VANCOUVER August 27th 2015. Digital Champion Ryan Chilibeck started running a few years back to shed some weight and quickly got hooked on living a better and balanced life. His greatest running accomplishment to date has been founding the East Vancouver Run Crew! In just over a year he’s seen new friendships made, many beers drank, and hundreds of kilometres run with his crew. When he’s not running, you’ll find Ryan hanging out with his wife and daughter or working at his pizzeria in East Vancouver. Connect with Ryan on Twitter and Instagram!
From East Van With Love. By Ryan Chilibeck
Some of you are probably wondering just who I am? I have yet to show up for any of the STWM training runs and am perpetually absent from starting corrals of Canada Running Series events in Eastern Canada. I am heavily removed from the Toronto running scene yet here I am, an absolute nobody with an overly enthusiastic audience. Perfect! Being the only Westerner on the STWM Digital Champions team, I’ve been given the opportunity to travel to the “Centre of the Universe” for the big foot race and BTGYYZ, a bigger summit of Run Crews from around the world. As I’ll be out there to represent the growing running scene on the west coast and the East Van Run Crew (see photo at left), I felt it was only fitting to offer a little glimpse of my path to the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. Let’s talk about my home, East Vancouver.
Like most people who are too distracted (aka lazy) to do strengthening exercises at home, my training starts and ends at my front door. When most people think of Vancouver, their minds immediately wander to those glorious sunrise runs around Stanley Park, watching all the beautiful people doing the False Creek shuffle or (for the adventurous folk) visions of a technical trail outing in North Vancouver while catching jaw-dropping views of the Pacific Ocean along the way. Well, scrap those thoughts. I am here to give you a street-level, urban runner’s view of hitting the uneven pavement and neglected alleyways in my area of town.
Having moved from downtown a couple of years ago, it took me a while to carve out my appetite for exercising on the East Side of Main Street. I hated running so much when we first moved; it was hilly, grungy, hard to get around without hitting stoplights, it smelled like oil tankers/chemical fires/chicken processing plants, I was randomly harassed by weirdos on a run-to-run basis, it’s inescapably hot in the summer, it rains a little harder in the winter…oh, and the alley cats are scary and have really sharp claws. It was the complete opposite of stepping out onto the seawall from our downtown condo: the scenery was amazing, people were friendly, and like-minded individuals exchanged perfect smiles as their Boston Terriers sniffed each other’s butts. It was flat. It was clean. It was basically a runner’s dreamland. Despite its apparent perfection, one thing always rubbed me the wrong way…there was no grit, no emotion, no distress. Nowadays, I’ve learned to embrace my surroundings (except the cats) and can’t seem to stop finding new gems every time I head out for a cruise. Here are some things you can expect the next time you’re on the West Coast and want to join me and the East Vancouver Run Crew on a run:
Don’t be fooled by all this “sea level” banter. Once you cross Main Street, expect to feel a little leg burn. No matter which street you turn down, it seems like you are greeted by yet another gentle climb. It’s not quite North Shore hilly but they are big enough to be annoying and small enough to still make it fun. At the end of the day I take comfort that when the “big one” hits, we should be some of the safest people in all of the (lower main)land.
I wouldn’t necessarily categorize the witty graffiti, half finished murals and countless lion statues as “fine art”, but after a while you start to see the beauty in the persistence. Aside from the iconic East Van Cross, I don’t recommend that you look at each piece of art individually; instead, view East Vancouver as a priceless collection of work that spans generations, tastes, religious beliefs, political alliances, good taste, poor humour and everything in between. Keep your camera handy.
The beautiful ocean and mountain views aside, where else can you sprint through water parks, by amusement parks, along urban railways, down littered alleyways and around oddly shaped tracks? After a long run, do yourself a favour and find a perch to watch the sun set behind the downtown skyline. It’s pretty cool to witness the City of Glass light up, glow and then go right back to sleep.
At last count, there are 14 craft breweries (and growing) on our side of town. So many beer, so little time! If you pop in to see what’s on tap, look closely and you’ll probably see someone from EVRC with a flight of beer in front of them. When you come to town, do yourself a favour and plan out a little walking tour of the area to visit the many tasting rooms. If you want to step it up a notch, get some friends together and map out a fun run from brewery to brewery. It’ a good way to kill an afternoon and a bunch of brain cells all in one hazy, beer-fueled fell swoop.
Take a stroll down Commercial Drive and tell me you aren’t a little confused, enticed and maybe a little scared. The street oozes energy from the Skytrain to Sex Shops. As you walk along, you’ll see young families, old school Italians, artists, buskers, bakers, protesters, bike polo’ers, espresso drinkers, patio dwellers and everything in-between, all living, conversing and breathing energy into this rare Vancouver neighbourhood. I really love living, working and raising my child in this community… just don’t leave anything valuable in your car.
Much like the characters of East Vancouver pump the veins of Commercial Drive, the runners that make up East Vancouver Run Crew do the same. You would think that going for runs would be the cornerstone of our crew…well, it’s not. Our growing family gathers one or more times a week to engage in a little physical activity but then we sit down to a family dinner of barley pops, cheese sticks and story time. We live by one simple rule that helps to maintain a high energy, equal and fun environment for anyone that shows up: No Jerks Allowed.
So that’s it…an insider’s view of East Vancouver. No matter where you live, just remember to get out and explore every inch around you. My guess is there are some pretty confusing, enticing and scary things in your area of the world. Go find them! That said, if you ever find yourself on the left coast and itching for a run, look me up and come out with us at the East Van Run Crew. We like new people BUT the first round is on you!