THE LONG RUN

CHRIS NIKIC

Photographs by Anthony Nusca 

  Lisa Bentley chats endurance, fortitude, and defying expectations with Chris Nikic, the 2020 Sportstats iRunner of the Year  

There is no doubt that on November 7, 2020, Chris Nikic changed the world by becoming the first person with Down syndrome to finish an Ironman. But in reality, he, his family and his coach have been changing the world for the past two years as Chris journeyed from a sprint triathlon to an Ironman 70.3 and, ultimately, to Ironman Florida. Process is the key to all goals because even without the finish line, Chris is an extraordinary example of: “Don’t tell me what I cannot do. Let me tell you what I can do.” We could all use a bit of that in our lives right now. I spoke with Chris the other day. 

 

“I was born a Down syndrome kid and the next day, I was an Ironman,” he said.

When you meet someone with Down syndrome, you feel love. Alex, the son of one of my dearest friends, has Down syndrome. And for 20 years, I have seen Alex full of joy and love and acting as the family’s social butterfly. In fact, when I think of Alex and now having experienced Chris’s spirit, I refer to their condition as Up syndrome because there is nothing “Down” about either of them. When I asked Chris what message he would like to put on a billboard, he said, without hesitation, “Love and Hugs!” I don’t think you or I could have answered so quickly or so emphatically.

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here is no doubt that on November 7, 2020, Chris Nikic changed the world by becoming the first person with Down syndrome to finish an Ironman. But in reality, he, his family and his coach have been changing the world for the past two years as Chris journeyed from a sprint triathlon to an Ironman 70.3

“Love and Hugs” are Chris’ favourite things about triathlon. The social interactions and the people are his rewards for all the training and the learning. Hugs, he says, are his “fourth sport.” 

 

A little background about Chris and what he’s accomplished: he is 21-years-old and lives in Maitland, Florida. And an Ironman consists of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile ride and a 26.2-mile run. Personally, I have raced 33 Ironman races and won eleven. Let me tell you: it is one of the hardest sports in the world and has inflicted both pain and pleasure on tens of thousands of finishers each year. But in 2020, COVID-19 put Ironman in its own pain-cave as most races were cancelled and athletes had to pivot and adapt. Not only did Chris finish one of the most demanding events in endurance sports, but he did it amidst a pandemic. Chris has thrived in spite of Down syndrome and COVID-19. He is our Athlete of the Year, and his accomplishment adds a significant exclamation point to his Guinness Book World Record. 

He told me: “Every child needs to realize that we can do anything. They can all get their dreams like me.”

 

Nik Nikic, Chris’s father, says he found peace in seeing his son cross the Ironman finish line. “I would cry like a baby when he finished the other races en route to the full Ironman,” he said, “but when he was in those last miles of the marathon and crossed the finish line, I was at peace. I didn’t cry because his finish meant that anything was possible. It meant that Chris would be OK.” Nik had long been Chris’s “person” but now, Chris had his coach and guide, Dan Grieb. And that partnership, that freedom, represented a significant step toward his boy’s independence. Nik told me, after seeing his son finish: “I know Chris is going to be OK on his own.”

Learning any sport is often a “one-step forward, one-step back” challenge. Now picture yourself in Chris’s shoes finding the coordination and balance to walk – a skill often taken for granted – and finally mastering it at 4 years old.

Remember when you learned to ride a bike? Eventually, Chris learned that skill as well.

With his indomitable will, patient mother and father and a spirit that cannot be defined by textbook statistics, he wiped out all of the limitations imposed when he was born with a third chromosome.

Like most of us, even all of us—like me and you—he found joy and courage in sport. Thanks to the Special Olympics, he discovered swimming and running. In 2018, Chris completed his first sprint triathlon at Lake Louisa State Park, in Clermont, Florida. Now, Chris was no longer just an athlete. He was rewriting the rules of Down syndrome. Down syndrome is a genetic disorder resulting in an extra full or partial copy of chromosome 21. This extra genetic material results in developmental delays, learning disabilities and medical abnormalities. That is why walking and riding a bike were huge hurdles for Chris. But in overcoming these obstacles and making triathlon part of his personal DNA, Chris’s cognitive ability, lung health, self-esteem and social connections all flourished. Penicillin may have been one of history’s greatest antibiotics, but exercise and physical activity is the best prescription for wellness of mind and body.

 

I know that many have found comfort in sport over the past nine months as we were all faced with the uncertainty of COVID-19. And we still are. But there is a sense of pride, normalcy and fulfillment in finishing a workout. And that satisfaction empowered us to handle the blows—the lack of “hugs and love” during quarantine. 

Chris didn’t need antibiotics during the pandemic. He had a goal. No one was going to tell him how his life would unfold. He would do an Ironman and prove to himself and the world that he—and anyone with any disease or disorder or impairment—can accomplish the impossible. “The kids are saying to their moms I want to be like him and get their own cars and their own house and their smoking hot blondes just like me,” Chris says, with a laugh. In Chris’s example, we have all learned that with heart and belief, every one of us can redefine our potential and exceed expectations. When you are driven by what’s inside, everything becomes possible.

 

“Don’t tell me what I cannot do. Let me tell you what I can do.” These are words we all need to be reminded of today. 

 

Yes, Ironman Florida was hard. Chris trained and competed with Dan Grieb. Dan, you are an angel and a miracle maker. Thank you for sharing your talent and treasure to turn a dream into reality. “‘Anything is possible’ did not include kids with Down syndrome and now it does,” he says. “I’m proud to be part of it.”

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Kevin Rutherford, CEO of Nuun, explains his timely new product and why hydration is important

during a global pandemic

Kevin Rutherford and his team at Nuun have long been staples at races across Canada and their hydration products have satiated runners through thick and thin. This year, with races canceled, the team has accelerated their online offerings, and introduced a product in Canada that has become very appealing: “Nuun Immunity.” Rutherford, an Ironman hailing from Ottawa and Nuun’s CEO, says he obviously couldn’t have predicted the pandemic, but that he understood that athletes needed something to help boost their health.

“Strengthening an athlete’s immune system to recover from exercise was our basic approach to the category and our goal was to disrupt the Vitamin C arm’s race,” says Rutherford, who challenged his team to create a product that could provide Vitamin C while also accounting for electrolytes, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatories to create a balanced approach to an athlete’s immune system. “Immunity worked so well that it’s already the fastest-growing member of our portfolio, and it seems to be satiating athletes in these difficult, unprecedented times of COVID-19.”

Hydration, of course, Nuun’s bread and butter, makes sense when you’re grabbing a Nuun paper cup at kilometre 35 at the Ottawa Marathon. However, Rutherford says that winter running also requires careful hydration and that it’s often ignored.

