After a decade of casual running, Pace & Mind and Manic Run Club’s Matthew Kerry wanted to test how fast he could get. Since moving to Toronto from London, England, running has also helped him get to know the city and feel a part of his new community. We sat down with him to talk about balancing hard training with life and career.
Kim: When did you start running and racing?
I started running in high school where I ran the shorter track distances like 200m and 400m. I really loved it, but not the longer distances. We used to have to do cross-country as well but I always hated that. It was horrible; especially back home in England where it was invariably raining every time cross-country came around.
In university I did not run at all. I guess I was more interested in drinking, partying and picking up girls! I played a bit of soccer, but really I was not very active. I kind of regret that a little actually. I mean, I had fun, but I regret it because there were pretty good facilities for running, although it never crossed my mind at the time.
After university, I moved back in with my parents for a little while. I started going out a few times with my dad just for fun. He had always been a big runner and he’d done a few London Marathons. So he got me back into running and, since then, I’ve never looked back. I started to get more and more serious about it, joined my local club in my hometown and ran a few 10K races.
I eventually moved to London and ran with Nike Run Club out of Regent’s Park, this beautiful green space in the centre of the city where we used to do weekly intervals. Then I’d go on the odd long run on the weekends, but it was never particularly serious. I feel it’s really when I moved to Toronto in 2009 that I started to up the mileage, take it a lot more seriously and do a few big races every year. It all led up to me joining Pace & Mind.
I was half serious about running for a long time, but I really never had any training plan. I would just go out when I felt like it for about 10 years and it’s only been a couple of years, since I joined P&M in November 2014, that it’s become more regimented. I think that decision was mainly because I hit my 30s and wanted to see how fast I could really go and concentrate on it for a few years while was at my peak. So now it’s kind of taken over my life … maybe a little bit too much!
Kim: Do you think that by joining a team that made you a more serious runner?
It’s kind of a catch-22 situation. I obviously knew I was interested in taking it more seriously when I joined Pace & Mind, but I didn’t know what “serious” really meant until I had started the training program. There were things on a practical level that immediately needed fixing, like the fact that I would never do intervals on my own, ever. Even if I did attempt them, I would never stick to the pace or make them particularly strenuous. But when you know your coach is watching and that you are accountable to an awesome group of people who are pushing you to the very limit every week, you do it! That’s the big change: the regular interval training, every week. I would never do that before. Keeping to a regular structure has really helped.
“You know that each interval, each long run and each rest day are there for a reason, and it makes you think harder about ever skipping anything.”
Kim: How do you manage to balance work, life and running?
Now that I think about it, there was another reason why I chose to take running a little bit more seriously at this point in my life. Right now, my wife is doing a Master’s and then PhD so she has less time for me than I have for her! Her workload is really intensive. In terms of balancing it, we try to eat together every evening and spend some quality time together on weekends.
I try to figure out my runs around the rest of my life. I think that’s important. For example, I can’t do early mornings and I always struggle to get up, so it’s always after my work day has ended that I run, whenever that happens to be; if I go out on a Saturday night, then I rarely manage to get up for a long run on Sunday. But one of the great things about the sport is that you can just go out whenever; it could be in the middle of the night and you can still do it. It doesn’t require committing to a certain time every day and I love that flexibility.
Kim: Have you noticed that some lessons you’ve learned in training you applied to your life?
It’s so difficult to distill all the specific lessons I’ve learned, but I can say that running has had a very positive impact on my life in so many ways. In terms of stress relief and mental health, exercise is a huge part of being human and from that point of view it’s definitely made me much happier and stronger. In terms of life lessons, I think …
“…it teaches you about perseverance, goal setting and continuously trying to improve yourself.”
Those are all valuable lessons to take you through life. Also, it gives you a no-excuses mentality because with running, as opposed to, say, team sports, you just have to put your trainers on and leave your front door. There is never really a valid excuse to get out of it.
Kim: What is your most memorable race?
Last November I ran the New York City Marathon and it was totally insane. It’s such a mind-blowing, almost out-of-body experience, mainly because of the sheer numbers of New Yorkers who come out to support you. I high-fived so many kids along the way. You go through all five boroughs and they all try to outdo each other. The music changes every mile, from gospel, to rock to rap. It’s huge as well in terms of runners; I looked behind me at the start line and saw faces for as far as I could see, and you all feed of each other as the race progresses. The energy it gives you is incredible and it certainly keeps your mind off the pain. I think if you are a runner that needs support in a marathon, then New York is definitely the one for you.
