By: Karen Karnis
Mark Sutcliffe can remember crossing a finish line once, early in his racing career, and hearing the announcer referring to everyone as athletes. Now that he’s been running for over 15 years and has 18 marathons under his belt, he recognizes the importance of runners seeing themselves as athletes – but at the time he said it felt really strange.
Now he feels the same way about his relationship with Mizuno. “It’s funny for a guy like me to think of myself as a sponsored athlete,” he says. “I had fun with my running buddy, Bob – I purposely wore something different every time we ran together and said, ‘Hey, have you seen the latest from Mizuno?’” he laughs.
It might seem odd that he would find that strange – after all, he is the founder of iRun Magazine, author of a book called Why I Run, has a weekly radio show about running, and is in the process of writing a new book celebrating the Ottawa Marathon – he seems like exactly the kind of person who would have a sponsor.
But as he puts it, he’s not a remarkable runner. He’s just an ordinary runner on a remarkable journey – like most of us. He took up running because he read something in a book about how people need three to 4 units of 30 minutes of exercise per week to stay in shape after age 30. So he ran on a treadmill at the gym. And then he ran a 5K loop through his neighbourhood.
One day in late 2002, when he reached the 4K mark of his 5K loop, he wondered to himself, ‘what happens if I run 10K today?’
And what happened was that it felt fine, so he decided to run the half marathon at Ottawa Race Weekend. Even then, he didn’t know that running would become such a big part of his life. “I’m not a person who subscribes to any particular self-help philosophy, and I am not ‘searching for something,’ but it’s accurate to say that running changed my life. It just changes your whole outlook,” he says.
“The biggest thing is that you are entirely under your own power from start to finish, and that’s incredibly empowering,” says Sutcliffe. “That is a metaphor for so many things. The thing we try to teach our kids is that there are talented people, but no one is born a concert pianist. You have to put in the time and the effort, step by step, and if you do that, you can accomplish a lot of things. And it’s the same in running. You start out as the kind of person who can’t run a marathon, and you turn yourself into the kind of person who can.”
It was that simple insight that led Sutcliffe to start iRun. It began with his running column in the Ottawa Citizen. “I got a lot of feedback from runners, way more than about my business column,” he says. “There was nothing for Canadian runners at the time – everything was from the US and it was all in miles.” And so, in 2008, the first issue of iRun was published.
Now the busy father of three, who is the CEO of Great River Media and host of two television shows and two radio shows, has his sights set on the holy grail of running: the Boston Marathon. “I’m a minute and a half away from qualifying,” says Sutcliffe, acknowledging that with such a small margin, everything from location and weather to nutrition and shoe choice, will have to be perfect. “I’m at the top end of my capacity, I think, so there’s this almost ridiculous level of tweaking,” he says.
He’s glad he’s got Mizuno to help. Not only does he love the clothing enough to wear it even when he’s not running, he’s a fan of the shoes. “I don’t want to diminish my own efforts or anything,” he says, “but I’ve run 3 marathons in Mizuno shoes and got a PB twice. That means I have run two of my fastest marathons in Mizuno.”