all photography by Ben Fenton
intro by Mila
copy editing by Leighton

In may we did a little run with SLOWPOKES, which is a very cute and cool running club in Vancouver and Toronto. Running has been so important within our wide community and an amazing way for people to get more connected, not only to themselves but to other like minded folks! The run started at the Juice Truck in mount pleasant, and they were so kind as to entertain the idea of a Legends Cafe smoothie collaboration as well. We fearlessly copied a erewhon smoothie, and we do believe that it is still available on a secret menu titled “legends fuel”. We bookended the run with a small street casting of all the runners, and Ben Fenton joined us to take photos! It was a really fun and fulfilling morning (despite the Vancouver classic rain).

To commemorate the collaboration we interviewed Neil and Miranda of Slowpokes! Enjoy the interview, photos, and check out Slowpokes instagram for their future events!!!

MILA: Hey, guys, thanks so much for joining me today for this interview. Who are you guys and where are you at?

Neil: Well, I’m Neil, I’m one of the co-founders of Slowpokes, and I’ve been living in Vancouver for almost a year now. 

Miranda: And I’m Miranda and I started hosting Slowpokes from the beginning when we started in Vancouver. 

Mila: Amazing. Where did you guys kind of grow up? Did you grow up in Vancouver or somewhere else? 

Neil: I grew up in Gatineau, Quebec. And I studied in Toronto before coming here. 

Mila: What did you study, Neil? 

Neil: Retail management.

Mila: Oh, sweet. Cool. And how about you, Miranda? 

Miranda: I grew up in North Van and I’m still living there. I went to school in Vancouver, so I’ve lived here my whole life. 

Mila: That must make you pretty keen on all the North Van runs and trails. 

Miranda: Yeah, definitely pushing for some more North Van trail runs for the club! 

Mila: That is going to be sick. I’m definitely down to join you guys for that. Soooo when did Slowpokes get started? How did it get started? 

Neil: So Slowpokes started in October of 2022 when I’d moved back to Toronto and my friends Pete and Lucas started hosting a run club back home for the summer, and we thought that we should do this in Vancouver. And also, I would say, when you’re trying to organize something amongst friends, you can’t really fit something into the calendar easily, so Slowpokes was a way for everyone that wants to run and hang out on Saturdays. We had one person on my first run and three hosts, and from there we just kind of stayed consistent.

Miranda: And yeah, same idea. Running is something social and fun to do. Especially after COVID, my friends and I wanted to be more active, get outside more, while being social without necessarily going for drinks and that kind of stuff. Yeah. So we started out with just people we knew and friends, and sometimes it’d be me and like two other people. We kept consistent with the same route every single week, and then people just slowly started coming. So kind of just grew very naturally. 

Mila:  So cool. I love when it’s you and two other people. That’s such a beautiful thing about running, no matter who you’re with or how many people, it’s so easy to be present and mindful. And to do that with community is so cool. Was building community really important to you guys when you kind of started Slowpokes? 

Neil: I think for Vancouver, it definitely felt like there was a gap in running clubs at the time. I mean, there’s tons now that have popped up, but at the time it kind of felt like there was sort of something missing where, if you wanted to join a running club, it felt like all serious runners and there was nothing just for people like to be social and run at a slower pace with your friends. 

Mila: Tell me more about the name. Like, why “Slowpokes”? 

Neil: I think we just want to sound fun. It was a struggle to figure out. Anyway you probably understand with Legends Cafe. So we just went through a process of elimination and Slowpokes was it. When you share the name with people and you see their face light up. You think, “I have a good name.” 

Neil:  Yeah, we went through a bunch of names and people seemed to really resonate with Slowpokes and it’s also just a good way in, gives people an idea of what we’re about. 

Mila: Tell me about the turtle who designed the turtle and why is he the coolest guy?

Neil: Bryce in Montreal is this graphic designer. I’ve liked his stuff for a little bit. We reached out to him with the name and concept of the turtle character and he absolutely crushed it. We had so much fun with him, creating new iterations of the turtle…There’s more lore now around it which is really fun. 

Mila: Is the Wednesday North Vancouver run an intentional, self-identifying femme-only kind of thing? 

Miranda: You know, honestly, we haven’t identified it. Like I said, we don’t really have too much structure around anything. I find for Wednesdays it does bring people who aren’t necessarily as comfortable coming to the bigger group or, like, a lot of women will just feel like, you know, more comfortable coming to the Wednesday run. It’s just a different sort of night for them to try out running. We get a lot of new people who are just getting started.

Mila: Yeah, totally, I get that. Can we talk about how you guys individually feel about the impact that run clubs have on the social life of Vancouver and Toronto? And, the impact that they have on people and communities. What have you noticed?

