squadspiration series

SQUADSPIRATION FEATURE: Courtney Lundrigan

📷: Tribe Fitness

One of the best moments of 2016 for me was sharing my 1st triathlon finish with Courtney Lundrigan.

While I have only gotten to know Courtney just this past year, my only regret is that we didn’t become friends sooner. That being said, I’m pretty sure their isn’t an expiry date on friendships and I’ll get to know her better as time passes, but here’s what I do know.

When I think of Courtney, I instantly think of how funny she is. Belly laughs are pretty much guaranteed when around her, especially with moments like naming her wetsuit Winnie, but after her sense of humour, the word that comes to mind to describe her is determined. In my mind, she personifies this word to the point of inspiration.

If you know her, then you know the determination I speak of. There is her will to learn and become a better athlete with each training session or dare I say it swim at the pool, but my favourite form of this character trait she possesses is that of encouragement. I say this because I’ve experienced it 1st hand. For every ounce of determination I had in my body to push her away during our triathlon so that she could soak in her own greatness, she was determined to stick together until the very end and share the victory with me.

📷: Bobbi-Jo Turner

Courtney, I know I am clinging to this moment like this dog who hates water (http://bit.ly/2hSiUe3), but I seriously mean it when I say there is no one I would have rather shared that finish line with. You are such a positive force to anyone who knows you, and you are an incredibly strong female role model for your niece – something you know I hold close to my own heart.

Please accept this feature as my official heartfelt thank you and way of saying how grateful I am to know you. Now thank you Lord Jesus all of this flattery is over!

Wishing you nothing shy of a stellar 2017 girl. You deserve it.

You can follow Courtney’s inspiring training and maybe even a few craft beer posts on Instagram under her handle @calundrigan.

1. Who are you (in 20 words or less)?
In no particular order: Runner. Triathlete. Girlfriend. Dog mom. Daughter. Aunt. Sister. Frousin (when you’re friends with your cousins – it’s a thing!). Friend. Mentor. Librarian. Teacher.


2. Who or What Inspires/Motivates You?
I am inspired by so many people that it’s hard to choose just one person. My niece motivates me to push myself. I want her to see strong women work hard to accomplish goals. It’s important for her to see both the triumphs and struggles, and the successes and failures. I really want to be a good role model for her, despite living so far away.

3. How did you get into running?
I started running in 2011 to lose weight. I was initially strictly a solo and treadmill runner. In true Courtney fashion, I signed up for a half marathon having not run any other races, so I did a 5k a few weeks before so I would know what to do on race day. I was still a solo runner at the time, so had no idea what I was doing.

4. What do you love most about the running community?
It doesn’t care how fast or slow you are, whether you run on roads or trails, alone and with a group. Everyone is welcome, and it’s always there for you, no matter what.

5. What is your biggest passion?:
Teaching and mentoring. Both are a big part of my day job, and have come to the forefront in my running life over the last year.

6. What is the best part about cheering for others?
That moment when you see a runner struggling, so you start cheering your heart out and you can see that it makes a difference. You see that look of determination cross their face and they straighten up as they dig deep to push forward and finish strong. Cheering is so much fun! I never know what to say to people and I feel like I repeat the same stuff over and over, but who cares?!

📷: Tribe Fitness

7. What is your most amazing memory?
About running? I’m cheating and sharing two.
First one is the last 800m of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 2014. I was in peak shape and throwing down one of the strongest races I have ever run. I was starting to fade in the last stretch when I turned the corner up Bay, and I saw my Tribe cheering hard. I wasn’t expecting them to be there, and I started to cry. I had barely been running with them for 2 months at the time, and I have never felt so much love from a group of people as on that last stretch when I needed it most.

The second one is this past June when I paced the Waterfront 10. Not only was it the first running of the race, but it was my first time pacing. I have gone on and on about it on social media, but it was one of the most rewarding and amazing experiences I’ve ever had. So many sweaty hugs at the end. I wasn’t prepared for just how emotional it would be, especially when people came after the race near tears and thanking me for getting them to the finish. I learned so much about myself and the running community that day, and I’ll be forever grateful for the opportunity to be a pacer. I really hope I get to do it again someday.