“In the winter, with every breath you take, you lose hydration and I personally need between 3 and 4 litres a day,” says Rutherford, pointing to our dry winter skin as an example of a runner’s dehydration during the cooler months. “Nuun Immunity, or Nuun Sport, becomes mission-critical during the winter when the benefits of hydration are massive.”

 

Rutherford and Nuun have been a friend to Canadian athletes in a variety of capacities for the last five years. Their impact has been felt from sponsoring elite runners like Natasha Wodak and Lanni Marchant to fueling athletes at races like the Calgary Marathon, the Ottawa Marathon, and the Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon in Toronto. These days, the team at Nuun can’t be with us at races and expos, but their products are available online at Canadian institutions like MEC, Sobeys, and the Running Room, and on Nuun’s own site. COVID-19 has created a situation that none of us have seen in our lifetimes. It’s an opportunity, Rutherford believes, to make big changes in our individual lives. “Obviously the pandemic has changed our approach to everything, and changed everyone’s lives,” says Rutherford, adding that what he most misses about being away from the great Canadian races is his ability to dole out high-fives. “For us, we feel like the pandemic is a time to double down on our mission and encourage people to sample our products because while everyone’s concerned about their health these days, we know we make great products to help provide energy, nourishment, and increased support to an athlete’s immune system.”

why nuun's immunity should be on

Everyone's Wish List

this Holiday

“All of us have high stress on our bodies and during these times, it’s important to try everything you can to focus on health, vitality and nourishment,” Rutherford says. “At Nuun, our cause is trying to solve a sedentary life crisis, which is exasperated during a pandemic. Ultimately, what we want to do is get the best possible products to the greatest number of Canadians (and, of course, people all over the world).”

and water is essential to proper bodily function.

Products like Nuun Immunity and Nuun Sport use electrolytes and very low amounts of sugar (1g in Nuun Sport) to bind water with other nutrients. This enhances the absorption of both hydration and the accompanying ingredients for an effective hydrating boost.

water

The body is

75%

A leading Canadian epidemiologist takes us up to date in the fight against the novel coronavirus, which he calls: “Dancing on a Knife’s Edge”

 

UNPACKING

COVID-19

FOR THE

HOLIDAYS

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keep our families safe and healthy, and when and if we’ll see the light at the end of the tunnel of this very difficult pandemic year.

ean-Paul Soucy, with the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, is an expert on the COVID-19 caseloads and projections, and also a huge advocate of the benefits of running and exercising outdoors. Ben Kaplan caught up with Soucy before the holidays to better understand if we’re finally bending the curve, how to

Ben Kaplan: Where are we right now as a country in battling this disease? 

 

Jean-Paul Soucy: Like any good story, pandemics have a beginning, middle and an end. We’re quite solidly in the middle—with an end in sight. 

 

BK: That sounds like good news. 

 

JPS: It is, except that, unfortunately, in many ways this is the most difficult part of the pandemic. With winter, you have everyone inside, plus, everyone’s exhausted having gone through this since March. 

 

BK: But you can see an end? 

 

JPS: We have a vaccine in place with distribution sometime in Q1 in Canada for priority populations, and certainly throughout the rest of the year for the rest of the population getting vaccinated. So really, now is the most difficult challenge. 

BK: Winter and the holidays? 

 

JPS: We know this virus spreads well indoors compared to outdoors, and it’s really cold outside in Canada. You know, we do have a crystal ball to see what could happen here if we don’t listen to the health experts. In Europe and parts of the US, we’ve seen tidal waves of people in hospitals, in Intensive Care Units, and they’ve had to impose very strict lockdowns as a result of their numbers.

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BK: I heard you on TV saying Canada has some advantages over Europe in terms of our capabilities for fighting COVD-19. 

JPS: Canada is effectively an island compared to Europe (because we have only one land border, and it is closed). And Canada being like an island is an advantage (it’s easier to control travel). But we have some disadvantages, too.

BK: Like what? 

JPS: Europe and the US both have a lot more hospital beds, especially compared in a per-capita ratio with Ontario. Our hospitals run at, or over-capacity, during the best of times, and now we’re trying to deal with surges of COVID and keep up elective surgeries, and it poses an immense challenge to our healthcare system going into winter. But again, we do have an end in sight. 

 

BK: I love that you keep saying that. 

 

JPS: It does it make it easier for us to unify around the sacrifices we have to make. We have to get through this winter.

 

BK: I like that you use the term, “making sacrifices.” It gives us the power. 

 

JPS: The virus is going to force us to make sacrifices. We can be reactive, or make them on our own terms. We can see how quickly things can deteriorate. Manitoba went from having a relatively low caseload throughout the pandemic to having more active cases per-capita and more hospitalized cases per capita than any other province. That process took a month.

BK: What does that tell you? 

 

JPS: No one is immune. No place is immune. 

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RED HOT GUIDE

ICE COLD RUNNING

to

Just make sure you’ve got the right gear to keep you warm and dry as you brave the elements outside! iRun editor Ben Kaplan teamed up with friends at Decathlon Canada to create the ultimate Canadian survival guide.

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Find everything you need for your winter running at Decathlon Canada. Decathlon Canada now operates six full-service locations (including one in Darthmouth, Nova Scotia that opened this month), and one on the way this December in Laval, Quebec. There’s a pop-up Decathlon location in Burlington, Ontario, and please see decathlon.ca for all the latest news and reviews. 

1. Active grip men's running shoe 

By far one of the most important items of winter running gear—the shoes! You’ll need a shoe with a good grip (no slipping and sliding for you), but you’ll also want a material that will keep your feet warm without weighing you down. Remember to account for heavier socks than you’d wear during the spring/summer seasons; and opt for a slightly larger size—too tight, and your toes will feel overly exposed to those icy cold winds. 

 

2. warm Running Jacket

It’s important to keep your core warm when running in cold weather. Look for a lightweight jacket with windbreaker qualities that will cut your exposure to frigid winds. Extra insulation around the core will keep your whole body warm, while still giving your arms the freedom to move as you run. Also, consider going for a jacket with reflective elements to make you more visible when running in the dark late afternoons or evenings.  


 

3. run warm+ men's running tights

When choosing the best winter running tights, you’ll want to look for a technical fabric that will insulate your body from the cold while also wicking away sweat to ensure you stay as dry as possible. Many winter running tights are made with a thicker fabric, but the breathability factor is important too. Your body will warm up quickly as you run, so it needs to breathe while also conserving some of that precious heat. Make sure the tights cover as close to your ankles as possible, you won’t want any skin to be exposed when it’s -10 out there! 


 

4. thick under-calf running socks

If good shoes are the most important winter running item, then good socks are a very close second! You want to make sure your feet stay warm when running in the cold, and the extremities are often the first body parts to cool down quickly. These socks are made with a breathable fabric, so your feet won’t overheat—it’s a delicate balance, we know! 


