The official magazine of iRunNation

THE LONG SCROLL

LYNDSAY TESSIER

Class is in Session

Lyndsay Tessier, 42-year-old school teacher, is one of Canada’s best marathoners, and she’s about to navigate her way back into the classroom as she trains for a possible Olympic run

Lyndsay Tessier doesn’t want you to call her “elite.” She doesn’t even really want you to refer to her as a “runner” first. “I’m a school teacher,” she says proudly. “I’m a runner, I suppose, but it’s a distant second for me.”

 

Considering she’s the national master’s record holder in the marathon, and her 2:30:47 PB ranks her 12th fastest Canadian woman of all-time, the 42-year-old’s running story is surprisingly short. Tessier only started running about nine years ago. “My first race was a local 5K, and I was wearing a pair of those Lululemon yoga pants — the ones that belled out at the cuff,” she says with a self-deprecating laugh. She thinks she finished in around 22 minutes, which surprised even her, as it felt freeing. Her friends encouraged the Toronto-based elementary school teacher to continue exploring her ability, and she quickly unlocked a long-hidden potential — little did she know it was Olympic-calibre talent. Since she started focusing more seriously on training in her late 30’s, Tessier has gone from running a surprising 2:54 to a shocking 2:45, to a 2:36—which everyone assumed was her limit—to 2:30, as a 41-year-old. 

After smashing the 40+ national record at the 2018 Berlin Marathon, Tessier was selected to represent Canada at last year’s World Championships in Doha, Qatar. The race was situated in the desert, and started at midnight local time with the temperature floating around 40 C — it was as if the event was designed to see runners spectacularly fail. But Tessier and her coach Steve Boyd saw all these obstacles as her path to yet another breakthrough. 

 

Tessier’s training up until that point had been magical. “I met her for a two hour, forty-five minute long run and we ended up running 42.2K — a perfect marathon — basically breaking my PB,” says Marco Li, a 38-year-old school teacher who is one of the few people Tessier regularly runs with. “She loves just putting her head down and does the work, and is quiet about it,” he says, pointing out that she’s methodical, patient and always focused on the bigger picture.

Three weeks before Doha, Tessier drove up to Kingston, Ont., where Boyd lives, for her last big workout — 25K at marathon pace. She ran a hilly gravel 5K loop on her own, with Boyd handing her water bottles. “I had to slow her down at one point because she was running 3:28/km,” says Boyd. “She was in 2:26-27 shape going in.

After that workout I thought, ‘anything is possible’ here.’” 

 

Leading up to the World Championships, Tessier watched Diamond League races, the top track events in the world. “I remember thinking, ‘How am I going to compete against some of these people in a month’s time?’” she says. “It’s like being a hockey player in a house league — you don’t think you’ll ever be in the NHL. I’m not trying to sound humble, it just wasn’t on my radar at all until it suddenly was.”

By Michael Doyle 

Photographs by Tyler Anderson 

Styled exclusively in fall running gear from Décathlon Canada

PHOTOGRAPHS BY Tyler Anderson

Melanie Myrand

The frontline worker balances saving lines with crushing kilometres and is racing through the COVID-19 pandemic with perseverance, and grace

By Krista DuChene 

Photographs courtesy of Melanie Myrand’s addictive Instagram feed

Mel’s a terrific runner and human being and her social media activity is impressive and entertaining. Here’s a topline of what I’ve always admired about this Quebec-based star.

  • She hits the nail on the head, reinforcing what we need to keep doing to keep this pandemic under control. She's practicing what she preaches, wearing masks, keeping physically distanced, working in full PPE, and maintaining her social circle. 

  • Her workouts are phenomenal. Some are on her own, others are with teammates. Just recently she ran a workout of 70 minutes at 3:32/km! I think we can expect to see another personal best from her this fall.

  • From the smile on her face with a baby in her arms to the hugs with her in-laws, you can see that family is a huge part of her life. You can always see the love in her eyes.

  • If Mel had any more time in her day, she could likely write a food blog. Her videos and pictures are tantalizing. Her post workout meals meet the needs of an endurance athlete, plus she does everything with her trademark sense of dedication—and fun.

One theory behind Mel’s continued running success amidst a pandemic, where she is working full time as a nurse practitioner, is that her grind hasn't been interrupted. She still gets that high of working all day while thinking of that evening’s workout that she nails before having a lovely dinner with her husband … followed by going to bed to wake up and do it all over again. 

WORDS FROM COACH JOHN LOFRANCO

The Fall Plan

“The plan for this fall is to run at the Petit Train du Nord marathon on Oct 4. This marathon is a downhill course and not eligible for Olympic qualification. The goal is to "unofficially" run the Quebec record so that Mel can nail it in an official race in the spring (if available).”

“When the lockdown started, with Mel and all the others I coach, we talked about goals, what people felt up to doing and what they didn't want to do. For some, they really wanted to do a time trial to "make up" for canceled races; for others, they were feeling kind of down and just wanted to lay low. In both cases, that's the right call. Mel put training not on hold, but at a lower priority level when she was working on the front lines.”

The Training 

MEL SPEAKS, BUT FIRST, A LITTLE INTRODUCTION FROM KRISTA 

2019-2020

At the April 2019 Rotterdam Marathon, Melanie Myrand ran an impressive personal best of 2:33:20. Her time would meet the standard of 2:37:00 required by Athletics Canada to compete at the September 2019 IAAF World Championships. Over a dozen Canadian women would run under the standard by the end of that year. It was a big goal of Melanie’s to make her first major team. She waited patiently but it wasn’t until the night before the big race that Melanie would finally learn that she would run for Team Canada at the 2019 World Championships in Doha, Qatar.

 

Melanie has a heart-warming way with her words. Her ability to articulate her love for running, family, friends, food, and her career is as admirable as her success in balancing these aspects of her life. She says it best … 

Aug 30, 2019 The Exciting Announcement

“Excited to announce that I will be running the marathon at the IAAF World Championships. Been sitting, hoping, wishing for this! No scratch that. I’ve been running, working and training as if I’m going to DOH—not because I assumed I would be selected or think I’m deserving of it—but because that’s what we runners do. We train for the unknown, we train for a start line we may never get to, we take calculated risks, we train for goals that might not be realized, ultimately to find out what we are made of and to push ourselves in every way possible. So, no, I haven’t been sitting and hoping, I’ve been putting in the work and planning for this race, but yes I’ve been wishing. Wishing because this runner's dream of making a world team came true.”

“Five years ago I ran my first marathon in an oversized singlet and a brand new pair of NB 1400s. I took one gel at 32km and started way too fast like the hammerhead I am. Needless to say I’ve learned a lot since then and that woman who ran 3:04 in Montreal would have never imagined running a 2:33 five years later. Stay open, stay patient and the sport can reward you with what you want to get from it.” 

Sept 21, 2019 Reflecting on her First Marathon

Sept 26, 2019 Honest Emotions, Mental Strategies and Thankfulness Before the Big Race

“The only walls that exist are those you have placed in your mind. And whatever obstacles you conceive, exist only because you have forgotten what you have already achieved.”

We are one day away from the 2019 IAAF Doha World Championships marathon and I am filled with excitement, uncertainty and even a bit of fear. I’ve never been that scared of 42.2 which has led me to start fast and take some level of risk during my previous marathons, but this is different. The element of heat which I cannot control shall be respected and will keep me patient. I am prepared because of everyone involved and I am truly thankful and grateful for this opportunity to run on the world stage. Let’s do this.” 