📷: Jenna Pettinato

8. What is one of your biggest accomplishments?
Well, naturally I’m going to say crossing the finish line of my first triathlon with you! Seriously, though, when I started to panic in the water at my first triathlon, I had no idea how I was going to make it to the end. I was in a pretty dark place early on in the race, but I somehow soldiered on. I can’t wait to improve in triathlon. I have so much to learn, and now I’ve found another community of awesome people!

9. What is your favourite inspirational quote?
“What if I fall? Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?” I think that came from Erin Hanson.

10. What advice would you give your younger self and young girls today?
BELIEVE IN YOURSELF! Self-doubt puts up many barriers and closes many doors, especially for women. The things I have accomplished over the last five years, would have been beyond my wildest dreams when I was younger. You are stronger than you think. Always.

SQUADSPIRATION FEATURE: Amy Griffith

Amy, Amy, Amy. My little Brit with a lot of wit. I cannot believe we have been friends for only 6 years because it feels like I have known you FOR-EV-ER. I’m not sure if it’s because of all the belly laughs, sarcasm, and inappropriate jokes or the memories of purple jesus, but you have hands down become one of my closest friends.

I have so many memories with you, including this little “beautiful mess” of a gem below, and as terrible as our twerking is, this picture ultimately reminds me of how I wouldn’t have started running or found the fun in the run if it wasn’t for you.


You have been nothing shy of supportive while I’ve been on this adventure, and this little ditty is to let you know how proud I am of you.

You constantly seek the path that will make you a better person, and continually invest your time into helping others. You have chosen a career that focuses on teaching and inspiring the minds of tomorrow and to be honest, those little hooligans don’t know how lucky they are to have you!

I want you to know that no matter how you are feeling on any given day that you are an intelligent, funny, beautiful, and strong woman who I am so grateful to call my friend. I want to remind you to never, ever let anyone tell or make you feel otherwise and if you have to come back here to read this over and over again then so be it. But most of all, I wanted the girl who has always believed in me to know that I believe in her. Always.


Much love,

A ✌🏼️💜

1. Who are you (in 20 words or less)?

This is always such a tough question! I think above all, I identify as: a passionate educator of little humans (mostly kinder!), a proud family girl and a loyal friend to all the people who continually have my back.

2. Who/What inspires/motivates you?

This is something that I constantly remind myself, whether I’m grinding through a tough race or personal feat – I think of those in my life that inspire me to be and do better.

My mum, for sure, is a massive inspiration to me, someone I am always looking to in times of stress or great accomplishment. I would say I make 80% of my decisions with her in mind, because she has sacrificed so much for me while still accomplishing so many of her own tough personal goals, that it never ceases to put me in awe.

My students, absolutely. They help me grow me everyday. There is nothing more motivating on your worst day, than to walk into a classroom full of bright-eyed, smiley 4-years-olds who are ready to tackle the day, who hang on to your every word and bounce back during adversity. I take it as a huge honour and massive responsibility.

My friend, Carley Elle Allison. One of my earliest “playmates”, Carley was the daughter of one of my mum’s training partners. Along with her two sisters, we passed the long hours together as our mums would hit the pavement. At 17, Carley was diagnosed with a rare form of clear cell sarcoma, which made her one in a billion – something already knew about her, and we all rallied around her as she valiantly fought cancer. When Carley lost her battle a year ago, she became my light. Whenever I have a tough time, whether it be physically or emotionally, she gives me strength, perspective and a smile.

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3. How did you get into running?

MAMA G! For anyone that doesn’t know me, I come from a long line of runners. My mum ran for a number of clubs growing up in Surrey, a suburban town outside of London UK, until she progressed to national meets in her early 20s. She emigrated over to Canada with my father years later, and continued to run for the UK until she found her new home at the Toronto Olympic Club (still running! Check them out at: http://www.torontoolympicclub.com/). She represented the UK and Canada at two Olympic games, and if I continue to brag about her, she’ll murder me! Needless to say, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. I picked up running cross country in middle school, and started training and competing in 2013, with my first half marathon and I haven’t looked back since!

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4. What is one of your biggest accomplishments?