 

Last but not least, you’ll want to be sure you’ve got accessories to keep you warm from head to toe. Find a suitable pair of running gloves to keep your fingers insulated from the cold. Make sure the fit is comfortable and the fabric is not too heavy, so your hands won’t be weighed down as you run. A headband is a great way to shield your head and ears from the cold. Choose one that fits comfortably around your head and won’t slip down while you run. Finally, if you want an extra layer on your arms, you may want to consider a pair of arm warmers. These slip on easily—like socks for your arms! And you can simply push them down to your wrists as your body heats up mid-run.  

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How Dayna Pidhoresky Spent the Global Pandemic

On the eve of her first Olympic Marathon, the Canadian racing star reflects on her most unusual year 

How Dayna Pidhoresky Spent the Global Pandemic

Things started hitting North America quite hard in mid-March. One of the first races to be cancelled was the New York City half marathon, scheduled to take place on March 15. I had planned to be on the start line but withdrew within the week ahead of the race. 

 

 

tendon attaches to the tibia. Tendons aren’t the quickest to repair and that remained true in this instance. Much of March was spent on the bike waiting for the tendon to be ready for more impact. I was spending 11-16 hours on the trainer each week, thinking that I would still have to be ready to run a marathon in August — an important marathon. But then March 24th came and it was announced that the Olympics would be postponed until 2021. This was an immense relief as Team Canada had already withdrawn from the 2020 Games whether they were going forward or not. It was a stressful announcement to think that I could be watching the Olympic marathon at home while other countries lined up for the event. The postponement ensured that wouldn’t be the case.

Practicing patience was easier than usual with no races on the horizon. By April I was peppering in more runs while keeping the biking up. By the end of May my running volume had progressed to 130K and we decided to keep it around that area for the summer. I reduced my biking only slightly (6-8h/week) since my newfound obsession with Zwift kept me hopping on for more badges (if you know, you know). So although I was back doing workouts, running, and biking a substantial amount each week, I didn’t feel particularly focused. I participated in a few virtual races, but nothing serious that I was targeting. In a way I don’t think this was a terrible use of my summer training time. Mentally I felt relaxed: I did workouts I wanted to do when I wanted to do them, but the sheer volume of hours spent training kept my strength up and my fitness, though not peaked, wasn’t suffering terribly. 

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"A calf issue started in late February and despite being able to accomplish some great workout sessions...it was just not calming down enough for me to hop on a plane and know I could give it my best." 

A calf issue had started in late February and despite being able to accomplish some great workout sessions, and bike on the trainer to give the calf a rest in between these efforts, it was just not calming down enough for me to hop on a plane and know I could give it my best. When the race was cancelled I drew a sigh of relief knowing that I wouldn’t be at home watching from my laptop with palpable envy, and as race after race continued to be cancelled or postponed it was easy for me to rehab knowing I wasn’t missing out. 

 

The focus was now on my rehab. The MRI had shown there was inflammation of the bone where the soleus

hings started hitting North America quite hard in mid-March. One of the first races to be cancelled was the New York City half marathon, scheduled to take place on March 15. I had planned to be on the start line but withdrew within the week ahead of the race. A calf issue had started in late February and despite being able to

WELLNESS

 

A letter from

ANDRE

DE GRASSE

The Fastest man

in the country wants you to slow down for the holidays

26-year-old Andre De Grasse is from Scarborough, Ontario, and he’s the only Canadian sprinter to ever win three medals in the Olympics. His battles with Usain Bolt are the stuff of legend and his smile and positive nature makes him one of the country’s leading goodwill ambassadors around the world. As we embark on perhaps a difficult, if not certainly unusual, holiday season, iRun caught up with the young icon to talk fatherhood, patience and the need, all over the world for patience. 

 

iRun: How do you stay motivated and engaged when it can sometimes feel like the world is looking bleak? 

ADG: I’m fortunate to be a really positive person. So even when things in the world—or in my own life—get a little depressing, I remind myself of all that I have to be thankful for.

iRun: The pandemic disrupted the world for us all. What did you use for motivation, and how would you motivate all your fans? 

ADG: I looked toward to the future and the exciting times that lie ahead, including the Olympic next summer. Having clear goals is really important for maintaining motivation. 

 

iRun: Sometimes it feels like 2021 might also be challenging and now, in Canada, we're embarking on the long cold winter. Growing up, what did you like to do outside in the cold and can you share any fond memories?  

ADG: Snowball fights, building snowmen and snowboarding.

 

iRun: You're a father now. Talk about the values that are important to you and the values you share with Yuri, that you also think are important lessons that we can all follow to make the world a kinder, more equitable, decent place? 

ADG: Education and empathy are really important and they go hand in hand.

 

iRun: Lastly, lets just say 75% of our audience wants to get faster in 2021. What three tips could you share with our readers? 

ADG: 1) Rest and recovery are part of the training process. 2) Find a good coach. 3) Set achievable small goals as you work toward your big goal for the year. Happy holidays!  

Let’s face it: this year kinda sucked. Between the global pandemic and the ravished economy, the cancellation of races and our inability to gather with the people we love, 2020 will go down, for many of us, as one to survive and not one to relive. However, as we head into the holidays and take solace in the fact that we’re still here, and there’s still beauty and joy in the world and that we—as runners—have a gift that many of our slower friends do not: we are able to spark joy in ourselves whenever we lace up our shoes. 

Earlier this month, we sent out a survey to our 200,000 readers, asking you folks what made you happy this year. What sneaker were you loving? Who was the elite that you most enjoyed cheering on? What did you like for hydration, for trail running, and who put on the best virtual race? On the following pages, we highlight the diamonds in the rough of our difficult year—because every side has a bright side. And when you’re a runner, the bright side is always only a startline away. 

WHO RAN THIS YEAR?

The 2020 iRun Awards

On the following pages, we highlight the diamonds in the rough of our difficult year—because every side has a bright side.

1.

Brand of the Year: New Balance

New Balance Canada is the 2020 iRun Brand of the Year. Runners said New Balance is a brand that they trust. “Every brand needs the innovation piece that’s super cool and makes you go faster, but the core of it is you need a daily exercise shoe to move forward and that’s what drives the New Balance brand,” says Dave Korrell, category manager for performance at New Balance Canada, and a longtime ambassador of our sport. “It’s what New Balance has been trying to do for 114 years—since 1906—to be that independent company that’s true to it’s values, and reliable. I think that’s become even more essential during COVID-19.”   

The readers have spoken and it’s New Balance Canada that has resonated the strongest in our running community. Not only did NB take Brand of the Year, but their 860 sneaker earned top ranks as our Best Running Shoe. It’s apparent, as we saw many exciting new launches in 2020, that what runners craved was value and dependability. Angrily, as the world spun, runners wanted stability in their sneakers. “It doesn’t take something fancy to get people out the door,” says Korrell, who’s spent 14 years with the company and came up running track and working at iconic Runner’s Choice in Kingston, Ontario. “Innovation will always be essential, but New Balance always also has stood for dependability—it means a lot that our message rings true.” In a year marked by disruption, Korrell is quick to point out that of all the lines of New Balance sneakers—including basketball shoes worn by someone named Kawhi—it’s the 880s first, and the 860s second, running shoes, that sold most for the brand this year. 

