If you’ve ever been to Riverdale Park on a weeknight, there’s a good chance you’ve seen members of Pace and Mind running. This hard-working group of 9 to 5ers are committed to their craft, and it shows in their results. The group meets between 6:30 and 7 p.m., with most runners jogging over from their offices. The members are diverse in age, gender and ethnicity, but everyone is there to train hard. The group is coached by elite marathoners Rejean Chiasson and Paddy Birch. Dave Reid, a coach and longtime member of the Toronto running scene, is present at times to oversee the workout and chat with Chiasson about the programme. Reid was Chiasson’s coach when he was running competitively, and he still coaches Birch.
The club was formed in May, 2014, during a time when Chiasson and Birch felt there was a gap in the Toronto running scene. Chiasson says, “In Toronto we had elite and high-performance teams and social group runs, but we wanted to blend both.” They created a team for every level of runner but with a high-performance mindset and work ethic. Chiasson wanted to show people they could run faster than they thought possible if they were willing to put in the work. The group of about 30 runners meets on Thursday evenings for their main interval session of the week, and on Sunday mornings for their long run.
Katie Anderson is one of those people who has run much faster than she thought possible. The 24-year-old was born and raised in Toronto’s Upper Beach neighbourhood and came back to the city following university, looking for a new challenge. “I did my first marathon when I was 19, after my first year of university. My Dad, who passed away 11 years ago, was a marathoner. I thought it would be a cool way to honour him.”
Anderson’s first 42.2K was at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 2014 and she says she loved every minute of it. “My first marathon was a 4:09, and from there I decided running would be how I stayed active and fit through university. STWM became the race I ran every year as a tribute to my Dad and a way to stay healthy.”
Anderson found Pace and Mind through a teammate who she met at her local gym. He recommended she shoot Chiasson an email and give the club a try. The runner was drawn to the work ethic of the group and decided to join. She’s since dropped nearly one hour off her marathon personal best, and she’s hoping to run under three hours this fall in Chicago.
Anderson acknowledges that her commitment to her so-called hobby isn’t something she expected, but it’s become an extremely important part of her life. “To find a team like Pace and Mind who works so hard together has been amazing. We all work nine-to-five jobs, there are lots of parents on the team, there are lots of reasons why it’s inconvenient to try this hard, but we do. Sometimes if I miss a workout I feel like the worst, which for amateur runners feels like a crazy thing to say, but it’s how we feel.”
Anderson’s got big running goals, but the road to a (hopefully) sub-three hour marathon this fall hasn’t been easy. She was diagnosed with type-one diabetes at age 11, making it especially challenging to fuel training runs and races. “My diabetes certainly isn’t a limiting factor, but it’s something I have to think about all the time. If I’m doing a long run or I’m in the middle of a race, I can’t stop and check my blood sugar levels, so it’s important to have a clear plan before those events begin. I have failed more times than I’ve succeeded, but it hasn’t deterred me from wanting to keep trying.”
As much as the team has a very strong work ethic, they also place a heavy emphasis on fun. Anderson was at the Beer Mile World Classic in Berlin, Germany earlier this summer, where she finished third in 7:10.33, ahead of former Canadian marathon record-holder Lanni Marchant, who was sixth in 11:13.40. Chiasson also announced the time and location for post-workout beers before the run began, clearly having his priorities in order.
But ultimately Anderson and her teammates want to be fast runners. “I want to be good at this really badly. I think it’s fair to say that most people on the team are looking to achieve. We’re a big team full of different personalities, but I can’t imagine running without these people. When I close my eyes and think of the Toronto running scene, I see the Pace and Mind singlet.”