Scotiabank Charity Challenge » Digital Champions

2015 Digital Champions

The STWM Digital Champions are a group of diverse, dedicated and enthusiastic athletes; each with a unique story and running history. Follow their journeys, their ups and downs, motivations and challenges, as they train for Canada's #1 Big-City Marathon!


Dawn Barnable, Trenton, ON

Dawn Barnable

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When did you start running and why?

I started running in 2012, 2 years post gastric bypass because I knew that I needed exercise to help me get strong and fit. Running was free and I could do it whenever I wanted.

What is your most memorable running accomplishment?

I ran a 10 hour endurance race in Kentucky last year which consisted of mile laps around a horse track. I completed 35 miles (56k) in that time — it was my first Ultramarathon.

Who inspires you to be a better runner?

My club founder for Run It Fast, Joshua Holmes — he is so motivating and inspiring in all that he does. It makes me realize that I can do anything if I just try.

What's your favourite song to listen to on a run?

My playlist ranges from Taylor Swift to Motley Crue, but any Eminem song is my power-song.

What do you love most about the marathon?

I love the marathon because it's in those last 13.1 miles that you discover who you are. The first half of the race you run, the second half is all mental and you run with your head and heart.

What do you do when you're not running?

I cross train at the gym 5 times a week lifting weights, I hang out with my kids and I work as a full time Realtor.

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Danielle Benzaquen, Waterloo, ON

Danielle Benzaquen

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When did you start running and why?

I started running in February 2010 after both my grandparents died of heart attacks, only a few months apart. I knew that I needed to get healthy, so I started running and never stopped.

What is your most memorable running accomplishment?

My most memorable running experience was when I ran my first sub-2 hour half marathon. Just 3 weeks prior I had been told by an experienced marathoner that it just wasn't going to happen for me yet. I knew she was wrong and I was proud to prove her wrong with a 1:55 finishing time, and even more proud when I ran a 1:45 in my most recent half.

Who inspires you to be a better runner?

Everyone who runs inspires me to be a better runner! I love to connect with other runners online and seeing how hard everyone works to achieve their goals is always inspiring and is always enough to get me out the door on a rough day!

What's your favourite song to listen to on a run?

This changes all the time, but right now it is Wolf Like Me by TV On The Radio!

What do you love most about the marathon?

The mental and physical challenge of both the training and the race. I love feeling healthy and strong and I love the way it makes believe I can do anything.

What do you do when you're not running?

When I'm not running I love to spend time with my dogs and my family, writing for my blog, relaxing at the cottage, trying new restaurants, and travelling!

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Ryan Chilibeck, Vancouver, BC

Ryan Chilibeck

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When did you start running and why?

I started running a few years back to shed some weight before my friends stag in Vegas. After losing over 30lbs I got hooked on living a better & balanced life. Openly, I would like to thank my wife for sticking with me through the 'chubby years'. I love you.

What is your most memorable running accomplishment?

Aside from running the Banff-Jasper relay, I would say that starting the East Vancouver Run Crew has been my biggest running accomplishment. I had no clue what this would grow into in just over 1 year. It's seriously mind-boggling and every day that I see this movement grow, new friendships made, beer drank, stories told and people coming together makes me thankful to the running community. I love you.

What's your favourite song to listen to on a run?

One song? That's ludicrous… give me 3 songs!
1. Volcano Choir — Byegone
2. Metallica — Creeping Death
3. Japandroids — The Nights of Wine & Roses

What are you most looking forward to about running your first marathon?

My name is Ryan… I'm a first timer at STWM. This will be my first Full Marathon attempt.
At this point I'm not so much looking forward to the full 42.2km… I am really scared. Terrified actually. Check back with me in 5 months & we'll talk.

What do you do when you're not running?

I spend a lot of my free time with my little baby girl and my wife. When I can't spend time with them then I am usually working at my pizzeria in East Vancouver. When I'm not working at the pizzeria, I am usually just eating pizza. I love you pizza.

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Jess Collins, Toronto, ON

Jess Collins

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When did you start running and why?

I never thought I'd be a runner, but I wanted to add some cardio to my strength training workouts so I gave it a try. I finally decided to sign up and "train" (I use that term loosely!) for the Terry Fox Run in September 2011, since Terry Fox has been one of my heroes since childhood, and I wanted to make a contribution to fighting cancer. I got hooked on running and the thrill of races!