“We haven’t been over-the-top this year about tooting our horn. We were listening, learning and delivering, and from Victoria to Halifax, we’re optimistic that the running boom we saw in April will only continue this spring,” says Korrell. “New Balance Canada is doing everything possible to amplify this boom in the new year.”

Runner’s up: 2. ASICS. 3. Saucony. 4. Brooks. 

2.

Virtual Run of the Year: Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon

By Alan Brookes, race director, Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, president, Canada Running Series  

 

WOW! We can’t thank you enough – iRun readers – for this award. For 30 years, we’ve remained passionately committed to building community through running, to creating great running experiences and unforgettable moments, to building international-class, Gold Label races in Canada. This is something we have all built together. The races are what bring us together as a community, give us goals and motivation, a platform for all of you to perform and show the world the best that you can be. YOU are the talent, the show! We build the stages. 2020 has been a year like no other. A year when our dedicated and innovative team at Canada Running Series/Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon has been challenged to create the goals, motivation and experiences in a virtual space. It hasn’t been easy! Which makes this an extra special award—a recognition that we’re on the right track to create special experiences that keep us together during this unprecedented and protracted interlude. Almost 10,000 of you from 25 countries ran #towaterfront42k 2020 Virtual; some of our finest Canadian elite athletes from BC to Newfoundland raced the #AC42kRelay; and collectively you raised an astounding $2.96 million in our Scotiabank Charity Challenge at STWM when our charities need it most. To put that in perspective: you raised 85% of our usual total, while the greatest Charity Challenge in the world at the London Marathon raised 24% of their normal amount this year in the virtual space. This award is from and for ALL of us. THANK YOU. Let’s #MoveForwardTO and Canada. Together. 

 

Runner’s up: 2. The Boston Marathon. 3. The Canada Army Run. 4. Ottawa Marathon Race Weekend.

3.

Trail Shoe of the Year: Saucony Peregrine 10

By: Melissa Offner

My trail running journey began just a few months after moving from Toronto to Vancouver, almost four years ago now. I had never ran trails prior to living on the west coast and immediately fell hard for the sport. There’s nothing quite like running through thick canopy, amongst centennial trees while also seeing some of the most beautiful vistas of mountains and the ocean along the way. 

 

Since my trail running journey began, I’ve had the opportunity to try a handful of trail shoes, but was impatiently awaiting the release of Saucony’s Peregrine 10 this past year. Their road shoes are my go-to because of comfort, fit and durability, so I had high expectations for the release of their new trail collection. And I’m so happy I wasn’t disappointed. The shoe has great traction that makes me feel confident in all types of Pacific Northwest terrain and in the messiest conditions. It is very responsive and keeps my feet nice and secure throughout my runs. The new PWRRUN midsole material offers just the right amount of cushioning for middle distance or even longer trail outings. I had the opportunity to run my last trail race, CMTR's Run Ridge Run—while 28 weeks pregnant no less—right before the pandemic hit in these shoes and loved my experience. Looking forward to more trail races with them in the future!

 

Runner’s up: 2. Salomon. 3. Hoka One One. 4. ASICS.

4.

Best Winter Toque of the Year: Ciele Athletics

 

 

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Ben Kaplan: How do you position yourself as a global brand based in Canada? 

 

Jeremy Bresnen: The reality of launching a brand now, or anytime in the past few years, is that the expectation is that you’re global from day one. Instagram did that. A month after we launched somebody posted a photo of them at the top of a mountain in the Swiss Alps with a rainbow in the background wearing the chaka edition of our GOCap. We were global then, without really trying. We do our best to be available for runners around the world, but there are logistical barriers that not everyone sees, or understands. It can be frustrating, because you want to be there for customers worldwide, and there are great opportunities that present themselves, but you can also grow too fast, open too many doors, and ultimately lose visibility on how the brand is being presented. At the end of the day, we’re OK taking more time opening up new countries to truly become a global brand, to ensure that we do it in the right way and can support the community on the ground in a meaningful way.

Ciele is a Canadian company launched in Montreal in 2014 and their headgear has become ubiquitous amongst certain runners in the know. Comfortable, stylish, and independently-owned and operated, Ben Kaplan talked to Jeremy Bresnen, founder of Ciele Athletics, on his victory for Winter Toque of the Year.

5.

means deciding what you’re doing with your time—that’s true freedom, and I hope that everybody has that: something in your life that makes you feel free.”

A fan of the American Navy Seal turned ultramarathon star David Goggins, whose book Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds should be on everybody’s holiday must-read list, Bahamas has been playing with limits, both in terms of artistic ambition and his own workouts. In one recent video, Bahamas is seen running in a rainstorm, smiling, and he says to the camera: “Embrace the suck.”   

“Goggins' motivation comes from not being defined by your lowest points and I connected to that, not that I want to be an ultramarathon runner, but I like the idea that success starts in your mind,” he says. “You get up in the morning and it’s cold and wet and you don’t want to go run outside, but you know that once you do, even for a moment, you feel like the King of the World.” 

Bahamas has won Junos and, in addition to his work with Feist, has toured with Robert Plant and the Lumineers. He’s lived out his dreams, forged his own path in the music industry and today, raising his family and releasing his music during a global pandemic, the musician says he feels refreshed, and free. 

“If your kids grow up around music, art, exercise, good food and literature, if they see it’s part of your life, the kids grow up through osmosis," he says. "It’s a great motivator to live your best life and put work in everyday. When your kids see you living that life, you don’t have to teach them anything."

 

To follow Bahamas on Instagram, see @BahamasMusic. To hear the new album, and see him smiling on the album cover, see BahamasMusic.net.

Everything Bahamas has done has been unique, and the triumvirate of his genre, career path and persona is one of a kind. Lately, the personality that’s emerged behind his promotional cycle for the record Sad Hunk—a nickname bestowed by his wife after noticing one too many brooding promotional appearances—has been one of ramshackle dad and would-be athlete. Whether skipping rope or jogging along the Nova Scotia shoreline, Bahamas has leaned into his role as goofball father and the results have been as charming as every track on his warm and touching fifth disc.

“I never thought in a million years I could put out a record and not go on tour, but this is shaping up to be the best year of our family’s life,” says Bahamas, adding this his kids—at 3 and 5—are now at the age where they can go out exploring “with minimal crying, for everyone, including mom and dad.”

Bahamas says, “I grew up fishing and hunting, getting lost and riding my bike and we can do that out here in Nova Scotia. We live on the ocean and it’s nice to wake up and be part of the earth’s energy.”