When it comes to athletics, I would say my first half marathon. I had trained for months in gruelling heat, and left so many sessions honestly believing that I was making no progress at all, perhaps even moving backwards. When it came to race day, I went out and ran my first ever PB at that time, even after some serious soul searching at the 16KM mark when I was ready to just give up entirely.

Personally, I would say my accomplishments are in my students. Anything they achieve, brings me instantaneous pride.

5. What would you do if you were famous?

Oh god, for anyone who knows me and my personality, I would probably be a goldmine for the tabloids! In all honesty, I think I would live my life in much of the same way, with less boundaries (read: more money!) I would travel more, give back in more material ways by donating more time and money, and try to do some good with my newfound level of exposure. I think I would really just need to try and stay grounded!

6. What is your biggest passion?

I would say my biggest passion is just that: to live passionately. To always do the things and surround myself with people that I love and bring me joy. To always strive to be better and do better, for myself and for those around me. To make compassionate choices that make me happy and help me grow. To live as many days as I can happy, healthy and begging for more. When things get tough, to honour the hurt. To stay hurtable, open, and human: it’s always worth it.

7. What are you most grateful for?

My support system – family, friends, mentors, trainers – so much that I literally cannot say it enough. I am so lucky to have such a strong community that is there for me unconditionally and constantly. Pep talks before races, life chats to mend a disappointed heart, and the times that I can celebrate their successes in the massive ways that they celebrate mine! I am nothing without those who made me, and for them I am forever grateful.

8. What would you do with a million dollars?

Cry? I literally have no idea! I’d give back, to causes that I believe in, people that have been there for me (I have a lot of friends in student debt!), spoil my family, travel the world (I have terrible wanderlust), upgrade from my mere 400 sq. foot condo, and buy lots of pretty things! I would invest in my future (whatever that future looks like!) and give whatever I can to the education of our next generation through programs, incentive and grants! No one’s future should suffer because of money.

9. What is your favourite inspirational quote?

“Have some fire. Be unstoppable. Be a force of nature. Be better than anyone else here, and don’t give a damn what anyone thinks. Never apologize. There are no teams, no buddies. You are on your own. Be on your own. Let your success make you someone else’s hero”
– Yang

10. What advice would you give your younger self and young girls today?

Breathe.

Things are going to be tough. They are going to be stressful and overwhelming. They are going to hurt. There are going to be choices that seem to back you into a corner. But you will come out the other side, and you will be stronger for it. You will feel like a shell of your former self, but you will survive. Try and see the difference between mountains and molehills. Whatever life has to throw at you, you have to throw it back harder. Do what makes your heart happy, let yourself hurt, make mistakes that you can learn from, and always remember to breathe. You got this, everyone is gunnin’ for you!

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SQUADSPIRATION FEATURE: Alyssa Bird


I first met Aly when I stumbled across her rad group, the Nous Adventure Co on Twitter. I was obviously intrigued by the group’s name and I mean come on, it has the word adventure in it! Need I say more? HECK NO.

After going on a little internet adventure to visit their page, I left feeling deeply inspired. I learned that Aly was the founder of this group and that it was comprised of 15 everyday women of various abilities (some of them first time runners) who were embarking on being the first female relay to run the Bruce Trail from end to end.

This is where the story might start to sound a bit familiar. Some of you might remember hearing about the Wild Bruce Chase through various media outlets or even from some of the girls themselves. Well, Aly’s group was the original team that blazed the way for those 18 awesome women to break that record, but for Aly’s team, it wasn’t about breaking the record, it was about creating one.


I’m not bringing this up to to tear down or disrespect the undeniable efforts of the Wild Bruce Chase women because they are hands down amazing, but so is Aly and her team of incredible women, and they too deserve respect for paving the way. After all, records can’t be broken until someone else sets them.

With that being said, only one newspaper covered their story, which ultimately made me sad. How could such an amazing story get overlooked? I’m sure Aly asked herself the same questions, but in getting to know Aly this past year, I wasn’t surprised with how she reacted to the whole situation. She has confidently and quietly enjoyed the success of Nous Adventure Co when others could have easily taken to anger, and for that, I have developed a tremendous amount of respect for her.

