If you’ve been running for longer than six months you’ve already reaped the benefits, including a stronger heart and lungs, a leaner physique and better mental well-being. When you combine fresh air with vitamin D and the endorphins that kick in after a run, you are better prepared to handle the stresses thrown your way. Running is good therapy for both body and mind.

Participating in an activity like running can help those that suffer from depression.

Dr. Valerie Taylor, chief psychiatrist at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto – and an avid runner – said, “Running is a social activity that is helpful for people who are suffering from mental illness because they often end up isolated and trying to cope on their own. Running groups also help to relieve stress because participants may share stories about their struggles that they might not tell their friends or family.”

Women are three times more likely than men to suffer from depression. Research indicates that one in four women will experience some form of depression in their lifetime.

Shoppers Drug Mart will kick off Canada’s first and only national women’s and girl’s running race series in Unionville, Ontario Saturday, June 22.  After Unionville, Vancouver (July 13) and Calgary (July 27), runs will be held in Halifax (August 10), Ottawa (August 24) and Quebec City (September 21).

Dr. Taylor is thrilled that a portion of the proceeds are going to Women’s College Hospital. “Not only will this race provide funds to ensure our programs thrive, it will also raise awareness about women’s mental health and promote healthy living. Supporting women in their efforts to make running a part of their regular routine is a critical step in ensuring the well being of women and families.”

The Shopper’s Drug Mart Run for Women Series will consist of a 5K, 10K and Little Steps Girls 1K, and will include a motivational talk from a Canadian Olympian in each city.

Jennifer Heil, a 30-year-old Montreal resident and Olympic gold and silver medalist is the first featured speaker in Unionville. A new mother of a baby boy, Danik, she is passionate about speaking to girls and women about being active and succeeding in their goals.

“I’m excited to be a part of the (women series) because it encourages an active lifestyle and supports women’s mental health initiatives across the country,” she said. “As a new mom I know that remaining physically active is as important as ever to ensure I maintain my well-being and a balanced lifestyle.”

I asked Heil to explain the importance of “physical literacy.” She was a physically child, laying the foundation for her future as a freestyle mogul skiing Olympian.

“It is about teaching physical literacy at an early age, emphasizing physical activity to kids and targeting a more balanced lifestyle,” she said.

Another role model is Karine Champagne who is participating in the Quebec City run on September 21. She has created a run club called, Mères-Veilleuses, which she explains is:  “…for moms out of shape, or in need of extra motivation!”

The 39-year-old Champagne, a Quebec native and 20-year TVA news anchor spoke of her struggles and how running helped overcome her severe case of depression.

“I was six months out, I couldn’t read and watch television,” she said. “It started when I had insomnia and I had a problem with my memory and I started to talk down about myself. I realized I needed to see my doctor, and he suggested I exercise, and I did but during that time of training I was sleeping, crying and training. Medication and sports were the prescriptions, so I ran, swam, biked and cried and took the pills.”  She adds, “I want to fight the taboo – which is okay to talk about it.”

She medaled in the in the 2011 Canadian Triathlon Championships in Kelowna and went on to race in the World Championships in New Zealand in 2012.

Champagne has big dreams and aspirations, including climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in July, which prompted her to declare that her depression was, “like a gift as it helped put me there.”


Christine Blanchette is a running, fitness and lifestyle writer who lives in Burnaby, B.C. She is an avid competitive runner and is sponsored by New Balance. www.christineruns.com

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