”

By Ben Kaplan 

Photographs by Anthony Nusca 

Most recently, this has included ASICS, who has been a strong supporter since the beginning of 2020. Jamal has

strong opinions that he isn’t afraid to clearly express.

 

“Everyone wants to make their lives better, but when you don’t have guidance or opportunities that leads to rash decision making and the police system is waiting for us, which makes it ten-times more likely we won’t get hired for that new job,” says Burger, who runs monthly programs in his community, adding that his greatest success is that the programs can now be run without him—he’s

built something that’s

sustainable with other

people taking over

his lead. 

Talking to Burger—especially right now during the pandemic with bad news and fear dominating our emotions—is an exercise in hope and power. A young guy with a thriving business (in 2017, he started tier0 with one of his best friends, a strategy, production and design firm), Burger works equally as hard on his own career as he does in bettering lives in the place where he comes from. Industrywide, he’s a collaborator, and he works hard to bring outside companies to work with his community.

I’ve been suspended from school and I've seen people get arrested... and how all of these things suppress the endless potential and beauty of what I see in the place, and places like, where I’m from.

Running wasn’t something that Burger was expecting to love, but he’s found the act of moving quickly through space empowering and has connected with both the sport and the culture. He thinks running, like sneakers, helps provide an opportunity that every life should afford.    

THE LONG RUN

JAMAL BURGER

“I love the feeling of running and the people it’s introduced me to, I’m just trying not to do too much too fast because that’s what gets me in trouble,” says Burger with a laugh, adding that ASICS has provided more than 200 pairs of new running shoes to the Kickback's two-year-old run club and that he looks forward to bringing the crew back together whenever races in the city can open again. In the meantime, Burger continues to empower the people he works with and leaving a legacy well beyond his 27 years. He says, despite the challenges, he’s excited about what the future will bring. 

 

“Paying things forward comes down to a frame of mind and everyone benefits by understanding what the world needs most,” he says. “Growing up in Regent Park and now seeing the kids that are there, I think it’s really up to all of us to create change at a local level. Everyone’s busy and I understand that, but I think it benefits everybody when we help everybody work together to get ahead in the world.”   

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Patty Hajdu oversees

the Department of Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada and we asked her about what’s coming next with the pandemic

The Minister of Health on COVID-19

There’s something reassuring that the top Canadian health officials, Dr. Theresa Tam and the Honourable Patty Hajdu, have both run marathons. As runners, we should all feel good that our leaders hail from our community

and that our most important characteristics—determination, discipline, ambition and will—are shared with the health officials steering our country through an unprecedented time. Ben Kaplan, editor of iRun, spoke to

Ms. Hajdu on October 21. 

iRun: You know more than almost anyone else in this country about the novel coronavirus. What’s coming next for Canada and the world? 

PH: That’s the most common question I get asked. 

 

iRun: Please tell me the end—not the end of times but the end of this pandemic—is near. 

PH: Obviously our scientists and researchers are trying hard to figure out what happens next and I think there has been some good developments on the vaccine front. Canadian scientists, and scientists around the world, are optimistic that vaccines will be effective and become another tool in our toolbelt.

iRun: What’s the biggest challenge with combatting COVID-19? 

PH: We know a lot. But as we learn new things, new things happen.

iRun: What’s the current state of our world? 

PH: Canada is doing OK. We had tough times in the spring, but we learned a lot in that time and the lessons we learned are helping us manage the second surge. I think with regards to hospitalization and death, Canada is doing a better job now in protecting people—especially vulnerable people—who become infected with COVID-19.  

 

iRun: Are there any signs that make you able to say that we’re in better shape now than we were and the future looks bright and rosy? 

PH: Everyone wants to think that but there’s still so much we don’t know about the virus.

The Minister of Health on COVID-19 continued below.

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The Minister of Health on COVID-19, cont.

iRun: What causes you concern? 