What is your most memorable running accomplishment?

Last year's Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon was my first marathon and one of my biggest achievements — but some of the most memorable experiences happened while training for STWM — including running 15km of "warm-up" laps around the parking lot before the Oasis ZooRun 10K so my training partners and I could get in our long run distance!

Who inspires you to be a better runner?

My Pace & Mind teammates and running friends truly inspire me through their commitment to running. It's hard to stay in bed when I wake up early and see on social media that my friends have already been out running!

What's your favourite song to listen to on a run?

I love making a different playlist for each race, but I always listen to "All My Friends" by LCD Soundsystem at the end of every race — it gives me the heart-swelling push I need at the end!

What do you love most about the marathon?

Training for a marathon is a tremendous challenge with many rewards: experiencing gorgeous early morning sunrises along the lake, the satisfaction of a well-earned breakfast after a long run, and the friendships I've made over the course of countless hours and kilometres of running.

What do you do when you're not running?

Outside of running and work, I'm a very active baker. I also brew beer and love cycling.

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Karyn Cooper, Orillia, ON

Karyn Cooper

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When did you start running and why?

After a few years of infertility, I became pregnant in 2011 and then miscarried. By coincidence, I started running and noticed it cleared my head and eased the sadness. Since then, I've had a son, and continued running, going from a non-runner to marathoner.

What is your most memorable running accomplishment?

My most memorable running accomplishment was finishing the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon last year. I had struggled during training and was not confident going into it. I struggled during the run but I crossed that finish line and earned that medal.

Who inspires you to be a better runner?

My 3 year old son inspires me to be a better runner. He's only ever seen me as a runner. He has seen me struggle, but always accomplish my goal and I hope this inspires him as he gets older.

What's your favourite song to listen to on a run?

State of Love and Trust — Pearl Jam

What do you love most about the marathon?

I love that the accomplishment really is in simply crossing that finish line. The training is hard. The race is hard. Knowing you are a marathoner is something you carry with you forever.

What do you do when you're not running?

I work full time in community-based HIV work. I'm a wife and a mother of a 3-year old rambunctious son.

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David Daze, Ottawa, ON

David Daze

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When did you start running and why?

I've been involved in athletics my entire life so I've always been running, but usually to get in shape for something else. I ran my first marathon at age 40 in 2001 because it seemed like one of those things you do when you hit a milestone age. I loved it and have been hooked on the marathon ever since.

What is your most memorable running accomplishment?

Qualifying for and then running the Boston Marathon in both 2006 and 2007. Running 22 marathons so far, with hopefully many more to come.

Who inspires you to be a better runner?

My wife and my two teen daughters for starters. I always write their names on my arm when I run a marathon. My students always ask me "did you win?" so they inspire me to run faster too!

What's your favourite song to listen to on a run?

I'm a big Springsteen fan so my favourite running song is, of course, Born to Run.

What do you love most about the marathon?

It's a great physical and mental challenge. A marathon is a great way to test yourself. There's a tremendous sense of accomplishment when you finish a marathon. I love the quote "a marathon is twenty miles of hope and six miles of truth." So true!

What do you do when you're not running?

I teach elementary school full time so that keeps me pretty busy. I also spend a lot of time coaching basketball, which is another sport, besides running, that I love!

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Amy Friel, Toronto, ON

Amy Friel

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When did you start running and why?

I come from a family of distance runners — my Grandpa, Dad, and older sister are all marathoners. Though I've always loved to run, I only started training consistently a few years ago, after a co-worker challenged me to try the Oasis Zoo Run with him. He kicked my butt, so I kicked up my mileage!

What is your most memorable running accomplishment?

I like to think it hasn't happened yet.

Who inspires you to be a better runner?

My Grandpa, Jack Friel. He won the Toronto Police Games Marathon in 1977, in an impressive 2:26:11. Last October, I had the privilege of carrying his legacy across the finish line at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. This year, I'd like to do it in Boston-qualifying time.

What's your favourite song to listen to on a run?

I basically just replay the latest Taylor Swift album until she releases a new one. What's it like to have taste? I have no idea.

What do you love most about the marathon?

Running in the footsteps of my distance running heroes. Chasing a Boston qualifier on the same course where Lanni Marchant broke the Canadian women's marathon record is a pretty inspiring challenge.

