Dr. Rick Rayman is a running addict: He's clocked 145,000 km.
Rain or shine, sleet or snow, the 66-year-old Toronto dentist has not missed a day pounding the pavement since Dec. 10, 1978 - that's almost 13,000 days, the longest running streak in Canada.
He has run 282 marathons and has 18 more planned for 2013. His "healthy obsession" is fuelled by the thrill of the finish line. "I still love the rush I feel when I cross the finish line no matter what my time is," says Rayman, who comes in four-and-a-half to five hours.
For those thinking of taking up running, "don't become a streak runner. Take days off," advises Rayman.
Marathons, on the other hand, are fun and easy. "Just put your right foot in front of your left and keep going. Train diligently and have a supportive family," says Rayman, who burns through four to five pairs of shoes a year.
"I only wear Asics shoes - either the Kayanos or the GT 2000."
Elite trainer Barrie Shepley doesn't just talk the talk, he runs the talk. He trains others for the long road ahead and runs it too.
"Studies have shown that recreational runners have less knee and hip problems than inactive people of their same age," says Shepley, of personalbest.ca.
Run for your life because the old adage of use it or lose it is really true. "Running is one of the easiest ways to burn calories - body fat - while also building the strength of your heart. And it's very inexpensive," adds Shepley. "Runners only need their shoes and they can run in any city or town in the world."
According to the former Olympic coach, there's no need to invest in marathon running - half marathons and 10 km runs have less injuries associated with them and require less of a training commitment too.
The single biggest benefit of running a marathon is the fitness you gain in preparation for the event, says Shepley. "Most don't do it because it's healthy. Their ego wants to see if you can get to the finish line of such a tough event.
"A 5K to 10K run is all you need to maximize your health - anything longer is about challenge and ego."
Ed Whitlock, 81, is a genetic marvel who's on the run daily. He completed the 2012 Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 3:30:26 and the multi-world-record holder is preparing for the Canadian Masters on March 16-17.
He's been hooked on the finish line since running a 2:59 marathon at age 72. At age 73, he clocked an astounding 2:54:48 - "it was a magical day. I could have kept on running."
Whitlock loves competing, "not the drudgery." Race day atmosphere keeps him fuelled.
Whitlock trains by running high mileage at low speeds - up to three hours daily around Evergreen Cemetery in Milton, ON. "The bad thing is all the aches and pains, and the boredom of traipsing around in a small circle."
Join a run club
Marathons are a growing pastime. They're more accessible than ever, and many of them are fun, social and charity-based races that welcome people of any age or fitness level.
An abundance of running clubs, running coaches and online information is also helping people achieve the ultimate, says trainer Barrie Shepley, of personalbest.ca.
"People get excited about running faster and farther when they are getting started. If your goal is to still be running, injury free, for the next decade, then it's important that you start slowly, throw in some walking breaks and allow your muscles and tendons to adjust to the extra stress of running," advises Barrie Shepley, of personalbest.ca.
Heed that 'bad' feeling - "the soonest you have that feeling, you should stop running and turn the balance of your workouts for a few days into power-walking. The goal is to stay injury free."