Around a year and a half ago, Colin Brander decided to spice up his running routine and take on the challenge of running every street in Vancouver. Brander, who regularly runs five days a week and around 3,000 kilometres a year, was growing increasingly bored of running the same routes along False Creek and Stanley Park. “I’d only ran 10 percent of the city because I was running the same route all the time, and I thought it was time to do something different,” says Brander.
Around February of 2018, he decided to get CityStrides, a popular app that plots on a city map where you’ve run and what streets you’ve missed. “I noticed that a friend of mine was posting odd-looking runs, and he was referencing CityStrides. I had a look at the app and I thought that it was interesting,” Brander notes.
“Right now [on CityStrides] it says that I’ve run 97.3 percent of the streets in Vancouver, but some of the areas I can’t run in, because around the port I need access to run those. Unless I find a friend who can get me access, I’m not sure how I’m going to get to 100 percent.”
Running and cycling has always been a big part of the 61-year-olds life. In 1983, Brander cycled across Canada, and so far he has run in four marathons, including the famous Boston Marathon, which requires a three-hour qualification time. Brander, who works for the federal government in the IT department, typically runs around 50 kilometres a week, and when he’s training for a marathon he will increase his target distance to around 80 kilometres. He jokingly notes that he typically runs alone when he’s trying to knock off certain neighbourhoods because he would drive a running buddy crazy with his unorthodox routes around Vancouver.
The Montreal-born running enthusiast moved to Vancouver around 1992 and credits this challenge for helping him discover areas of the city that he was previously unfamiliar with. “The nice thing is that I’ve gotten to see parts of the city that I’ve never seen and likely never would have seen if I haven’t taken this adventure,” says Brander.
“There are some areas of the city that I’ve really enjoyed. Probably the area that I love the most is west of Dunbar, around 37th Avenue. It’s just such a quiet, nice neighbourhood with appealing houses and streetscapes—it’s one of the few areas of the city that, when you run through there, it’s quiet, and you don’t get the noise of traffic.”
While Brander enjoys running the Seawall and False Creek areas, they can be too overcrowded for his liking. He asserts that around 95 percent of Vancouver’s streets are enjoyable to run in, but he's not fond of industrial areas like Kent Avenue.
Over the course of this running challenge, Brander has connected with other runners that are tackling the same audacious goal. CityStrides currently shows four runners who have ran over 90 percent of the streets in Vancouver. Meanwhile, David Papineau has run 99 percent of Peachland, James Wanless recently tackled all of Victoria, and Michael Senior completed every single street in Burnaby. Cyclists are also getting into the action. Earlier this year it was reported that over the course of three years, a cyclist by the name of Arlin ffrench, biked every street in Vancouver.
Despite finding fulfillment in this adventure, Brander remains undecided if he will tackle all the streets in another city. “My wife is from Courtenay, so we go there quite often and when I run there I try to cover different neighbourhoods. I like Courtenay, but the streets aren’t anywhere near as interesting as Vancouver.”
If you’re considering tackling this Vancouver running challenge, Brander suggests that you don’t run in your neighbourhood’s streets first. “I think the mistake that I made was that I noticed a few streets that were in my neighbourhood that I haven’t ran yet so I crossed those off really early, but I realized that I ended up running further away and running back on those same streets.”
Brander adds that runners should embrace exploring Vancouver and discovering new areas.
“Just start small, don’t worry about the big picture. Get to parts of the city that you’ve never seen. Don’t worry about the percentages, just go out and explore and see what you could find.”