Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The people of Ted's Run for Literacy; Meet Michael Bennett

The People of Ted's Run for Literacy is a 'behind the scenes' look at the many individuals that make up Ted's Run for Literacy; from committee members, to runners, to volunteers, to sponsors.  Every week leading up to race day we will interview an individual whose contribution to TRL helps to define the heart and soul of this fine event. The People of TRL is the brainchild of our Social Media chair, Carly Walsh. 

TRL asked board member and fellow, friendly rival Tim MacKay to write a few words about TRL’s fearless leader:

"Race Director and one of the founding board members of TRL, Michael Bennett remains a driving force behind the run. As a career educator with a commitment to inclusion and social justice, he brings passion and dedication to his role on the TRL board. His never-ending enthusiasm and gentle spirit are infectious among all who get involved. Also known for being tenacious, Michael has been rumoured to have worked on recruiting committee volunteers during the entire course of a half-marathon. Michael is a committed runner with serious accomplishments, and he continues to pursue race goals both near and far. He’s a “never sit still” sort of guy, writing the See Mike Run blog, giving his time to a number of organizations, and supporting runners and races whenever he can. A true friend to all who know him, Michael’s humour, energy, and commitment are the glue of the TRL crew!"

Hopefully we tell you enough Mike just what you mean to us at TRL. You’re right; “It’s a good day to be alive!”

Ted’s Run for Literacy - How long have you been running and why/how did you start?
Mike Bennett - I started running competitively while attending middle school. I remember bombing badly at a divisional meet; my running spirit dying on the track in a puddle of tears and dry heaves. I discovered recreational running in university. I ran in the Gritty Grotto in cold weather and laps around the Legislative Building in the warmer months. I stopped running when I graduated from university and immersed myself in work, devoting every moment of the day and evening to teaching. I loved my job but it seriously lacked balance.

I was 45 when I realized I was 20 pounds over weight and in the habit of a scotch or two in the evening. I didn’t like the visual so I joined the Y and ran some laps for a couple of years. In doing so I dropped 20 pounds and ditched the scotch. It’s such a cliché, but I set a goal of running a marathon during my 50th year. I became a runner somewhere on a trail along the Assiniboine River on my 50th birthday and haven’t looked back. I can’t say running saved my life, but I shudder to think where I would be had I not taken that first terrifying step.

TRL - You always sign off with "It's a good day to be alive" - tell us about that quote (where it came from, why it sticks with you, etc...).
MB - I was a course marshal for a race about 10 years ago. I yelled “It’s a good day for a run” to a couple of elderly runners. One replied “Yes, and it’s a good day to be alive” and kept running. His buddy stopped and told me his friend had recently had heart surgery and he now considers every day a gift. The phrase “It’s a good day to be alive” resonated and has stuck. It has become my signature line on See Mike Run because I know many people run through depression and anxiety. I repeat it at every opportunity for them, hoping that if they hear it and say it often enough it becomes truth. So yes, friends, it is a good day to be alive even when all about walls are tumbling down.

Young Noah and Jack are bang on; running fast is fun and running is good for your muscles.
Fun + Muscles = A Good Day to be Alive.

TRL - We're not just about running at Ted's Run; the other half is reading. If you were to write a memoir what would the title be?
MB - See Mike Beat Tim MacKay in a Road Race has a nice ring to it, but it would have to be a fictional piece because that guy is seriously fast. He plays a mean banjo too!

People like Glen Shultz, Melissa Budd, Bob Nicol, and David Ranta inspire me. They work harder than anyone I know to earn the privilege of the start line. Their resilience and their strength in overcoming incredible obstacles to achieve their goals is breathtaking. They are passionate about life and live their dreams through the act of running. I suppose if I were to write a memoir it would be entitled The Inspiration Behind See Mike Run, and devote a chapter to each of those that inspire and bring me joy.

