A new Montreal club adopts a refreshingly positive attitude
The scene was set for John Lofranco and Jim McDannald when they went on their first run together back in 2011. Jim was new to town, and John wanted to show his fellow professional coach the treasure of scenic trails available to urban runners. From charming and historic neighbourhoods to the Lachine Canal and René-Lévesque Park overlooking the St. Lawrence River – the city is a runner’s wonderland, even during the harsh winters. The gem of the running route crown, of course, is Mount Royal, a lookout that offers stunning views of the city. What was missing, however, was a running club that helped runners reach their potential in varying distances.
That “welcome to town” run has since turned into the city’s newest running club, which launched earlier this year. Athlétisme Ville-Marie, co-founded by Lofranco and McDannald, is for any type of determined runner, but they also have a club partnership with Université du Québec à Montréal.
“It doesn’t matter how good you are when you start out with us,” says Lofranco. “We want to see you get a PB. We want everyone to be in the best shape of their life.”
Those promises are backed up by Lofranco’s extensive experience and training. Lofranco, a chartered professional coach through the Coaching Association of Canada, is the road running coordinator at Athletics Canada and served as a learning facilitator and coach evaluator for different courses.
“We’re both excited to build a strong club and help promote a sense of cooperation and camaraderie in Montreal’s running community,” adds McDannald, who was member of the Athletics Canada staff at the iaaf World Athletics Championships in 2013 and 2015, the 2015 Pan Am Games and Team Canada in Rio last year.
“An important mission of our club is to give back,” says McDannald. “So, whether it’s volunteering at a local road race or holding a youth run, jump, throw, wheel clinic, helping the sport grow in Montreal brings the team closer together.”
The club had an automatic crew with track and cross-country runners from uqam, where Jim is the head coach. Rounding up the club are a couple of masters runners and competitive amateurs balancing careers and families, like Melanie Myrand, who recently ran a 34:48 10k.
“I joined avm because I trust the coaches,” says Myrand. “They are both passionate about the sport and looking to improve the athletes’ long-term development. Lofranco and McDannald both are easy to communicate with, explain the reason for their approach to training, are resourceful and are quick to respond to any questions or issues that come up.”
The founders’ coaching backgrounds led to very specific team values promoted at every practice, like progression (“progression is relative, it applies to everyone in their own way”) and patience (“success = effort + time. Live that vision every day”).
“We start workouts together and finish together. Nobody is left behind before the cool down starts. We share our results and training questions on an app called Slack, and we all voted on the singlet colour and design as a group,” says Myrand.
Wednesday the team meets at Summit Circle for strength drills, tempo work or hills. Saturdays are reserved for long runs in different parts of the city. Some long runs end at Jim’s family home, where famished runners chow down on pancakes, bagels and egg and cheese sandwiches. This is Montreal, after all, so croissants, bagels and coffee are also plentiful.
RIGHT Francois Jarry wins the 2017 Banque Scotia 21K de Montreal halfmarathon in 1:07:22.2
LEFT Jullien Flynn wins the 2017 Banque Scotia 21K de Montreal 5K in 17:42