My first race was at the age of 10. I ran the Meaford 5km alongside my dad Doug, mom Joanne and grandpa Bert Barber. Grandpa was competing at the age of 79 with a pacemaker. I remember getting ahead of him and then I got tired and had to walk. Each time I did this, Gramps would pass me with his steady pace. He ended up finishing ahead of me. That was both inspiring and humbling. Years later we still participate as a family in this event.
After a few years of running on and off I decided in high school to join the local track club. My parents told me that it was all or nothing if I joined, that I had to commit to all of the practices. I signed up for the River Valley Track Club in the summer of 1988. I soon loved going to practice if not for the running then for the camaraderie of my fellow team mates. My running improved and I was able to compete in OFSAA high school track and cross country as well as at the Provincial and National level with the club.
I went off to College and the opportunity for running diminished. They didn’t have a team or much of a running community in North Bay at the time. Injuries also put running on the back burner for a while. Once school was over, moving back to Owen Sound I ran small amounts while working a part time job in my new career as a Food Service Supervisor at the Owen Sound Hospital. On a whim I ran a marathon on very little training and qualified for Boston in 1994. Obviously on little training I thought a marathon was pretty hard and I hung up my shoes for quite some time, dismissing the opportunity to run Boston.
Once married and after the birth of my first child, I ran when I could. While pregnant with my second child I thought I should step it up once again so I registered for the New York City Marathon lottery. The lottery process saw some runner’s from the area applying and getting accepted within three years. Hence, it though it wise to register that year in hopes of running it in a couple of years. When I was 8 months pregnant, I found out that I had been accepted for that year’s race! After the birth of my daughter (2 weeks) I began training. I ran New York Marathon in 2002, qualifying me for Boston once again. This time I was keen on going. My dad had also qualified so we would run it the same year. That is when I got the marathon bug! To date I have run 16 marathons and have qualified for Boston in each one.
The more marathons I did, the more I thought that Owen Sound needed a stronger running community and a place to find the proper shoes, apparel, accessories and nutritional products. The idea of opening a running store seemed more like a dream but the more my husband and I talked about it , the better it sounded. Why not give it a try! With my husband’s experience in retail and my experience running we wanted to go for it. That was in 2006. In a small location at 715 2nd Avenue East in Owen Sound we opened in what was aptly named Runner’s DEN because it was small and dark and somewhat resembled a den. We remained there until 2013 when we realized that if we wanted to continue to serve our customers appropriately and grow our customer base then it was time to move to a larger, more prominent store. Enter, Runner’s Den at the corner of 2nd Avenue East and 8th Street.
Now, we can’t imagine life without the Runner’s Den. In a city where back in the 1980’s I could name all of the runner’s who went past my house to now seeing loads of runner’s out there every day is an amazing feeling! I love that we can inspire others to run and to believe that yes, they CAN do it!