Tag Archives: Running Room

Running for cancer survivors: a journey to wellness

Claire was the 2:15 pace bunny for the Mississauga Half Marathon in 2006

As a running instructor for the Running Room and Nike, I have taught numerous beginner clinics, but none have touched my heart and soul more than the Breast Cancer Survivor Clinics. As we all go on our weekly long runs, and pass runners on Toronto’s numerous paths, we assume that everyone who is running must be healthy.

This is not always so.

I have been privileged to teach three Breast Cancer Survivor Clinics on behalf of the Running Room, which are tailored to women who have had cancer, although I have not had cancer myself. As with any running clinic, we embark on a nine-week journey to increase their fitness level; this is a wellness clinic for thrivers. As a group they learn about fitness, but most of all, they build self-esteem and a network of fast friends. Cancer survivors share a powerful bond, which coupled with a common goal of the 5K Run for the Cure makes for a magical experience.

The students at these courses are as diverse as you can imagine — ranging from age 30 to 70. Some have only recently completed treatments, while others have been in remission for over a decade. These ladies bravely face a wide array of health challenges, ranging from depleted energy, to depression, to lymphedema, to weight management. While some cancer patients suffer from weight loss due to drug therapies and treatments, a great number experience weight gain.

The sessions begin like most other clinics, with a little lecture on a wellness topic followed by a group run/walk. The lectures focus on topics ranging from nutrition, speed walking and injury prevention, to oncology-related topics such as cancer support resources and the effect of lymphodema on exercise. These clinics are particularly individualized, with some students walking the entire nine weeks, while others take on the traditional run/walk format. Everyone is welcome to proceed at their own pace, and each and every lady’s accomplishments are applauded, whether they manage to walk five blocks or run five kilometres.

While some instructors enjoy teaching marathoners who are striving to qualify for the Boston Marathon, I love teaching cancer patients who are brave enough to take that first step out the door. My personal philosophy is that teaching running and walking clinics is an honor. I have never met a student who didn’t teach me more than I taught them. It takes a deep inner strength to combat cancer, and when I ask my students whether they are nervous about entering their first race, they always reply, “How hard could it be after chemo?” My role as an instructor is to lead, encourage, inform, listen, smile, and inspire, but frankly it’s my students who do that for me every day.

As you head out the door this week for your long run, wondering whether you can manage that nagging hamstring, and whether you have brought enough Gatorade with you, just think — how would I feel if I were worrying about my next round of chemotherapy instead? Embrace each and every run as a blessing. Wave to every child you see in a stroller. Smile at everyone you pass, you never know what they are going through.

About Claire:
Claire Colle has completed four marathons and 12 half-marathons in her running career. She has been a running instructor with the Running Room since 2005, coaching Learn to Run, 5k and Breast Cancer Survivor clinics. She was the instructor for the 2009 Nike 10k Cancer Survivor Walking Clinic and teaches group cycling classes four-times a week at GoodLife Fitness Clubs. She has her RPM Les Mills certification for cycling, Schwinn cycling instructor and Can-fit-pro certification. By day, Claire is a Marketing Manager at IBM and a mother of two teenage sons.


Toronto Runner: Paul Schofield

Any runner who has taken a Running Room clinic knows that within the first couple of weeks, sometime around the “shoe talk,” there is a clinic night when we are invited to bring a buddy along to check out the clinic and to take an opportunity to run with a group. Last April Paul Schofield was one of those buddies, and instantly fell in love with the sport. “I enjoyed myself so much that night that I joined the clinic,” says Paul. “The coaches were terrific and fun, and the people were so nice.

Paul now runs three times a week and is starting a half marathon clinic to train for the Chilly Half next March in Burlington. “My short-term goal is to get into better physical condition in order to feel better mentally and physically,” says Paul. “I find it improves my energy level in a way that nothing else does.

“The idea of running in the winter is a huge challenge for me. I would never, ever have considered it before. It seems like such a fun — but do-able — challenge that I know I will be joyful when I accomplish it.”

Paul gets a sense of liberation and exhilaration from running. He's pictured here crossing the finish line at the 2009 Beaches Jazz Tune-Up 5 km

While still relatively new to the sport, Paul dreams of running a full marathon in the future, but on a more practical note, he hopes that running will help him to get off of his blood pressure medication. “I had some blood pressure issues that I knew would be helped by running and it has paid off,” Paul said. “I’m turning 47 in January and it would be marvelous to get off them completely!”

It’s health that motivates Paul to pound the pavement, and among his favourite places to run in Toronto is the Martin Goodman Trail. “The waterfront is a lovely place to run,” says Paul. “ I also really enjoy going through the various neighbourhoods in Toronto — I love the architecture and it’s great to run through the built environment. You can see a whole swath of the city in a single run, which makes the city seem smaller somehow.”

One such memorable experience found Paul and his friends out on a morning run. They found themselves on Yonge Street before the Santa Clause Parade started. “We came upon the deafening sirens of a police escort accompanying a yellow school bus full of CLOWNS being transported to the parade route,” Paul recalls. “ They all looked out at us and waved manically. It suddenly brought back every childhood fear of clowns and made a lot of us shiver with revulsion! The whole image of a school bus full of clowns waving will be etched in my memory forever.”

Paul celebrates with running buddy Shawn Syms after completing the 10 km route at the Niagara Falls International Marathon

In the nine months Paul has been running, he has completed three races: The Beaches Jazz Tune-Up 5km (29:14), the Longboat Toronto Island 10km (57:43), and the Niagara Falls International Marathon 10 km (55:59).

While the races are fun, Paul really loves running for the sense of freedom it has given him. “I get such a sense of liberation and exhilaration when I run that it enables me to look at my life in a more empowered way. I have a stronger sense of control over my life and that anything is possible,” he says. “My sense of accomplishment has lifted my spirits immeasurably and I feel I can improve myself in ways that I didn’t think were possible. It gives me a sense of perspective on things.

“I has also made me feel healthier and sexier!”

Toronto Runner: Shawn Syms

Shawn prepares for a strong finish at the Niagara Falls Marathon 10 km event on October 25, 2009.

It was one year ago that doctor’s orders found Shawn Syms signing up for a local boot camp with a friend. “At that point I’d been fairly sedentary,” recalls Shawn. “My doctor told me to get more exercise in order to keep my blood sugar and cholesterol in check.”

During his initial foray into the world of squats and drills, Shawn discovered a love/hate relationship with what he found to be the most effective part: running. “Initially, it left me huffing and panting the entire way,” says Shawn. “But I eventually discovered that the more I ran, the more I enjoyed it.”

The running he experienced in boot camp also led Shawn to discover a competitive streak that he hadn’t realized he had. He frequently found himself one of the slowest runners in his group and decided he wanted to improve. Seven months ago, he and a buddy signed up for a learn to run clinic at his local Running Room. “It really surprised me how much I enjoyed running because I’d never really liked physical exercise growing up,” Shawn admits. “From that initial clinic, I went directly into the 10K clinic and have now just started with the half-marathon clinic.”

In only seven months, Shawn has run number of races including a 10 km in his hometown of Niagara Falls, where he had a personal best of 55 minutes and 44 seconds. He also had the opportunity to run the Brooklyn Bridge while on vacation in New York City this past summer. “The Brooklyn Bridge was bustling with pedestrians, sightseers, cyclists and runners,” recalls Shawn. “The bridge was an exciting, disorienting, yet phenomenal experience.

Shawn cools down after running the Brooklyn Bridge this past summer. He often enjoys combining traveling and running. In addition to NYC, Shawn has also run in both Chicago and Tokyo.

“I enjoy running while travelling; it can provide a great perspective on an unfamiliar city. I passed the 10K mark for the first time while running in Chicago this summer and got lost while running in Tokyo where I was lucky to find a Metro station that I recognized.”

Shawn says that learning to run has been but one chapter in a long story of coming to terms with his body as someone who grew up with weight and self-esteem issues. “I love taking clinics because of the camaraderie of running in a group and the structure and discipline imposed by the schedule,” he says.

With most of the races for the year wrapped, Shawn is focused on training for the Chilly Half Marathon in Burlington next March, which he wants to complete in less than two hours. “Running has increased the scope of what I dare to accomplish, and has influenced the rest of my life — I’m now more open to saying yes to the unexpected, to being more adventurous.

“If all goes well, I plan to train for the 2010 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon next fall. Sounds like a great way to celebrate turning 40.”

Shawn continues to go to bootcamp three days a week, while running an additional three times a week. “Between that, my day job, and my sideline career in freelance journalism, that’s about all I can fit in,” he says. Shawn even has a book review being published in the January 2010 issue of Canadian Running Magazine. To view more of shawn’s writing, visit his website at www.shawnsyms.ca.

“Running in a group is such a pleasure in and of itself. I’ve met great people — and more than a few kooky characters,” says Shawn. “And my doctor isn’t raising alarm bells about my blood sugar or cholesterol like he used to. If I’m still doing this 10 years from now, I’ll be very happy.”

Toronto Runner: Sylvie Desroches

This post kicks off what I hope to be an on going series that will profile the amazing and diverse community of runners in Toronto. It will consist of one post a week that will feature an individual runner – how they started running, their goals, and an assortment of other interesting facts about them. If you or someone you know would like to be featured in a future installment of this series, please drop me an e-mail at mattradford at me dot com.

Sylvie Desroches

Sylvie1Eleven years ago, and at the end of a bad relationship, Sylvie looked to running as a way to claim independence and to ignite passion in her life. Life circumstances had other plans and she found herself leaving the relationship, relocating and rebuilding her life. Ten years later, she took the plunge into the world of running by signing up for a Learn to Run clinic at her local Running Room. “Friends had told me that they had registered and so I jumped at the chance,” she recalls. “Of course, the bottle of wine I had consumed might have had something to do with it.”

June 27 drag queen-1

Sylvie dressed up for the Toronto Pride and Remembrance 5km run on June 27, 2009

This past year, Sylvie ran the Chilly Half as her first half-marathon (2:18), then the Toronto Women’s Half (2:09), the Marathon Oasis de Montreal Half (2:17), and finished her season with the Goodlife Fitness Toronto Half Marathon (2:13). “One of the most memorable running moments was definitely Montreal,” Sylvie recalls. “Seeing the Olympic Stadium in distance — I got chocked up seeing it so close and knowing that there was only 6k to go — it gave me a huge burst of energy.”

When not training for an event, Sylvie enjoys mixing up running with friends and running alone. “In true Libra form, I enjoy both. I prefer to run alone for my LSD runs because I like to keep it slow. But for speed work and hills, I really enjoy running with friends.”

9629_263590425390_64766539..Sunday mornings you can often find Sylvie running on the new Martin Goodman Trail, one of her favourites in Toronto. “It’s really beautiful, wide and busy,” says Sylvie. “There are always lots of runners and cyclists, so you’re never completely on your own. It’s also relatively flat with just one tiny hill and the best part is running so close to the lake.”

At 51, Sylvie is not short on running goals. While not looking to achieve a specific time goal, she has her eyes on qualifying for the Boston Marathon, as well as taking her running international to marathons in France, Chicago, Washington and running the Nike San Francisco Women’s Marathon.

“But right now, I’m taking it easy,” says Sylvie. “I will start my training in January for the Toronto Women’s Half Marathon at the end of May, and will probably follow the Running Room training schedule or may even try the Hal Higdon’s.”

In addition to her own training, Sylvie has also helped others to discover their love of running through coaching several clinics through the Running Room, including the Learn to Run clinic that was her introduction to the sport.

When asked what running means to her and how it has impacted her life, Sylvie said, “the one word that keeps coming to mind is ‘everything’. Truly everything. It saved my sanity, helped me deal with an extremely difficult part of my life. It has made me a better and stronger person with the knowledge that I can run races and do well — not compared to others, but to myself. It’s a huge boost to know that I can do what only one per cent of the population does. I’m no longer just floating through life – I’ve found my passion.”

Sylvie has also found a community – membership in a group of people who share that passion. “I can go to any city and find a running group and voila, instant acceptance,” says Sylvie. “I don’t need credentials, reputation, or anything else. I just need to be me.”

Quick facts:

Favourite Shoe: Asics 2140

Favourite Equipment: Sugoi jacket and Body Glide

Favourite thing about running Toronto: People

Motivation: training for an event

E-mail Sig: “Determination is what is left when motivation is gone.”

Sylvie’s Top three running tracks:

Spiritual High Part I, II, and III by Moodswings

Don’t Say Anything by Nacho Sotomayer (Buddha Bar 3)

The Drill by Paolo Bolognesi Remix

Picking up the race kit…

Race weekend is here! I went down to the Goodlife Fitness Toronto Marathon Expo today on my lunch break to pick up my race kit. Expo_sign

The race shirts are decent – a bright orange with white stripes down the sides. The kit also included a copy of irun, a mini carton of Rice Dream, a chapstick, and a bunch of assorted other samples and flyers.

I was also able to pick up a pair of ADIDAS running gloves for training this winter, was given a Goodlife hat (and the chance to win a gym membership), and got a free copy of the November/December Canadian Running (I signed up for a two year subscription at the Scotia expo – this is an excellent magazine and that I highly recommend).

The expo also had the trophies displayed near the kit pick up, but I couldn’t find where they were keeping the display of the medals that are being handed out this year. I found the booth with the company who makes them, but they also didn’t know where they were located. So, for now, the esthetics of the medals remains a mystery (although a little bird told me they were BIG).

TropiesCompared to the Scotiabank Waterfront Toronto Marathon, I thought the kit pick up was kind of shaky. At Scotia, they had a huge area separated by last name. At the Toronto Marathon, it was divided by event and there was a massive line for the marathon and things seems a little disheveled. I’m sure it’s not easy disseminating 30,000 + race kits and maybe I should take into account that it had only be open for a couple of hours, but as far as systems go, I preferred the way it was handled at Scotia.

I also found the walk ways for the expo incredibly narrow. Coming away from the race kit pick up, you are funneled into the Running Room booth with a three-foot opening for everyone to get through. It then opens up a little more, but is still pretty tight, especially with people stopping to look at booths and the various offerings at each. The vendor selection was good and I was happy to see asics selling their shoes and clothing at The Runners Shop‘s booth.

BibSo, I’m a happy tapered runner, just waiting for the gun to go off and run this thing. While I’m telling myself that i’d like to just do as well as i did at Scotia, the truth is I want to do better! I’m hoping to finish in 1 hour and 40 minutes. Well see how it goes!