When fun meets running

Marie-Ève Riou gladly accepted to talk about her running group from Gatineau: Course4Fun.

How did Course4Fun get started? When did it all begin?

I created the Course4Fun group after having been a member of several sports groups (spinning, yoga, grand masters club). However, it was the instructor of a triathlon group in Québec City who particularly inspired me through her inclusive approach. Thats when I decided to become an instructor for different classes (i.e., Nordic walking, Pilates, weight training) for different clienteles. Then, when I moved to the Outaouais region to complete my PhD in Exercise Physiology, I wanted to form a running group according to my vision.

The group has gradually expanded and has allowed dozens of people to start running and to improve their running skills on a long-term basis. My spouse has also joined me in this adventure and is now very much involved in the planning of runs, trips and parties. For my part, I am mainly responsible for planning the training sessions as well as the progression of the sessions and the training cycles. We want to have fun while running, but still be competitive when we need to be and push through the toughest training sessions. Our program is healthy and progressive, since we vary the paths and workouts, and it also helps the team members to be consistent, with three classes per week.

What is your running group all about? What sets you apart from other groups?

The goal of the group is to run while having fun, hence the name Course4Fun! Part of the fun is setting a SMART (i.e., specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely) goal to build motivation and to grow as individuals, not by comparing ourselves to others. For example, many of the group members set a goal to run one of the Ottawa Race Weekend races, one of the Défi Entreprises races or the Army Run, and this year, the Trail du Grand-Duc in the Québec City area.

What sets us apart from other groups is that we rotate,” which means that the faster runners come back for the slower runners, so that the group is cohesive, and no one is ever left behind. The group is therefore very inclusiveyou only need to be able to run 5 km continuously to join the group.

Another distinction is that we cross-train year-round, so cycling and swimming in the summer and cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter. And depending on where we are in the training cycle, we also enjoy going out of town for a hiking challenge, for instance in the Adirondacks.

Ultimately, we have built a small family where the social aspect is extremely important. We want people to feel good and forget the worries of everyday life. We aim for a healthy mind in a healthy body!

How has Course4Fun changed during the pandemic?

Since we aim for a long-term commitment to physical activity, at the beginning of the pandemic, we had to adapt quickly, which meant going into virtual mode. We used Zoom for the warm-up period and the training plan. Afterwards, everyone went outside to train. At a set time, we would gather again on Zoom to do weight training or other exercises. We adapted further and chose to add more strength training to help us get ready for our return. Almost two years later, we are now back in the post-pandemic era with a great crew that is still going strong!

Who comes out to run with your group? When someone chooses Course4Fun, what are they looking for?

It varies a lot. Members of the group are between 25 and 65 years old and this includes both men and women. We notice that people are energetic, positive, respectful of the pace of others, eager to push themselves, and willing to take on new challenges. People truly want to improve themselves and want to learn new techniques or specific muscle exercises. Basically, people are open-minded!

Do you have any interesting stories to share with us?

I still remember it like it was yesterday it was the middle of winter, it was cold. I had planned to do some hill intervals. The hill we chose was in the middle of downtown Hull. As we started our training, a resident of that street, a stranger to us at the time, opened his window to cheer us on. What a thrill! But he didnt stop there. After we did a few more climbs, he turned on his stereo system and played Eye of the Tiger! I think that most of us will always remember that evening!

Where is your favourite place to run?

On the trails, definitely in Gatineau Park. There are so many trails to discover and so many paths to take. Our favourites are the Wolf Trail and Luskville Falls.

On the road, along the Rideau Canal. Its amazing how water, even in the middle of the city, is relaxing and rejuvenating!

If you want running buddies that love to have fun while training hard, Course4Fun is what you need! Follow the group on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/Course4Fun) and Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/course4fun/). To participate in one of the group’s activity, follow the instructions on their website: https://course4fun.com/nouvellement-inscrit/.