It’s a great course too. In every part of the city you recognize some place that you’ve seen in a movie or TV show. The finish, which loops through Central Park is a beautiful and calming way to finish after the craziness of the previous 40K or so. It’s definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It’s difficult to think about the next marathon to do because it will be really hard to beat.
Kim: How do you find the running community in Toronto? What’s great about it?
It’s awesome. Everyone is really supportive. You can show up for a run at any of the myriad clubs as a guest and you get a warm welcome. I feel like the running community has exploded over the last few years. This has coincided we my time in Toronto so I feel like I arrived at the right time.
I run mainly with Manic. It was founded back in 2011 by a few friends of mine; some of the first people I got to know in Toronto in fact. It’s a laid back group that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Everyone arrives at 8:30-ish, with the emphasis on “ish”. We never decide on a route or distance until the morning of. We joke sometimes that we are more of a winter club, because during the summer people are all away at the cottage or camping and generally have much better things to do, so the numbers dwindle quite a bit. Manic definitely keeps you motivated through the winter, but whatever time of year, you know they’ll be some friendly faces to run with every Saturday. Oh, and I have to plug the Toronto Beer Mile, which Manic is responsible for creating.
When I first moved here, I knew nobody apart from my girlfriend (now wife). When I look back, running served three purposes which I guess I took for granted at the time. Most of all, it was a great way to meet people. You have a ready-made group of friends who all share the same interest when you join a running group. That’s a pretty good starting point. Running was also a great way to get to know the city and a great way to get used to the extreme fluctuations in weather! My sense of direction is pretty terrible so I often had no idea where I was when I was running. Running with a group helped me explore the city without getting lost and it was a great way to discover the neighbourhoods, the trails, and the waterfront with a great bunch of people. Many of the routes I still run to this day are ones I learned about during those early days in the city. Luckily I arrived in April, as it was starting to warm up because I don’t know that I would have ever taken up running properly if I’d arrived in the middle of winter!
Kim: Do you ever think about quitting?
I think about quitting like an individual run all the time! I don’t think I ever think about quitting as a sport. I love it too much. It’s a huge part of my life. I will definitely keep running for a long time, who knows how seriously, but it will still be a big part of my life, injury and health-permitting.
“That’s another great thing about the sport. It’s very democratic in that way. Your age, ability or background doesn’t matter because you still have the capacity to run.”
Kim: Do you have any advice for beginners?
Without wanting to resort to cliché, I’d say don’t think about it and just go out and do it. Find a club close by to work or home. Make it as easy as possible to get to it. Don’t plan to travel across the city just to go for a run. Just do it close to where you live and you’ll start to know the people in the local running community and see how great it is. You’ll eventually become addicted, but it’s a really good addiction to have. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who has ever regretted taking up running. It changes everyone’s life for the better!
About Kim Bergeron, Writer
Kim Bergeron – Kim started running during the harsh winters of Quebec City to clear her mind from complex law studies. Her hobby evolved to a passion when she started racing in Toronto in 2012; progressing from a half-marathon to marathon. She loves meeting runners and discovering their motivation and passion for the sport. She writes about all things running atpaceandmind.com. Follow her on instagram at: @kiminphotos.
About Koray Salih, Photographer
Koray Salih – Koray’s passion of running and photography are a match made in heaven. He spends race day either running, or capturing the essence of elites driving hard, teammates and friends achieving goals and family and friends celebrating. You’ll find him in one of those places. You can follow Koray’s adventures on Instagram @coreofyoureye or koraysalih.com
Pace & Mind is an advanced ‘tough love’ coaching service for distance runners. We offer advanced and highly customized 5k, 10k, half-marathon and marathon coaching for runners to improve their performance both on and off the road. Our coaching is based on the principles founded by Head Coach and Co-founder Rejean Chiasson, a Canadian marathon champion, 4x half-marathon medalist and NIKE+ NRC Coach. He is supported by our Online Run Coach, Kate Van Buskirk, an internationally accomplished track and field athlete, bronze medalist at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and Brooks Elite Ambassador. Unlike traditional ‘cookie-cutter’ or ‘clinic’ approaches to coaching, our Coaches first assesses, then customizes each runner’s training program based on:
INDIVIDUALITY * PROGRESSION * RECOVERY * MOTIVATION * COMMITMENT * COMMUNITY
Coaching programs are powered by TrainingPeaks software to ensure data accuracy. No runner’s program is the same and it constantly changes season by season, cycle by cycle. Our Coaches review your plan in detail each week, then adjust based on your progression and listens to you in terms of changes in nutrition, mental state and cross training efforts. Each runner also receives a cross-training plan and a racing singlet as part of the program.
You have one life to live. Run for your life