PH: We still don’t know the long-term impact of COVID-19 on the effect of people who become infected and the scary thing is that evidence is still emerging, so we just have to be as cautious as possible. I don’t think anyone should take COVID lightly—a lot of people do get it and recover just fine, but there’s so much we don’t know. 

iRun: It sometimes feels like we’re living in the Twilight Zone or an episode of the Leftovers

PH: It feels like we’ve been living this for forever, but we haven’t really. It’s been under a year and the novel coronavirus is a new pathogen. We have a lot to learn and yes, there’s good signs: hospitalization rates and death rates are going down, but it’s no less of a serious illness.

 

iRun: Can my kids go out for Halloween?   

PH: Dr. Tam said it’s best to follow your local public health advice. There’s no better source for on the ground assessments of infection rates than your local health officers. I’m in Ottawa, and Dr. Etches asked us not to go door to door on Halloween, but there are other places across the country with little or no COVID-19 where medical officers believe it’s OK to go safely outside. But my overarching message is that there will always be national guidance, but listen to your local public health measures—those will be the best recommendations for you to follow. 

 

iRun: What sort of guidelines are you personally following? 

PH: Everyone has their own risk tolerance and everyone knows certain things that I’m doing and I know most of us are: wash your hands; stay home when you’re sick; stay six feet apart, especially indoors and wear a mask when you’re in close quarters. Certainly we know that if we’re in a crowded place, there’s an elevated risk of spreading the disease so I always wear a mask and personally, I’m not comfortable eating in a restaurant, especially a small restaurant, even if the tables

are distanced. 

Insurance Made Easy

Presented by Winston L. Cook

President of Henley Financial and Wealth Management Inc.


 

     When Winston Cook  thinks of the running community he often thinks  about how successful and disciplined these individuals must be to create a goal and achieve the successes they have set for themselves. A runner who achieves success always has a plan in place but to achieve their end goal they must follow that plan.  Much like aiming towards financial success more than simply investing you must have a solid financial plan.  Insurance protection is of utmost importance in your financial plan.

 

Insurance Misconceptions: 

  • It’s not a topic I want to think about. 

  • It seems difficult to get.

  • It’s too expensive. 

     Protecting your loved ones, and everything you’ve worked so hard for is an essential component of your financial plan. And now, more than ever, insurance is changing. Getting the protection you need is faster and easier than you may expect. Insurance is and always has been priced on one's immediate health and age - I cannot think of a better community that fits the health requirements than the running community. 

 

Applications have never been more straightforward and convenient with the addition of:

  • Non-Medical requirements (in many cases not all).

  • Guaranteed Acceptance (up to limits in coverage). 

  • Digital Signatures 

     Which helps to complete the application process in a timely manner. The right coverage is more affordable than people realize. There is a cost-efficient solution that can provide coverage for a specified amount of time. 

     Making a decision that can safeguard you and your loved one’s lifestyle is a gratifying feeling. Some insurance programs even allow you to earn premium savings based on healthy lifestyle choices. Which is how I view the running community.

Insurance doesn’t need to be one-size-fits-all. No matter your life stage, affordable options are available for all needs. 

     Speak with Winston at Henley Financial and Wealth Management Inc. about getting the right financial plan that is tailored for the success of you as an active member of your running community.

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AT THE RACES

Krista DuChene is a Canadian Olympian and top

3 Boston Marathon finisher, plus a mother of three. Here, she offers her best tips for positive thinking.

The Marathon Mom Guide

to our Pandemic Winter

With winter ahead of us and the continued unknowns of the COVID-19 pandemic, we must prepare more than ever to help prevent or lessen the winter blues. Some people are understandably already feeling very stressed and anxious due to the changes, losses, and uncertainty of our jobs, education, family plans, social lives, and travel restrictions. Adding the long, dark, and cold winter days and months to this is a cause of concern for many. The Canadian Mental Health Association says, “We should remember that this is absolutely the time to lean on each other. Even if we can’t be close physically, we need to stay close emotionally. So, while you’re staying in, stay in touch with each other, and reach out if you need support.”

So what exactly can we do as we approach this next potentially very difficult season?