TRL - Has there been a moment during your time with Ted's Run that has really stuck out for you? What is that moment and why?
MB - In my professional life I sit on many committees and boards. We accomplish good things and we enjoy our company, but rarely do we have laughter. Ted’s Run For Literacy meeting are also serious business, but we have serious fun. The laughter and the gentle teasing is life affirming and just plain fun. We’re a diverse group but we are all devoted to making TRL the finest race possible. Sometime ago we coined the phrase Ted’s Run for Literacy, the little race that could. We are a small race existing in the shadows of some large corporate events so we have our challenges, but we are proud of our steadfastness.

Always, the moment that stands out for me is watching the young runners cross the finish line with big toothy smiles that light the chute. It’s kinda makes me tear up, just saying.

TRL - What does Ted's Run mean to you?
MB - Sylvia Rugger speaks of the ‘audacity of hope’ and encourages us to be bold and courageous in our hopes and dreams. We run marathons because they are hard and audacious, and just plain wacky. If it were easy everyone would do it, right? TRL Board members believe in the audacity of hope. We believe that we can eradicate childhood poverty through literacy programming in neighbourhoods in transition. It’s not easy and we may never get there, but that’s not important. Like running, the destination is secondary to the journey. It’s about perpetual forward motion, never giving up, dreaming audaciously, and it’s about building community. To quote Sylvia once again…we are strong, we are champions, we are never-giver-uppers.

That’s what Ted’s Run for Literacy means to me.

It’s a good day to be alive.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The (little) People of TRL; Meet Jack and Noah

The People of Ted's Run for Literacy is a 'behind the scenes' look at the many individuals that make up Ted's Run for Literacy; from committee members, to runners, to volunteers, to sponsors.  Every week leading up to race day we will interview an individual whose contribution to TRL helps to define the heart and soul of this fine event. The People of TRL is the brainchild of our Social Media chair, Carly Walsh.
Jack and Noah run because it "builds up your muscles" and "it's fun to run fast". 
Jack and Noah ran the 2km at last year’s Ted’s Run for the first time. Jack, 7, and Noah, 4, told us what they like about the two key elements of TRL - reading and running.

Ted’s Run for Literacy: Do you like to run, and why?
Jack: Yes. It’s fun to run because it builds up your muscles.
Noah: Yes. Because it’s fun to run fast.

TRL: If you were pretending to be an animal running what would it be?
Jack: Cheetah.
Noah: Dragon.

TRL: What should you eat in order to run fast?
Jack: Meat.
Noah: Fruit.

TRL: What is your favourite book?
Jack: The Magic Tree House books.
Noah: Little Critter books.

TRL: Why do you think reading is important?
Jack: It helps you learn to spell. You need to be able to read to get a job.

TRL: What’s your favourite part of being read to?
Noah - Because you get to hear all the fun parts.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Fort Garry Rotary Half Marathon, Race Report (2014)

This morning I had the privilege of running the Fort Garry Rotary Half Marathon. Without a shadow of doubt the Fort Garry Half is the most scenic half marathon in Winnipeg and perhaps all of Manitoba. It also has a reputation of the fastest course around town; personal bests are measured in minutes, not seconds.  The course is mostly flat, there are few turns, and dozens upon dozens of fresh young volunteers line the course in bright yellow tee-shirts cheering and coaxing runners forward toward the line and, as a fall marathon, the temperature is blissfully cool.  Oh, and did I mention the breathtaking scenery? 

The race is supported with sponsors with very deep pockets so the committee pulls out all stops. There is a $5000 prize, yet to be claimed, awarded to any runner who sets a new Canadian record for the fastest half-marathon.  In speaking to one of the race directors I learned they may carry the prize money forward every year thereby building the prize money and attracting elite runners from across the nation.  Currently the amazing Lani Marchant holds the woman's record at 1:10:47. Yowzer, that's fast!

Many improvements are noted since its inception in 2012 including a consistent start/finish line, an improved dry bag drop off, and corralled start separating fast from less fast runners. There is a good mixture of Winnipeg's elite runners, middle of the pack runners (like yours truly), and the determined runners whose goals are lofty in their own right.  As per MRA rules, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd pace age category winners are acknowledged at the mic and all runners receive a very nice, heavy set medal.  The race committee is friendly, professional, and most important, many come from a running background.  My source tells me they secretly want to grow this race to 500 (they currently hover around 200 runners) and attract runners from around the country.  And why not? This is a fine race, perhaps one of the finest, and is deserving of such recognition.

