Kuniko Soda works at the law firm Smart-Biggar, and she’s part of a team running the Tamarack Ottawa Marathon to raise money to combat the disease ALS, which struck down a popular partner in 2013. According to Soda, the training’s brought the firm together, highlighted David Morrow’s memory, given everyone a shared goal and provided a way for the company to do meaningful work, all while her company works together at living healthy. We chatted with Soda about what running can mean when it’s about more than just hitting a certain time.
iRun: When did the idea to run the Ottawa Marathon as a company start?
Soda: I knew about Kichesippi Workplace Run Off Charity Challenge of the Ottawa Race Weekend. I have been running for a long time, so I thought this would be great for connecting people in the office and team building.
iRun: How did it spread from person to person? Why? How many folks are currently involved?
Soda: I reached out by email to several colleagues of mine who are also runners and asked if they would be interested in forming a team for the Ottawa Race Weekend. They all immediately expressed their interest and that’s how it all started. One of them is a real “people-person,” and knows everyone in the office. She became our head recruiter and brought several more people in a couple of days. We then sent out an office-wide email calling for more runners, which resulted in about a dozen more people very quickly. And after that, some of us directly asked people in their sections who were sort of interested in joining but somewhat hesitant because they had never run or raced. We assured them that this is not about goal time. We now have 27 runners on our team.
iRun: Obviously it’s personal for your firm with regards to David. Can you talk a little about who he was?
Colin Ingram, partner: David was a partner of our firm for 29 years, and was chair of the firm from 2000 until 2007 when he retired. He was diagnosed with ALS in 2011 and died December 2013. Not only was David a great lawyer, and a leader, but he was also exceptionally healthy, active and fit. It is therefore fitting to participate in “active” support of the ALS charity in his name.
iRun: How is the firm working to raise money together?
Soda: In addition to online/verbal solicitation for donation from family and friends, we are planning a number of events including a pub trivia night, spring flowers campaign, and some team challenge events like short distance racing, stair climbing, and have ideas for other internal office events such as a 50/50 draw, and office casual wear days.
iRun: Can you speak directly to other companies—what has it meant to Smart-Biggar, with employees working together, being healthy, and doing it all for David’s cause?
Soda: It has brought us all together—definitely because of who David was. It has brought people together with different age groups, career background, running experience and fitness levels—all running for a common goal. In terms of healthy lifestyle, I certainly don’t believe that running is for everyone, but would be very happy if someone came to like running because of this project. I do think, however, that at lunch time everyone should leave their computer and go outside!
iRun: As race day approaches, how’s training going?
Soda: With the winter being so cold in Ottawa, many of us are just starting to run outside now. Some serious runners, however, have been running throughout the winter and cross-training by cross country skiing, snowshoe running, and skating on the Canal. Winter makes us tough! We are also planning more group runs between now and the race weekend.
iRun: Are there plans for a celebration following the event?
Soda: Our plan is to win the grand prize and have a big post-race party at the Kichesippi brewery!
iRun: Lastly, and I guess it’s early days but still: could this become something you do annually?
Soda: I would love to do this every year. This is our first time as a team, so figuring out the logistics took us a long time. Next time on, it would be smooth sailing. I think that the company that does fun things together stays together!