 

  1. Reduce your stress levels—take long, slow, deep breaths. Mindfully replace thoughts of negative worry and fear with positivity, reflecting on past better days and those to come. Control the controllables, letting go of what you can’t change

  2. Do what relaxes you—limit time spent on social media and watching the news; enjoy a hot cup of tea, read a book, soak in a warm bath or wrap yourself up in your coziest blanket in front of the fireplace after a long run. Listen to your favourite music or do something that will make you laugh.

  3. Live with gratitude—write in a reflection journal; make a list of your favourite things, biggest accomplishments, and other life events that leave you feeling proud and wanting to work for more.

  4. Get good sleep—establish a schedule where you go to sleep and wake up around the same time every day. Avoid bright screens within a few hours before bedtime. Unwind and clear your head before hitting the pillow. Avoid trying to solve problems while trying to fall asleep. Keep your bedroom cool, quiet, dark, and comfortable. Think about that new route you will run tomorrow.

  5. Eat and hydrate well—avoid or limit caffeine and alcohol, make mealtimes calm and relaxed, and avoid eating to relieve stress. Be mindful of your eating habits. Aim to eat a variety of healthy foods each day that help with your physical and mental well-being.

  6. Get outside during daylight, no matter what, even if only for a short time—dress for the weather and bundle up. Take a break from work. Walk the dog. Go to the mailbox. Shorten your run if it means you will get out and get it done. Frequent, short breaks will also help reduce sedentary time.

  7. Embrace winter—try those outdoor winter activities that we can do in Canada, like skiing, skating, and snowshoeing. Remember that you won’t lose fitness if you take a few days off running to do some other form of physical activity. 

  8. Help others and give back—show patience, kindness, compassion for those around you. Check in with someone to see how they’re doing. Be a teammate. Encourage others to start a run/walk program or go after a personal best. Write positive comments or “like” peoples’ running posts on social media.

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Personalized Online Coaching

VIRTUAL

ARMY

RACE

Canada Army Run: Virtual has officially wrapped and we would like to thank the thousands of participants who ran, walked and rolled all across Canada and Internationally.

 

We are extremely grateful for the support you all have shown since we switched to a virtual event. Canada Army Run is no ordinary race, and this event wouldn’t be possible without the incredible sponsors, supporters, volunteers, partners, donors, and participants.

WELLNESS

“I am extremely grateful and touched by the success of this year’s virtual Army Run. I’d like to acknowledge all the sponsors, partners, Army personnel for their amazing work and for organizing a truly unique Canada Army Run for 2020. Most importantly, thank you to our participants, it is because of your support that this event has been a tremendous success. We thank you for your participation and sharing Canada Army Run with your networks to support the women and men who serve our country and their families. We hope to see everyone next year," says Canada Army Run’s Race Director, Major Lesley Quinlan.

 

Canada Army Run would like to congratulate all participants in this year’s event. The virtual run really allowed us to welcome runners from everywhere. We had runners from bases and support units across Canada. Ninety-seven percent of our participants are Canadian, representing every province and territory of our great country. We cannot forget our friends who participated internationally, their support has truly made this a unique event. 

 

2020 has been no ordinary year, but in these uncertain times we have become closer. Hosting a virtual event has allowed participants across the country to join our Canada Army Run family and appreciate the importance of our run.

 

This is no ordinary race.

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Two-time Canadian Olympian, third fastest Canadian male marathon finisher of all-time, Coolsaet is still  training and racing, but he’s also become a running    coach with Bayfront Endurance, alongside Krista      DuChene and Anthony Romaniw.      

Reid Coolsaet, two-time Canadian Olympic marathoner and run   coach, sets out your next three    months of running with five ways    

to stay motivated through      Christmas       

Here, Coolsaet offers five tips to keep your

running tools sharp  

At 41, there’s little in running that Reid Coolsaet hasn’t accomplished .

“Runners are not    good at drills.”   

1.

2.