What do you do when you're not running?

I write, talk, and dream about running! I'm on "the last 2.2K" of a degree in Political Science. I try to squeeze in as much creative writing as I can between mileage runs and research papers. And I'm an artist; my favourite subjects to paint are animals wearing glasses, and famous runners (usually without glasses).

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Jonathan Greenwald, Toronto, ON

Jonathan Greenwald

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When did you start running and why?

June 23rd, 2013; a day that will live in infamy. I was invited on a trail run by some friends following a discussion about getting in shape. I ran 3 kilometres, started seeing stars, then walk/jogged the 3 kilometres back to my car.

What is your most memorable running accomplishment?

Finishing the 2014 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon. The journey from barely being able to run 3 kilometres to finishing a 21.1km race in just over a year is something I will never forget.

Who inspires you to be a better runner?

The friends I met since becoming a runner inspire me every day; whether it be the Sunday Run to Eat Crew, the Night Terrors Run Crew, or the many friends I made in other Toronto run crews, watching them accomplish their various goals is truly inspiring. Also, being able to keep up with my son is what inspired me to get in shape in the first place!

What's your favourite song to listen to on a run?

On solo runs, I listen to a lot of Coldplay and Death Cab for Cutie. They keep me calm. On group runs, I listen to the sound of other runners' feet hitting the pavement; that's music to my ears.

What are you most looking forward to about running your first marathon?

Of all things I look forward to, finishing is at the top of the list. I have come so far in my journey as a runner and cannot wait to join the illustrious club of marathoners. I really appreciate how hard one has to work to complete a marathon and I'm so ready to become one of them!

What do you do when you're not running?

When I'm not running, I'm usually thinking about running or discussing one of the many aspects of running with people (some of whom probably wish I had other hobbies! I am obsessed. Other times, I'm coaching my son's soccer and T-Ball team or helping him clear levels on his Wii gaming system (equally as important as running).

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Jason Guy, St. John's, NFLD

Jason Guy

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When did you start running and why?

I started running in junior high school, due to my soccer coach, who suggested I take up cross country.

What is your most memorable running accomplishment?

Placing second in the 2015 Bluenose Half Marathon to Abel Kirui (Olympic Silver Medalist).

Who inspires you to be a better runner?

My family. They're so supportive of me in everything I do. They are always out cheering me on, and are very understanding with my 5am wakeups during the week to run.

What's your favourite song to listen to on a run?

Runnin' Down A Dream — Tom Petty

What are you most looking forward to about running your first marathon?

I've yet to run a marathon, and the STWM will be my first. I'm looking forward to the challenge. I feel physically I can do it, but can I mentally keep myself at the pace I want for such an extended period of time.

What do you do when you're not running?

I play Ultimate Frisbee, hike, and spend the majority of my time with wife and two young children.

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Cheryl Kozoriz, Toronto, ON

Cheryl Kozoriz

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When did you start running and why?

I've always been active and health-conscious but I've never been athletic — team sports are painful for an introvert and I've never been able to get into yoga. Not realizing that track and field day gave me anxiety attacks in grade school, my husband convinced me to try running in July 2013. It took three short runs but I surprised myself when I fell in love hard.

What is your most memorable running accomplishment?

Finishing the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half-Marathon last year was a major accomplishment for me — both in running and life.

Who inspires you to be a better runner?

I was a shy, unathletic kid who stressed about gym class on a daily basis and that kid inspires me to be a stronger, better runner. Running makes me feel both free and in control, strong and vulnerable; it's the ultimate evolution and redemption for me.

What's your favourite song to listen to on a run?

So What'cha Want by the Beastie Boys always gets me moving but the best runs are runs when I get so into my head that the music disappears.

What are you most looking forward to about running your first marathon?

I'm looking forward to the physical and mental challenge of running the marathon and developing my running abilities and distance through the training process. Long training runs are so good for my introverted soul but I'm also excited to connect with the running community, like the Night Terrors crew who I run with regularly. I have so much respect for people who run the marathon distance so it will feel like such an honour and an accomplishment to be one of them.

What do you do when you're not running?

I'm a marketing and communications manager for GlucksteinHome, interior designer Brian Gluckstein's home furnishings product line. In my free time, if I'm not running (or talking about running), I'm cooking, eating or planning my next trip.

