Who’s Yuri and What’s the Hurry?
When I’m not running, I’m an urbanist with a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and experience in public policy, community engagement and social media.
To learn more about the non-running side of my life, please visit my personal website.
What’s the Hurry? (aka) My Running Story
I’ve never been what you’d call athletic. I was one of the ‘fat kids’ in high school, and although I slimmed down a bit in my senior year and was fit enough to survive the Canadian Armed Forces Officer Training and get into Royal Military College, fitness was always a struggle and when given the choice between burpees and beer, beer would usually win.
RMC didn’t work out for me, and I found myself back on civvy street, completing my BA and earning a Masters in Public Administration. After earning my degrees, I moved to Ottawa and started working for the federal government, spending my days in meetings catered with coffee and pastries, and my evening enjoying the bachelor lifestyle, complete with beer and pizza, etc. Before I knew it, I was pushing 250 pounds and my doctor began pestering me about high cholesterol and blood pressure.
My First Steps: Ottawa
My first ‘running revelation’ came in 2003 when I was living in Ottawa. I was about to get married and the ‘post-bachelor’ lifestyle was doing wonders for my weight. Linda, my soon to be bride and I had caught the ‘foodie bug’ and enjoyed spending time perusing farmers markets and cooking food at home. While we weren’t on any sort of diet per se, eating home cooked osso buco, followed by a romantic sunset walk, was a step up from my previous diet of chicken wings and a pitcher of draft beer and a night in front of the TV! Soon I was about 60 pounds lighter.
The next step in my healthy lifestyle journey started in 2004 when I finally decided to break my almost 15 year relationship with cigarettes (at the time I’d been smoking half my lifetime!). I’d been told that one way of kicking a habit like this is to replace it with a healthy one. I had also been warned about the possibility of packing on the pounds when you quit smoking. So, not wanting to gain back the weight I had recently lost, and needing something to take my mind of the nicotine withdrawals, I (reluctantly) started running with a friend of mine.
The first several months were anything but fun. Sure I had lost a lot of weight, but I was still anything but fit, and I still had smokers lungs to overcome. Oh, and it still was winter in Ottawa!!! But slowly (very slowly) but surely I started running more and more and longer and longer, and the results started showing. Not only didn’t I gain weight after quitting smoking, I actually lost even more! By the spring I was down another 25 pounds (for a total loss of 85 pounds for those keeping score). So while i still hadn’t found the ‘fun in run’ the physical results were enough to keep me going.
Buoyed by the early results of running, I decided that I need some more motivation, so I entered a local 5K in April 2004 and finished in a respectable 26:06. Just over a month later I completed my first 10K during Ottawa’s “National Capital Race Weekend’ in an encouraging 53:03. Over the next two years, I continued to run and spend time in the gym and the weight stayed off.
A Detour through the Desert: Phoenix
In early 2007, my wife and I made a major life change and moved to Phoenix AZ. During my first few months in town, i continued to run and work out—a lot. Not knowing anybody in town yet, I had a lot of free time to exercise and run. It was also a unique experience being able to run outside in shorts in February! Alas, I overdid it , and soon an old knee injury was acting up and I had to take it easy for a bit. By the time i had recovered, the weather was heating up, and we had started meeting new people and getting into a routine that no longer involved running.
Back on Track: Vancouver
Fast forward 5 years to 2011 and Linda and I found ourselves, living back in Canada, this time, Vancouver. When we first moved back, I had gained back almost all the weight I had lost in Ottawa and was a portly 240. Over that summer, as we enjoyed the walkability and healthy lifestyle that Vancouver is renowned for, I soon noticed that my pants were getting big again! This was a nice change from the previous trend of them tending to ‘shrink’ each year. Before I knew it I had lost 20 pounds! But I still had a long way to go
By New Years 2012, we had moved into Vancouver’s Olympic Village, steps away from the Seawall. Being a few steps away from an uninterrupted 22K running path, I no longer had any excuse. My 2012 New Year’s resolution was to completed the 2012 Vancouver Sun Run and lose another 20 pounds. The Vancouver Sun Run is Canada’s largest 10K and pretty much a right of passage for residents of Vancouver. Each year, close to 50,000 people take to the streets of Vancouver and run. I wanted to be one of them. To help me with this goal, I joined the Sun Run InTraining Program at Creekside Community Centre.
During the 13 week training program, I began re-learning what I liked (and didn’t like) about running. More importantly, I meet some great people and we soon became running buddies, running together each week and encouraging each other. By week 10 or so we started looking beyond the Sun Run in April and set our sights on the inaugural lululemon SeaWheeze half marathon in August. We all thought we were crazy—after all, we still hadn’t run 10K yet— but thought that it would be a great way to keep running together after the Sun Run.
And run we did! After a rather disappointing Sun Run—not only was I 6 minutes over my goal time, I still hadn’t lost the weight I wanted to—training for the SeaWheeze was a great motivator to keep running. We keep running throughout the spring and early summer and watched on our long runs add up. Before we knew it we were running 20K together, and felt pretty good about ourselves (we couldn’t even run 5K 6 months earlier!)
Becoming a ‘Real’ Runner: The Birth of Yuri in a Hurry
While the SeaWheeze race itself was another disappointing run for me (10 minutes over my modest goal time) the overall experience was great. lululemon puts on a great event! While at the beginning of the training I had thought that this half marathon would be “one and done” and I’d return to more manageable runs of 5 and 10K, sometime during the summer, something in me ‘turned on’ and I got the ‘running bug.’
Up until then running had never been something I did fun fun (recall my ‘no fun in run’ comment earlier), but for fitness and friends. But not two days after my first half marathon, I found myself limping to the nearby Running Room, buying a new pair of shoes, and scheduling my next half marathon. Yuri in a Hurry was born!
2014 Update: The Journey Continues
As I write this it is almost two years later, and I have now completed 11 half marathons, including the second and third SeaWheezes, and two full marathons. Over this time, I have logged over 3,200KM dropping my half marathon PR by over 50 minutes and my 10K PR by over 20 minutes! Oh yeah, I have also lost 45 more pounds.
But my journey continues. One thing I have learned is that after every finish line is another start line. Try to keep up as I race ahead into the future!