TIFFANY CRAWFORD, VANCOUVER SUN  

Vancouver Sun Run: Slow and steady wins the race
Sports physician Doug Clement started InTraining, the walk-run program to help people train for The Vancouver Sun Run. InTraining marks its 20th anniversary in 2015.

Arlen Redekop / Vancouver Sun

  • Get in shape to run or walk The Vancouver Sun Run 10K presented by BlueShore Financial.  SportMedBC’s proven 13-week program is offered at 60+ clinic location in the Lower Mainland and beyond.

    Get in shape to run or walk The Vancouver Sun Run 10K presented by BlueShore Financial. SportMedBC’s proven 13-week program is offered at 60+ clinic…

  • Before the InTraining program, many Vancouver Sun runners back in the 80s and early 90s would limp into the medical tents with injuries consistent with training too hard, too fast.

“They (medical staff) were seeing really common injuries,” said Alison Cristall, executive director of SportMedBC. “I think there was a real need to get these people (participants) properly trained,”

This year, The Vancouver Sun Run, which will be held on April 19, celebrates its 20th anniversary of the InTraining program, three 13-week running clinics designed by SportMedBC that help would-be Sun runners begin slowly, and gradually build up their strength and stamina.

At the time it started in 1995, University of B.C. sports physician Dr. Doug Clement had already created a program in the late 1960s to help athletes recover slowly from their injuries.

It was called a walk/run program, and he was already using it to treat competitive sports players and runners.

Aside from being a physician, Clement was also a volunteer track and field coach, which he began doing in 1961.

“A lot of the athletes did not have a lot of medical knowledge back then,” he said, in an interview with The Vancouver Sun.

“I was starting to see that the athletes couldn’t be injured and then just get right back to where they were. They had to start gradually. So the walk/run program was devised by me to rehabilitate from injury.”

Many of the athletes would try to go right back to their normal training schedule as soon as their injury healed, and Clement realized that was only leading to more problems.

It was that need to help injured athletes get back into training that led Clement and his team to set up a sports medicine clinic at UBC as part of the Faculty of Medicine, and from there the walk/run program.

Then, after the Sun Run began in 1984, several reporters began acting as guinea pigs to train for the annual race and write about their experience — as our Vancouver Sun bloggers do today. In those early days, the reporters, many of whom hadn’t run a day in their lives, were sent to Clement at UBC to be supervised during their training.

“We would evaluate them, choose proper running shoes and give them a training program and monitor their progress,” he said.

Although it might not sound that easy to take a group of busy reporters and whip them into Sun Runners, Clement found they were having a high success rate, and so that evolved into starting up a program that anyone could join.

“The natural inclination of the beginner is they think ‘the more the better.’ Well, that may work for a short period of time but the long term consequence of overdosing is going to lead to injury,” said Clement.

Sitting for long periods of time, like many office workers do, can weaken the muscles and tendons, he said, and so introducing exercise can overload the system and cause injury. By increasing the length of a run gradually, the bones and tendons have time to repair.

Clement said his walk/run program was adapted by SportMedBC to fit the Sun Run’s training time frame from January to mid-April, and enhanced by SportMed RunWalk coach Lynn Kanuka.

About, 2,000 to 3,000 participants sign up for InTraining every year, with the peak being about 5,000 registrants in one year, according to Cristall.

The training clinics cost $142, which includes entry into the Sun Run, and they are offered at more than 60 clinics in Metro Vancouver, Kelowna, Kamloops, Bowen Island, the Sunshine Coast and Squamish for people aged 13 and older.

ticrawford@vancouversun.com