Miranda: For Vancouver, we’re known to not have the greatest nightlife or social scene here. And I think, people do have to come up with different creative ways of getting their community together and creating that fun, social aspect to the city. I’ve noticed that since COVID in the last few years, people are more interested in spending more time in nature and doing more active things. So I think it just makes sense. In Vancouver, there was just a huge need for that and a lot of interest. So, it’s fun that we can offer something that the people are interested in and it’s just grown more and more, out of people’s needs for things like getting together in community and also being active.

Mila: I love to go for a run by myself, but I find that it’s a very different experience and I can’t really tell what I prefer to be honest. It’s such a different experience going with a bunch of people. Like it goes by in a flash. It’s crazy. Like doing that run with you guys was so fun and it went by so fast and like, I had a pretty good pace. 

Miranda: It’s so cool to see people talking and meeting each other and finding common interests at Slowpokes. I noticed people going to get coffee or a smoothie together after it’s nice to see people connecting.

Neil: Yeah. Yeah, that is really cool. I feel like because it’s like an outdoor thing and because it’s like an activity there’s less social awkward-ness because you just go through this, intense 30 or 45 minute thing together thing together, and then it’s like the ice is broken.

There is a shared adventure, and shared accomplishment that makes you friends with strangers, I think.  Like wow, “we both did this” and we both either thought it sucked or was the best thing ever. It creates a shared experience for people to relate to each other, instead of talking about the weather or your job or whatever.  

Miranda: We also get a lot of people that come to Slowpokes that aren’t necessarily from Vancouver originally. I think it’s also just a great way to meet people. Especially when  you may not have a ton of friends here or have been born and raised here. Also, I think for me personally, a lot of my work is from home and after COVID that it definitely changed the way the workplace looks. It’s a nice way to almost exercise your social skills because it definitely can feel weird working from home and not having much social time.  So the timing of when we started, it was like a nice way to get back into talking to new people again and getting to know people. 

Mila: You don’t have to give me spoilers, but what are some of your future run club collaborations? What is your dream collaboration? 

Neil: They asked me something similar in my last interview, what was my five year plan and I have no idea. Everything that has fallen into our lap has been a pure surprise.  We have a smoothie coming out with Juice Truck in June, so that’s going to be really fun. We are really excited about our partnerships with Legends Cafe or Juice Truck or Formula Fig. Stuff that isn’t clearly adjacent to running I’m finding really fun. So I guess like a dream partnership, hmm, I think a skincare brand like Glossier could be fun. It’s really cool to make the Venn Diagram. That’s what I get excited about when thinking about our collabs.  

Mila: Who are Miranda and Neil when they’re not doing Slowpokes? What else do you guys do? 

Neil:  Miranda is the busiest person I know. Start with her!  

Miranda:  Right. Yeah. I don’t know how to succinctly put it.  I work in the technology department and Arc’teryx as a business analyst. Then apart from what I do for work, I also volunteer with the Canadian Cancer Society and help put on their run for the cure.  I’m in a book club? I don’t know. In my downtime I like to go for runs and hikes.

Mila:  I want to know more about your business analyst work. That’s fucking cool!

Miranda: I typically work on brand related software and product related software like PLM centric, but, this is really boring stuff.

Mila: No it’s not. No, no, I’m obsessed with this stuff.

Miranda:  I do a lot of work with data and integrations, to figure out what the users and shoppers need to make their lives easier at work and what systems can help them. We don’t typically build software in-house, so it’s working with vendors. I mean, just customizing it and configuring it in a way that best suits our company needs. So right now, my project is like a digital asset management system for our digital assets. So that’s kind of what’s taking up most of the time right now. But, it changes from year to year to sort of what we’re working on. 

Mila:  So cool. I think (offline) we’re going to need your help too at Legends. Amazing! That’s so inspiring. Like, multifaceted humans over here. Busy as hell. And then you volunteer with the BC Cancer Research Group? 

Miranda: Yeah, it’s the Canadian Cancer Society.

Mila: Wow. What do you do there? 

Miranda:  So I do the corporate sponsorship which used to be managing companies signing up to make teams as well as offering food, beverage and other donations. But now, this year, we’ve organized it a little differently. So I’ll just be doing, basically, in-kind and corporate donations and not handle the team signup aspect of it. 

Mila: Cool. God’s work. Good for you. And, Neil, how about yourself? 