Concerns exist around the male-only tee-shirt.  My friend says it best; "I'm a small female, not a small male".  The race committee should take note.  By all accounts they are financially secure so there is no reason for shortcuts, especially considering about half the runners are female. So why have a one size fits all tee-shirt?  Why cheap out? I expect the race committee will receive more than a few emails from female runners. They should take note and fix this blemish on an otherwise fine event.

Let's not forget the good this race accomplishes.  The primary goal of Fort Garry Rotary Half Marathon is to raise funds to support ....
...vocational programming offered at the Knowles centre with the aim of providing graduating students with either the ability to continue their training elsewhere, or to find employment.  Current support for knowles graduates ends at the age of 18 and these at-risk adolescences lack sufficient skills to cope with the demands of society and become contributing members of society.... (The Knowles Centre) ... aims to break the cycle of abandonment the graduates face and teach them a productive trade.

Good for the race committee for supporting The Knowles Centre and good for them for hosting such a fine event.  They should be very, very proud of a job well done.

You know it, it's a good day to be alive.

Peace, love and run,


Friday, September 19, 2014

The People of Ted's Run for Literacy; Meet Tim McKay

The People of Ted's Run for Literacy is a 'behind the scenes' look at the many individuals that make up Ted's Run for Literacy; from committee members, to runners, to volunteers, to sponsors.  Every week leading up to race day we will interview an individual whose contribution to TRL helps to define the heart and soul of this fine event. The People of TRL is the brainchild of our Social Media chair, Carly Walsh.
Tim MacKay, father, educator, runner, Riders Fan (pwet), TRL board member, all-round nice guy.
It appears Tim McKay, TRL board member, is taking this opportunity to call out Race Director, Michael Bennett, for an epic race. Date, time, distance - TBD. Tim not only brings humour to the board, but also his passion for being an educator and runner (seems like a good fit for us).

Ted’s Run for Literacy - How long have you been running, and how did you start?
Tim McKay - I've been running on and off for several years but found my way back to regular running about four years ago. I now participate in maybe a dozen different races a year.

TRL - You're in a race with only one other person. Who is it, and do you beat them?
TM - It'd probably be with one of my siblings. I've coached and paced a few of them to PBs. Trying to beat each other has never been much fun so it would probably be a bad idea to start trying to do that now.
If I had to race, I mean really race, I'd run against that pesky Mike Bennett. We'd be joking and laughing and pestering each other for miles. It'd take a long race to find a winner.

TRL - Create your perfect post-race beverage; give it a name.
TM - Well, it sounds a bit boring, but I love water. Then a berry juice - any berry. Then a coffee. The triple finish - water, juice, coffee.

TRL - What's your best piece of advice for new runners?
TM - It's a simple truth that gives any runner a mental boost - "Any runner at any level is already far above average just for having shown up!"

TRL - What does Ted's Run for Literacy mean to you?
TM - I'm lucky, privileged in fact, to be able to enjoy the benefits of both a good education and good health. My education has benefitted me in developing a successful career in schools. My health supports me as a committed runner.
Ted's Run for Literacy brings both these worlds together, supporting the development of both literacy and fitness for youth who don't necessarily live with the privilege that I do. So I get to give back in a way, and contribute to extending the positive benefits of education and health where it really matters and is likely to make a real difference for youth. The TRL organizers are an amazing group of folks. It's not only rewarding to volunteer with this group, it's also a pile of fun. There it is - fun, rewarding, doing good work, and connected to literacy, learning, and fitness. What could be better? I mean, besides beating that pesky Mike Bennett in a race?

It's a good day to be alive.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

What's the best darn energy bar in the world?

How many times have you asked yourself … what’s the best darn energy bar in the world? ... and then moved on to simpler questions such as how to attain world peace and the meaning of life. Well dear readers, fortunately for you See Mike Run doesn’t shy away from the tough questions!  Read on, all will be revealed.

