Brian Michasiw addresses runners before a Brainsport Run Club outing.

Bidding farewell to the Brainsport Run Club

By Brian Michasiw

I did some quick math recently. Brainsport’s Wednesday night run club started on Wednesday July 17th, 1991 and ran until March 11th, 2020 when the pandemic changed everything. We also offered a Sunday afternoon run, which eventually became a Saturday morning run. Over the course of nearly 30 years, there were roughly 2,500 free run sessions at Brainsport.

Run club has not resumed since 2020 and we are now formally marking the end of that club with a Run Club Reunion Run, which will happen at the Cosmo Senior’s Center on Wednesday, March 29th. I’ll call this Reunion Run the 2,500th meeting of the Brainsport Run Club.

I first saw a store-based running club when I was on the junior national team and I was spending a couple of weeks in Vancouver. I popped by a store called Forerunners and they had a Wednesday night run group. I was amazed at the lifeblood it brought to the store. I saw how important it was for developing a run community and it really inspired me. That was probably 34 years ago and I’ve never forgotten it.

Brainsport opened on July 13th, 1991 and a few days later we had our first Run Club. About a dozen people showed up. We went around the room and introduced ourselves and then went for a run. Twenty-nine years later, we were still going.

Runners gather at Brainsport before a Run Club outing.
Runners gather at Brainsport before a Run Club outing.

The thing I loved most about Run Club was the life it brought to the store.

From a retailer’s perspective, I got some really great feedback. I would sell someone a pair of shoes and then get to hear how they performed, whether they liked the shoes or what they didn’t like about them. That certainly helped me as a shoe fitter.

And it was just a great community of people. If we needed to collect shoes to go to Kenya, we just said to Run Club: “We need some shoes.” And the next week, we’d have 200 pairs of shoes because people dug them out of their closets and told their friends to donate. So it was really quite a beautiful thing.

There was a guy several years ago who came out to Run Club, his name is Neil Richards, and he said that in school he would never have identified as an athlete or a runner or even someone who was active. But one day he came into the store to buy some running shoes and we invited him to come to Run Club. He ran with us for well over a decade and one day he approached us and said “I would have never done this without the Brainsport Run Club community.”

Participants in Brainsport's Wednesday evening Run Club head out for a run.
Participants in Brainsport’s Wednesday evening Run Club head out for a run.

A big part of that was how Run Club made him feel; he found it very inviting and inclusive. I really tried, as best I could, to make everyone feel that way. I tried to ensure there was a group for everyone, whether they were a new runner, a run-walker or an advanced runner. And we never dropped anybody.

As much as I’ve loved Run Club, at the end of the day, we’re just a little store. Not everyone sees that putting on Run Club is work, but it takes a lot of energy and it’s a big commitment to do it consistently and do it well. All good things should come to an end and this has come to an end.

The good news is that there are way more options now for people to find a running community in Saskatoon than there were in 1991. There are a lot of other people with a lot more energy and ideas than I have and that’s great. I’m excited for people to form and join new running groups in Saskatoon.

Maybe you’ll find some new connections at our Run Club Reunion Run.

Participation in the run is free, but please register online to attend.

I look forward to seeing you at the 2,500th meeting of the Brainsport Run Club.