I’ve heard a range of descriptors applied to Toronto’s dating scene from fellow runners, “clusterfuck,” “hot mess,” “nightmare,” and “gong show” being the most common.
Conventions around dating and the ways in which people meet have certainly changed, especially with the dominance of online dating. Allison Miceli, full time creative junkie and part time fitness fanatic, doesn’t necessarily despise the trend, but describes herself as something of an “old soul,” one who would much rather form a connection in a more natural setting where things don’t feel forced or where she doesn’t have to put on any kind of facade.
“With online dating,” Allison feels, “you get the impression that people always feel they’re missing out on another option.”
“Oh,” I say, “like when you can’t put down a restaurant menu because there are too many choices and even when you’ve ordered you still can’t stop thinking how good another dish looks.”
“Sure,” she responded.
After a discussion with girlfriends and fellow runners, she figured that she’d have to get bold, taking her inspiration from long time role model Kelly Roberts, who once ran a marathon with a declaration of her eligibility and Twitter handle stamped on the front of her sports bra.
Allison, who joined the running community upon moving to Toronto two years ago and has now racked up three half marathons, decided that she would adopt Roberts’ audacity and take a chance on the men, the single ones of course, of the Toronto Waterfront Marathon.
With input over social media, Allison concocted a cheer sign offering up high fives for single guys and a chance to connect on Twitter and maybe grab pizza. “I was going to be there for three hours anyway,” Allison figured, “so I thought why not see if something could come of it.”
There were some pre-race nerves, but, “There was really no backing out because I already said on social media that I was going to do it and before the race Heather [Tribe Fitness founder Heather Gardiner] took a picture of me with the sign and put it on Twitter.”
It was a grand gesture of the type that appealed to her old soul sensibilities and one that felt more authentic than the online dating world. “It was a real version of me out there,” she recalls, “not some curated version of myself that I presented online. I was there taking part in an event I’m really passionate about and dressed in my running clothes, looking the way I do when I run.”
The high fives came fast and furious and the vast majority of runners passing by seemed to have fun with it. Allison says that no one made any crude or derogatory remarks, the only odd moment coming when, “There was one guy who passed through and high-fived me and I’m pretty sure I know his girlfriend.”
There were some post-race connections and Allison has no regrets about the experiment, but for the moment she is still looking for love on the run.
As we were about to wrap up our chat, however, I asked Allison what she’s learned about love from running, and what she said is the most valuable thing that any runner, single or otherwise, can learn.
“There are two types of relationships, I think, those that are needy and where each person needs their self worth validated and those where each person loves who they are already, without a relationship, but both people can complement and support that in one another,” Allison says, adding, “you can’t really do that unless you’ve spent time figuring out who you are, which is exactly what running has allowed me to do. I’ve come to appreciate myself and my body in a way that I never have before.”
Allison says she already feels successful and beautiful because of the confidence she has built running. “Building confidence,” Allison concludes, “is more beautiful than a certain look or number.” Whatever happens on the relationship front, Allison says she is in a far better position to make the most of it because of how running has changed the relationship she has with herself.
Allison does mention as we part, however, that she is still out there and available. Find her on Twitter (@miceliaj). Bros need not apply.
- Ravi Singh