Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Guest Post: Ottawa Brings Back the Mile!

Bringing Back The Mile
By: Geordie McConnell, Founder and Head Coach, Ottawa Running Club and Ottawa Triathlon Club

Two thousand years ago Roman warriors marched through Britain on their conquest, counting their steps. Every 1000 paces (or two steps) the ground was marked, and called a mile.

Two weeks ago, in Ottawa's Wellington Village neighbourhood, a specially calibrated bicycle was ridden on the main street and there too the ground was marked, and it was called The Wellington Mile.

The mile as a distance, was left orphaned some time ago in Canada and is now ready to be reclaimed as the classic running distance. In a culture that seems to crave volume over quality, running has been redefined over the last 20 years. The entry point to the running world is now seen as 5 kilometres and that is too long. Many will be daunted by that distance and decide that running is not for them. If every able bodied individual in our community had the health and fitness to jog one mile (1609m), imagine the increase in our society's overall wellness. Why not train to jog a mile, a much more attainable and sustainable distance? As your fitness increases, you will see that, at the same effort level, the time it takes you to cover the mile will go down as your wellness goes up. If you need goals, there is none more challenging than running a faster mile. Will you break through the 11 minute barrier, or 10 minutes, or even 6 minutes?

Upon entering the running world, participants are soon subject to a social pressure which, for some, can be deleterious; I call it 'Move Up Syndrome'. Once a runner has completed a given distance, a 5k for example, it is inevitable that a friend will press to know when they plan to 'move up' to the 10k. From 10k it's the half-marathon and then on to the marathon. I know an Olympic marathon, someone who, we'll all agree, has found his niche. He was once asked when he would move up to the ultra marathon.

Find the distance that works for you, one that fits your lifestyle and enjoyment level. I believe the mile offers just that to non-runners and runners alike. It is also the perfect distance for kids to both build fitness and also learn to run well. I am among many experts who feel that 5k is not a good distance for kids and that they will benefit greatly if given the support to run faster at shorter distances.

On Thanksgiving Monday in Ottawa, like an increasing number of cities in North America, the mile is making a comeback. It is a distance we can all run, a distance that unifies. Modern society makes keeping fit like a conquest. Take a lesson from the success of the Romans. It starts with one mile.

Visit TheMile.ca for details on The Wellington Mile, or BringBackTheMile.com for information on events in the United States.

As founder and head coach of the Ottawa Running Club and Ottawa Triathlon Club, Geordie McConnell has gained special insight into the sociological side of fitness just as much as the physiological. While regularly advising advanced athletes, it is guiding the journey from couch to start line that inspires him, more so than the journey from start line to podium.