Sept 28, 2019 Gutting it Out For Her Team

“The 2019 IAAF Doha World Championships marathon was wild, complete carnage, with 28 DNF’s out of 68 women who lined up. It was a test of endurance, a test for the ego, a test of patience and perseverance. There was no hiding, the heat and humidity made you completely vulnerable and exposed once it hit or creeped up on you. I had made my way up the field from 53rd to 26th before 28km when the heat started to overcome me. When it happened I did all I could to endure watching my pace slow to a pace I would normally consider my easy pace. The only thing I could think of in those last 14km was MY TEAM, who are the people I think of in the last 12km. I needed to finish for MY TEAM! There is no other race for me to justify a DNF, this was my race, all my eggs were in this basket. So I endured and preserved all I could, throwing water over my head at each opportunity and just focusing on moving forward. Coming around the out and back I could see Lyndsay Tessier and it filled me with joy seeing she was doing so well. One of my first questions to Trent at the finish line was how she finished. When I heard the top 10 finish I was elated!!! Two amazing 41 year olds, Roberta Groner and Lyndsay came 6th and 9th which continues to inspire the work I do.“ 

Jan 13, 2020 Life-long Passion for Running

“A lot has changed over 20 years. One sure thing is I’m still a sucker for the suffering, but now I know how to balance it with easier efforts, breaks and down weeks. Keep it sustainable, keep that fire alive.”

Jan 18, 2020 When Training is Gruelling

“A long run in -22? Cross training for two mind numbing hours on an elliptical? Those things never get easy, but you’ve been to darker places. Dark moments often teach us the most so get your big girl panties on, complain a little and get that work in this weekend: there are more bright moments ahead.”

March 18, 2020 Accepting the Uncertainties with Positivity 

“How do you train without an imminent race in your future? 

I guess there are a lot of things I don’t know right now, but what I do know is a start line is NEVER guaranteed.  Runners, I think, are used to dealing with uncertainty so I hope this helps us during these times. I know for sure exercising (while practicing social distancing) increases endorphins which helps us manage anxiety and stress. Running (and/or at home workouts) can provide structure to the day which is so important for our mental health. So, for now what I do know is I’m still training as if I’m running 5-10k races this summer and a marathon this fall.”

Photographs courtesy of Melanie Myrand 

HEATLH

ad: car

Runnings Arms Race

TOOLS

THE LATEST FAST-SHOE REVOLUTION

Carbon fibre-plated running shoes as we know them first arrived on the scene in 2016. At the time they were merely prototypes and later revealed as the Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4%. Today, the technology is everywhere—and sneakers have gotten quicker. Tim Huebsch explores the latest fast shoe revolution.

By: Tim Huebsch

In a marathon, half-marathon, or in any distance for that matter, minimizing energy loss in each stride is critical. What currently exists? Each major brand has their own distinct high-end shoe line that’s solely designed to maximize a runner’s top speed. Let’s break down the hottest new race shoes on the market.

AT THE RACES

Two Thumbs Up for Quebec City’s Virtual Marathon

10 great reasons to sign up for this year’s virtual SSQ Insurance Quebec City Marathon, a healthy invitation from Brunet

Je Cours Qc is thrilled to announce that they are now offering runners the option to challenge themselves and channel their competitive energy in a virtual race. 

 

It’s the perfect opportunity to set yourself a new health and fitness goal—or check one off your list for this season! Still not sure it’s for you? Here are 10 great reasons to sign up for this year’s unprecedented virtual race: 

 

  • Because it’s completely FREE TO ENTER. 

All it costs is the energy you put into it. 

 

  • Because ANYONE CAN ENTER. 

You can sign up to run any of the distances in the real event: 2K, 5K, 10K, 21K half-marathon, or the full 42K marathon. It’s always been one of Je Cours Qc’s core values to bring the joy of running to everyone. 

 

  • Because it’s SAFE AND PHYSICALLY DISTANCED. 

Everyone runs their own race, at the same time—in their own space.

These are exceptional times, and we’re all in this together. Running a virtual race is a great way for us to “get together” and do something we love, without leaving the safety of our own bubble. 

 

  • Because sporting challenges are a source of MOTIVATION and PRIDE.

 

Whether you’ve been training for months or are completely new to running (we know many people are), signing up is a great way to challenge yourself and experience the thrill of competition with all the support of an organized event and absolutely no pressure. 

 

  • Because you still get to WEAR YOUR OWN RACE BIB with pride.

 

We’ll be creating a personalized race bib for runners and encouraging everyone to wear theirs on race day—so if you happen to see other race runners in the street, you can give each other a wave! 

