“Running is alone time that lets my brain unspool the tangles that build up over days.”
- Rob Haneisen
Running. For some it elicits a feeling of freedom, of letting go, a sort of moving meditation akin to yoga that allows us to clear the clutter that we sometimes allow to build up throughout the day. For others, it brings back horrible memories of gym class 4km races, cramps, wheezing breaths, and struggles just to finish. For me, it’s a little bit of both, but in the last three years, it’s definitely inched its way towards the former, giving me another physical outlet to help not only strengthen my body physically, but release my mental stresses as well.
About 3 years ago, I decided to sign up for my first half marathon in Vancouver, Lululemon’s annual Seawheeze run in August. At the time, I barely ran over 3km in one go, once per week (if that), and to be completely honest, that pattern didn’t change even in the days leading up to the race. To put it bluntly, I attempted a half marathon without training, and honestly, it sucked. It was probably the most painful 2 hours and 45 minutes I had to endure, just constantly looking for those markers to tell me how far along I was. I took a rest break at the 13km mark, and everything in my body seized. For the last 8km I had to jog/walk painfully to the finish, until I stumbled across the finish line with legs that were so tight I could barely stand. All in all, it was a heavy deterrent to ever attempting something like that again. But I did.
The following year, I decided to sign up for the Edmonton Half Marathon. It was around the same time as the Seawheeze so it gave me a full year to try and get together some sort of training regimen. The problem was, I still didn’t really enjoy running. In my mind, for an activity to feel relaxing, and to reach that level of moving meditation, one has to feel in some way, competent at that activity. There’s an important distinction here. One has to feel competent at that activity, and not necessarily be competent at that activity. At that time I still didn’t have that sense of competency, and would have never referred to myself as a “runner”. Bringing myself to do even a weekly run was a struggle. So for the first half of the year, I started introducing more activity in general into my lifestyle, which included running stairs at work, weight lifting, and much to my chagrin, a single short run per week. It was around April when my friend and Yogalife alumni, Taylor Nystad introduced me to a training group at Lululemon Whyte Avenue that she helped coach called Run Collective.
Now I’ve heard of run groups before, but have always had a bit of hesitancy to signing up for them because, A) I wasn’t sure if I could keep up, and B) I typically am an individual exerciser, rarely doing too many group activities outside of yoga. But because Taylor at the time was a coach for the program, I thought I’d trust her when she said that I could definitely keep up. At first, I was a bit skeptical. The group of 30 plus people, all decked out in colourful running gear, the peppy coaches smiling and yelling out pace commands while I was panting and in pain was all a bit much at first.
However, I started to notice something. There were lots of people at my level of running, lots of people just looking to finish a half marathon, and lots of people just looking to improve their competency when they run.
I enjoyed being around like-minded people, but also, really enjoyed the push to challenge myself.
Run Collective’s focus during training season (the three months prior to the influx of half/full marathons in August) are on increasing speed and improving recovery time. In essence, Run Collective pushes you to do hills, all out sprints, intervals, and any combination of those three after doing a warm up and ending with a cool down jog. These are things that I would have never done myself. No matter the challenge, we always had each other for support, and motivation from the coaches.
As a bit of background, Run Collective was established by a small group of runners looking to help people along their run journey no matter their ability level. Dominic Rankel, a Run Collective coach and Boston Marathoner described Run Collective “as a way to gather runners of all ability levels in our city for a run workout once a week. What's really unique about Run Collective is that any runner can show up on Wednesday nights and get a great workout. Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned distance runner, you are guaranteed to meet other people of your ability level who will both encourage you and push you.”
Heather McIntyre, now Run Collective coach, but initial run novice much like myself described her first time at Run Collective:
“It was a smaller group then and I was just starting to run. I vividly remember my first run - 4km was the furthest I had run up to that point and pushing for 5km was both difficult, exhilarating and meaningful. I remember Andrea Rice (now fellow coach and one of the driving forces behind Run Collective) turning back to see how my run was going. I also recall LuLu employees greeting me with high fives, encouraging words and a "thanks for showing up and giving it your all" tank top. All it took was that one run to keep me coming back. I've been running with the collective ever since and have made countless friends, along with countless strides in my running. The collective is where I met many of the people I run with today, as well as many of the people who have helped me train for and run half marathons and even a marathon.”
Fast forward to my second major run, the Edmonton Half Marathon in 2016. Firstly, the run was much less painful, I was able to maintain my pace the entire time, and though it was still a challenging race, it was much more comfortable. My time ended up being 1:56:38, with my initial goal being under 2 hours, down almost 50 minutes from my first half marathon. I was ecstatic. I owe so much of my success with my second run to coaching and motivation from the Run Collective group, and now recognize the importance of committing to some sort of training program when prepping for any major race. Now, I run regularly each week, and use running as an outlet for stress relief. It’s still sometimes a struggle, but I enjoy it much more now than I used to.
If you’re interested in starting a run practice, improving race times, or have a major run in mind that you’d like to train for, I strongly encourage you join Run Collective, or any other run groups in the city. They’re a great way to keep you motivated and accountable to your training, and also, they’re free!
Dominic’s hopes for Run Collective is to watch it “continue to grow and grow both in number and in the strength of the community. When our humble run get together started 5 years ago, I ran with 3 or 4 regulars. Now we can consistently expect 30 runners with the group getting as big as 60 runners some nights. In terms of the community growth I really look forward to the integration of our new runners.”
Meet us at Lululemon on Whyte Avenue at 6:30 Wednesday nights. You might see your fellow Yogalifer, and blogger there lacing up!
For more information on Run Collective please visit their twitter: @Run_Collective or their instagram @runcollective.
All photos for this blog post courtesy of Jody Bailey. You can find him on instagram at @3oh6 and @run_photographs. Follow his blog and online portfolio at: