Ottawa

Could you run 1,000K in a year?

Two Ottawans are joining thousands of Canadians who are pledging to run or walk 1,000 kilometres in 2020, part of a growing online community where members share their progress and spur each other on.

Members say they find motivation, mutual support in online community

Tara Azulay gets a few klicks in despite the cold. She joined A Great Canadian Running Challenge in December. (Tara Azulay)

Two Ottawans are joining thousands of Canadians who are pledging to run or walk 1,000 kilometres in 2020, part of a growing online community where members share their progress and spur each other on.

A Great Canadian Running Challenge was created by Jeannette Boudreau, a 48-year-old Grade 1 teacher from Sudbury, Ont., who started running to combat stress.

Jeannette Boudreau started A Great Canadian Running Challenge in 2018. (Photo by Liane St-Pierre)

Boudreau started the private Facebook group in 2018. By last year, it had attracted about 250 participants. Now, just a week into 2020, 5,870 runners are registered.

They're all gunning for 1,000 kilometres — at 2.7 kilometres per day, a manageable goal for many people. ​

"I just wanted a place where Canadians can be together to focus on one goal. People are posting who haven't exercised in five years and all of a sudden they're going out every day," Boudreau said.

Tara Azulay of Carp joined back in December. The 49-year-old career coach is a longtime runner, but joined the group because she likes the sense of community it's building among Canadians of all ages and abilities.

"You feel accountable to all these people across the country that you don't even know, and I think that's a riot," she said.

Members post pictures of their journeys, like this early-morning solo run by Tara Azulay in Carp. (Tara Azulay)

Members post pictures of their running highs and lows, and also get a chance to show off their own stretches of Canada.

"The stories that touch me the most are people who are dealing with some fairly significant life challenges, but are getting out there and doing it. So I think that inspires a lot of people who maybe are sitting on the couch right now saying, 'I can't do this,'" Azulay said.

Scott Vernon, 45, has been in on the challenge since 2018, but has yet to meet the 1,000-kilometre goal.

Vernon, who works in the non-profit sector, started running 13 years ago and dropped more than 30 kilograms. But when he was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in 2013 and told he needed surgery, he thought his running days were over. His doctor encouraged him to get back out there and to stay healthy as long as his knees allow.

"It doesn't matter if you run a marathon or if you're doing a 'couch to a 5K', you've got that in common. And when you see posts from people saying they got out there in the middle of a snowstorm you're like, I guess I better get my butt out there," he said.

Scott Vernon, 45, is an experienced runner who likes encouraging newbies on A Great Canadian Running Challenge. (Ian Hunt, Richmond Road Race )

"Just having somebody out there that you've technically never seen or met and kind of cheering you on and kind of badgering you to get going is kind of cool."

Boudreau, who listens to Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus while she racks up the klicks but said most of her new Facebook friends are strictly Can-con, hopes the online community support will keep members motivated through the long, dark winter.

"I feel like our spirit reaches out to other people because we're trying to pump each other up. I don't want all these people to do this challenge in January and come February, they're just sitting on the couch again."

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