    1. Schedule a time trial. 

“People need direction—something to aim for,” says Coolsaet, adding that he’s planned flat time trials for his athletes, courses that avoid traffic lights. A time trial at any distance gives a runner a race without a race, it’s a practice run, really—except you’re recording your time at a certain distance, and then eying the chance to beat your time trial later on down the road. “Time trials in this weird life without racing are a great way to stay fresh and competitive,” adds Coolsaet. “At a shorter distance, it could even be something you do every six weeks.”

   2. Replicate iconic races. 

The great Canadian races aren’t being held this year, but that doesn’t mean you can’t run their courses. Unlike playing baseball in Yankee Stadium, as runners, we can compete on the same courses traversed by the Olympians. “At Bayfront Endurance, we’re going to run some of the Around the Bay course and we’ve run some of the Road2Hope course in Hamilton, and the Boxing Day 10-miler,” says Coolsaet. In addition, in Toronto, with the Lakeshore closed, runners are able to replicate much of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon (in fact, Sunday, October 18, saw many familiar Toronto running community faces doing that very same thing for the STWM virtual run). 

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4.

5.

3.

    3. Expand your horizons.

“Krista DuChene is going to do a 50K, and I think all runners can benefit from learning a new skill set for the first time,” Coolsaet says, adding that trail running through hills is a great exercise for everyone, especially experienced marathon runners who could use softer surfaces after years of running on roads. “For Krista, a veteran marathoner who’s run Boston and the Olympics—so many marathons, she’s learning a brand new skill set,” says Coolsaet, also mentioning that DuChene is attempting her first ultramarathon distance. “That’s one thing I’m pushing on all of my athletes, there are no races, so get out of your comfort zone and learn something new.” 

   4. Work the drills.

“Anthony Romaniw is another Bayfront Endurance coach with Krista and I, an 800-metre Olympic athlete, and he has the group working hard on their drills,” says Coolsaet, rattling off butt kicks, leaps and hops, As and Bs and lunges as exercises that the team does before their workouts. “Runners are not good at drills, which is a great thing to say because that means there’s more room for improvement,” Coolsaet says, with a laugh. “When I do drills, they look the same week to week because I’ve been doing them for years, but for the average runner, the amount of improvement that you’ll see from running drills is massive, just huge.”

    5. Switch areas of focus.

This is sort of similar to the idea of the time trial and trail running, but involves more of a pivot. “A runner in our group was going to do the marathon in Paris in the spring and racing Berlin in the fall, and both races were cancelled,” explains Coolsaet, who then adds that what his racer did was instead of becoming downtrodden, he changed his area of focus. Instead of the typical marathon training block, he switched to a 10K goal. “Suddenly, the goal was to break 33 minutes and he destroyed that in 32:15, and that is just going to help him run his next marathon,” says Coolsaet, adding that short distance racing helps a marathon runner increase leg speed, running economy and efficiency. “This is a weird time for running, it’s a weird time for everything, but there’s no reason we can’t make the best of what we have. Keep running, and you’ll eventually see the results.”

If you had told me ten years ago, this is what I would be doing at seventy-one, I would have laughed out loud.
- Fay Sutherland

The thought of my then, sixty-one, forty pound overweight body crossing a finish line on my own two feet would have been unimaginable. What I have learned since then is to never underestimate your own ability or what a Boomer may get up to in retirement.

The first run I did was in 2015, at age sixty-six, when I signed up for a Learn to run program at the Running Room. I distinctly remember the instructor saying that I would be able to run ten minutes straight by the end

of the course. At this point, I could not run for one minute and I began to scan the store for the nearest exit. However, they were true to their word and by the end of the session I was in better shape than I had been

in years.

 

My first race was the Ottawa Tamarack 2k. That seemed like a good place to start. This and the Army Race continue to be two of my favourite races. I have participated in both every year since I began, including three Commander’s Challenges (26.1k) from 2017-19. For the Canada 150 Celebration, my two sons and I completed the Ottawa half marathon together. I love that we have this memory.