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Ben Lariviere, Port Perry, ON

Ben Lariviere

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When did you start running and why?

I started running in March 2013 and my motivation was to get fit, stay fit and challenge myself.

What is your most memorable running accomplishment?

My most memorable moment in running would have to be when I reached my sub-3 hour (2:59:06) marathon at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon to qualify for running Boston 2015.

Who inspires you to be a better runner?

My biggest inspiration to be a better runner is my family, friends and fellow runners. If I can inspire someone to take up running then it's worth it.

What's your favourite song to listen to on a run?

Something From Nothing — Foo Fighters

What's your favourite thing about the marathon?

The Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon course is my favourite. It's FAST and well organized.

What do you do when you're not running?

When I'm not running I like to spend time with family, plus I also love to work out in the gym.

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Steve Lennon, London, UK

Steve Lennon

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When did you start running and why?

I started running just after Easter in 2012, when my brother-in-law suggested we do a half-marathon. Having initially ridiculed the idea, I decided that a) I wasn't getting any younger, and b) I was getting fat. I quickly decided to sign up!

What is your most memorable running accomplishment?

Finally getting a sub 2-hour half marathon time (by 17 seconds!) I ran it in Berlin, almost two years to the day from when I first started running.

Who inspires you to be a better runner?

My running crew, Run Dem Crew. Every session is full of positive people and inspiring stories. Seeing and hearing other people's achievements is a huge motivator; it says you can do it too.

What's your favourite song to listen to on a run?

Keeping it Canadian. Arcade Fire: Month of May. Just the "1,2,3,4" count at the start gets me fired up to run hard.

What are you most looking forward to about running your first marathon?

This is my first ever marathon. Having lived and studied in Toronto, I'm so excited to bring back a 'slightly' healthier version of myself to the city that played an important part of my life (and introduced me to Ice Hockey!) GO LEAFS GO!

What do you do when you're not running?

Before training for STWM: I'm a bit of a boxed set junkie. There are so many brilliant TV Shows at the moment, it's hard to stay on top of all them. I try. Very hard.
During training for STWM: What? I can do things other than run?!

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Vicky Leung, Toronto, ON

Vicky Leung

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When did you start running and why?

Back in 2008, I weighed close to 170lbs. I started running to lose weight because I felt like it was the easiest thing to do. It turned out to be a lot of fun and I made a few friends along the way. Now I run because it makes me feel better both physically and mentally.

What is your most memorable running accomplishment?

Crossing the finish line at the end of the Goofy Race and a Half Challenge in 2012 was pretty awesome! I never thought I'd be able to run a marathon much less, run a marathon back to back with a half distance the day before.

Who inspires you to be a better runner?

Zombies — in the event of an apocalypse, I don't want to get eaten so I can't be the slowest runner.

What's your favourite song to listen to on a run?

I listen to a lot of EDM and dubstep. I like anything with a good beat that keeps me moving. I have songs from Glitch Mob, Deadmau5, Seven Lions, Swedish House Mafia and Adventure Club on my playlist right now.

What do you love most about the marathon?

I love the sense of accomplishment you get when you cross the finish line knowing that all your training and hard work has paid off. Okay, I really just like being able to eat whatever I want and not worry about gaining weight.

What do you do when you're not running?

I'm often road biking or doing anything outdoors. I'm also a bit of a foodie so I like exploring and trying new places to eat and I also like watching films, travelling and photography.

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Christina Menssen, Toronto, ON

Christina Menssen

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When did you start running and why?

I started running recreationally over 10 years ago and fell in love with racing (for fun) after my first half marathon in 2008. Over the last few years I have significantly improved as a runner and have set some lofty goals for myself with the hope (and DREAM!) of qualifying for Boston this October at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.

What is your most memorable running accomplishment?

My most memorable running accomplishment has to be the 2014 Phoenix Marathon. I told myself in 2010 that I would never race a full marathon ever again (after a bad first experience) but decided to give it a second shot four years later. I learned so much about myself during that training cycle and had so much fun racing Phoenix that I've become hooked on running 42.2!

Who inspires you to be a better runner?

My best friend Emily (@runemz) inspires me to be a better runner daily. Her passion and dedication to the sport is so contagious and keeps me pushing towards self-improvement.

What do you love most about the marathon?