Neil: Well, I’m not as good of a samaritan as Miranda, but I’m an assistant merchant in men’s performance at Lululemon. And then in my free time, I work on Slowpokes and for a brand called Butler. And then for fun I like cycling a lot and am getting into the hiking scene. I think I’m going to try to do that almost every weekend. I’ve also really gone into crabbing. So, me and my roommate have been into catching crabs there. It’s been super fun. 

Mila: That’s fun. What do you mean when you say, hiking or just, like, hiking every weekend to, like, a new spot? 

Neil: Yeah. Last summer I was doing summer courses and working so I just stayed in Kits, which was beautiful enough. I think one of my goals of summer is to like, really get out there and, check out some of this world class hiking.

Mila: It’s insane. You’ll have to share some of your accomplishments with me. But I’m sure I’ll see them on Strava, too. I love Strava so much. How you guys feel about trail running versus road running. Do you have preferences? How do you feel about them? Do you feel like they’re different? How do you feel about both? 

Neil:  Both are great and so different. You know, I’m lazy… so when road running I end up doing more because it’s like one of the things you roll out of bed, and then you can keep rolling out your door and start running. Trail running takes a bit more planning, I hear from many people trail running is much more meditative. For road trail running, you have to be focused on what’s right in front of you. So I think there’s a much more meditative aspect to trail running. 

Mila: Yeah. And like you can’t not be present because you’ll literally trip over a tree and fall on your face, or fall off a cliff. It’s crazy. What about you, Miranda? Do you have any ideas? Do you love trail running just as much? Or road riding? 

Miranda: Yeah, I started out trail running because I was living in Lynn Valley at the time, the canyon was right in my backyard. So I fell in love with that but then got into road running with Slowpokes. Trail running is a whole different beast. It’s like, you know, way more hills and other terrain that’s harder for me. But I also love it too, in the summer and when it gets hot, it’s just so nice to go into the woods and it’s cooler and peaceful. 

Mila: Totally. How did you two personally get into running? 

Miranda:  So I was always very into sports growing up. I did field hockey and soccer and that continued on even, you know, as I got older and kind of aged out of the typical leagues. I still stuck with, like, the women’s league for soccer. But, in one of my games, I actually did a full tear of my ACL. And it was a long rehab process and I was contemplating whether I should get the surgery? My doctor said,  “Well, I know people who never got surgery and have run marathons. That there are other things you can do that aren’t necessarily soccer or what not. People cycle, people run!” So then, during my rehab, I got really into cycling and running because those are the things I am able to do. And that’s just kind of how I fell in love with it. 

Mila: So cool. So inspiring. Wow. Crazy. And what about you, Neil? 

Neil: Yeah. Growing up, I played a lot of different sports and running was almost like more of a punishment. I was more of a sprint athlete growing up. And then during the summer of 2020, with COVID my internship got postponed. So I had a whole summer ahead of me with friends, and we decided to run our first half marathon together with like thirty  days training. Since then I was able to unlock how to not be competitive with people through running, which for me was really eye opening for me.  I had just come out of a world where if I’m not winning and losing. You see someone pass you on a run and you feel the need to to catch up. So through running, I discovered that you can just compete with yourself and ignore everyone else. I just kept going. I’ve been wanting to share this more fun approach to running and that’s kind of like the Slowpokes is. 

Mila: I wanted to ask, while you were talking about competitiveness, I really started getting curious about your horoscope signs. 

Neil: I’m an Aquarius. 

Mila: I kind of had a feeling it was. 

Miranda I’m a Virgo. 

Mila: Oh, yes! Amazing! 

Miranda I don’t know why, but when you asked, I was, like, waiting for your approval. 

Mila: All my really good friends are Aquarius and I’m a Sagittarius so they’re like good, like opposite signs. And then my partner’s a Virgo and I’ve grown to really love Virgos and realized that I really really need them in my life.

Back on track here. Got derailed with astrology. I think that the accessibility of the run club and the distances and the paces are really cool and important with Slowpokes. When people are beginning running (I feel like the whole city is running now) you can’t go anywhere in this city without seeing 20 runners. Why do you think run clubs blown up (other than the social aspect that we talked about earlier).

Neil:  I mean, I’ve read a couple articles that are trying to guess it. I think it’s just like Miranda touched on it’s the post-COVID question of “how do we meet new people?” And then it’s the conversations around third spaces as well. I just came back from Toronto,  there’s nothing to do that doesn’t cost you ten bucks these days. So I think that because run clubs are free, You know you might get a coffee after…but you’re going to get in anyway! You need spaces where you can show up and there’s no pressure to consume and there’s no pressure to do anything besides have fun. And I think there’s like, I don’t know, we’re all kind of bummed out that there isn’t that anymore. I think part of our success is the need for social connection post-COVID. And then, through creating a third space. So people are going to come to it because there’s so few of them. 