 

Over the years the 5k, 10k and half marathons have enticed me with the camaraderie, excitement and challenges they present. There is nothing comparable to crossing that finish line, knowing you have done your best. Each race is an opportunity to feel the exhilaration of attaining your specific goal, no matter the distance.

 

This year has also brought a new “family” of runners into my life. I normally have run with my good friend, Jenny. We have had an extraordinary time on those many girls’ weekends to various race locations, including London, Toronto, Melbourne, St. Petersburg and Orlando. For my 70th birthday, we completed the 10k and half marathon at Disney. Of course, we chose the Wine and Dine for this one.

My goal was to complete a 10k at a decent pace... As you can see from the picture, things did not go quite as planned.

The year 2020 has challenged us all, but has also created opportunities that we otherwise may not have experienced. It has provided me the opportunity to run virtually, which meant I could finally run the United States Marine Corp Race, in honour of my brother, a proud Marine and Vietnam Veteran. My goal was to complete a 10k at a decent pace, for a 71 year old, and finish strong. As you can see from the picture, things did not go quite as planned. Halfway through, my encounter with an uneven sidewalk resulted in my first ever face plant. After an expletive, not usually heard from a “mature” woman, especially on the street, I stood contemplating my next move. Being Canadian, I said sorry to those around and proceeded to dust myself off. After all, this was the Marine race. My brother would never quit so neither did I.

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The Feel Good Racing Story of

COVID 19 

How Tristan Woodfine Reinvented His Stride and His Training Program to Qualify for the Olympic Games

By Ben Kaplan

27-year-old Tristan Woodfine did an extraordinary thing this month: he qualified for the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games by running the Olympic Standard at the elite-only London Marathon. Woodfine, who began his career as a triathlete and trained in Kenya at the start of the year, coming home only when COVID-19 began making the news, is a hard worker with a high pain threshold and a humble disposition. It’s a combination of his ability to pivot and refusal to quit that has earned him an Olympic berth. 

“When you’re a kid, winning feels good and I enjoyed training, but a lot of the drive came from winning; then, as I matured as an athlete, it’s evolved to the point where I probably enjoy the training and process more than racing,” says Woodfine, who had run five marathons before hitting his 2:10:51 in London (a PB, but B goal nevertheless). “I still love to compete or I wouldn’t be doing this, but I’ve become much more process driven. It’s more about trying to make myself better as opposed to always just trying to win.” 

Talking to Woodfine, I felt myself not wanting to let him off the phone. He’s a nice guy and he’s open and carefully considers everything and has a no BS grinder’s mentality that is common among Canadian distance stars. There also just hasn’t been that much good running news lately. I used to love interviewing our sports stars each time they crossed some historic milestone. Cam Levins broke the 43-year-old Canadain men’s marathon record in 2018; at STWM last October, Dayna Pidhoresky and Trevor Hofbauer qualified for the Olympics; Malindi Elmore, at 39, broke Rachel Cliff’s marathon record in January 2020. For a while, it seemed that records were falling every day like dominoes and that each new event bred another humble new running star. Well, we all know what happened next—races were cancelled and the Olympics were postponed and all I could cover were health updates and virtual events. Tristan Woodfine qualifying to run the marathon for his country is the feel-good story of our feel-bad year. 

“At the end of the day, running is often cruel and there’s a lot more lows and downs than highs,” Woodfine says. “I think the most important thing is to find that happiness, gratitude and joy in the process of training. When you run, try and better yourself.” 

Bettering himself has been an ambition since he was a triathlon star in his teens. Woodfine says that he didn’t know what would happen when he returned from Kenya or when he would race next. But he didn’t want to let his altitude training go to waste. He was always scheduled to race at the London Marathon. The world, however, was a different place when he returned home with his fiance to the Ottawa Valley. One thing he knew for certain was that he wasn’t ready to throw in the towel. Instead, he pivoted his training plans and tried to capture joy in his process.     