Pushing past my perceived limits and continuing to move forward when my body wants to quit is what keeps me coming back to the marathon distance. I love both the physical and mental challenge.

What do you do when you're not running?

I blog about my running adventures at theathletarian.com! I also teach part-time, watch a lot of Netflix, eat a lot of Mexican food, and buy a lot of lululemon.

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Mei Ling, Toronto, ON

Mei Ling

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When did you start running and why?

I started running four years ago because I joined an ultimate frisbee team and realized after my first game that I needed to be able to run. My friend and I started training together and she eventually convinced me to run the Disney World Half Marathon. After that I was hooked.

What is your most memorable running accomplishment?

I ran the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 2013 (my first and only marathon). It felt so good to work towards a goal, make new friends along the way and then achieve it. When I crossed the finish line I felt like I could do anything and have been itching to get back ever since.

Who inspires you to be a better runner?

My husband Dan inspires me. He's also a runner but has been off for a year due to injury. This year I felt like I was running for both of us and whenever I didn't want to run he would say to me "If you want to crush your race, you better go for your run!"

What's your favourite song to listen to on a run?

Thunderstruck by AC/DC. Who wouldn't get pumped up running to it?

What do you love most about the marathon?

I love the challenge of the marathon and the many reasons why people run it. I love how it is inclusive of all abilities (beginners to elite) and the atmosphere of the crowd. It takes commitment to train for a full marathon and I love the feeling near the end when you know that you've made it.

What do you do when you're not running?

When I'm not running I'm playing with my 4lb Chihuahua or planning my next meal with my husband (we love food!) I also love to travel and am always researching the next big trip (which sometimes revolves around a destination race). I've been lucky enough to get a good trip in once a year for the last few years.

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Charles Minor, Richmond Hill, ON

Charles Minor

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When did you start running and why?

I started running in Public School during the 1970's running movement! It was the thing to do, so I joined Cross Country and I've been running since then!

What is your most memorable running accomplishment?

My most memorable running accomplishment was completing my first marathon despite running the last 15 km in complete agony from a recurring injury!

Who inspires you to be a better runner?

My two daughters inspire me! Their innocence and pure joy towards running reminds me of what running should be all about!

What is your favourite song to listen to on a run?

Anything by AC/DC!

What is your favourite thing about the marathon?

Favourite thing about the Marathon is that it is one of the purest representations of the human spirit! "Finishing a marathon is a state of mind that says anything is possible."

What do you do when you're not running?

When I'm not running you can find me swimming, biking or spending time with my family!

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Josie Nguyen, Oshawa, ON

Josie Nguyen

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When did you start running and why?

I started running about 2 years ago as a way to change up my regular work-out routine at the gym. A friend dragged me to my first 5k and I was instantly hooked!

What is your most memorable running accomplishment?

The Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half-Marathon in 2014. I smashed my course time by 28 minutes and my PB by 7 minutes.

Who inspires you to be a better runner?

Every single runner who crosses the finish line; who doesn't give up and realizes that time on the clock is not always indicative of their dedication to the sport.

What's your favourite song to listen to on a run?

Run the World (Girls) — Beyonce

What do you love most about the marathon?

42.2km tests every facet of the human condition; mental, physical, emotional. All of it gets put out there and at the end it reveals who you are.

What do you do when you're not running?

When not running I'm usually playing with my kids, but I recently discovered paddle boarding and I'm obsessed!

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Danielle O'Hanley, Toronto, ON

Danielle O'Hanley

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When did you start running and why?

I started running about three years ago after signing up for a half marathon at Disney (seemed like a good excuse for a vacation!) I worked my way up through the Running Room's training programs to the marathon clinic. 4 marathons later, 42.2km is a distance I'm still eager to master.

What is your most memorable running accomplishment?

My most memorable running accomplishment was last spring, when a knee injury crept up 8k into my marathon. I battled through to finish, but learned that even when your run doesn't exactly go to plan, you can still celebrate the small accomplishments: regaining control, getting back to a steady pace, and remembering to smile at the finish.

Who inspires you to be a better runner?

Runners across the city inspire me to be a better runner. Following Toronto's many run crews, coaching clubs and casual running groups on social media pushes me to go the extra mile and keep exploring new routes.

What's your favourite song to listen to on a run?

At the start of a race, my go-to song is Erol Alkin's remix of Death From Above 1979's Romantic Rights. It has this great build-up that calms my nerves and gets me revved up to run hard.