Additionally, she has a deep love for the outdoors, and strong will to encourage more women to take on not only living an active lifestyle, but to also become adventure enthusiasts. Two things that I too, strongly believe in.

It’s also probably a good time to mention that she’s also one hell of a cheerleader. After telling her that I was racing in my first triathlon this summer, she jumped on the opportunity to come surprise me with a huge smile and real life high five en route while I was waist deep in runner’s misery during that said triathlon. From that moment on I was convinced that she was a pretty special human and that I’d be keeping her around.

Aly, you are one heck of an inspiring woman. Every time we chat I have a smile on my face from ear to ear because of all the positivity you have beaming outta you. My biggest hope for you is that you see your message realized and that the Nous Bruce Adventure is seen as, “…a storytelling project that hopefully any woman would see themselves reflected in.”

My second hope is that the universe conspires to bring the Nous Adventure Co and the Wild Bruce Chase groups together to create an even bigger community for more rad adventures to take place. More importantly, I hope this happens to show all women everywhere that we have no limits and that we do actually “run the world”.

Buckets o’ love to you my extraordinary friend.

You can check out the Nous Adventure Co’s journey along the Bruce Trail in their short documentary film done by filmmaker Julia Wittmann. It’s where I snagged that gem of a quote by Aly herself.

You can also follow Aly on Instagram + Twitter at @alyssagbird.

1. Who are you (in 20 words or less)?

I’m an ever-evolving human passionate about carving out spaces in the world for people to feel comfortable and included.

2. Who or What Inspires/Motivates You?

I’m inspired by underdogs and people who don’t take NO for an answer. I’m motivated by defying stereotypes and pushing boundaries.

3. How did you get into running?

A very encouraging chemistry teacher told me I could be a runner when I was in grade 11. I didn’t really think it was possible before then – I wasn’t fast, I huffed and puffed my way through 6 minute runs in gym class, but she explained that I didn’t have to race or be fast to be a runner. So I got started and have been running on and off ever since.

4. What do you love most about the running community?

I love that the running community is equal parts physical effort and storytelling. It’s not just about the run, it’s also about sharing what running means to you. For many, it’s an expression of creativity.


5. What is your biggest passion?

It’s hard to pin one down and say that its more important than others. For now, inclusion is at the top. The feeling of not belonging or being excluded hurts. I don’t want anyone to feel that way – in running or wherever.

6. If you could be anywhere now, where would you be?

On an adventure or on a public speaking circuit talking about that adventure.


7. What is your most amazing memory?

Drinking champagne from a bottle and eating orange slices at 7:30am on May 5th, 2016 at the Southern Carin of the Bruce Trail with my friends Michelle and Morgan. We were having a conversation about what to do next – after having just set the first record for a female relay of the Bruce Trail 30 minutes prior.

8. What is one of your biggest accomplishments?

I’m really proud of what I accomplished with the Nous Bruce Project – but I couldn’t have done it alone. There was an incredible team of people who helped to make it reality.  

We all wanted to be a part of something epic and outrageous but very few of us would have ever been invited to be a part of something similar. So, we did it on our own and that felt really, really good.

We put inclusion before competition and accomplished something that had never been done before. Every woman on the team played an important role in getting us from one end of the Bruce Trail to the other. And when we made it to the end, every woman on the team had accomplished something they could be proud of.  

I’m really, really proud of what we did.

9. What is your favourite inspirational quote?

Inspirational Quotes are my jam. (Seriously, Pinterest is like crack for me.) Right now this one is speaking to me:


10. What advice would you give your younger self and young girls today?

Don’t not try something or start something because you think you won’t be the best. If it makes you happy who cares if there are people who can do it better, faster, or stronger than you can. Oh, and never take no for an answer.

SQUADSPIRATION FEATURE: Ally Pintucci

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I’ve only known Ally for about 8 months in total and about 80% of that time has been solely through the crazy world we call the internet. BUT luckily, the universe worked it out so that we could meet in person and I gotta say, I couldn’t be happier about it.

