In 1981, John Stanton made a decision that changed his life. Chubby and out of shape, he decided to start running before dawn, so his neighbours couldn't see him. More than 30 years later, Stanton has several marathons behind him. He's also the CEO and founder of the Running Room, a North American company of more than 125 retail stores for runners and walkers. Stanton is in Winnipeg this weekend for the Manitoba Marathon festivities. He recently spoke with Free Press reporter Oliver Sachgau.
FP: What does running mean for you?
STANTON: Running is a lifestyle, and I think for many people it engages us into an athletic lifestyle. Many of us, after we've moved beyond our youth, sometimes forget that we can be athletes for life, and being athletic allows you to do a number of things. Number one, it helps you look after your health and wellness better, helps you deal with stress a whole lot better. As we become more athletic, we make better nutritional choices. We sleep better. We make better cognitive decisions, because we do it in a calmer sense sometimes, if we're faced with stress. Sometimes going for a run creates that clarity of thinking and that calmness... running is a great stress-buster as well as all the physical benefits we get from it.
For me personally, it's meant a lot. No. 1, it's allowed to make what I have as a passion, being a born-again runner, not only into a lifestyle for me, but I've made it into a career. I've also been able to start and be the catalyst for over 125 locations across Canada. So I've not only created success for myself, I've created success for our family and our whole team. In the other sense, where I get the real satisfaction is that I help people become athletic again after being away from it. I've heard stories from people who've overcome weight issues, overcome stress issues, overcome addiction issues, and sometimes it's just the stress of living today.
FP: Motivation is hard, from starting, to continuing. How do you motivate yourself?
STANTON: I do what I call my 10-minute test. I say to myself, if I don't want to run, "Go out for 10 minutes," and I give myself permission to turn around after 10 minutes. The beauty of that is, worst-case scenario, I'm going to get a 20-minute run, but I can tell you that in most cases I never even think about the 10 minutes. I'm gone and I enjoy my run, and I come back invigorated, because when I thought I was fatigued and tired, it was only a mental fatigue. Very few of us ever experience physical fatigue from our work environments.
FP: What is it about marathons that make them so important for runners?
STANTON: A marathon, I call it the horizontal Everest. It's a chance for people to test themselves. It's a chance for people to go beyond what's normal. It's a chance for people to experience and know it's mental discipline that allows us to run the 26 miles. The human body is engineered to run about 18 to 20 miles. What gets us to that 26 miles is that self-confidence, the discipline, the determination that we learn through being athletic. Those are things that as runners and as athletes, regardless of our age, that we learn and they apply not only to the facets of the marathon. When we complete a marathon, we find out that it's not about completing the marathon and the medal, and the T-shirt and the bragging rights, it's the fact that if we have an intelligent goal, a group of people to share in the journey and share in the celebration, we can do anything in life. And that's the metaphor of the marathon.
FP: If you could talk to pre-Running Room, pre-running John Stanton, what would you say?
STANTON: It would be 'Yes, you can do it.' So often people sit on the sidelines of life, and I really think people need to get off the sidelines of life and into the game of life. We can do that at every age. We just need the confidence, we need a little support, we need a little knowledge and guidance, but everybody can become athletic again. You might not run the times you would have run at 18 or 20 or 25, but you're still going to see progression for at least 10 years, no matter what age you start at. And I think that sense of confidence, that sense of empowerment that comes from being athletic, is certainly worth it.