“Kenya was a very big time and financial investment, so I decided to keep the training momentum going. If anything, we increased the training between April and June,” says Woodfine, who also recounts that his big Kenyan learning was not to sweat the small stuff. 

You’re pumping your arms hard as you can as you dig deep in that final lap of your interval workout around the track, aiming to reach that new level of fitness as your goal race nears on the calendar. Train hard, then train harder is your motto. But what if you keep coming up short, or even yet: what if you could be achieving more than you ever thought possible? Could, perhaps, the missing piece in the puzzle be your recovery, or more specifically your easy runs—or lack thereof? 

 

Most of the time when striving to reach a new level of fitness we’re focused on the hard sessions of the week: tempos, fartleks, long runs, and interval workouts, but what’s between these sessions is just as important. The easy run connects the dots, aids recovery and should be treated as a vital supplement to your key workout sessions. If you don’t take this recovery run seriously, you’re opening the door to injury, overtraining, and just not being able to get the most out of your workout days — and that is the goal, right? — to recover as much as possible between hard sessions so that we are able to capitalize on those days. So, what gives? Why do we have trouble treating these easy, recovery days with respect?

Dayna Pidhoresky is running the Olympic marathon for Canada whenever the games resume. Her advice to runners? Take it slow

RUNNING

EASY

DOES

IT

Photograph by Sewari Campillo

In this era of endless gadgets and gizmos, it’s so easy to become tied up with the digital feedback we have strapped on our bodies. We might think, “Well, X:XX should be an easy pace,” and then go out and aim to hit the appropriate splits. In reality, listening to our body that day is the simplest way to take it easy. The easy effort is certainly variable, some days we may need to run at a snail’s pace to ensure we are recovering appropriately while other days we can easily stride at a faster clip — whatever the case, it’s more about listening to how your body is feeling than the pace itself. 

 

How can we ensure we stick to this? I recommend using a metric of distance or time, but not both together. For example, on my easy days I usually run a certain distance. I don’t care how long it takes, pace is completely irrelevant on my easy days. Sometimes I run a measured route that I know and in these cases I will run watch-less (I know, a travesty in the Strava community)! Other times, if I feel like exploring, I will wear my GPS watch, but will only use it to measure the distance. I know a lot of folks like to post the majority of runs on Strava—and you can keep doing that—but I urge you to care less about pace on those recovery runs and when it comes to segment hunting, maybe save those for the “workout days.”

 

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By Mark Sutcliffe

WHY iRUN

 

In a year when so much has been removed, postponed and cancelled, you can’t help but ask the question. Surely there’s no phase of government lockdown that will prevent a bit of isolated outdoor exercise. But if there’s one lesson of 2020, it’s that nothing can be taken for granted. With or without a pandemic, you can lose the things you love.

There are, of course, other ways to move, to burn calories, to explore the neighbourhood and, when permissible, the world. My wife Ginny and I have never walked more; working together from home has been a gratifying bonus in the slim silver linings playbook of this pandemic.

I enjoy it, and there are few healthier things than an evening constitutional, but walking doesn’t tick all the boxes that running does. I need to stretch not just my legs but my limits.

What would I do if I couldn’t run?

 

Some people are as obsessed with cycling as I am with marathons, but I haven’t caught that bug yet. I know people who do long-distance swimming, including some incredible feats and appealing international destinations. I wouldn’t rule that out, but unless I move to Venice, it’s a lot less convenient than stepping out the door for a run. Ginny is highly trained in yoga and does boot camps and fitness classes, and I’m sure I’ll end up there some day, but for now I’m not hooked. I like settling into an activity, not having to focus directly on every little thing I’m doing. And golf – don’t get me started on how frustrating that would be, especially to be a novice at my age.

And sadly, if there’s one theme that persists in this woeful time, it’s that when one thing gets cancelled, so does its natural substitute. When schools were closed, so were day camps, and organized sports, and play dates. There was no Plan B, C, D or E. Likewise, when my mind has wandered to possible fitness alternatives, it’s been one dead end after another. Gyms, pools, yoga studios, fitness classes: all of them in varying levels of shutdown.