This girl is a force but also a humble bug who loves cookies and tacos, so really, what’s not to love here? To say I admire this woman is an understatement. Her voracious need to get real with herself and chase every adventure that shows up on her doorstep are quite possibly two of my favourite things about her, but the thing I love most is that she loves big. So big. Like infinitely big.

Of course, in typical Alex fashion, I was SUPER nervous to meet her. Would I stack up? Would I be cool enough? Would my typical weird self ruin it? I’m happy to say that she made it pretty easy to just be quirky old me.

I’ve never met anyone so open to being so vulnerable + honest on meeting someone in person for the first time as Ally. It was incredibly beautiful and I couldn’t help but take it as a compliment because it meant she felt safe enough to share it with me.

Ally, I know you have your own dark demons much like I have my own. I also know that you have a squad of incredible people around you as well as a crazy amount of perfectly good strangers to tell you what an amazing life you have and what a beautiful human you are, but it breaks my heart a little when I hear that you still struggle with believing it yourself because you my sweet, sweet girl are nothing shy of AMAZING.

My hope for you is that you to come and read this as a reminder whenever those jerk face thoughts seep into your brain because no one who is as loving, daring, authentic and passionate as you should feel anything less than stellar. This is my gift to you. All the love for you my soul sista.

To see the wild (quite literally) adventures of Ally, you can follow her on Instagram @allypintucci or through her own blog www.allypintucci.com.

Who are you (in 20 words or less)?

A daughter, sister, friend, entrepreneur, wanderer, photographer + passionate daydreamer.

Who/What inspires/motivates you?

I know I’m far from perfect, and I’ve learned to accept it. It allows me to constantly grow and always work towards being the best version of myself. It has its ups and downs – but I’ve learned to motivate myself from the inspiration of my progress.

Outside of that, I try and surround myself with magic. I think it’s so important to hang with people that don’t allow you to sell yourself short, that push you to greatness and that will make you laugh in any situation.

I found my tribe and I couldn’t be happier.

What is your most amazing memory?

When I was 18, I took my first big trip. I cam home from work and told my parents that I was going camping.

“Cool.” They thought I was going to a cabin for the weekend.

“I’m going to Zimbabwe.” They thought I was crazy.

Nothing will ever replace the feelings I had on that trip. I got to really soak in how some people lived their life. I went from someone who already thought they knew everything to only knowing one thing. Life is meant to be experienced.

I needed to learn about people, feel lost in a language, figure out how to connect, immerse myself in other cultures, sleep on planes and wake up in foreign cities.

If you could be anywhere right now, where would you be?

I am never able to answer this question. It’s so HARD!

Take me to the airport!

What would you do if you were famous?

Does famous mean that I’m rich? Because if yes, I’d travel – a lot.

But seriously – I would continue to take on passion projects that the world needs to know about to help spread a bad ass message! 

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I’m working with an awesome team to spread 2 really incredible messages. In the next 10 years I’d like to have both of these projects create a global community.

The best part? Both Chasing Sunrise + When In Doubt Love are lifestyles – so I don’t see much changing for me since I love what I’m up to!

What is the hardest lesson you’ve had to learn in life?

Having to come to terms with the fact that I had a depreciating value of self worth and zero love for myself was a hard one.

There was absolutely nothing that I was doing in my life that was positively affecting me mentally, physically or emotionally. As hard as it was to admit, the moment I was so honest with myself and could admit that I needed to change – I could start growing.

What are you most afraid of?

Failing.

I still battle with the anxious little voices that tell me a million reasons why I can’t do something. But I’m convinced that I won’t let them win.

What is your favourite inspirational quote?

Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.

What advice would you give your younger self and the young girls of today?

  • Don’t be afraid to love. To both give + receive.
  • Take care of your mind + body. You only have one.
  • Laugh…at everything.
  • Don’t live for anybody else.

 

SQUADSPIRATION FEATURE: Chanel Fall

Sometimes social media is an awesome place. The universe brought Chanel into my life via Instagram about 3 years ago when we fell in love with each other’s outdoor adventures. Did someone say hiking? It was only later that we both realized we were also runners. It must have been the winter running photos with our frozen eyelashes that sealed the deal because we have been virtually + personally high fiving each other ever since.

Chanel is another person in my life who makes it impossible not to be happy around her. She is ALWAYS smiling and it’s contagious.

She loves animals, adventuring, and the outdoors so really she is basically my sista from another mista!

Chanel, thank you for always being such a ball of positivity. Even from the very beginning before we met in real life, you had nothing but good vibes to share and it only got better once we met. Sitting down and talking about the places we want to see and the things we want to do over coffee is something I really cherish. Your finish line hugs are pretty awesome too! This is just a big thank you for you always being you and for everyone to know what a truly rad girl you are. Sending you some serious love bombs right now.

If you want follow Chanel’s outdoor adventures or get a little runspiration, you can find her on instagram under her handle @chanelfall.

1. Who are you?

Northern Ontarian runner, triathlete, adventurer and outdoor/winter enthusiast, who’d rather be absolutely dead-beat exhausted than bored.

2. Who/what inspires you?

I sound like a typical Canadian by saying Terry Fox, but I remember how excited my late grandfather got, and how his eyes lit up when he told us about seeing Terry run through Sault Ste. Marie in 1980. He was someone who just wanted to make a difference in others lives, someone who was so selfless. I’m constantly inspired by others overcoming obstacles, so much so that I get super emotional haha.

3. What goal are you working on crushing?

After pacing my friend for the Toronto Waterfront 10k, I’ve decided I’d love to pace a big race or half marathon at some point in the future! Getting someone across the finish line under their goal time is so much more fulfilling to me right now than beating my best; I’ve taken so much from running and it feels good to give back 💜.

I am dying to race a 70.3 triathlon, as well as run a sub 4hr marathon. These are all long term goals though; short term goals right now involve running for fun and enjoying my summer!

4. How did you get into running?

I tried running in high school, and university and it never stuck. My first year of college I watched my 56 year old mother finish her fist half marathon, and I have never been so proud! My dad had always been a runner, as well as my fiancé, so I felt like it was finally time to stick with it. And here I am now!

5. What is your favourite outdoor activity?

This is a terrible question for me! Growing up in Sault Ste. Marie on Lake Superior, the only place I know is outside. My summers involve running, camping, hiking, swimming, cycling, kayaking and anything else you can throw at me. Winter however, winter steals my heart. As soon as the first snowflake is on the ground, my snowboard, snowshoes, XC skis, and skates almost magically appear, and then I’m gone for the next 4 months. If you want to see me over the winter, you’d better bring goggles and warm mitts because you’ll find me in the bush or on a hill!


6. Do you listen to music when you run?

I’m not too big on listening to music while running, not sure why, I’ve just never really gotten into it. If I do though, my go-to song is the cover of Adele’s “Skyfall” by Our Last Night. I also always have City and Colour, Wintersleep, Alexisonfire and The Devil Wears Prada on my go-to playlist should I decide I want it!

7. What’s your favourite place to adventure to?

Picking one is again impossible! Speaking in close-by terms, my family’s camp (it’s basically a cottage/Northern Ontario thing) it’s down the street from my parents’ house, and I will be there on a daily basis to take advantage of the summer! But my dad is from Vancouver Island, and there is a very large soft spot in my heart for the Island. But, realistically, any mountain or lake or lookout will do for me.



8. What’s your biggest accomplishment?

Last fall I ran my first marathon! I’d say for a personal accomplishment as of now that’s my biggest. My fiancé and I are however in the process of building a house, so I think once that’s done it may trump the marathon. Then again, I think finishing a 70.3 will someday take 1st place 😉

9. What’s your favourite inspirational quote?

“Embrace the detours” is my current favourite. I think it speaks for itself!

10. What’s on your bucket list?

I’m not sure I’ve never sat down and written or thought about an actual bucket list. I just recently booked a trip to Iceland in the fall, which is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time! Skydiving is up there, but I think a top “bucket list” item would be to visit as many countries as I possibly can!

 

SQUADSPIRATION FEATURE: Melinda Ciffolillo

📸: Allison V

“Are you running the Toronto Yonge Street 10k and do you like Nutella?”

I’m pretty sure this is the very first thing Melly ever said to me and I am pretty sure that if I said I didn’t like Nutella, this friendship may have never blossomed. To this day, I still fear saying anything bad about Nutella but I mean really, what’s not to love? Right? RIGHT?!

As a member of JP’s Team and with her infectious smile, it’s not surprising that Melly is an inspiration to more than just me, but I think the thing I admire about her the most is how much she truly cares about others. You can’t help but feel a genuine sense of happiness around her and she has the ability to make everyone feel important.

She is an amazing mother to two young girls yet still finds time to crush her own goals and give back to the community the best way she knows how – by cheering on others. If she’s not physically out on the course cheering for people, she’s racing alongside them and pushing them towards their personal best. If she’s not doing that, then you better believe you’re going to get a slew of texts from her telling you how awesome you are.

Melly, this is my way of telling YOU how awesome YOU ARE. You are such a ray of sunshine to me and so many others. Thank you for always seeing the good in everything and everyone, and for always lifting others up.


If you want to get to know Melly or get a daily dose of positivity in your life (her posts are literally LOL worthy) you can follow her on Instagram under her handle @mellyruns!

1. Who am I?

I wear many hats. Mother, runner, friend, business owner and professional are titles that make me most happy, fulfilled and proud.

2. Who or What Inspires Me?

It may sound cliché but my parents have inspired me for as long as I can remember. My father immigrated to Canada with very little. He taught me the value of hard work, loyalty, humility and respect. My mom taught me the value of empathy and compassion. These are qualities that I admire, strive to emulate and try to instill in my children.

3. What goal are you working on crushing?

I conquered my major goal of completing a marathon (I actually ran two marathons) last year. This was a goal that I never dreamed possible given my asthma and now that I have knocked it off my bucket list I am so happy. My focus shifted from race times to race experiences around the same time last year. I currently have no lofty goals such as completing an ultra or attempting to qualify for Boston. I am most happy running “just to run” and increase awareness for JPs Team while supporting other members of the running community.

4. How did you get into running?

I have always been active. I did my fair share of step aerobics and Billy Blanks Tae-Bo videos in my younger day. To be honest, I never understood running. I was the girl that hated running the kilometer in gym class and tried to get through a few minutes on the treadmill when I was at the gym when I got older. I never liked it and was always afraid of it triggering an asthma attack. About 5 years ago, my coworker was training for a race. In the dead of winter, she would lace up and head out to train in the frigid temperatures over lunch. I thought she was insane and could not understand the joy or motivation in doing this. Meanwhile, going to the gym was becoming more of a challenge for me due to significant time restraints from being single mom to my two daughters. Seeing my coworker run triggered something in me. I realized running could be a time efficient way of getting a work out done and could be done anywhere, anytime. And in March 2011, I put on a flannel hoodie, a down filled vest, woolen mittens, baggy jogging pants, a toque and running shoes and went out the door for what I consider to be my first run. I hated every minute of it, but that run lit a fire in me. I wanted to learn to like it and I was going to keep doing this until I did. And eventually, I did. When I worked up to a 5km distance I was ecstatic. No run groups, no training programs, no run family, just me and the road. In July 2011, I was entered to run the Scotiabank Half Marathon. My coworker registered me on behalf of a charity and when I learned about this my jaw dropped and I said that was impossible. She said she knew I could do it and something in me wanted to prove her right. I accepted the challenge and began training. I entered the zoo run several weeks before the dreaded October half marathon date just so that my first race experience was not a half marathon and I have never looked back. I will always be grateful to her for seeing my potential and opening up a door to a world that I never knew existed. Thank you Maxine, I’m forever grateful to you.

5. What is your favourite thing about the running community?

I love the running community. It is ironic that an activity that is very solitary can be so incredibly social. I remember going to races not knowing anyone, my dad waiting at the finish line, grabbing a banana and heading home. Today is a very different picture. Races are events that are celebrated among friends and we run together, supporting each other. If you are not running, you still get up at 5:30am and get ready to cheer. When we are not racing, we are running together and if we are not running we are going for coffee or dinners. We are strangers that find each other from the shared love of a common activity and we become instant friends. Many are truly like family to me now and have become my best friends in real life. We understand each other in a way that non-runners dont and have bonds that are truly created quickly and seamlessly. The community is very supportive and welcoming and there are groups in every community that love the addition of new members.

