From the trails of the Ottawa River to Ethiopia’s YaYa Village
Westboro runner and pedorthist shares injury prevention with athletes
By Bridget Mallon
For many people, ‘running’ and ‘holiday’ are not words used in the same sentence. But for Ryan Grant, a recent 3 week trip to Ethiopia offered a perfect chance to combine his passions: helping others, running and adventure.
Grant is a certified pedorthist – he helps to find and address the root causes of foot problems or injuries. He volunteered his skills to runners at YaYa Village, a high-altitude training facility for local and international endurance athletes. There Grant worked with elite runners like Markos Geneti, a favourite for the 2013 Boston Marathon, along with lesser known emerging talent in the country that now rivals Kenya for top runners.
“It was a chance to help athletes that don’t get enough support on injury prevention or finding long term solutions to injuries,” Grant explains. “With so many great runners waiting in line, there is a lot of pressure to just get through the next race, or you’ll be replaced by someone else.”
An elite athlete himself – Grant has a sub 30-minute 10K to his name, along with top 10 finishes in Ironman triathalons – Kitchissippi is where he runs, lives and works (Grant co-owns Solefit on Roosevelt Avenue with his sister and lives a short walk from work).
“Kitchissippi is such an active community…with the river, the canal and the Gatineaus…there are so many great spaces to be outside and active.”
Grant is known for his knowledge of minimalist running – which can include running barefoot (though he doesn’t recommend it for everyone). But he is best known for his commitment to people. “Ryan Grant is one of the kindest, most generous people you could ever meet,” says friend and colleague Ian Fraser of Cyclelogik. “He is passionate about helping others reach their goals in running and other sports.”
Inspired by Grant’s time in Ethiopia, Solefit is now sponsoring the YaYa Girls Running Program, which provides scholarships to promising young runners. With world class coaching a few YaYa Girls will have a career in running. But the program also prepares all of the girls for life outside running with English tutoring, lessons on health and nutrition, and vocational training.
“This kind of program is so important in a country with such an intense running culture. Many kids see the success of elite runners and see as a way out of poverty – to the point where they quit school to try to run professionally. These girls can change that, because they go back to their communities as role models and mentors,” says Grant.
Aside from helping the athletes, trip highlights include group runs through fields and mountain trails: “There are few roads or paved surfaces. And there’s no concept of private land – you just run around people’s huts.”
Not a coffee lover by nature, Grant came to enjoy the locally grown beans that are brewed in clay pots over hot coals. He also had breakfast with YaYa co-founder Haile Gebreseallaasie (holder of 27 World Records, two Olympic gold medals, and a pile of marathon titles) who explains the secrets behind the success of his country’s runners. Laughing, Grant spills the goods: “‘There are no secrets!’ Haile told me, ‘It’s just hard work!’”