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Tour de blogosphere: Running ultramarathons (and blogging) for charity

By Alejandro Bustos on June 1, 2013

Joe Rios has come a very long way since becoming a runner more than three years ago – thousands and thousands of kilometres to be more precise.

Back in 2009, Rios paid little attention to fitness, a problem given his family’s long history with diabetes. When a friend convinced him to register for the Ottawa Army Run half-marathon, however, he surprised himself by signing up.

“I was inactive, I was asthmatic, I was overweight,” says Rios of his physical condition at the time. During an initial training run, he recalls, he was unable to finish a five-kilometre loop around the Alexandra and Portage bridges.  Given that he had just committed to running a 21-kilometre race, this could have been a cause for concern.


Photo courtesy of Joe Rios

Undaunted by the challenge, however, he slowly but surely got stronger, and on race day beat expectations by finishing in under two hours.  Fast forward to today, and Rios is running marathons around the world, as well as preparing for ultramarathons, including a 100-kilometre race in October.

He is also a blogger having started the site THRIVE with Joe in September 2012.

“I focus the blog on how to empower people … but from a practical perspective,” says Rios, whose site contains posts on different races, tips for runners, interviews and descriptions of various charity events.

Regarding his charitable activities, he tells me that his blog is a perfect forum for partnering up with other community members.

“What I’m discovering through the blog is that  if you put yourself out there you will meet more people,” says Rios, who works for Export Development Canada.  As a case in point, he has registered for the Sears Great Canadian Run, a 100-kilometre race that starts at the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum and ends at Montebello, Quebec.

The run, which raises money for research to fight children’s cancer, is normally completed by a relay team that can include up to 20 people.  Rios, in contrast, partnered with Mike Herzog and Steven Thomas of Good Guys Tri, who have assembled a team of 20 runners that will each complete the 100 kilometers.  The team of ultra-marathoners are hoping to raise $30,000.

Photo courtesy of Joe Rios

Photo courtesy of Joe Rios

The ultramarathon is not the only charitable work Rios is involved with.  Last summer, he started Run 4 a Cause, a 5-kilometre run for runners at all levels.  About 150 runners participated last year, representing 10 different charities.  (Rios usually runs races on behalf of Team Diabetes in his effort to raise money to fight the disease)

On August 25, 2013, Rios plans organize the second annual Run 4 a Cause run, with the goal of attracting 300 runners.  As a Lululemon ambassador, Rios convinced the company’s Head Office to donate $500 to the charity with the most runners in the 2012 run.  Lululemon expects to make a similar donation for the 2013 run.

The idea for Run 4 a cause has gathered interest from around the world, with people from Germany, India and the Philippines approaching Rios about setting up similar events.  The aim is to replicate the event across Canada and around the word.

If all of this were not enough, Rios has a personal goal of running a marathon on all seven continents.  He has already covered North America (Ottawa), South America (Rio de Janeiro), Europe (Reykjavik, Iceland), and is preparing to run the Gold Coast Marathon in July in Australia.

Next year he plans to run the Great Wall of China marathon, and is on the waiting list for the 2015 Antartic Marathon.  He is also gearing up for an ultarmarathon in Africa in 2014, though he is not sure if he will run a 256-kilometre race in the Sahara, or a 250-kilimatre run in the Kalahari desert between Botswana and Namibia.

Not bad for a guy who only a few years ago couldn’t run 5-kilometres.