Mila: Cool.
Miranda: I think, too, just the sport in itself is one of maybe the most accessible. Like, you don’t need the most insane, fancy running shoes. You know, you can pretty well just need any kind of pair of sneakers. And you can go for a run. The  equipment is probably the least of any sport, you know? I think running is just a very low barrier to get into. 

Neil: Yeah. It’s kind of like how soccer is the most popular sport in the world because it’s like the easiest to set up. Running is even easier than soccer! 

Mila: That’s so interesting.

Miranda: You can run on roads, sidewalks, trails, anything you have near you, there’s no like rules to it. You don’t need a designated space of where you’re allowed to run, you know? 

Mila: My sound bite is that it is liberating.

Neil It helps us reclaim spaces too, you know, that are for cars or for other things. Like you get to kind of own them through running, I guess. 

Mila: That’s cool. Neil. I personally am not familiar with the concept of a third space. Do you mind talking about that a little bit? 

Neil: Yeah, basically your first space is your home and your second space is your work. And then it used to be that your town’s square or a church was a third space. It’s a place for social gathering that’s outside of your work and your home. With COVID, our first and second spaces were collapsed into one. There are a lot of really interesting articles and conversations around this issue from an urban planning perspective. Besides school and work, there’s nowhere to hang out that fosters community and while there are bars and restaurants you have to pay to exist in those spaces, so a Third Space is ideally free as well. 

Mila  Cool. Speaking of gear!! Do you guys have any gear you must-haves? I know that you can basically run in whatever. However, I need my one shoe psychologically to get me to that place in the trail. And then I need that other shoe psychologically to get me to that place on the road. Do you guys have gear that are “must haves” for yourselves when you’re out there? 

Neil: I wrote a blog post about how to get into running, and the first rule of advice is don’t buy gear. And then the second one is buy shoes. So the only thing you really need for running is a new pair of shoes if you haven’t run in two years OR if you have been on the same pair for two years, because you will just get injured. Running stores like RAYA (Run As You Are), will find you that pair that fits you and protects you from injury and  that also aligns with the type of runs you’re going to want to do. Go to a run store and find that shoe for you because there’s a huge variety.

Miranda: Totally agree. I think it’s easy enough to get swept up in what’s cool. Maybe you want the shoe that you see other people have.  What I’ve learned is, you’ve really just got to try it on and wear whatever feels good to you because the shoe that’s cool that or that your friend has might not be the right one for your particular foot. Whatever people swear by and say “you’ve got to have this, this is the best shoe,” it’s the best use for them, but maybe not for you. So you really can’t recommend a pair? It’s so different for a person.

Mila: I love RAYA. Gear aside, obviously it’s all about like, psychology and training and nutrition and like all that stuff, but, what are your guys’ personal, top three hacks for getting into running or having it be a sustainable practice. 

Miranda: I would say I prioritize my favourite routes. Run where you like the view or what’s around you. I like to run by the water and on trails…places that have something scenic. I find that runs feel harder to me if they’re just inland on the city blocks. With Vancouver, we’re lucky because we do have quite a few beautiful running spaces. So, yeah, your environment. if it’s a longer run, I use the Maurtens gels to fuel myself. And then having something to look forward afterwards like getting a treat. 

Mila: Maybe reframing to three things that you wish that somebody told you when you were first getting into it. Because it’s the first barrier with running that I feel like a lot of people freeze with. 

Miranda: Yeah. I think it gets easier, running wasn’t the easiest for me. I was playing a sport and in that we had a goal in mind. There’s a purpose to the sport. With running, you’re just running. And so it can, I guess, feel harder if you’re not used to it. But I think it gets easier the more you do it. And it’s like, a muscle, physically and mentally, just gets easier. I think what helped me to was just seeing that when you stick to it you see the improvement.  It’s fun to have personal goals for yourself. Like you said earlier, it’s not competitive. It’s you’re just literally doing it for yourself and then reaching your own goals at this pace or distance, whatever you’re looking to achieve. It’s just fun to see the improvement along the way. 

Neil: I’d say a bad workout or bad run is better than no run. I think especially being from a high performance training background, I was all or nothing about my workouts. With the mentality, if I’m not absolutely dead after this run, there’s no point. And then your brain associates running with sucking. So you are not going to get out the week after. So yeah, a bad run is better than no run and those hard runs stack up and eventually you’re going to be in the presence of professionals that are training. Another one is walking is okay. I’ve been walking if I spot flowers I like or just the views. I take that 10s to stop and look and it has brought a lot more enjoyment to my run. It makes it more of an adventure and exploration.