For an artist whose last album was called Earthtones, the notion of being connected to something certainly larger than commercial success or stroking one’s ego looms large. As every runner knows, and Bahamas is learning through his explorations in movement, happiness isn’t something that someone can give you. Often, it’s something you have to find on your own.  

“If I fantasized about anything as a teenager, it was less about being a rockstar and more about being an artist, which to me

Rocker of the Year: Bahamas

Afie Jurvanen, who records as Bahamas, reflects on his fifth disc, being an artist during a global pandemic, and keying in on his mental and physical health to be an example to his two children 

Bahamas was a star on Toronto’s Queen Street West before he made his first solo record. As the guitarist for Leslie Feist during the peak of her commercial success, Bahamas played Saturday Night Live and the Grammys and understood the spotlight before deciding to step out on his own, and stepping into it. Playing with local legends like Jason Collett and his first band, Paso Mino, who became Zeus, Bahamas, born Afie Jurvanen, lived many musical lives before introducing himself to the public—inventing a new persona, a new sound, a new lane.     

“I was lucky to be part of these things without a huge spotlight on me through my growing pains and so when it came time to play my own music, I felt comfortable with who I am,” says Bahamas, who decamped from Toronto to Halifax, Nova Scotia in 2018, where he’s begun recording personal videos on his social media channels to promote his new album, Sad Hunk, in lieu of touring. “As a creative person, it’s a nice place to get to—you don’t take it for granted, but you can count on it: that you can just get onstage and be yourself.”

The 2020 Reebok Holiday Gift Guide

From the best shoes to the warmest tights to the perfect face mask, Reebok has everything you need to keep the athlete in your life active this holiday season

1. Reebok Forever Floatride Grow

The Forever Floatride Grow is one of the world's first plant-based performance running shoes. Made with eucalyptus bark, bloom algae, castor bean oil and natural rubber, this shoe is crafted with both your run and our planet in mind. Because going sustainable shouldn't mean compromising on quality, $150 CAD

Shop: Reebok.ca

2. Reebok Floatride Energy Symmetros Running Shoes

Whether you're circling the track or weaving through commuters on city sidewalks, these men's running shoes are designed to do it all. A breathable mesh upper keeps your feet cool, and the lightweight midsole cushions each step of your long runs, intervals and everything in between, $160 CAD.

Shop: Reebok.ca

3. Reebok PureMove Leggings

These women's leggings are designed to complement your body's unique shape. Motion Sense Technology provides targeted support that adapts to your movement. The fabric firms up during high-impact activities and relaxes during low-impact activities. The wide, high-rise waist offers full coverage and a flattering fit, $110 CAD.

Shop: Reebok.ca

4. Reebok Workout Ready Active Backpack

Everything in its place. This backpack features two main compartments to keep your daily routine organized. A padded sleeve provides a place for your laptop while slip-in side pockets hold your wallet or a water bottle, $45 CAD.

Shop: Reebok.ca

5. Reebok Club C 85

The Reebok Club C 85 has been unapologetically authentic since 1985. Club C’s original look has endured for decades and is an iconic wardrobe staple of any trendsetter, $95 CAD. 

Shop: Reebok.ca

6. Reebok Logo Beanie

This ribbed, all-cotton beanie is designed to keep you warm in a chilly gym, $22 CAD.

Shop: Reebok.ca

7. Reebok FACE COVERS

Made with soft, breathable fabric the Reebok Face Cover is comfortable, washable and reusable for practicing healthy habits every day. This cover is not a medically graded mask nor a Personal Protective Equipment but can help prevent the spread of viruses and germs through droplet transmission, $28.

Shop: Reebok.ca

6.

Best Elite Runner You’ve Probably Never Heard Of: David Mutai

By: Ravi Singh

“Eldoret is a city of champions,” David Mutai says with a beaming grin spanning across his face as he describes the place where he trains. Eldoret has indeed birthed and nourished the careers of Eliud Kipchoge, Felix Cherono, and Wilson Kipsang, all of whom David has trained with at least once.

 

Mutai is humble and doesn’t explicitly name himself among the champions of Eldoret. When he introduces himself, he starts with his titles of husband and father, but he still can’t hide his boyish grin when he proclaims: “I would say that I’ve won a race in every country I’ve run in.” 

 

Mutai recounts, rather matter of factly, “In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, that was my first race in 2010. I feel a lot of gratitude because it was my first international race that I won. There is a race in Singapore, the MSIG 50K, and I won it in 2017. In Macau, I have done three half marathons and I have won twice. In the Philippines, there’s the Adidas King of the Road, which I won twice. In Thailand I have won a few half marathons and in Indonesia I have won several races as well.” 

 

Beyond the many exotic locales in which he’s broken the tape, Canada has also proven itself a goldmine of brilliant performances for the man who calls himself an “eternal tourist.” In 2019 alone, Mutai racked up 7 wins across five Canadian provinces. Of those finishes, two were course records:

  • Waterloo, 2:33:47 — 1st (April 28)

  • Mississauga, 2:27:08 — 1st (May 5)

  • Manitoba, 2:27:10 — 1st (June 16)

  • Saskatchewan, 2:22:09 — 1st (May 26)

  • Edmonton, 2:20:07 — 1st (Aug. 18)

  • Rimouski, 2:29:17 — 1st (Sept. 8)

  • Montreal Rock & Roll, 2:23:46 — 5th (Sept. 22)

  • Quebec City, 2:25:31 — 1st (Oct. 13)

The original plan for 2020 was a return to Canada, first for Hamilton’s Around the Bay Road Race, but the pandemic changed that. Mutai is at home in Kenya when we spoke on a Zoom call, which still didn’t quite feel like such a normal part of life when we spoke over the summer, balancing his time between training and caring for his two children. 

 

“It does affect it a lot,” Mutai admits of the sudden shift brought on by COVID. “I will wake up around 5 a.m. and do a long run by 7 or 8 o’clock. But now sitting in the house for the rest of the day, you don’t have the same movement you used to have and you get some stiffness.” Mutai adds again with a laugh, “When you’re at home, you also eat more.”  

7.

Best Winter Jacket of the Year: The Running Room

 

John Stanton and the famous Running Room winter jacket are as much a part of running in Canadian winters as cold fingers, shiny medals and a never ending need to do laundry. “It’s a badge of honour for runners,” says Stanton, the Running Room founder, who introduced his iconic winter jacket in 1985, as a means of protecting his Edmonton client base through the cold winter months. “A lot of new runners, when they get our jacket, they say, ‘Now I can call myself a real runner.’” It’s fitting that the Running Room jacket—reflective, indestructible, devoid of flash and sold with a yearlong guarantee—would win top prize for our Best Jacket in a year when runners just wanted something they could believe in. Stanton says his coat—which hit the market for $89 and has only gone up ten bucks in 35 years—has had some minor tweaks in its lifetime: new colours, a few additional zippers and a slight tweak in material as the Running Room improved its fabric sourcing. However, the coat—stocked about 200-deep at each of the 100 Running Room locations—remains as it always was: trustworthy, dependable, solid. 