 

  • Because you’ll get an OFFICIAL RACE RESULT and a certificate to mark your achievement.

 

  • Because you’ll get a whole bunch of DISCOUNTS to enjoy in your virtual race bag.

 

  • Because you’ll get a chance to WIN some sweet prizes.

 

  • Because you can get audios messages from Motigo to CHEER YOU ON and deliver the race-day atmosphere. 

 

Participants will be immersed in the ambiance of a real race: the pre-race excitement, the countdown, and that familiar jolt of anticipation just before the starting gun goes off. 

 

  • Because you’ll enjoy the UNIQUE EXPERIENCE #JeCoursQc

 

Let’s run together (and apart) this October 2–4!
Register today at jecoursqc.com

ad: quebec marathon

Noel Paine makes

sense of the world 

Running Shoes To Survive

The Stress Of Living

Through A Pandemic

2020, the year of the pandemic. Stopped, postponed, cancelled, changed and waiting to hear what the way ahead is. Running parents have been home with their children for more time than any other time in their lives. Home-schooling, job loss, working from home, multi-tasking, stressed about money, job security, fear and anxiety about COVID-19 and struggling to unplug children from video games with few other options or activities.

WELLNESS

If 2020 were a marathon, it would be one you started, had a herd of feathered hippos run through at the 10k mark and you then find yourself on a hamster wheel all by yourself with no end in sight and no idea what is going on with no medal or water station in sight. It got weird fast.

Runners of kids have normally looked to their love of lacing up to help them relieve stress, keep them happy and give themselves something to look forward to during hard times. Running has personally accompanied me through 33-years of my life and helped me navigate a few dips and dark valleys in my life.

Running to stay in shape, to feel good or to train for a marathon, race, or goal, in the gym or outside has been something runners have in their lives to help balance things. People may not consciously realize that their sport plays such a positive or important role in their lives, but it often does. Running often does not solve problems but if can help in difficult times.

Marathon Mom Krista DuChene Prepares Her Family for Back to School

“We feel that there are risks in life and we need to return to some level of normalcy.”

We're five months into this ugly COVID-19 pandemic and getting a little (or a lot) weary, anxious, tired, bored, discouraged, depressed, sad … you name it. There are no big races on the calendar, the Zooming is getting old but here to stay, and we're done with the jokes and conversations about sourdough bread, toilet paper, haircuts, hand sanitizer, and working from home in our pyjamas. The conspiracies continue to both anger and entertain, and businesses are getting innovative and creative in order to survive while others have sadly lost the battle and closed shop for good. 

The most recent cause for a stir of emotions is the difficult decision parents are facing with sending, or not sending, their children back to school. I'm not going to get political, but I will say I get fatigued with the criticism about how to best handle this situation, and the pandemic in general. I will say that I believe that Doug Ford, the Premier of Ontario, where I live, has done an excellent job. From the beginning he admitted that he lacked knowledge about the science behind COVID-19, but he trusted the experts to make the necessary decisions believed to be best for our province.

ad: decathlon

ad: beer virtual race

iRunAd2-DrinkBeer.png

All Hail Rally Beer!

Meet the Ontario-based mad geniuses who created the Rally Beer Company

Racing the Butter Tart 700—a scenic, grueling 700 kilometre bike ride along Lake Huron in St. Jacob’s, Ontario—Alan Wood became interested in fueling. He was experimenting with gels, electrolytes, using tablets and eating Clif bars and then he thought: Boy, what I’d really like is a beer. “That was my aha moment,” says Wood, 32, whose Rally Beer company is sometimes referred to as ‘Gator-ale,’ a holy matrimony between a sports hydration drink and a craft beer. “There’s only so many times you can add electrolyte tablets to your drink before you think, ‘There’s got to be another way.’”

Rally Beer is that other way, a first of its kind golden ale that’s brewed with artisan Newfoundland salts, blackcurrants, barley and oats. The beer has a golden ale base, but the blackcurrant salts—sourced from a family on the edge of the Labrador Sea—gives it a hint of sour, which makes it bright, thirst-quenching and pour with a rosé tint.