6. What is your favourite song to run to?

I used to love to run with music. I actually was unable to run without music initially. I loved to drown out the silence with noise and get lost in the beat. Then my iPod headphones broke and I was forced to run without music until I replaced them. By the time I had replaced them, I started to enjoy the silence. I learned to love the sounds of my footsteps and the sounds of the birds chirping on morning runs. When running with friends, we talk on our runs. I have not been able to run with music since, even during my marathons.  

7. What is the best part of cheering for others?

I love being the cheer squad. I love supporting people who are chasing their dreams and crushing their own goals. All runners know how much of a boost having even a stranger on the sideline cheering for you actually is. We always must give back to the community that gives us so much.

8. What is one of your biggest accomplishments?

In running, my biggest accomplishment would be completing my first marathon. That is the only time I actually cried crossing the finish line with dear friends that actually paced me for the entire race. I will never forget that race or that day and the people that were by my side to support me on something that I never thought possible.

9. What is your favourite inspirational quote?

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated.” – Maya Angelou

10. What advice do you have for someone just starting out?

The first step is always the hardest. It isn’t easy and it takes time but you will get there. Celebrate small accomplishments and set realistic goals. Don’t expect every run to be a good run. Even experienced runners have bad days and bad runs. Listen to your body and give it the rest it needs. Find a community of runners if possible, enter races, and most of all prepare to meet some of the most awesome people you will ever know.

 

SQUADSPIRATION FEATURE: Jennifer Norman

This hella bad ass kicks my sorry ass into shape every time we work out together. Basically she makes it look easy (I mean just look at her crushing those monkey bars, #shouldergoals) while I sweat profusely and curse under my breath, BUT, she is one of the most kind, encouraging, and inspirational people I know.

I only recently met Jen this year, but after meeting her and training with her, I can say with every bone in my body (no pun intended) that I constantly feel inspired to be better after working out with her.

One of my favourite things about this fierce lady is her endless belief in me. From the first time I met Jen, I instantly felt that despite not looking like an athlete, she believed I was one and would always treat me like one. Since day one, she has continuously pushed me to be my best and to reach past my limits. She quietly feeds my confidence and I’m pretty sure she is the first person to have pushed me so hard that I want to vomit after every sprint suicide drill or all of the painful lunges she puts me through, but I can say without a doubt, it’s infinitely worth it. I feel stronger both mentally and physically because of it.

Jen, I feel honoured to know you and to have you supporting me in my corner. Thank you for always having the right thing to say when I let my doubts get the best of me, and for always reminding me what I am capable of when I forget (even if that means one more painful set). I now give you permission to enjoy a box of crackers all to yourself!

To learn more about Jen, you can find an interview with her below or follow her on Instagram under her handle @jen_norman!
1. Who are you (in 20 words or less)?

I am an aspiring Chiropractor/ Strength and Conditioning Coach, who has always had a passion for pursuing a healthy lifestyle, while challenging myself both mentally and physically (25 words… oops)!

2. Who/What Inspires/Motivates You?

I am motivated by the notion that almost everyone has not yet tapped into their full potential. We as human beings are capable of so much more than we really know.

3. What goal are you currently working on crushing?

I am training for my first competitive half marathon in October.

4. When did you first start living an active life?

I always have. I have been so lucky to have a family that put me in a crazy amount of after school sports growing up. I have been skiing since I was 2 and as I grew up, I explored swim racing, soccer, ballet and gymnastics.

5. What’s your favourite Olympic Sport?

Gymnastics, hands down.

6. Current favourite song?

Banana Pancakes by Jack Johnson

7. Guilty pleasure food?

Nutella

8. What is one of your biggest fitness accomplishments?

I don’t know if I have one salient fitness accomplishment that has really defined me. I am continuously improving in all aspects of fitness and training, everyday.

9. What is your favourite inspirational quote?

When you want to succeed more than you want to breathe, then you will be successful.

10. Best piece of advice for someone just starting out?

Enjoy the journey, your end destination is a lifestyle you create with good habits.

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