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Coquitlam councillor gets to know her community — one Strava segment at a time

After reading an article in the Tri-City News, Coquitlam councillor was inspired to run every street in Coquitlam. She had so much fun she kept running until she completed all 1,934 streets in the Tri-Cities.

A Coquitlam city councillor is taking the phrase “boots-on-the-ground politician” to heart. 

Except she’s wearing sneakers.

Teri Towner recently finished running every street in the Tri-Cities — including Anmore and Belcarra. The quest took her more than 12 months. She ran on 1,943 streets, covering about 2,000 km. She wore out four pairs of shoes.

The quest started when Towner read an article in the Tri-City News about Pamela Clarke’s conquest of every street in Port Coquitlam last year when the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled a marathon she’d planned to run in Berlin.

Towner, an avid runner since she was a teen, set out to run every street in Coquitlam. 

But when she finished that, she said she was having so much fun she just kept going. 

Her last street was Marpole Avenue in Port Coquitlam, where a congratulatory reception and beverage reward awaited at Patina Brewing.

Along the way, Towner said she learned things about her community and the rest of the Tri-Cities she knew at an abstract level but had never experienced in a real, visceral way. 

Like the diversity of the region’s neighbourhoods that took her from trailer parks to high-rises, from mansions up on Westwood Plateau to blueberry farms out in Minnekhada. 

She saw llamas and horses.

“It energized me,” Towner said. “I always felt like I learned something or found something I didn’t know existed.”

It also increased her awareness of issues like illegal dumping, pedestrian accessibility and safety, street lighting, signage and parking. 

Towner said she must have driven Coquitlam’s engineering department nuts with all her calls and messages about trash, missing signs and burnt out street lamps. 

But overall, she said, the city is very clean.

Planning her routes on the social activity app Strava to link streets as efficiently as possible, Towner became acutely aware of which neighbourhoods were designed with pedestrians in mind, and which prioritized cars.

City planning has evolved over the years, but planners still have work to do to create truly walkable communities, she said.

Most importantly, Towner said, she came to appreciate the communities’ spirit. 

As the pandemic’s second wave rolled through last fall, she noted the colourful rocks in gardens  painted with messages of hope, the signs thanking essential workers in windows. 

During the holiday season, she timed her runs for the evening hours so she could enjoy the twinkle lights and decorated trees.

“There’s a lot of positivity,” Towner said.

Her running journey wasn’t always smooth sailing, though. 

Shortly after Towner embarked on her mission, she was knocked off course for about a month when she was concussed by a low-flying drone while riding her bike through Mundy Park. 

And she had to take more time off last September to recover from a month-long Coquitlam Crunch challenge.

Of course, some runs were easier than others. 

Among the more difficult legs, Towner made room in her pain cave for the hills of Anmore and Westwood Plateau that she’d both ascend and descend. 

She gained a new affection for the flatlands of Port Coquitlam.

Her conquest of hometown streets and sites complete, Towner said her next running challenges will be further afield — a half marathon in Las Vegas next February and the full 42 km pull at the 50th BMO Vancouver Marathon in May.

“It frees my mind,” she said of her love for the sport.