 

“It’s meant to be crushable—super refreshing and replenishing,” says Wood, who started the company with Spencer Sgro and Michael Mavian, and has spent some time working in craft beer. Meanwhile, as his obsession with endurance sports grew more intense—kitesurfing, gravel bike racing—he noticed a gap in the marketplace. Why can’t you make a post-race beer that’s good for you? It seemed so obvious. But it’s the first of its kind. “We were calling it a ‘functional beer,’ a beer designed to be rich in electrolytes—something to toast with good buddies that captured the energy of the fun you had while adventuring,” says Wood, who experimented in his parent’s garage until he struck the right electrolyte-hybrid-craft beer recipe. “I want people to drink these in the wild. We want people to drink it in at the trailheads and at the beach—not the downtown patios of Toronto.” 

The beer, which has only been in Ontario shops for a month and is currently available at 60 LCBO locations, is already a sensation. The crew is working with ambassadors in the climbing, bike racing and endurance sport world, and there’s dreams of expanding to Alberta, British Columbia and nationwide, where there’s a natural appreciation of the Rally Beer ethos. So far, all of the marketing and attention has been garnered through grassroots word of mouth, and Wood and his small team are making their dreams come true. They’ve created a new kind of beer for a new kind of lifestyle—their own. 

“I enjoy a full-bodied beer after a bike ride or run and it just feels like the perfect end of something that was really awesome,” says Wood. “I think there’s a lot of people out there that like a reward after completing something awesome—we made a beer for celebration.” 

iRun Because...

Jeff Galloway is the King of Running Race Training. Here, he gives you 10 Training Tips on how to run injury-free

Jeff Galloway ran 10,000 metres at the 1972 Olympic Games for the United States and has completed 232 marathons. At 75, Galloway has written 32 running books and has coached more than 500,000 athletes. A living legend, he gave iRun 10 pointers on how to get from the couch to a 10K (and beyond!) and how to have a long, fruitful career enjoying injury-free running. 

10. You can do this. Whether it’s training for a marathon or just starting out on our sport, there’s one message: You can do this. Don’t get overwhelmed or discouraged. 

9. Have a plan. One reason people get discouraged is they think it’s just put one foot in front of the other, but often that prompts you to go too fast in the beginning without enough walk breaks.

8. Three walk-runs in a week is very good for a beginner and then make a jump every 14 days.

RUNNING

No Need To Ever

Be Injured

iRun because it provides me with an incomparable feeling of body and mind connection.

 

iRun Because I can, it keeps my mind and body healthy.

 

iRun because moments to memories make the best stories.

 

iRun because I want to be a role model to my daughter.

 

iRun because my sanity depends on the release.

 

iRun for the feeling of strength it brings to my body and mind.

 

iRun because all my good ideas come to me when I am running.

 

iRun because I love the calm feeling it has brought to my psyche for 50 years!

 

iRun for those who can’t.

 

iRun for my sanity ...! (Cheaper than therapy!)

 

iRun because my kids are fast and keep me on my toes. 

 

iRun for a better self, because the world needs more positive!

 

iRun because I don’t want to regain the 130 lbs I lost.

 

iRun because it’s a therapy session with every stride.

 

iRun because my dog loves to.

iRun because I wouldn’t be able to update on social media my Garmin and Strava results otherwise.

 

iRun because it brings me peace.

 

iRun because I need to get away from my mother-in-law.

 

iRun because I’m not that good in boxing.

 

iRun because punching people in the face is frowned upon.

 

iRun because it’s a gift to be alive.

 

iRun because I like cake and wine. 

 

iRun because walking takes too long!

 

iRun because it feels so good when I stop!

 

iRun because I spent money on another race.

 

iRun because chips.

 

iRun for wine!

 

iRun because they think I can’t

 

iRun to look good naked.

J

Jeff Galloway

 hosts virtual races and clinics. He can be found at jeffgalloway.com. 

story: 10k training/jeff galloway

7. At the beginning, I recommend mostly walking—especially on the long runs. We want to gradually increase to 30 minutes. Once you can comfortably walk 15 minutes, then take run breaks every five minutes for 30 seconds or so.    