First up, thanks to the following 12 athletes for their unbiased analysis and dogged determination to settle this age old dilemma once and for all!.  They are surely in line for the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts in advancing human civilization! 
Carly Walsh
Bob Nicol
David Fielder
Ainsley MacDougall
Fern Berard
Darcie Wadelius
Connie Lowe
Melissa Budd
Tim MacKay
Joanne Schiewe
Cynthia Menzies
Nadine Linder
Back to the task at hand, what's the best darn energy bar in the world? 

If you just can't wait, skip to the chart below. If you have a bit of time, consider the following.

Twelve athletes were invited to ‘blind-sample’ ten popular energy bars and rate them in five different categories using a 4-point rating scale.

Sniff Test: How appealing is the smell of this energy bar?
(Yummy) 4 … 3 … 2 … 1 (Pee Ewe)

Taste Test: How appealing is the taste of this energy bar?
(Divine) 4 … 3 … 2 … 1 (Gag)

Sweetness Test: How sweet is this energy bar?
(Just right) 4 … 3 … 2 … 1 (Quick, call my dentist!)

Real Food Test:  How likely is this energy bar made from real food?
(Real Food) 4 … 3 … 2 … 1 (Franken-food)

Purchase Test:  How likely are you to purchase this energy bar?
(Very likely) 4 … 3 … 2 … 1 (Hell no)

Energy Bars Sampled

The ten Energy Bars sampled are:

GORP, Cocoa, Hemp & Almond
CLIFF, Oatmeal Raisin, Walnut
POWERBAR, Chocolate Carmel Fusion
HONEY STINGER, Chocolate Waffle
GORP, Peanut Butter & Apple
CLIFF, Chocolate Chip Peanut Crunch
CLIFF Chocolate Chip
POWERBAR, Carmel Fusion
GORP, Peanut Butter & Raspberry
CLIFF, Black Cherry Almond

Results (click the charts to super size):

Yellow cells show the highest overall score in each of the 5 categories.
Red cells show the lowest overall score in each of the 5 categories.
The asterisk indicates 11 people scored the category, not 12.

GORP (Cocoa, Hemp and Almond) scored highest in four of the five categories with a combined approval rating of 79.58%. The testers used a variety of adjectives to describe the taste and smell of this energy bar including sweet, satisfying, chocolaty, fruity, nutty, crunchy, fresh, grainy, natural, and woody. The testers used these adjectives to describe the overall experience of the energy bar: choco-rific, healthy, choco-nutty, bar-o-licious, and bitter.

CLIFF (Black Cherry and Almond) was the second choice with an approval score of 75.33%.  These are some of the adjectives used to describe the bar: crisp, buttery, cardboard, chewy, crunchy, apple, cinnamon, moist, nutty, sweet, nutty, spicy, vanilla, oat-tee, cotton candy, bleh, yuck, dirt.  Interestingly, two separate testers described the taste as “cardboard”.  The one word used to describe the overall experience includes: dependable, solid, fake, sweet, delicious, gingerbread, comforting, yum, imitation, and ugly.  

GORP (Peanut Butter and Raspberry) followed close behind for third place with an approval score of 72.91%. This bar scored highest in one of the five categories. Adjectives to describe the bar include: interesting, dry, fruity, nutty, earthy, satisfying, honey, musty, clean, cinnamon, and almond milk. One tester described it as “like peanut butter and jam on toast”.  The one word to describe the overall experience includes: happy, tasty, gratifying, hmmm, clean, boring, choking-hazard, perfect, and heavenly.

With an approval rating of 51.66% POWERBAR (Chocolate Carmel) came in dead last.  It scored lowest of all ten bars in four of the five categories. One tester described this bar as “an energy bar trying to be a chocolate bar” and then added “a bad chocolate bar”.  Other adjectives used include: candy bar, artificial, non-descript, bland, buttery, pleasing, mmm fudge, sweet, chocolaty, creamy.  Several testers compared it to a chocolate-bar and suggested it is too sweet.

Whats the most important aspect of an Energy Bar?

The tester were asked to identify the most important qualities of an Energy Bar from a list provided.  They were also given the opportunity to explain.  Here's the results.

What aspects of an Energy Bar are important from you?  You may circle more than one.

