Running to work led to this Montreal runner giving a TED Talk and writing a book on the subject. Six years later, Joan Roch’s photos from the run commute are about to hit shelves. 

Oldies – #runcommute #MECambassador #MerrellAthlete #FuelYourGoals

A photo posted by Joan Roch / Runner (@j0anr0ch) on

Starting his day with views of his city’s skyline is what makes Joan Roch’s mornings all the better. When Roch, 42, leaves his Montreal home, his daily commute to work serves as a major component of his training for ultra runs. Each morning for several years now, Roch outfits himself for whatever Montreal’s weather has to offer and leaves his home in the South Shore. Year round, he’ll run the 10-12 kilometre route that brings him to the city’s Jacques Cartier Bridge, over the St. Lawrence River and into the old town district to start his work day. On the way, he’s passing bridges, the river, and various parks. It’s a route he does at the end of the day too, but the serene calm while running across the bridge early is the best moment.

“If you want a nice view of the Montreal skyline, this is the best place,” he says. “I see it at sunrise and sunset. It’s the perfect place and I have it all to myself.” What may comes as a surprise though, is that even while running across the bridge, he has few interactions with cars– it’s mostly just himself running he says.

RELATED: “Running to work has made me a better dad.”

Roch is a father of three, a computer programmer and an avid ultrarunner and each of these comes with its own time demands. It was six years ago that he wondered if he could work run commuting into his day to make it all fit together. With a hope to hit 32 kilometres on some days, running at lunch just wasn’t an option. Run in the evening and he’d miss out on spending time at home. Though he was scared to start, he thought he’d give the run commute  a go. “I started and I never quit,” says Roch.

Every run commuter has their own set of tricks to make the transition from workout to office life flow smoothly. “It took awhile to sort out all the details– it took probably a year to work out the minute details,” says Roch. Unlike many others who follow a similar routine, he doesn’t run with a backpack. Once a week, he drops off sets of fresh clothes at his office and exchanges them for last week’s dirty ones. His office has shower and locker facilities so he can store sweaty gear safely away from the noses of coworkers. Anything else he needs he just brings in his wallet.

After that, it’s about gathering the motivation. Running twice a day, especially through Montreal’s famously frigid and snowy winters, doesn’t come naturally every day. As he tallies up the kilometres though, Roch’s focus is on capturing the best moments on camera. That’s his big pay off especially on days where running loses its luster. “Running is not fun, but taking pictures is fun,” says Roch.

Winter! About time. – #runcommute #MECAmbassador #MerrellAthlete #FuelYourGoals

A photo posted by Joan Roch / Runner (@j0anr0ch) on

It’s getting warm in here. – #runcommute #MECambassador #MerrellAthlete #FuelYourGoals

A photo posted by Joan Roch / Runner (@j0anr0ch) on

That’s what has kept him at it twice a day, five days of the week, for six years. Montrealers may have spotted him on the run by now but if not, they may have caught his run commuting video (featured below) which got quite popular around Quebec. He filmed it during all four seasons of his second year commuting to work. Following that, he was constantly being asked questions by others in the running community.

Beastie Runs from Joan Roch / Runner on Vimeo.

There’s something about the run commuting lifestyle– be it the added fitness level runners gain or the time saving element– that makes others look on with admiration. Maybe that’s why after his video got so popular, Roch was asked to give a TED Talk about run commuting. Other runners just want to know how it’s done. So he gave the talk (in french, below) and next month, he’s coming out with a book on the topic: Ultra Ordinaire Journal D’Un Coureur. It has been about a year and a half in the works.

“It’s being printed as we speak,” Roch says from Montreal over the phone. “It’s about the way I motivate myself to go out again and again.” Out on shelves in mid-March, his book will feature 230 of his pictures taken from his route along with his story. Published by Éditions de l’Homme, it will be out in Canada and France.

Onze minutes pour #TEDxQuebec! – Photo : Daniel Lévesque / @tedxquebec

A photo posted by Joan Roch / Runner (@j0anr0ch) on

The last selfie… – #runcommute #MECambassador #MerrellAthlete #FuelYourGoals

A photo posted by Joan Roch / Runner (@j0anr0ch) on

There’s a little bit of irony in the fact that Roch has been using running to get to his job and is now changing jobs because of it. But a career switch is what’s in store. The future, he hopes, will involve Roch continuing to give talks, write and work on creative projects which will include, of course, taking photos. Photography has been the center of everything these past six years.

“It allowed me to appreciate the most extreme conditions,” he says. “When the conditions are the worst, the pictures are the best.”


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