Dere Akindoju wants to share her approach to finding physical, mental balance
You’ve seen them on your drive to work. You’ve seen them in the park or on a city street. The lonely runner. Individuals all by themselves, arms swinging, legs pumping as they run toward some personal goal only they know. Oritsedere (Dere) Akindoju says it doesn’t have to be that way.
“A lot of people get sucked into that idea that you have to be by yourself when you run,” Akindoju says, “but it doesn’t have to be that way.”
That’s why she started Run with Dere, a running group for people who don’t want to do it alone. She says the group takes a more laid-back approach, keeping things casual and social. This approach also makes the group welcoming for new runners and those looking to avoid the more intense mindsets of serious trainers.
“It’s more of a communal, family-style run, to just move your body,” Akindoju says. “So many people are afraid of running, but we can all do it. We just need to break that mind set.”
The idea to start such a group arose from her own personal experience.
“I didn’t have a good experience with a running club I went to, so I wanted to start a run for others like me who want more of a sense of community, some talking and chatting, even times when we just walk a bit.”
That idea of community and supporting one another is important to Akindoju’s vision of her group’s mission. “Running can be tough physically, so having that community to support and push you helps a lot.”
However, Akindoju does admit there’s a more personal reason she wants to get more people into running. She wants them to experience the same things she does when she runs.
“I’m in a different world when I run,” Akindoju says. “It gives me peace. I reflect best when I run; I feel freer, it helps me breathe, I find clarity and mental balance. When I run, that’s my escape.”
She believes it can be that way for others too. “If you’re feeling stressed: just run. If you need space for yourself: just run.”
Running has always been a refuge for Akindoju. She remembers there always being a day set aside for sports and activity back home in Nigeria when she was attending secondary school. After her move to Nova Scotia to continue her education, she joined the Dalhousie
track and field team as a sprinter.
“I chose Dal for a couple of reasons: my sister went there, and education abroad was always a priority for mom and dad back home,” Akindoju says. She spent four years at Dalhousie, graduating in 2013 with a business degree.
She later returned to school to complete a Master’s in human resources. She also met her future husband here and decided to stay and start a family.
She picked up long-distance running after the birth of her son Noah as a way to get back in shape, and during COVID she would run eight to 10 kilometres a day.
“I never stopped running and training,” she says.
Her commitment to running has also attracted the attention of others. The people behind MeVersusMe, a Toronto group dedicated to improved physical and mental well-being, saw Akindoju as the right choice to run its Halifax chapter. Lululemon approached her to be its brand ambassador in Halifax after opening its local store.
Now she is working on a new program, Strength By D, aimed at helping people with their cardio, breathing, and strength training if they want to take their running to the next level.
“COVID really got my mind going,” she says. “I’m always looking for ways to keep people moving.”
One of the ways she wants to keep people moving is by focusing more
on long-distance running. She is talking about starting her own marathon group.
“Some people just want a hobby, but others want to train for marathons. That’s where I can come in. I can help them get started, train people to run.”
Akindoju says she ultimately wants to get another marathon going in Halifax and to represent the Black community in doing so.
“You don’t see a lot of Black runners in the city,” she says. “I want to change that.”