By Dan Grant.
Toronto July 27th 2016.

It took me a while to understand what it is about running I love so well. I had heard plenty of reasons I should love it, but nothing ever resonated.

I was a solo runner – and adamantly so – not because I had found the elusive high others hinted at. It was simply a means to escape and be alone with my thoughts, letting them run as far as they liked. Running was therapy, plain and simple. And that was enough.

Then, one day in 2014, in a bout of depression WinterBeerMileor desperation or maybe inspiration – I honestly don’t remember, just that my life needed a kick in the ass – I sent out a plaintive tweet in search of anyone who might want to join me for a 5k run to a brewery.

What has evolved into RunTOBeer taught me the beauty of falling in with like-minded runners. Until then, run clubs had never appealed to me, with their focus on results, photos and/or the latest branded merchandise. I just wanted to run and have beer.

That’s how I discovered others were looking for something similar. RunTOBeer might not be your thing (but there’s no cost and it does involve free beer… just sayin’), however I do believe there’s something more out there for pretty much everyone. If you’re not a beer fan, maybe you’re a foodie. Conquer the castle or cruise the beachOut at dusk or up before dawn. Or maybe there’s another concept just waiting for you to breathe life into. In the past couple years many other new packs have formed, built by and for people that love running their own way. And that’s beautiful.

Even if it’s working for you now, don’t get stuck doing the same thing until it grows stale. If you’re part of a group you love, try some solo runs as well. Mix it up with different crews. Try running in the snow. Sprint. Go somewhere you’ve never been.

Some (probably most) trials won’t be your thing, but what have you got to lose? You’re going to learn more about yourself, and you might just find something else you grow to adore.

One of the most gratifying aspects of RunTOBeer is that in two-and-a-half years we’ve never had to ask anyone to be less of a jerk. Runners are generally kind, supportive individuals. Give yourself a chance to learn from more of them.

For me, personally, I’ve learned I’m capable of going so much faster than I thought. Even though my thighs have always been bigger than my wife’s waist, I assumed I was only a distance runner. I never planned to enter a race shorter than a half marathon, because what was the point when I run lesser distances with RunTOBeer anyway? What would I gain by doing it in a more organized setting? Did I need another reminder I’m not speedy?

2016-07-02 | 2016 Pride & Remembrance RunThen I tried the Race Roster Spring Run Off. Then the Waterfront 10, then the Pride & Remembrance 5k. A couple weeks ago, while in Buffalo, I saw signs for a four mile race that same evening and entered on a whim. It turns out I’m hooked on something I always thought I’d be lousy at… and generally finishing in the top 15%! Who knew?

By placing myself in different situations I’ve not only become a much more well-rounded runner, but I’ve also found new connections to both introspection and community. I’ve become simultaneously more at peace and ambitious. I find myself endlessly inspired by other runners’ discoveries and enthusiastic about sharing my own (hence, bringing City Running Tours to Toronto).

If the role of a Digital Champion is to provide inspiration, the best advice I can share is this: give yourself the opportunity to inspire yourself. Explore what’s there for you. You wouldn’t have read this far if you weren’t curious, so go get it! It’s there for the taking. Play around, because running isn’t just running, it’s also beer at the finish line if that’s what you want. It’s the sun rising over the lake. It’s friends you haven’t met yet. It’s wooded trails with bird songs and the sound of your feet hitting the dirt. The possibilities are enormous, so go find out what kind of runner(s) you are. You won’t regret it.

About Dan Grant: If you’re running with me, chances are we’re finishing with a beer. The crew I co-founded in 2014, RunTOBeer, takes 100 or more sets of legs to breweries and craft beer bars a few times each month. Earlier this year I also brought City Running Tours to Canada and completed a 50k “beer run” to raise money for Northern Alberta wildfire relief. Check out my blog, From Pint A to Pint B, at RunningMagazine.ca. Connect with Dan on Twitter and Instagram. 

*Photo Credits:
1. Header Image: STWM 2015 – Closing in on the finish line of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.
2. Winter Beer Mile with RunTOBeer co-founder Tej Sandhu – Ever tried a Beer Mile in Winter?
3. Pride and Remembrance 5k – I’m not sure the wig helped, but it was way more fun this way.