Empowered: to act and think freely in a safe space

By Ian Fraser, the Executive Director and Race Director at Run Ottawa

Throughout the pandemic there have been lots of conversations around what meaning we ascribe to running. Has running been a way for us to cope with the loneliness and isolation that comes with what seemed like endless lockdowns? Do we run to keep physically fit? Is running a great way to create ideas and solve problems as we highly oxygenate our brains? All great questions that we should likely take some time to consider every now and then.

My running journey started when I was 8 and has arguably been the longest sustainable relationship I’ve ever had. Running was my escape from some profound childhood trauma and when I was out, alone, I had complete control over my body. The sense of relief and freedom was palpable, something that didn’t exist inside my head on most days.

Like all great relationships there have been ups, downs and bumps along the way. We’ve had days where we didn’t speak to each other. Our successful pairing occasionally included profound conversations and the odd trip to counselling (physio and massage :-)). There have also been times when we’ve taken each other for granted but we’ve stuck it out. Most great love stories start out one way and evolve into something very different. Initially we escaped together pushing away the demons that existed in real life. Later on we explored the possibilities of physical excellence while cultivating friendships with other couples along the way.

I’ve never really thought about using the word empower to answer the questions asked a few paragraphs ago but it truly fits. One great word to sum-up the why that includes so many details so simply. 48 years ago I was surely empowered to act and think freely in the safe space that running afforded me.

Safe spaces can be both mental constructs or very real physical environments that provide a sense of place, relaxation and a stress free retreat. For many of us, Women in particular, the idea of creating or finding this space is often very challenging. Giving ourselves the mental freedom to escape from the grind of daily life is one thing but being able to run freely outside without feeling threatened is something completely different. In the lead up to this year’s Run to Empower we should all take the time to consider what safe spaces mean to our community and the women in our lives.

Over these last, weird, 18 months we’ve seen more people than ever outside, staying active and likely having the same existential conversations about their running. I see so many groups of women moving together, moms out with their daughters and sons leading by example every step of the way.

I can only pretend to understand the challenges that life presents to women and girls. Yes, to some degree, we’ve evolved and moved forward since I was 8 but the daily lives of men and women are vastly different. Women continue to take on ever more responsibility on their already burdened shoulders in what seems like a never ending quest for equality.

When you come out and join us for our Run to Empower you can be sure that there are hundreds of individual, empowering stories going on in the minds of every woman and girl who toes the start line. Run to Empower is solely focused on the stories and experiences of women and girls but you’ll also see boys and men participating. Moms not only empower their daughters but also their sons. Spouses, partners and husbands ought to be on the start line to share in the awesomeness of the women and girls in their lives.

Our community of runners and walkers is diverse, magical and succeeds when we all lift each other up. While it’s kind of fun to unpack the reasons why we get out and move it’s more important that we just do. For all the awesome runners and walkers we’re looking forward to welcoming at Run to Empower on October 2nd there are likely an equal number of reasons for getting out there. Come out to join us and to celebrate your why!


Run to Empower supports and promotes the advancement of women’s running in Canada. Endeavouring to highlight remarkable local talent, Run to Empower includes a performance race for women only, provides an opportunity for all humans to run together in celebration of women’s running, and looks to inspire the next generation by introducing young runners to strong, empowered role models. Register for the 2021 edition of Run to Empower here.