What do you love most about the marathon?

My favourite part of the marathon is the fact that there are so many small factors that can play a part in your race, whether it's nutrition, weather or the size of the field. It gives you a lot to focus on during your race.

What do you do when you're not running?

When I'm not running, I'm out with friends, testing out craft beers, cross-training or checking off new restaurants from my "to try" list.

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Jarek Pachocki, Hamilton, ON

Jarek Pachocki

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When did you start running and why?

My initial treadmill runs were motivated by my resolution to lose some weight. One day I went for a walk with my dog, a black Labrador Retriever named Sutton, to Bayfront Park in Hamilton. I passed by a number of runners and I had revelation! Maybe I should try running? The next day I went to the Running Room for some advice and gear and after a few runs I was hooked. My first race ever was the Toronto Yonge Street 10K in 2012.

What is your most memorable running accomplishment?

There are so many! Certainly it would be my first marathon, which I called "40 on 40", because I ran it during my 40th year of life. Every run that "puts a smile" on my dog's face is a memorable accomplishment. I like to put my focus on the joy of running, rather than achieving accomplishments.

Who inspires you to be a better runner?

Definitely the "Spirit of the Marathon" movie. The first time I saw it, I was "accidentally" flipping the channels on my TV. Great inspiration! On personal note, during an online running chat I got a note from Meb Keflezighi, 2014 Boston Marathon champ: "Thank you Jarek. I hope you get your BQ. I met someone last year whom it took 22 years to qualify of Boston. Never give up on your dream. It took me 7 years to win the NYC Marathon." Needless to say, the Boston Marathon is on my bucket list.

What do you love most about the marathon?

I love the challenge. I believe in order to grow in our life we have to go beyond our comfort zone. The marathon is the perfect opportunity to do so. It challenges us physically, psychologically and spiritually. The Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon 2015 will be my 5th marathon.

What do you do when you're not running?

I'm a Catholic priest, member of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, co-pastor of St. Patrick and St Lawrence parishes in Hamilton, ON. Ministry among the poor is my preferential option.

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Allison Slater, Toronto, ON

Allison Slater

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When did you start running and why?

I quit my comfy job in the fall of 2011 and headed to Australia for a couple of months. When I returned back home in the middle of winter I was unhealthy, out of work, looking for a new career path and had absolutely no idea what I was doing with my life. While beginning this terrifying new chapter, I started running as a way to get me out of bed in the morning. The overall positive effects of running turned out to be the medicine I needed.

What is your most memorable running accomplishment?

The feeling after conquering my first race. At the time, I never in a million years pictured myself being able to run 1km consecutively let alone 5km. From then on I have continued to amaze myself.

Who inspires you to be a better runner?

My loving family and incredible friends. They are my biggest cheerleaders on a daily basis and are always at the finish line cheering me on. They provide me with the fuel I need to relentlessly face my fears.

What's your favourite song to listen to on a run?

Run The World (Girls) — Beyonce

What are you most looking forward to about running your first marathon?

Completing a full marathon is like the Holy Grail for runners. It's on my bucket list. I'm ready to get out of my comfort zone and challenge the endurance limits that a marathon bares. And honestly, I would just really love to cross this feat off of my bucket list.

What do you do when you're not running?

When I'm not running I'm usually planning my next travelling adventure somewhere in the world. I also really enjoy eating healthy food and experimenting in the kitchen.

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Petja Taivassalo, Newmarket, ON

Petja Taivassalo

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When did you start running and why?

I started running 5 years ago with my wife as a way to stay in shape but also to be better role models for our students and most of all, our own children.

What is your most memorable running accomplishment?

My most memorable accomplishment happened this year at the Mississauga Marathon, as I always dreamed of one day coming close to breaking 3:30. I finally started taking training a little more seriously for last year's STWM, adding in intervals and tempo runs, and I made a 5 year old dream come true, crossing the line in 3:27.

Who inspires you to be a better runner?

My family: my marathon running 75 year old father, half-marathon running wife, and my crazy active kids.

What's your favourite song to listen to on a run?

Long Slow Runs: Road and the Radio — Kenney Chesney
Race pace: I'm a Freak — Enrique Iglesias

What do you love most about the marathon?