 

6. Allow orthopedic units—the muscles and brain—to deal with the running motion in a way the body can handle. The idea is to develop and adapt your body to running.  

 

5. What distance do you want to do? Say it’s a 10K. After you build up the program to walk-run 30 minutes, pick an event, then build backwards. 2 weeks before the 10K, schedule a 10-12K walk-run. Two weeks before that, drop down to 8K. Two weeks before that, 6K. Before that, 4, and before that, 2K.

4. The first step for a beginner just off the couch is to build up to the 2K. And when you’re starting out, walk the entire 2K distance.  

3. I haven’t had a running injury in over 42 years and I’ve been coaching 50 years. Believe me, this works. Runners just start off too ambitious, and that’s at every distance and ability.

 

2. Reduce the chance of adversity. That’s what it all boils down to if you want to have a long and healthy, injury-free approach to a long life spent running. 

 

1. There is no need to ever be injured. Just don’t be in a rush to get to your starting line.  

 The World’s Foremost Adventurer Under Lockdown 

How Ray Zahab makes sense of his quarantine

2020 began as 2019 had ended—awesomely! As 2019 wound down, I found myself back in the Atacama Desert, a place I love and which I’d crossed 1,200K north to south in 2011. This time, I was there guiding a group with my company KapiK1 and we had an absolute blast in that week in the driest place on Earth. In early January I completed a solo Arctic expedition that I had been dreaming up for years and in mid-February I was in Siberia, guiding a group of clients across Lake Baikal, once again with my buddies and KapiK1.

Sights were set on returning home and preparing for a series of Impossible2Possible Youth Expeditions! (There were even more plans after that; 2020 was going to be a crazy busy year!) But when I returned home from Russia, things were about to change—we all know what happened next.

As COVID hit, all of our lives were disrupted for the foreseeable future. After such an awesome 2019, everything shut down for me in 2020, as it did for so many of us. The races I organized were all cancelled, our KapiK1 expeditions postponed to 2021—as well as my personal expeditions—and with all travel limited, my usual sources of income dried up. However, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it's to never underestimate our capacity to adapt and do what we need to do. During the toughest months of the pandemic, I wrote a few posts on FB and Instagram about what I felt were critical topics for my family and I: uncertainty, resilience and perseverance. 

AD: EVEREST CHALLENGE

iRunAd1-Everest.png

Feeling Groovy

 

Everyone knows this summer has been hard. But all of us know that salvation can often be found in our shoes. Here, friends tell us what they’ve learned.

 

Alexander Daviau IG: @feelingindigo87

Rediscovering places that I haven't been to in years, such as the Scarborough Bluffs got me started on trail running. Now I enjoy trail running more than urban routes! I’m now planning my routes so that it feels like I’m having an adventure every weekend!

Mo Tarek IG: @mo14tarek

Recently, I’ve been doing track workouts with String Track Club which has made a huge difference to my running. Track workouts follow a process starting with dynamic stretching which helps both physically and mentality prepares me for my workout. With drills and speed work that focus on my running form—stride length, body positioning and shoulders movement, the track has improved my running performance and helped reduce my risk of injuries.

Jeannine Avelino IG: @jeannineavelino

Getting out of the city and into the trails gives you the chance to spend a few hours in nature, breathe some fresh forest air and take yourself out on an adventure. I found myself trying to improve my trail running techniques by running hills and practicing technical descents. Keeping your skills sharp is a good idea so that you’re ready to race at a moment’s notice.

Emelyn Jade IG: @emelynjade

I stepped back from chasing personal bests to work on my self-care and recovery routine. Whether that was stretching, cross-training or peeling back from running entirely, recovery plays an important role not only in our performance but also in our overall well-being.

