About 15 months later, Nicole Forgione, 36, still looks back at what may very well have been her most original first date. Standing at the top of a steep staircase in front of Toronto’s iconic Casa Loma, clad in running clothes, she and her date, Richard Kuchinsky, 39, took in the view of the Toronto lights at night. Mid-run at this high point on a hill, they stopped for a little bit to chat and go back and forth with your typical first date questions before continuing on en route to the bar where they would finish the night with a beer. “I remember thinking that this was so thoughtful for someone to do this for a near stranger,” says Forgione.
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Nearly a year and a half later, Forgione and Kuchinsky are still together. Before that first date, they had chatted a bit through RunTOBeer meetings (a group in Toronto that plans routes to local brewpubs). While Kuchinsky was very much acquainted with Toronto’s running scene, having a tight-knit group of runner friends and having run with a few of the well-known crews, Forgione was not. As someone who had raced distances up to the marathon, she had often hoped to meet new people through the running scene but she struggled to find the right crowd– until stumbling upon RunTOBeer and Kuchinsky.
When Kuchinsky asked her out, he wasn’t going for your typical run-of-the-mill standard drinks date. He went with something more creative: a meet-up at Starbucks, a nice run to take in some city gems, and then finish at Bar Volo– a must-visit on many Toronto beer connoisseurs’ checklists. To anyone who isn’t a runner, the idea of sweating it out while getting to know each other might sound like hell. To Forgione though, it was a fun evening activity and she was impressed by Kuchinsky for thinking outside the box. “For me, that was so fantastic because it was so different,” she says.
When asked what her first first impressions were, Forgione is quick to answer. Where some may second guess, or agree to a second date to test the waters, there was no question for her that she was interested in going on another date with him. “I just remember having a really good time and wanting to see him again,” she says.
On the topic of the run date as a general concept, she’s also in favour. Agreeing to meet up with someone for a conversation, some easy kilometres and a beer means tossing out the cliche pre-date rituals: the outfit planning, the face masks, and fussing with hair and makeup. When meeting up with Kuchinsky, there was no need to stress over hair, makeup or the perfect outfit. It was just plain and simple functional running gear. She says, she had zero concern over sweating or not having every single hair in place.
“I wasn’t stressed about that in any way,” says Forgione. “I think that sets the stage when you feel really comfortable being yourself… it takes away the makeup and fancy clothes. It starts off pretty basic.” And then there’s another, extremely practical, case for the run date. As Forgione points out, if you’re both generally active people, you’re going to see each other in a workout state on a regular basis anyway.
The early, early stages of the Toronto couple’s relationship took a similar form. It’s not surprising that many of their friends would consider them a running couple, or that running is still a stronghold in their relationship. They followed up that Casa Loma run with two more running dates soon after. Both of those were planned by Kuchinsky who based the routes loosely on runs he had experienced with Toronto crews. On date three, they went running by the water on the city’s east end. They finished that easy run on the cobblestone streets of the quaint distillery district where Kuchinsky suggested going to a restaurant for tacos. “I was like ‘Uh, can we go in here in running tights?'” says Forgione, who wasn’t yet used to blending running with other activities. It wasn’t until their fourth date that they finally saw each other in regular clothes.
The current relationship
Today, running is still a big part of their foundation even though they do much of their mileage separately. They met many of their mutual friends through one of the Toronto runs crews and next month, the duo is heading to New York where Kuchinsky will race the NYC Half. They had been talking about doing a running-focused trip for a little while when the both put their names in to the draw to get a chance to be at that race start line. Sadly, only one of them got picked.
“We got the emails at the exact same time,” Forgione says. His said congratulations, hers did not. “Initially, I was pretty disappointed,” she says. Since then though, she has been focusing on her own personal goals though (she’s hoping to finally break 25 minutes in the 5K, a mark that has been teasing her for some time). Next month, she’ll be there in the crowd cheering him on and then afterwards, the two will explore the city together. Just like they planned.
Encouraging each other is another big draw for partners who both run. It means that your significant other gets it. Forgione recalls one run in the summer when they two were running in the city’s west end. Between the heat and the conditions of that particular day, she was feeling discouraged. The feeling escalated. “I got to the bridge and I just started crying. He just listened and let me catch my breath and calm down,” she says. “He asked me ‘So what is it that you like about running? Why do you do this?'” She answered saying she liked being able to get outside and enjoy the nature and fresh air. As they picked off a few more kilometres, he had her thinking positively about the sport again. She finished much happier.
Usually single people dating in the city have an idea of what qualities they are looking for in other person– character traits, shared hobbies, mutual values, for example. Dating someone who was a runner had occurred to Forgione in the past. “It was something that I thought I would like but I hadn’t met anyone,” she says. “I didn’t know there was a whole community that would fit my lifestyle.”