Marathoner, world traveller, and community advocate, Bart Yasso has been inspiring runners for over 40 years. His runs have taken him to every continent – including Antarctica! – and he’s got more than a few titles to his name.
All that said, Yasso is a self-professed lover of communities and describes his passion for running as one linked to the inspiring people he’s met around the world.
All of us at Racefully were lucky enough to sit down for a chat with Bart and hear his words of wisdom.
Racefully: For a lot of people reading this, they’ll either be learning to run or training for their next big race. How did you get started and what’s your advice for people taking on their next big running challenge.
Bart: Over 40 years ago, I wanted a life change. To be happier. Who knew that that first one mile run would take me all over the world? Whether you’re starting from scratch or training for something new – just get started. That’s the key. That could be just one minute of running. Trust that you will improve – and you will!
Racefully: You’ve run all around the world – on all seven continents to be precise. Do you have any favourite destinations? We’ve got runners in over 70 countries, so we’ll see which one takes the prize!
Bart: In terms of destinations, Antarctica is pretty up there. Running on Table Mountain in South Africa can only be described as majestic and running out from Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania is etched in my mind, too.
That said, it’s really more about the people you meet. I ran with an Amish community in Pennsylvania. This group of 25,000 runners in Lancaster County all started out with just those 400 people! This was only about five miles from my home, so what happens in your own backyard can be even more exciting than the global runs.
Racefully: At Racefully we’re all about friends – how does community impact your approach to running?
Bart: The great thing about running communities is they tend to help you find people who share your goals. I see these groups get together and they really motivate each other. As a runner you get so much more support when you’re part of a community– you realize how small the world really is when you’re uniting with people who share your passions.
“Running culture has introduced me to new ones all around the world.”
Racefully: How would you say running has impacted your approach to life?
Bart: Running has affected every facet of my life. Better sleep, eating, business – it goes on and on. But above all else, it’s made me a better person. I use running to experience different cultures and meet people all over the world, and it’s unbelievable how many people I’ve been able to connect with.
Racefully: What motivates you?
Bart: I’m motivated by the community experience of running. When you align yourself with a club, you’ll find someone like you and you’ll gravitate towards them. Then you can share your stories and motivate each other. It takes guts to join a group if you don’t think you belong. But I promise you, you will!
Racefully: Who inspires you?
Bart: Colleen Kelly Alexander immediately springs to mind. She was hit on a bike and almost died. She went on to live through thirty surgeries and then made it her mission to find out whose blood saved her life. Now, she runs races and wins medals in honour of each of those people.
“Being part of an inspiring community, that’s what keeps me going.”
Racefully: Have you ever felt like you couldn’t keep going during a race? What kept you going until the end?
Bart: When I was in my 20s and 30s I thought I was invincible. But then I contracted Lyme Disease and it set me back. Way back. I suffered a lot of complications to my legs, but I got healthy and got running again. I don’t run as far or as fast now, but it’s still such a joy just to get out and run. People ask me why I keep going, but honestly I feel so lucky. No matter what, disease can’t take away the passion. I still love every step. And being part of an inspiring community, that’s what keeps me going.
Racefully: We’re still in resolution season – are you working on any goals this year?
Bart: Honestly? How many people can I convince to start running and how can I help bring the world together. But I’ll admit, on a personal level, I want to break 1.5 hours for a half marathon – I haven’t done that in years.
Racefully: It’s been great chatting with you, Bart! To wrap up, you’ve already touched on how to get started…but how about sticking to running for good?
Bart: What I’ve learned from 40 + years? Never limit where running can take you, and I’m not just talking about speed or distance. People talk about run stats, personal bests…those are fine goals, but it’s community that will make you a runner for life – engage with others.
*This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.