Also, I know I already said walking, but the “walk run” is the best way to get into running to build up your endurance. Run a bit, walk a bit. Focus on time, not on distance. I’ve been giving a ton of people that advice. Which has been super fun and good for training. Yeah, I think the best piece of advice is set yourself a goal time, not a goal distance when you start. 

Mila: Cool. It sounds like mindfulness has a lot to do with your practice with running, just being present and being mindful. Other than being mindful and present during running, do you guys have other mindfulness practices? Breathwork, meditation, etc. that you feel like you’ve acquired through running or like lend a hand to your running because you do them outside of running. 

Neil: Yes. I did a breath work session with Haven. I’d be interested in getting back into it. But yeah. I don’t think we’re the most holistic runners! 

Miranda: Yeah. I don’t have any sort of practices I do or anything. 

Mila:  I love it. I love it. I feel like your guys’ holistic approach to running that it is a form of mindfulness. Like having the time to stop and let yourself enjoy the flowers instead of, like buying them after is mindfulness in my POV, for sure. 

What does Summer have in store for you guys? Speaking of flowers and hiking. 

Neil: Yeah, we got lots of exciting stuff.  We need to start planning our spring/summer social in Strathcona Park that we did last year, which was really fun. We have a new trail running series that’s going to be on Thursday night, starting in July, and hopefully a few more collabs.

Mila: What about like, personal things for the summer? 

Neil: Oh, I’m going to Europe. 

Mila: You’re going to Europe? 

Neil  Yeah, we’re taking turns. We are both going in the month of July. But Miranda’s the first half and I’m the second half.

Mila: Oh my God. Hot girl Europe Summer, it sounds like! 

Miranda:  I thought of another suggestion for people getting into running is to make a playlist that you really like. Music can help a lot of people like to make the run go by quicker and feel good! I never run with music, but I found when running my half marathon it really helped me.

Mila:  Cool. So you did end up doing it. 

Miranda  Yeah. The half!

Mila: How was it? 

Miranda It was good. It wasn’t my best, but as Neil said, it’s better than nothing. 

Mila: Did you do it with people? 

Miranda: I ran with my boyfriend’s sister for a lot of it. But at the end I told her to go ahead of me, I was struggling.

Mila: That must have been nice to have all the music, then. Cool. Did you run it, Neil? 

Neil: No, I was a bit injured for the BMO, so I didn’t even end up doing the Sun Run. I did a marathon last year, and it’s not traumatic, but the lifestyle’s brutal. I’m just chilling….I’m just going to have a “Hot Girl Europe Summer”!

Mila: Yes! And Hot Girl Hike Summer! Last question, where are you usually going after you do the Slowpokes run? Is there a coffee or brunch recommendation that you love? What are you looking forward to while you’re running? 

Neil: Argo Cafe is really cool. It’s down the street from Slowpokes. It’s just a true diner. It feels like real people working there. So I think that’s a great business to support. 

Mila: Cute. That’s really cute. 

Neil: And obviously we have smoothies at Juice Truck! Where do we usually get coffee Miranda? 

Miranda: Elysian.  

Mila: That place is really, really cute. 

Neil: So there’s three post-Slowpokes activities and once it warms up, we usually go for some swims. 

Miranda: I was going to say usually it’s the beach!

Mila: How important are stretching practices and mobility exercises in the journey? How important are those before the run and how important are they after the run? 

Neil: I mean, I feel hypocritical  for saying they’re super important because I feel like we’ve been skipping them consistently. But for the politically correct answer, I think the pre and post-run stretch are just as important as the run itself because they create a space to introduce yourself, and connect with the community. So during the warm up, I always make a point welcoming all the new faces to the group. And then at the end everyone’s chatting during that stretch. It’s a good way to encourage people to introduce themselves. But if we do those stretches and take pictures and such, there’s more of a lingering community feeling. 

Mila: That’s actually a really good point. 

Miranda  I think if you are running on a consistent basis it is super important, just so you don’t get injured and you don’t feel as sore, you know, it definitely helps. 

Mila: Yeah. Totally. Okay, I am running out of ideas and questions and kind of need to look at flights to Europe!

Thank you guys so much for this. Thank you so much for getting together with us to talk about running and for telling us all about your amazing club and crew and community, and we’re so grateful that we got to do that run with you guys. 

Neil: Lovely! Thanks again for taking the time and thanks for hosting such a fun event. Hopefully we can do another one in a few months!

Mila: Yeah, I would love to. Maybe do a trail run. 

Neil: Yeah, we do like the Pacific spirit park or something in North Van! 

Mila:  I would love to.

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