Running Into Love

When these two Calgarians joined a running group, they didn't realize their hearts would beat faster for another reason.

As the saying goes, ‘birds of a feather flock together’ and so, it turns out, do runners. Participating in running clubs and crews are an increasingly popular way Canadians are coming together in their love of running.

Reebok is a generous supporter of the running community with partnerships across the country but three stand out in clear alignment with the brand’s own philosophy and values. Each of these run crews is being profiled on IMPACT Magazine’s website in a special sponsored content feature. Here is the second profile in this series, as chosen by Reebok.

Mission District Run Crew
Photo: Brian Buchsdruecker

When Courtenay Smart moved back to Calgary from Edmonton in 2015, she wanted to join a social running crew to train for road racing and triathlons. She wasn’t expecting to fall in love with a fellow crew member.

Today, three years later, in addition to gaining a lot of friends within the Mission District Run Crew (MDRC), she’s engaged to Andrew Riben and they plan to be married in May 2020.

“Andrew’s more of a recreational runner than I am,” Smart explained. “I’m more competitive. I raced for Canada in my age group in the ITU Multisport World Championships in April 2019 and have done other longer distance events. But Andrew kind of re-introduced me to the joy of running without a time goal,” she said.

“Joining MDRC provided me with an increased sense of belonging in our large city and a set of like-minded friends,” said Smart, “many of whom are now some of my closest training buddies, and, best of all, my future husband!

Mission District Run Crew
Photo: Brian Buchsdruecker

This is just one of the stories of friendship and close bonds that have developed with MDRC, which meets every Wednesday night in the Mission neighbourhood at the Calgary Tech Shop on 4th St. S.W. The crew aims to be a fun, easy-going and unpretentious group. Going for a beer is a common ritual  after their weekly 6 – 12km runs.

In addition to grabbing beers on Wednesday nights, the group has gone camping, hiking and cycling and attended karaoke nights together. They cheer each other on at races and have become friends outside the crew.

The crew organizes various demo nights at the Tech Shop and Reebok is one of the companies that came to meet MDRC runners and introduce some of their new running apparel and footwear, including the Floatride series of shoes.

“Reebok is a super positive and enthusiastic company,” says crew leader Kevin Jansen, “and I find their running apparel fits really well.

Dave Brown, a fellow crew member agrees. He got a pair of Reebok Floatrides last year and wore them all winter.

“I hardly took them off,” he chuckled. “And I also like their running tights. I have five different pairs and the Reebok ones are my favourites. They’re just really breathable and comfortable.”

Jansen also likes the Reebok Speedwick tights saying they’re thick and warm enough for off season running.

“It’s hard running in Calgary in winter,” says Jansen. “You’re either too hot or too cold. The Reebok tights work well for this climate.”

One of the features of the Forever Floatride Energy running shoes is how light they are. Jansen put a pair on after a long, 44K trail run to do an easy recovery run.

“I started running way faster than I should have because the shoes were so light,” he said.

Smart also loves Reebok apparel, particularly their long sleeve running shirts, like the Running ACTIVCHILL Long Sleeve Tee, which she finds really breathable. And she’s a fan of the Floatride shoes, too.

“I really like the material they’re made from and they are so light to run in,” she said.

Mission District Run Crew
Photo: Brian Buchsdruecker

Jansen has been with the MDRC since he moved to Calgary in 2014. He saw a sign about the club posted in the Tech Shop and thought about joining for a few weeks. Finally, he hesitantly showed up one Wednesday night and introduced himself.

“A few hundred kilometres later and more than a few beers, I knew I had found a genuine and fun-loving crew,” he said. “Moving to Calgary I knew almost no one and was just getting into running. Now I’ve got a great group of friends, lots of races under my belt and find myself in a leadership position in the crew. I love organizing runs, events and demo nights for such a great group of people. It’s fantastic to see the crew develop both inside and outside of racing.”

Jansen took up running almost by chance. His dad was a runner and had signed up for a half-marathon. Because of a work trip he wasn’t going to be able to race so he transferred the entry to Kevin.

“I trained a little bit without knowing very much about running,” Jansen laughs. “My longest race before the half-marathon was 15km and I didn’t know anything about tapering. I was happy with my race time but it was very painful afterward!”

Today, Jansen is racing much longer distances like the Sinister 7, a mountainous 161km course in Alberta’s Crowsnest Pass.

“MDRC is different from other groups I’ve run with,” says Sari Waldman, who joined the crew after moving from Toronto four years ago in the middle of training for her first marathon. “It’s a super welcoming group with down-to-earth, outdoorsy people. They’re open to any level of runner and very accommodating. And they’re incredibly social.”

“Every week the size of the group varies from 10 to 25 or 30 runners,” Waldman says, “partly depending on the weather!”

Mission District Run Crew
Photo: Brian Buchsdruecker

Although the crew doesn’t sign up for races as a group, often there are several runners training for the same event or same distance who will meet up throughout the week to run together.

“There was a big group that all signed up for triathlon training at Repsol,” explained crew member Dave Brown. “Then they competed in the Vulcan Tin Man which is a sprint triathlon. And Kevin [Jansen] and I have both signed up for the death race so we meet-up and do trail runs.”

Kevin says the crew also volunteers together at running events like the Harvest Half Marathon in Calgary and they plan to help out help at an aid station for the Calgary Marathon next year.

“The MDRC is a really great group and it’s gone way beyond a Wednesday night meet-up,” Waldman says.