I want you to see the 'real' me -- a man who has been running his entire life, a man who has travelled so far, only to come back to himself. My name is Jean-Paul, and I am a survivor of sexual violence, but I am so much more than that. I am a husband. I am a father. I am a writer. I am an elite athlete. I am an advocate for survivors all around the world.
For some reason everyone thinks that it is OK for anyone to go running in an effort to improve their health. This is simply not an appropriate recommendation. Running is not the BEST form of exercise. It is simply a form of exercise and one that requires preliminary strength and mobility prior to starting.
The best advice I ever got was "You only run your first race once." It's more important to enjoy yourself and feel good when you cross the finish line than it is to have an impressive time on your first marathon. You have a whole lifetime to improve your pace (if you want to), but your first race is all about the excitement!
I started running in 1991. During this time, finding a good, supportive sports bra was really limited. The sports bras were mostly cross back and strapped you in. There wasn't much stretch and I could barely breathe -- the bras were so restrictive. At the end of a long run, I would have painful chafing. Not fun.
The foot is complex; it has 33 joints and huge neurological potential. It is supposed to be able to maneuver and adapt to different terrains and communicate with the brain about whole-body balance and proprioception. Proprioception is the feedback loop between your body and brain that allows your brain to know where your body is in space.
Despite what the advertisers lead us to believe, there is no "ideal" running figure. The only requirement for calling yourself a runner is to lace up a pair of running shoes and start putting one foot in front of the other. Running is not about what you look like, but rather, what you see yourself becoming.
As a scared child, I ran away from the abuse around me, and as an adult, I used drugs and alcohol to run away from the trauma inside me. But here's the interesting part -- shortly after I got clean and sober, I actually took up the sport of running. This fall, I will be running the Toronto Waterfront Marathon three times in the same day (126.6 km), not as a fundraiser, but simply to show others how resilient we are, even after the trauma of sexual violence. But most importantly, I hope that my campaign will build upon the momentum we are starting to see in the media about the prevalence of sexual violence and the need to address the countless lives that lay in its wake.
I celebrated a year of sobriety in February. That first year is selfish in many ways--and necessarily so. After all, without sobriety, I am no good to anyone--to my child, my family, even strangers. In fact, I'm the flat out opposite of good, without sobriety. But now, almost 14 months in, there is space in my life to help others.
I believe that deep inside, all of us have something that eats away at us, something that just doesn't sit right. Maybe it's some trauma from your past, or hurtful words that still resonate, or even some "dis" ease you are currently living with. For me, it was coming to terms with sexual abuse in my childhood.
There is a wealth of information explaining how anyone can learn how to run. You do not need to be in good shape or fast. To learn more about how any person can take the first steps on their path to running, I spoke with Luis Villagran, MEC Ambassador and ultrarunner. Luis shared his top tips, on how to start running.
If I look at a snapshot of my life 18 years ago, I see a young man ravaged by a spiraling alcohol and drug addiction, a man fractured in spirit desperate to claw his way out of the darkest hell of a deep depression. Shortly after entering a treatment program to deal with my addiction issues, I took my first tentative steps into the world of running. Before I knew it, I had found my "people." I had stumbled upon my "tribe."
I am a curvy woman and also very active. When I first started running in 1991, I quickly understood the need for proper support. Recently, I spoke with Olivia Leroux, Marketing and Sales Manager of Anita Canada. Olivia shared with me the top tips for women of all shapes, to find the best fitting athletic bra.
I ran today. Running streaks have to start somewhere and it was a year ago tomorrow, U.S. Thanksgiving Day, I went on a run. This morning, I ran for the 365th straight day. If I had my way, I would write the entire piece while on the run, as opposed to on the couch long after I've put away my running shoes. In front of my laptop, I can't ever match the emotions, sensations, thoughts that I'm having each day while I am out on a run.