The Nomads meet on Sunday mornings for their weekly long run at Lifetime Fitness in Missassuaga. There you’ll find around 30 runners, most over 40 years old, heading out for their biggest run of the week. The Nomads is a group of primarily masters runners, but co-founder Gordon Nelson, 63, jokes that they didn’t start old, they’ve just been around for that long. “We’ve aged together,” he says.
The group is comprised of a bunch of friends who love running. The Nomads officially became a group in 2004 and started with about 10 members and they’ve now grown to 60 members with a consistent group of 30 people turning out on Sundays–even on a long weekend. Despite the commitment to running and consistency of attendance, nothing about the group feels intense. While almost all of the runners are very experienced, running remains a fun and relaxing long-weekend activity.
The Nomads are stationed out of Lifetime Fitness for now, but Nelson says they’ve only been there since January and they chose that location partly because many of their runners were already members. “Co-Founder Bryan Mulligan came up with the name Nomads because of the fact that we were a bunch of runners who had come together from different groups and we didn’t have a home base. Since the beginning we have run from four different locations,” says Nelson.
Nelson started running around 25 years ago to relieve stress from his job (he’s a retired City of Toronto fire captain). His first race was the Bread and Honey 15K, and since that race he’s been hooked. “I had run a little bit when I was at the University of Toronto. I was a Phys-Ed student. Later in life when I was studying to get promoted within the fire department, I started running again as a stress reliever. My wife also started to run with me. That was in 1994. I didn’t step on the start line until 1996, and then I just kept on racing.”
Boston is Nelson’s favourite marathon. He’s run it 15 times, and the Nomads have a unique relationship with the historic event. Nomads runner Derm Holwell has run 29 consecutive Boston Marathons. Holwell, a cancer survivor, arrived at Sunday’s run with his daughter and five grandchildren in tow–every grandchild, even Andrew, who’s three years old, has attended the Boston Marathon. Holwell’s 29 consecutive marathons make him part of the Quarter Century Club, which is reserved for runners who have run 25 or more consecutive Boston Marathons. When Holwell’s 12-year-old granddaughter is asked if she runs, she says yes, and that her favourite race is the B.A.A 5K–pretty cool coming from a kid who’s in elementary school.
The club boasts numerous sub-three-hour marathoners, several triathletes, and all are lovers of running. Despite the high calibre of runner that the Nomads draw, there are no fees associated with the club, something Nelson is proud of: “I’ve seen money get in the way in the past, and we didn’t want that for our club.” All the club asks is that members take turns providing water and Gatorade for the Sunday long run, and if members wish to shower after their run (some have a long commute home) they can pay $20 a month to use the Lifetime Fitness facilities. The group meets twice a week: once on Tuesdays for a track session and for their Sunday long run, which follows the Credit River.
Nelson says the athletic goals have changed as they’ve aged, but they all still love being out there running: “This is a very social thing we’re doing. Even though we’re good runners who are serious about the races, the social aspect is what has kept us going for so many years.” The group races a lot around the GTA, with a couple of members running the Scotiabank Waterfront Half-Marathon this fall and an even bigger group going to Quebec’s Marathon du Petit Train du Nord. The group likes to pick a destination and travel together–that’s part of being a Nomad.
The group is extremely welcoming and eager to share their love of running with anyone who wishes to join them. They feel more like a group of friends who decided to form a running club than a running club where people became friends (even though this is the case for many members). Nelson confirms that observation: “It’s the friendships that got us started, and it’s the friendships that will keep us going.”