Canadian Running

Club Scene

RUNClub, Kamloops, B.C.

- Chantelle Erickson is a Lethbridge, Alta.-based marathoner, ultrarunne­r and coach with Personal Peak. She’s also a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor for Kinetic Indoor Cycle & Fitness. By Chantelle Erickson

For newcomers to running, joining a club can be intimidati­ng. Jo Berry’s sole purpose in creating RUNClub in 2000 was to make it so welcoming that it’s impossible not to feel a sense of belonging. As someone who had experience­d grief and trauma after losing her mother to suicide, and struggling with depression herself, Berry found running helpful and wanted to help others find a place to belong. Her background in social work and her love of people have been integral in her ability to foster an inclusive culture.

RUNClub’s philosophy is rooted in “egoless running,” and values the “forever line” over the finish line. The guiding principles are preventing injuries and prioritizi­ng rest and emotional wellness. The club operates on an exclusive walk/ run format practised by even its fastest members, building progressio­ns through its five tiered running groups. There are training programs and clinics for everything from the 5k to the half-marathon. Each training distance features a “sweet” tier and a “bold” tier, with the walk-to-run ratio gradually progressin­g into more running and less walking.

The club changes up the terrain from road to trail, including some scenic routes through the area’s infamous hoodoo land formations. Typical of Berry’s policies, runs are never cancelled for bad weather. “When we run in all weather, we create lifetime memories together,” she says. “Just like life, everything is always changing, and it is how we react to the change that makes the difference – in life and in running.”

When Kayla Pepper joined in

January 2021, she was caught in a spiral: “I was in this whirlwind of long workdays, Netf lix binges, decreasing physical health and increasing anxiety,” she says. When she discovered the club and its commitment to body inclusivit­y, she decided to give it a try. “I used to be too self-conscious to run during daylight hours, because I felt that my body did not meet others’ expectatio­ns of what a runner should look like,” Pepper says.

“Running 8 km last weekend felt empowering and exhilarati­ng, and I felt connected to myself and the beautiful place where I live.”

The club also offers an enjoyable and challengin­g environmen­t for faster runners, who may opt for the “bold” training tiers, as well as the practice of using “pickups,” in which the runner at the front of the pack doubles back to the rear, handing out high fives and encouragem­ent along the way and ensuring no one is left behind.

Additional perks of membership include access to a registered dietitian and workshops focusing on mental fitness training (which may include yoga, meditation and mindfulnes­s practices). Club members have travelled to participat­e in numerous Rock ’n’ Roll marathons, and even gone on running/yoga retreats to India (in pre- covid times).

Run coach Candace Mawdsley loves seeing the transforma­tion participan­ts undergo. “Running is such an incredible conduit for healthy living,” she says.

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