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PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF JUSTIN LAGAT

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Belief trumps talent every single time.

Inside the philosophy and habits of Lisa Bentley, one of the winningest Canadian triathletes of all-time

RACING

By Ben Kaplan

Lisa Bentley, 11-time Ironman champion, is a 51-year-old coach and motivational speaker from Ontario whose approach to racing and life is beyond inspiring. Bentley, who suffers from cystic fibrosis, speaks with gumption and sincerity and her example may be enough to propel us off the couch and into the wild as we face this first winter of the great unknown. Ben Kaplan caught up with Bentley after her workout on a recent Friday afternoon.   

iRun: During the pandemic, have you ever felt down or like a loss of motivation? 

LB: Everyone has days of lack of motivation. The main thing is these pandemic days become so similar, it feels like Groundhog Day, but I had more of them when it was winter. I’ve gotten somewhat used to it but I do remember days feeling a bit sad. 

 

iRun: So what did you do? 

LB: Figure out ways not to be. I would literally be determined to be happy. It would be a goal. So I would go to see my mom from a distance or talking to someone on the phone or walking my dog. Walking my dog has brought me a ton of joy. 

 

iRun: For me, it’s been exercise. I’ve never run this much in my life and I edit a running magazine for a living. 

LB: Exercise has been a huge part of it and completing a certain route or time or distance—whether a run or getting on my bike—brought its own goal and purpose and brought me a sense of satisfaction that got me through the day.

iRun: Is it true you're sponsored by ASICS? What's been your approach to pandemic footwear and what do you recommend?

LB: Yes, I’m part of the ASICS family. It’s ironic because the ASICS mission is “sound mind in a sound body” and I embodied that idea of mindset and heart-set throughout my entire career and now in my coaching and speaking. The amazing thing is that in spite of having very complicated, battered feet after 40 marathons (I have two torn tendons in my right foot because of my inherited flat feet), I am running totally pain-free for the first time in ages. My favourite training shoe is the Gel Nimbus 22, but I also run in the GT 2000 and Cumulus. The NovaBlast and DynaBlast are my go-to dog-walking shoes; for the rowing machine and strength circuits, I use the RoadBlast, and now that the colder weather has hit, I’m using the Gel Sonoma GoreTex Trail Shoe.

 

iRun: How will you stay motivated to run in the cold weather? 

LB: Control what you can control and take a sense of pride in it. And choosing to exercise brings you a sense of control. “This is my bike ride or run or plyometric session and this pandemic cannot take it away from me.” Exercise releases endorphins and brings a sense of pleasure, of satisfaction. It’s good for your self-esteem. 

iRun: What else have you been doing to keep your spirits up?

LB: Doing things for others. When I was racing, I used to create a theme for my race which I would focus on when the effort seemed unsustainable. I have been doing that during this pandemic as well. For example, when I feel restricted or wishing that I could go to a restaurant or church or the gym, I return to my pandemic theme: Stay healthy. Then not being able to go to the gym or a mall or restaurant made sense and was bearable, even smart.  


 

iRun: What are some other themes you have used? 

LB: Be grateful.   

 

iRun: As a coach, how are you keeping your athletes grateful?   

LB: It’s a difficult year to provide motivation but I like to think that I am an athletic coach, life coach and “keeper of goals.” Our goals have had to evolve and my job is to provide motivation, not keep people motivated. 

 

iRun: So what’s the answer? 

LB: Create incentives and goals. Of course, when you take the gym and pools away from triathletes, it’s difficult. But it’s not something we can’t handle. We can use this as a time to focus on threshold and increasing intensity over shorter distances rather than just ‘surviving’ 6-hour rides and 3-hour runs in preparation for an Ironman. It has been fun to watch athletes run their best half marathon in prep for what is now Boston Marathon 2021 or ride their best 90K in prep for what has become Ironman Mont Tremblant 2021. Tell you the truth, I’m more worried about my mother in a retirement residence than I am about my athletes.    

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