Sandra Do IG: @belugasan

One of my dreams was always to go out and explore the trails scattered all across Ontario. I'd heard about the Trans Canada Trail in the way that most people hear about an epic adventure that fills you with awe and wonder. Luckily, I found someone else who was crazy and willing to go the distance with me and together, my running partner and I covered over 200kms of trail throughout the past few months. Oftentimes, starting before sunrise, we ran through snowstorms, extreme heat, pouring rain and gusting winds. We got hopelessly lost in forests, lakes and endless fields but in so doing, we found ourselves and our place in this crazy world. 

Yovonka McBean IG: @isabody4life

Running has helped me maintain my 100-pound weight loss. These days, I’ve also been working on cross-training more consistently by increasing the frequency of my at home kettlebell workouts. On non-running days I’ll do thirty minutes of kettlebell drills three times a week with a 20-lb kettlebell moves including squats, lunges and rows.

Lena Mukhtar IG: @lenamukhtar

By focusing on running as a fun activity, I recently hit a few firsts: my first 30K road and trail run and my first 42K trail marathon. With every new distance I achieve, I am more eager to see how much further I could go.

Matthew Galeazza IG: @mattheewgaleazza

Recovery has been my focus because I’ve been dealing with Achilles issues, along with an abdominal strain earlier this year and have focused on getting my body healthy. Along with working on mobility, strength, recovery and nutrition, I’ve been getting regular massages. I’ve also had to adjust my nutrition since realizing I’m gluten intolerant. All of this will go a long way in my marathon time trial I have planned for the fall.

PERSON's NAME/ARTICLE TITLE

Unfinished Line

BY: MARK SUTCLIFFE

PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF JUSTIN LAGAT

WHY I RUN

What happens when you get to the finish line and there’s nothing there?

We’ve all felt it, physically and mentally, over the past five months. Our virtual races have been gratifying, a slap in the face to the coronavirus gods. You can’t take away my half-marathon! I will still earn that medal and get that t-shirt, dammit, even if they arrive in the mail. But the final steps have been taken down an eerily quiet neighbourhood street instead of a scream tunnel of finish-line spectators leading to a tribe of volunteers armed with an endless supply of water, bananas and enthusiasm. Instead of high-fiving other finishers and heading out for an indulgent celebratory meal, you push the button on your watch, grab a quick selfie and walk back into the house to make grilled cheeses for your kids.

And what about that other, cosmic, more desperately awaited finish line, the one our whole planet has been struggling towards? Thirty-seven kilometres into my first marathon, a spectator lied to me: “It’s just around the corner.” I heard the same phrase again a few more times over the next 5k. But at least in that case, it was eventually true. In the midst of this global pandemic, it feels like there are only corners and no destinations. And when you make so many turns, you inevitably wonder: are we actually gaining any ground, or just returning to where we started?

Until recently, the only second wave I cared about was in a start-line corral in Boston or Chicago. Now, as we roll the dice on schools and other institutions reopening, we don’t know if we’re going back to normal or going back to square one. In May, many runners thought they’d be racing again – in person – by September. Now you have to wonder whether 2022 is a better bet than 2021.

We don’t do uncertainty very well. It’s like trying to run a fast time on a course with no mile markers and no watch. How do we calibrate our pace? How do we tick off the kilometres? How do we dream of the glory of the finish line if we don’t know where it is?

To our everlasting credit, we have adapted. We have pivoted. We have even aimed higher. We’re taking on challenges, in life and in running, we never would have contemplated before. We’re home-schooling, doing grocery runs for neighbours and family members, and wearing dress shirts with running shorts on a parade of Zoom meetings. And we’re participating in races all over the world without ever leaving home. I’ve run more since the beginning of May than at any other time in my life, spurred on by the preposterous but somehow inspiring fantasy that I’m actually completing a double crossing of a state I have never visited. James Taylor went to Carolina in his mind; I’ve been running across Tennessee.

On one level, it’s very satisfying. We relish these tests, the opportunities to prove our toughness. Who doesn’t want to rise to the occasion? But at some point, there must be a chance to complete the task, to get the medal, to tell the story in the past tense.