“The one criticism we hear about it is that it doesn't wear out and so people have had theirs for 20 years and they get tired of it,” Stanton says, with a laugh. In a year when both schools and races were cancelled and millions of Canadians lost their jobs, that sounds like a pretty good problem to have. 

 

Runner’s up: 2. New Balance. 3. Adidas Boston Celebration Jacket. 

8.

Best Running Bra of the Year: Brooks

 

Brooks has long dominated the market on running bras and in 2020, iRun readers once again crowned them—by a large margin—the run bra of the year. One of their appeals is that they make a variety of bras for a variety of women. Running truly is for every body. And Brooks makes clothing that fits women wherever they are. 

“As the consumer changes and they’re more vocal with their needs and wants, and as we watch runners, we realize there’s an opportunity in making good clothing for diverse bodies,” Heather Cvitkovic, Director of Global Apparel for Brooks, told iRun in a 2018 cover story. “We do everything from an A to a G cup, and 30-44 band. It’s a lot of work and a big commitment and a huge cost to doing this business, but we try to give her all the different types of sizing to fit her needs.”

Designed specifically for the high-impact nature of running, Brooks Run Bras were made to help women  run distraction free. Featuring a range of style and support options, these bras have been worn and loved by runners for years. With a  mix  of  encapsulation and compression-led support options, these styles exemplify Brooks rich

history in bra development. After all, the Seattle-based company is 105-years-old. After all that time, they’re still the first name in bras. 

Heather Cvitkovic told iRun: “We strive to represent as many different body types and runners as we can.” According to the iRun readers, it’s a goal they’ve achieved.   

 

Runner’s up: 2. Nike. 3. Lululemon. 

9.

Best Watch of the Year: Garmin


When asking for comments on the iRun Canadian runner’s group about Garmin, 20 people quickly immediately chimed in with their praise. RIck Shaver has worn his Garmin in races in countries such as Hungary, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Iceland, Japan and in the United States, notably at the Boston and Detroit marathons. Shaver says he never had a problem with his watch in all of his races. But that’s not what he wanted to talk about. Instead, he shared this story: “I have a Garmin 235. One month ago, as my wife was unloading the dishwasher, my McGill university coffee mug tumbles out of the cupboard onto the marble counter and hit my Garmin, shattering glass. I phoned Garmin, and they asked for my email, then sent me a special email asking for a picture of the watch (customer service is still on the phone during this). Customer service sees it, and says they’re going to replace the watch. Two days later, a new watch arrives. That is serious customer service and a big reason I love my Garmin!”

 

Runner’s up: 2. CORUS. 3. Suunto.

10.

Running Evangelist of the Year: Tom Power

Influential host of CBC’s q finds himself embraced by a new demographic when he laces up his shoes

Tom Power is a musician and radio broadcaster in one of the most visible roles in Canada media, the host of the CBC flagship art’s show, q. Power, who is 33 and from St. John’s and now lives—and runs—in Toronto, was moved by the feedback he earned when voicing his initiation into our sport. “I received something like 300 respsones when I sent my first running Tweet,” marvelled Power, recently from his home. “I was just blown away by this community.” Ben Kaplan spoke to the runner-in-training for the Telly 10-Miler this August (whether or not the event will be virtual, remains to be seen).   

 

Tom Power:

You interviewing me about running is a lot like Mozart interviewing a kid learning Chopsticks. I’m not good. 

Ben Kaplan: But that’s what makes you so endearing—you’re the Everyman runner, and we need more of that in our sport. You stoke joy. 

TP: Five years ago I was on Reddit and learning about the “Couch to 5K.” I wasn’t feeling great about my body and the way I looked and I spent nine weeks on the treadmill, and I did my 5K. And then I stopped.

 

BK: That totally happens. You put so much on a goal and then when that goal is accomplished, it’s like—beautiful. I’m finished. Now I never have to do that again.'

TP: Psychologically, I just was like, ‘Great, now I can't stop thinking about it.’  

BK: So what made you dust off the shoes again? 

TP: Hypochondria, at the beginning of COVID. I got nervous about my lungs and my general health. I was ready to start running again. 

 

 

BK: I find this so refreshing to hear because sometimes, me and my running cronies, obsess over the latest sneakers and watches and gadgetry and forget how simple the sport can be. 

TP: I don’t want to disappoint you, but I have gotten more gear since I started. My sneakers haven’t changed, but my shorts changed, and I did get a watch eventually, over time. 

 

BK: So what’s different this time, pandemic notwithstanding? How will you make running stick? 

TP: I’m more forgiving with myself. Like I said, vanity was driving my first time out, but this time that’s not a motivator. I now have a better sense of my self-worth and have worked a lot mentally, through therapy, and overall I’ve just gotten myself to an OK place.

 

BK: Do you run a lot? 

TP: A half hour three times a week, and I think maybe because of that 30 minutes, I might be doing OK at this lockdown. I like the feeling. Of course, I’d be lying if I said I like the feeling of being out there all the time. Matt says that once you get past 40 minutes, it feels incredible. I’m not there yet. I’m huffing and puffing at 30, 35 minutes. But I keep going. I like getting outside. 

BK: And this time it’s stuck? 

TP: This time, it wasn’t about looking a certain way. It was about wanting to be in shape. We’re all under immense stress and I knew running could help. 

 

BK: Of course, being at CBC, you’re in cahoots with our running friend, Matt Galloway. 

TP: Oh, yeah, and when I talked to him about it, he was, ‘Of course, you have to lace up.’ He was sweet and encouraging, so I put on my sneakers and went to a little track up the road from my house. 

 

BK: It can be hard, taking those first few steps.

TP: I was sorta ‘good enough.’ I started out walking a minute, running a minute. I just found my old sneakers from five years ago, and grabbed an old pair of shorts and an old T-shirt, from when I went to Spin classes. 

11.

12.

Best Winter Clothing Brand of the Year: ASICS

By: Anna Lee Boschetto 

 

The winter clothing brand of 2020, as voted by the runners of iRun, is ASICS, unanimously. “We believe that the benefits of sport go beyond the body and positively transform the mind,” says Wil Cramer ASICS merchandiser of performance running footwear and apparel. By focusing research on runners’ movement, it’s perhaps no surprise that ASICS came out as our reader’s top choice for winter apparel. “At ASICS, we seek to equip every runner—no matter the conditions,” says Cramer. “We are building products to provide runners with the function they need year-round and give them the confidence to keep moving all year, regardless of the conditions.” Winter’s shorter days makes the brand’s Lite Show lineup a top pick with its 360-degree reflectivity, offering runner’s maximum visibility when running during low light hours. Along with the strategically-placed reflective fabric, the Lite Show winter pieces—including tights—offer additional warmth thanks to its brushed knit fabric. 