Protein: 9 responses
Fibre: 6 responses
Natural Food: 7 responses
Name Brand: 1 response
Size: 0 response
Calories: 4 responses
Cost: 6 responses
Locally Sourced: 3 responses
Other:  4 responses

If the testers chose other, they were asked to explain.  Here's a couple of their comments:

The energy has to be sustainable.  Many snack bars give only short periods of energy. A good Power Bar (my favourite) gives you a lot of energy for a good period of time. Taste does make a difference though even the unpalatable can be endured for a time if there is enough energy and no drop (i.e. cache). Energy bars go best with water.

Taste!  When I'm out there working hardI want to look forward to tasting something good.  I don't care if it's good for me (although I probably should). I have to like the taste a lot! It is also important that it does not melt; I can't wreck another race bag. 

If this energy bar were a pop song, what would it be called?

And finally,  if this Energy Bar was a pop song, what would it be called? Here's a sampling in no particular order.
Smooth Movement 
Just Eat It!
Bad To The Bran
Who Put The Hay Bail in my Mouth?
With or Without You, I'll Get By
How Sweet It Is
Quaker Love
My Teeth Are Screaming
She Ain't Pretty, She Just Looks That Way
I Want To Give You Cavities
Plastic Fantastic
Hit Me Baby One More Time
You Make Me Sick
Sweet Trouble; Just cuz ya taste good, doesn't mean ya is good!
Soggy Sad Sunday
Won't Waste My Time On You!
Gritty Love
It's Your Money I'm After Baby
You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman
Rockin' The Buds
Yummy, Yummy, Yummy, I've Got Love in My Tummy


This is not a scientific poll so it's difficult to determine hard and fast conclusions but it does seem that 2 out of three athletes prefer GORP Energy Bar over the others. What's exciting about the findings is GORP is a local bar, made in Niverville, Manitoba and they are the official Energy Bar of Ted's Run for Literacy.  If you haven't yet tried a GORP I encourage you to pick one up at all fine Running stores such as City Park Runners on Portage Avenue; you won't regret your choice.  Or, better yet, register for Ted's Run for Literacy and get a free GORP Energy Bar at kit pick-up.  

It's a good day to be alive.


Thursday, September 4, 2014

The People of Ted's Run for Literacy; Meet Roger Berrington

The People of Ted's Run for Literacy is a 'behind the scenes' look at the many individuals that make up Ted's Run for Literacy; from committee members, to runners, to volunteers, to sponsors.  Every week leading up to race day we will interview an individual whose contribution to TRL helps to define the heart and soul of this fine event. The People of TRL is the brainchild of our Social Media chair, Carly Walsh.

Relentlessly positive, Roger Berrington, Start2Finish coordinator and proud supporter of Ted's Run for Literacy.
If you get an email from Roger Berrington you’ll see over a dozen “proud affiliations” listed in his signature - places, clubs, and associations he’s been a part of - a testament to his dedication to helping others. One of those is Start2Finish’s Running & Reading Clubs. Roger was in key the brining this national program to Manitoba. You can read more about his experiences with the program below.  We are very happy to say TRL has a “proud affiliation” with Roger Berrington.

Ted’s Run for Literacy: How long have you been running, and how/why did you start?
Roger Berrington: Since I was a kid (quite a long time ago), I have seen the value in and enjoyed running - I was just never very good at it:) I had a grade 7 teacher who encouraged me by understanding what kind of a person I was and what might be a good distance for me to train for and compete at. In more recent years I have enjoyed running as a part of my overall fitness strategy and have enjoyed the challenge of competing in 10 km races and even a half marathon a number of years ago.

TRL: How did you get involved with Start2Finish, and what has been one of your favourite memories/moments?

RB: When I heard what my friend Silvia Ruegger was doing in downtown Toronto helping kids caught in poverty to improve their literacy and coaching them in running I immediately asked her how we might get a running and reading club started in Winnipeg. Being a life long Winnipegger I knew that we have far too many kids and their families caught up in the discouragement and difficult cycle of poverty. We started our first Winnipeg club in 2006 and then expanded over a few years to 3 northern communities and 3 Winnipeg schools. I have had many incredible moments as a S2F coach and school director over the years. Seeing kids discover the wonder of a story, learn a new word, achieve a running goal, earn a shiny medal at the 5 km run, get their very own pair of high end shoes or enjoy a Christmas gift bag full of toys and books all are powerful experiences and memories.