Alas, we may have neither clarity nor a vaccine. The finish line may not be in sight, but logically, it must be closer than it was before. And, thankfully, we do have one certainty and constancy in our lives. If nothing else, we can put on our shoes, step out the door, and throw one foot in front of the other. The future is wildly unpredictable. But today, tomorrow, and the day after that, I know I will run.

PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY OF THE TAMARACK OTTAWA RACE WEEKEND

AD: COROS CASIO

COROS PACE 2 MAGAZINE 8.375'' X 10.875''

AD: WINE

iRunAd4_Wine.png

AD: TRUE NORTH

iRunAd6_TrueNorth.png

 How new events are helping to ease the anxiety of COVID-19

A Great Time at the Virtual Races 

Laura Curtis and her husband had lost weight together at the start of the year and were enjoying living a more healthy lifestyle. When the COVID-19 pandemic started, like a lot of us, they were quickly set out of sorts. Curtis, 38, is a private music teacher who had been diagnosed with MS in January, 2017, and when her life was upended, she was looking for help. She found it online in the virtual race community and the people she met. 

RACING

“Seeing the stuff on Facebook motivated me and it was nice to meet people online and after I signed up for the Pride Run in June, I got hooked,” says Curtis, who had run a 10K race prior to the pandemic, but has since run two Virtual Run Canada events with three more on the horizon. “This summer, I’ve done more running than ever and given everything that’s going on, it’s been a positive experience and makes me feel good. I feel more fit than I’ve ever felt in my life and I’m proud of myself for being able to run as much as I have.” 

According to some sources, as many as 80% of virtual runners are first-time athletes and this group, like Laura Curtis, are finding meaning in their medals—a chance to buck against inertia and the unknown and find a community and a finish line that provides comfort in an uncertain time. The virtual races are providing the community that the physical races once did. It’s a source of strength for people across the country. 

“I used to be very active, but over the course of the last twenty years life got in the way. I have a job that can be stressful, have had some personal stresses and also have family responsibilities all of which added to the weight gain. Last August I decided it was time to put me first,” says Rhonda McCutcheon, 46, who has signed up for four virtual events this summer from her home in London, Ontario, and also credits the Virtual Run World Facebook group with helping her find motivation. “Over the course of the last year I have lost 50 pounds and my body has gotten leaner and stronger. I can't wait to see what new accomplishments the next year brings.”

Hearing that optimism from Virtual Run World participants is heartening during this difficult time. With the fall race season almost completely going virtual and questions now arising about timed running events even in the spring, it’s conceivable that virtual racing—or fun runs like the Slow Mile Challenge or the Will Run for Waffles 5K—are here to stay. According to Cheryl Vanveld in Greenhill, Nova Scotia, that suits her just fine. The Virtual Run World events have allowed her to find focus, meet new people, and discover something she enjoys that benefits both her physical and mental health. 

“This summer with COVID there isn’t a lot to do, so I decided to do this for myself. My son is 18 and so I have more time to do this for myself,” says Vanveld, who loves the variety of races that she’s able to participate in since everything is virtual, opposed to the usual offerings in her small town. “The races make me feel like I’ve accomplished something I always wanted to do, but my son played sports—hockey, football, baseball and basketball—so I didn’t have time. However, he has graduated, his minor sports days are behind him, and so this is my new focus.”  

That focus is something all of us can lean into as we head into September and back to school and the fall season kicking in. There are virtual events being offered from most major Canadian races—from the Canada Army Run to the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon to the Calgary Marathon, Vancouver, Montreal and everywhere in between. Perhaps now is the chance to take that trip you always wanted to, albeit virtually; the important thing is that you find a community, have fun while being healthy, and add something to your love that gives you the chance to earn a medal and cross new finish lines.   

“I feel really grateful,” says Laura Curtis, who recently signed up with a girlfriend, brand new to running, for the Oktoberfest version event. “I feel grateful that my MS hasn’t taken over my physical abilities, grateful I met so many wonderful people on Facebook, and grateful I have my health.” 

No doubt Laura Curtis, like lots of other athletes this summer and people getting ready to take on the fall, also feels grateful for the Virtual Run Canada events she has done.

iRunAd3-AutumnSeries.png