 

Adapting to our new world order, like us all, ASICS has stepped up its sustainable practices, including using more recycled and repurposed materials in its apparel and footwear, along with featuring a sustainable dying process for its fabrics. “These endeavors focus on more sustainable production making it easier for runners to engage with our brand and advance our belief that running can help create positive change,” Cramer says. As the world continues to evolve—COVID has to end some time—positive impact has become a major focus that is woven into the culture of the brand. “Sport and movement have never been more important,” Cramer says. “It’s our mission to share the power of running, and we believe when you move the body, you uplift the mind.” 

 

Runner’s up: 2. Salomon. 3. Nike. 

Best App of the Year: Strava

By: Benjamin Errett

Strava is the only good social network. While the others spent 2020 destabilizing democracies and spreading conspiracy theories, Strava helped athletes train together while staying apart. Runners became photographers, Morning Runs became punny headlines, and the truly ambitious turned their routes into GPS art. Friends started running to cope with the pandemic, and a Strava comment was a far better way to encourage them than yet another Zoom call. The app's not perfect, of course: The flyby feature, by which passing a fellow Strava user on your run would reveal their location to your followers, was a privacy nightmare. But when the problem was flagged, they fixed it in less than a month. We use Strava to track progress, and it's been encouraging to track the app's progress along the way. This year, running on Strava has been the best kind of social distance. 

 

Runner’s up: 2. Apple Fitness+. 3. MapMyRun.  

13.

Best Running Ambassador  of the Year: Eliud Kipchoge

By: Michael Doyle

This was supposed to be a magical year in distance running, led by the sport’s warrior poet, Eliud Kipchoge.

 

In the past few years, Kipchoge has emerged as the embodiment of all that is beautiful about running — the Kenyan is wise yet ageless (in fact his actual age is the subject of much debate). In interviews, he’s plain-spoken and unpretentious, yet seems to transmit subtle profundities in simple conversations. His successes feel honestly routed in a one-to-one meritocracy that is unobtainable in virtually all other facts of life. Even though he is the only human in history to run a marathon in under two hours, his accomplishments seem mostly as if they are products of his monk-like lifestyle, work ethic, and modest demeanour, more so than his obvious genetic gifts. And his Yodaesque aphorisms (known as Kipchogeisms) cut elegantly through all of life’s bullshit and excuses, decluttering and laying bare truths that we often try to complicate and evade. Eliud Kipchoge is best summed up by one of his trademark marathoning strategies: when he feels pain late in a race, he chooses to calmly smile.

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by: Mark Sutciffe

WHY iRUN

A year, like every other measure of time, is so arbitrary. Why do we so intently frame our lives around the precise time it takes our giant rock, travelling at great but somehow imperceptible speed, to make one loop around the sun?

There is nothing inherently distinct about any 12-month period. Hence my scorn at anyone responding to recent bad news with a social media post saying, “2020 strikes again!” or “It’s 2020: we should have guessed.” Events know no calendar. Bad and good outcomes do not organize themselves conveniently by year. Besides, were there no celebrity deaths in 2019?

And yet, as runners and humans we must have our start and finish lines. We must measure our progress according to some artificial line or barrier. We might as well draw a line somewhere, whether it’s January 1 or the start of a 10K race, and put another one down further down the road and use that as the basis for planning and measuring everything about our lives and our running. If we hadn’t created time, there would be no four-minute mile to chase, no two-hour marathon.

So here we are at the end of the most unusual year in recent memory. There’s no doubt that 2020 has had more than its share of surprises. Who among us would have predicted a year ago the cancellation of almost all the races in the world, including the Olympic marathon? Who would have guessed even six months ago, in the heart of the first wave, that events in 2021 would be in jeopardy as well.

The coronavirus has caused extraordinary damage, but the news is not universally bad. Another storyline has emerged, one of faith and hope and the strength of the human spirit. We have adapted. We have persisted. We have persevered. We have shown love and concern for others. In a fractured world, we have found a common purpose.

As runners, we have pivoted as quickly as the makers of personal protective equipment. We’ve joined virtual races and challenges. We’ve created our own events. We’ve raised money for important causes. And we have applied the lessons of endurance sports to all the other challenges of our time: home schooling, Zoom meetings, quarantining.

The examples are plentiful. I’ve talked to people who have run farther than ever before, done things they never imagined. There are runners doing loops of their backyards and balconies. And there is a cohort of new runners, people who started the year going to the gym or swimming pool, but have joined our community. Welcome. And long may you run!

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SHOP

Local

No stores were asked to assemble their patrons for the photos. All group photos were taken prior to the pandemic. 

“They do a fantastic job providing consistent personal service, which over the years has been instrumental in keeping me healthy and running. Can’t say enough good things about Luke MacDonald and team,” writes Mark DuPlessis, about Aerobics First in Nova Scotia. Mark’s sentiments about his local store mirror the words we heard from runners all over the country, who credited an individual at a local business with helping them focus on their health. It’s one thing to buy a pair of sneakers. It’s something else to find a community. 

“It's a partnership,” says James Durling in Toronto of his local run shop, BlackToe Running. “Sure, runners support their local shops financially by purchasing products and services. However, it's the local shops that support our sport and running community. They are the ones providing advice and moral support to everyone—not just their customers—by cheering for all at local races. Without the local shops there is no running community.”

A lot of people wrote in about BlackToe Running, which is owned by husband and wife Mike and Maya Anderson. Among the 35 different runners to comment was Kathleen Lawrence, who mentioned being impressed by how BlackToe made a pivot to be COVID-compliant while still supporting their network. “Mike and Maya give so much to the running community to bring us all together and make running fun,” wrote Lawrence. “They have adapted and found safe and creative ways to facilitate connection in the times of COVID and running would simply not be the same without the local shops that do so much to grow and support the runners (aside from just selling us gear).”

That notion of fostering community amongst our reader’s favourite independent running shops was almost universally acknowledged. Jamie Irwin, writing from Montreal, Quebec about his local run shop, Boutique Endurance, believes shoes are a difficult purchase to exclusively make online. “I believe that it’s important to have experienced input, especially when I’m choosing shoes, and I couldn’t imagine taking a chance ordering something,” Jamie wrote. “By supporting my local retailer regularly I feel that I am helping maintain an important service in my neighbourhood—both for myself and other runners.” 

Brainsport, a shop on 10th Street in Saskatoon, also received more than 30 notices from the readers of iRun for the work they do in the local running community. Katherine Archibold wrote a note that encompassed the kind of special attention a local run shop can pay on their customers. “I have feet that are hard to fit,” she wrote, “and for well over a decade Brainsport has helped me get shoes that work. They have a huge variety in stock and will order in things for me to try on (without any pressure to buy if they don't work). I love the community that comes from the local store and until this past year was enjoying their running group.” 

