When Kim and Matt Wood opened Up and Running in Chatham, ON, they did it without Mizuno on the shoe wall – but only until they convinced the local rep that they would be a huge part of the local running community. “Our goal with the store was to have the best shoes and the best gear, and we knew that Mizuno is a brand that we wanted to have as a part of our brand,” says Kim. “I have been running in the Wave Inspire for years, and it’s one of my go-to shoes. Matt loved racing in the Precisions and is excited to try out the Sayonara.”
The Woods opened the store in March of 2012 because the running and fitness communities were quite vibrant in the area, but residents had to drive over an hour to get quality shoes and gear. Since opening, they’ve become involved with as many local races and events as possible. “We organize free drop-in runs on Saturday mornings, and offer Speed Work Wednesdays for anyone who is interested,” says Kim, adding, “We want to help people achieve their goals, not just outfit them.”
Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, Kim was mainly involved in competitive sport as a swim coach. She has coached at the University of Cincinnati, the University of Western Ontario, the London Aquatic Club and the Chatham Pool Sharks. In fact, that was how she met Matt – he was on the varsity swim team at Western when she became coach. It was all above board though – they began dating when Matt finished with his eligibility on the team, and they’ve been together for nearly ten years.
“Unfortunately, neither of us swims much anymore, but the training for running and swimming aren’t terribly dissimilar,” says Kim. “One of the great things about run training versus swimming is that when you run, you can talk to your training partner!”
Both of them ran their first races in 2008 – Kim the half marathon in Mississauga, and Matt the 10K at Niagara Falls. When asked why they like it, Kim says, “I like that I can head out my door, and cover as much ground as I want to. I like that when we travel, we get to see the city in a totally different way by running. I like that there is always somebody to run with if I want to, and that when I feel like running solo it’s almost as good as meditation.” Kim is currently training for her third Boston Marathon while Matt is aiming to qualify for 2015.
One of the great resources they have around the store is elite-paratriathlete and Mizuno athlete Ryan Van Praet. “Ryan is a great athlete and a wonderful supporter. He has helped us out with track workouts and has been valuable with advice on technique and strategy with our runners,” says Kim.
Van Praet was diagnosed with an incurable, degenerative eye disease called Retinitis Pigmentosa when he was four years old and is legally blind, but that sure doesn’t slow him down.
He admits to getting into running because he got a half day out of classes to run cross country. At the time, as he puts it, he was “not fast, not last.” In 1998, he had a friend who did duathlons, and he saw some Ironman coverage in TV and thought, since he could swim without drowning, really enjoyed cycling and wasn’t a terrible runner, maybe triathlon was the sport for him.
“Back then I was legally blind but I could still see pretty well on a bright day, straight ahead. So riding my bike solo from 1998 to 2008 was possible,” he says. “Come late 2008, things changed—well they technically had been changing all along but I just really started to notice the change in 2007-2008.”
“So come 2009, the Paratriathlon journey began! After a 10-year solo career, it was time to carry on in the sport I love, just in a different way,” he adds. By a different way, Van Praet means that he trains and races with a guide.
He goes on to explain:
“My first guide and current #1 man is Syd Trefiak. We learned how to race as a team together. Neither one of us had ridden a tandem, run or swim tethered, but we figured it out. He was a semi-pro triathlete and slowing me down was not even a concern. Syd is my #1 guide and best buddy. We fight like an old married couple, but I trust him with my life, literally every time we train and race.”
“My guides are what make it possible for me to compete. Sure I can train by myself, inside, but to get outside at all and to compete in any running races or triathlons, I need a guide. I only work with guides that I trust, that treat me with respect as a person. If you treat me like I’m your “little buddy” or your disabled pal out on a play date—game over. I’m blind, that’s life, it’s not sad, it’s fact. We laugh and joke and deal with it. There is no patronizing allowed. That is an absolute deal breaker.”
His short term goals for 2014 involve coming back from injury and work particularly on his swimming and running. His “A” race for the year will be the ITU World Paratriathlon Championships in Edmonton. As he puts it, “It’s home turf, so I need to produce something special.”
Then, it’s all-systems-go in the quest for the Paralympics in Rio in 2016. And through it all, he enjoys working with Kim and Matt at Up and Running. “I initially got in touch with them a few years back when I was looking for a job. Being a small start-up store at the time they were unable to hire me, but they have since become good friends and amazing athletes I respect,” says Van Praet. “I love Up and Running because it is a store that our city needed. It helped grow the culture of running and the benefits of that lifestyle.”
He’s also a big fan of Mizuno. He used to run in stability shoes until he met the Mizuno rep at the store one day; she suggested he try a neutral shoe. “I thought she was nuts, but for some strange reason I immediately trusted her. The next day I ran my first run in a pair of neutral shoes – the Rider – and I was hooked!” A great feel for the ground is essential when you don’t see well, so he’s now a big fan of the Sayonara, Musha and Universe.