TRL: Post run beer, or burger? Create your own kind to match your running style, and give it a name.

RB: Interesting, probably neither. I mostly enjoy the feeling of actually just finishing a run and also enjoy the banter with my fellow runners about how we feel, what our time goals might be and when our next running challenge is scheduled.

TRL: Do you have a running mantra?

RB: I don’t think so, unless “just finish” is a mantra. I enjoy getting lost in a good playlist while running and I especially enjoy running in one of Winnipeg’s great city parks away from traffic.

TRL What does Ted's Run for Literacy mean to you?

RB: Ted’s Run for Literacy is a symbol to me of all the great people in our city who love helping others and who recognize those who have done great things before us - people like Ted Swain. I love the fact that we are honouring Ted’s legacy and helping many Winnipeg kids at the same time. And I love how well organized and attended it is.

It's a good day to be alive.

Monday, September 1, 2014

The People of Ted's Run for Literacy, Meet Lorraine Walton

The People of Ted's Run for Literacy is a 'behind the scenes' look at the many individuals that make up Ted's Run for Literacy; from committee members, to runners, to volunteers, to sponsors.  Every week leading up to race day we will interview an individual whose contribution to TRL helps to define the heart and soul of this fine event. The People of TRL is the brainchild of our Social Media chair, Carly Walsh.
Lorraine Walton, 2014 Boston Marathon, crossing the finish line.
Along with being one of the founding members of TRL, Lorraine Walton has been a great mentor and inspiration to many runners at the Grant Running Room. And, how cool is this photo of her crossing the finish line during the Boston Marathon 2014? Thank-you Lorraine for all you do!

Ted’s Run for Literacy - How long have you been running, and how did you start?
Lorraine Walton - In 1999 - I was the only one in our family who was not running. I was in a very stressful job at the time when my son, Michael, suggested I start walking. I did that and then added in a little hydrant to hydrant running. The following spring I registered for the Learn To Run clinic at the Pembina Running Room. I had found my passion and with that many new friends along the way. Together we experienced all of the clinics and goal races culminating in the Manitoba Marathon in 2002. Running has changed my life. Through the sport I have found a second career as manager of the Running Room on Grant. I am a blessed and happy woman. Everyday I find inspiration in the very positive people who I meet in the sport.

TRL - How did you know Ted, and what are some of your favourite memories of him?
LW - I met Ted Swain when I first started as manager at the store. At that time he had already been a longtime coach and mentor to many runners. At the time of his death, he was coaching a half marathon clinic.

I immediately saw how participants loved and respected this man. He submerged himself in everything he did and he did it well. We always knew when it was Ted's clinic night when the little skooter pulled up at the door and in walked this big guy in leathers.

TRL - Do you have any pre-race rituals?
LW - My pre-race rituals may seem boring and mundane to many but I don't dare change a thing. Clothes, shoes, fuel belt, bib, nutrition are all lined up neatly beside my bed. I always get up at least two hours before race time in order to eat my bagel with peanut butter and banana and then use the bathroom at least eighteen times. I am a nervous racer but usually get that under control once the show begins.

TRL - What's your best advice for new runners?
LW - When I am talking to new runners I often tell them about my dear Aunt Hortense, who runs 20 miles per week at 90 years. I totally want to be her. If you are in for the rest of your life then treat your body well. Take rest days, eat well, laugh a lot, and run.

TRL - What does Ted's Run for Literacy mean to you?
LW - It is so fitting that the Ted Swain event is for literacy. As he was a long time educator, we know that he would be proud and honoured to have such a legacy. I was so pleased to work with Joan Swain in the early stages of this project. She wanted to create something lasting in his name and it happened. The TRL committee is a wonderful cross section of the best of humanity. Please join me in supporting Ted's Run For Literacy.

It's a good day to be alive.