The running groups from the local stores are, of course, a great way for runners to connect, train and share information. With group gatherings, even outdoors, postponed for the time being, many runners are acutely feeling the disconnection from what we love of our sport. Both the races, and the training runs. Batuhan Kaya writes of the famous running shop Forerunners in Calgary, “I really love connecting with the team there and they are helpful with any questions that may come up.” Many runners mentioned how knowledgeable the staff is at Forerunners and also mentioned that the employees at all of their local run shops are almost always runners. Perhaps Marlene Boersch, writing about City Park Runners in Winnipeg, Manitoba, said it best about why it’s important to support our independent local running stores. She wrote, “The money stays in the community.” 

This holiday season, as we all look at purchasing gifts both for ourselves and the people we love, ASICS and iRun encourage you to remember the independent running shops that help make our sport what it is. Alan Quinto had this to say about the Runner’s Den in Port Moody, B.C. “Paul and his team are wonderful supporters of the running community. Not only do they regularly lead road and trail runs for runners of all levels, they also support and sponsor local races in Port Moody and throughout the Lower Mainland,” Quinto wrote. “They’ve got the best brands that runners enjoy and, most of all, they’re runners themselves with fantastic knowledge and it shows when they fit runners into the next pair of shoes.” 

 

Voices Supporting Local Across Canada

A few other runner’s weighing in on their favourite shops.

David Robinson, Asics Ottawa: “They are local and offer great products at reasonable prices. The owner is fantastic with recommendations.”

Sarah Donaldson, BlackToe Running: “BlackToe is more than a retailer, it's an entire community. What started as simply buying a pair of shoes has led to meeting others with the same love for running, which has in turn led to tremendous personal growth.”

Pierre Dunnigan, Boutique Courir: “Friends.”

Morgan Unger, Brainsport: “I always feel at home there.”

Sergio Rios, Bushtukah: “Each of us has to do our part in supporting ourselves, our community. If we don't, then who will?”

Mark Van Schepdael, Fast Trax Run & X-Country Ski Shop: “They are the ones who support local races and live where I live.”

Illoana Smith, Frontrunners Victoria: "I support Frontrunners because they’re very involved in the community (charities, races, clinics, special events) and have highly professional, educated and great staff who go out of their way for you. They even hand-deliver orders, plus mailed me shoes and run gear to Ontario when I got stuck there during the pandemic!”

Colleen Brennan, Gord’s Running Store: “Friendly service from Gord!”

Roger Barker, Runner’s Den: “I like to try clothing on. I like the community and convenience of a place to meet for regular training runs and the ability to discuss training and injuries with knowledgeable staff.”

Jim Cooke, Running Factory: “The Running Factory in Windsor has helped and supported local runners for 20 years. All the top running brands, and outstanding service is the hallmark of The Running Factory from Beginners Clinics and training groups to putting on events and supporting local charities—the Running Factory is The Best.”

Lisa Sun, Running Free: “They give back to the community with used running shoes and an afterschool Learn to Run program!”

Anne Young, Sports 4: “My store focuses on what is best for me as a runner and listens to me. It is not commission based. For example, in early March when I bought running shoes online, they gave me a free pair of running socks for my support during the pandemic. They care.”

Darren Cooney, The Runner’s Shop: “Local running shops have been the heartbeat of our sport and our community for years. Their staff teach us when we are starting out, coach us as we grow in strength and experience, and rebuild us when we are injured. They help us pick out cool new gear (like ASICS) and when we are visiting a new city, the local run shop helps us explore new trails and routes. You can’t go wrong by shopping at your local store.”

EMPTY STARTLINE

To read about how we can all help ensure that this isn’t the future of racing, please click here.

A Letter on 2020 from Krista Duchene

“June was likely the month that most parents completely gave up on monitoring screen time.” 

RACING

When asked to write the 2020 iRun finale, I knew it would be a challenge. Even Oxford Dictionaries found it difficult to summarize 2020, describing it as “a year which cannot be neatly accommodated in one single word.” So it lived up to one of its words of the year, “unprecedented,” by choosing a list of words instead of just one. 

 

Pandemic, virtual, social distancing, quarantine, isolation, lockdown, unmute, zoom, the new normal, remotely, bubble, personal protective equipment...these words have taken new meaning in 2020. So here’s a reflection on what some of these words have meant in my running life, our running lives, and how I aim to focus on the good to provide hope and faith in a better tomorrow, saying goodbye to 2020 and welcoming 2021:

 

January was a rough start to the year as I continued waiting to learn about what happened to a female athlete and my now former coach. The story was being researched as far back as 2006 and dozens of people were being contacted for interviews. I ran the Robbie Burns 8K as a rust buster to start my season.

 

February is when the story was finally published. I was heartbroken and disturbed, to name only a few of my many emotions. It rocked the entire Canadian running community. I can’t write a simple statement to summarize a positive outcome from this, but will state the words she said after the story was made public, “I am not working from this place of anger or resentment, and that I really just want healing and positive change to come from this. 

 

March is when I ran my second and final official 2020 race, the Chilly Half Marathon. Because I was to do the New York City Half Marathon two weeks later, Reid Coolsaet, Olympian and coach, had me use it as a workout with 2K hard and 1K moderate. It went well and I was looking forward to testing my fitness in the Big Apple. Twelve days later and the kids’ one week break was at the beginning of what would be six months, and we were quickly learning more about what the World Health Organization had just declared as a pandemic. Spring races were cancelled and the Tokyo Olympics were postponed by the International Olympic Committee.

 

April 20th did not mark my 20th marathon, in Boston. In-person races were being completed as virtual races, and while some runners decided to call it a season to rest for another, or take advantage of the time to recover from a nagging injury, others were gearing up for personal bests at time trials and other equally impressive performances. Across the world where countries were enforcing strict rules to help control the virus, runners were desperately jogging around their dining room tables, balconies and backyards in the most bizarre yet creative challenges to maintain physical and mental health.

May marked the beginning of a few time trials that would give purpose to my training and put something in my calendar. Homeschooling and Zooming were now routine with many parents feeling the pressure of juggling online learning and working from home. The simplicity of running provided some normalcy and an output for those trying to make this new life work. Many completed events to support very worthwhile causes; mine included #NovaScotiaStrong for the victims of the Portapique mass murder and #IRunwithMaud to support the BIPOC community. 

   

June was likely the month that most parents completely gave up on monitoring screen time. Some simply needed the time to themselves while others were fed-up with boredom and nowhere to go. I finished my three-month home teaching contract with my own kids, praying school would resume again in the fall. Fall marathons were being cancelled. Front line and health care workers would continue being our heroes.  

 

July and August were fairly normal months for our family with much time spent at our cabin. Meeting up for a few runs with one or two friends made my routine feel a bit more normal as the socially isolating runs were getting a bit boring and lonely. Masks became mandatory in public spaces while race directors continued to think of ways to survive.

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