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, I 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 the New York City 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 18 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!