Realizing and experiencing, the full potential of the human spirit. It's 42k of every single emotion as hours of training and dedication culminates as you cross that silly little line.

What do you do when you're not running?

10 months of inspiration for perspiration and 2 months of reflection on the inspiration. And everything in between is all about my family.

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Kenneth Trueman, St-Basile-Le-Grand, QC

Kenneth Trueman

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When did you start running and why?

I started running in Spring 2008 to lose weight and I would eventually lose 35 pounds. My first race, a half-marathon, was in June 2009 and I walked a number of times.

What is your most memorable running accomplishment?

Until running a new PB of 3:13 (by 7 minutes) and BQ (by 12 minutes) at the 2014 New York City Marathon, the accomplishment I was proudest of was qualifying for Boston at the 2010 Ottawa Marathon with 21 seconds to spare, after stopping dead a number of times.

Who inspires you to be a better runner?

To be honest, I try to inspire myself by setting goals and holding myself accountable to achieving them. Through running, I have found discipline that has not always come easily in other facets of my life. My favourite marathoner is Boston Marathon winner Meb Keflezighi for his story, the values he represents, his character, and his strategy during a race.

What is your favourite song to listen to on a run?

I don't listen to music while running. A good pre-race song for me is "Lose Yourself" by Eminem from the movie 8 Mile. It gets me amped up and motivated to get the job done.

What do you love most about the marathon?

I love the marathon because it is a personal project and you are ultimately accountable to yourself. You either showed the discipline during training, or you did not. I like the distance too. Unlike a shorter race, the marathon distance is such that towards the end—the last 16km — you are forced out of your comfort zone, irrespective of your training.

What do you do when you are not running?

My other sport is road cycling. In 2014, I rode 6500km in addition to 2500km of running (with 3 marathons, a 30km and a half-marathon in there). I would like to complete a full Ironman triathlon but first I need to learn how to swim more than a pool length without stopping.

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Rebecca Wemyss, Ottawa, ON

Rebecca Wemyss

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When did you start running and why?

I started running in 2009 when I moved to Ottawa and wanted to find something to do. I was in a new city without many friends and wanted to get into better shape. So one day, I put on a cotton t-shirt, trainers and started running.

What is your most memorable running accomplishment?

Completing my first marathon and a big bucket list item, the NYC Marathon in 2014.

Who inspires you to be a better runner?

My son does push me to run faster. Actually he frequently yells "Mom, come on, go faster!" I am also inspired by Lanni Marchant. Her drive and focus to be both an elite runner and a lawyer inspires me to train harder and limit the excuses.

What is your favourite song to listen to on a run?

Coming Home — Avenged Sevenfold

What do you love most about the marathon?

What I love most about the marathon is the accomplishment you feel when you start getting close to that finish line. I believe that training for the marathon is the hard part and I really try to enjoy those last few hundred metres despite how much it hurts.

What do you do when you're not at the track?

I teach high school. I also coach a high school track team as well as coach with the Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club. Basically, I live at the track.

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Mike Van Mil, Oshawa, ON

Mike Van Mil

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When did you start running and why?

I started running in January of 2014 when my wife and I decided we wanted to improve our health and fitness. We set a goal of completing the Wine and Dine half marathon at Walt Disney World. We met that goal, crossing the finish line hand in hand and are currently seeking new running challenges!

What is your most memorable running accomplishment?

My most memorable running accomplishment was running this year's Toronto Yonge Street 10k with the Justice League Runners. It was such a wonderful experience to bring smiles to so many kids' faces and to raise money for Sick Kids to impact the lives of so many others! It was very uplifting to be a part something truly magical.

Who inspires you to be a better runner?

Fitness/Nutrition consultant Carrie Burrows inspires me to be a better runner. She was the one who initially encouraged and believed in both me and my wife that we could meet our goals. She is always there for me to turn to whenever I have a question or doubt myself!

What's your favourite song to listen to on a run?

Shake it Off — Taylor Swift

What are you most looking forward to about running your first marathon?

I really enjoy working hard to conquer my goals. The marathon is a distance that I have never come close to yet. I am really looking forward to pushing myself mentally and physically over this year while training to complete my first marathon here at home in Toronto.

What do you do when you're not running?

I work full and part time as a paramedic for 2 GTA services. When I'm not on shift you can find me at the hockey rink and dance studio cheering on my two children or enjoying family trips to Disney.

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