Words by : Pierre Alexandre Cardinal
Images by: Sofie Hojabri
Dix30 (proper noun); from the latin decem and triginta. Refers to a shopping centre on Montreal’s South Shore, at the corner of highways 10 and 30 in Brossard, close to Longueuil (which in French means a mullet, but that’s not what I’m talking about). Often used figuratively to speak of the suburbs, of long rows of bungalows, block after block. It is, a priori, a privatized or privatist space and alienated, even alienating.
The suburbs. That idyllic dream space of the American Way of Life as imagined by any and all kids with access to a pencil case and a canvas of some sort; the blank living room table, a pristine bedroom wall, freshly cleaned bed sheets, a dry-cleaned white dress shirt. But the image is always the same; a house, a tree, and a happily-ever-after family holding hands. It’s inevitable. Then you take all those canvases, put them up on that bedroom wall, and you have a perfect portrait of the suburbs; an ideal, a way of life. At least, that’s what we, urban dwellers (of which I of course am), think of it, stuck in our own alienating way of life of commute-work-sleep. Two solitudes that share a same mode of operation; alienated, alienating.
The suburban runner, since he originates where sidewalks and other foot-travelled spaces are reduced to their minimalist manifestation, finds him/herself in an interstice between the pedestrian, cyclist and drivers, too fast for the first, too slow for the others. Of a lesser dynamic force, sure, but still very present in the very same spaces as all other beings. In fact, it’s quite similar to the urban jungle, if you add to it road rage, buses, phone zombies and the general lack of spatial awareness that lingers in the urban air. Runners are like punks who have a hard time finding their place in the time and space of the city or the suburbs. Add to it the winter, freezing temperatures, ice, snow and snow removal mishaps – that’s a big one – then the two solitudes, for runners at least, share quite a bit in common.
For all this, Marc had a dream, a vision. Marc? He’s a runner, first and foremost. He also does other things. He teaches, coaches, and he is the founder of one of the biggest run clubs in the Montreal area – the CCC (Course | Community | Coaching – “course” means running in french). He lived in the area – the Dix30 area – and often parked his car in the underground parking lot there. However, when there, he saw more than lines & concrete, more than a maelstrom of moisture and rodent squatters. He saw an interior running track, a large one, one sheltered from the winter cold (because winter in Québec is fckn cold!). He imagined a gathering, runners getting closer together, an exchange, a DIY re-appropriation of spaces, of the suburban jungle, an attitude that strikes to the very core of the runner’s ethos.
This is exactly what he endeavoured to create, on Sundays, in the dead of the Québec winter, at Dix30. A meeting of running’s punks, of passionate runners and run/walkers, of urban early-Sunday-morning-trippers who, probably without even considering it, were changing the very vocation of a commercial space. As the slogan went in France’s May ’68; « sous les pavés, la plage » – under the concrete lies the beach. At Dix30, under the shopping center’s concrete linings, runners were liberating a space from the very genetics of car-centric urbanisation, the very model that relegated them to the sidewalks, the roadside, sometimes a thin line, an interstice in the very model of our societies.
The Dix30 runners are militants, protesters marching (running?) for their need for the sport and for their own mental and physical wellbeing. Militants in occupation of a space reserved, privatized to other uses, the non-socialisation led by the automobile – I drive, consume and go home, therefore I am. This occupation sublimates this space into one of temporary freedom, but more importantly, into a space of connections, of socialisation between runners and walkers, beginners and elites, sprinters and distance runners, suburbanites and city-dwellers.
Dix30 is thus an ambiance, a happening more than a training session, a running event devoid of judgments, bereft of competition and alienation, where all are welcome. Two out of a week’s 168 hours. 300 runners, running for two short hours. Around 6,480,000 steps that repurpose and re-appropriate the space of an underground parking lot, transmogrifying a tiny interstice in space and time into a movement, that, after 3 years, does not seem to tire out.
It is a movement that subversively crosses the borders of a space originally defined and demarcated by privatization and the ambient privacy of a shopping centre. A movement that occupies a space otherwise reserved by urbanism for cars and their drivers, and that transforms it into a space for connections, for the attainment of new physical and social frontiers, to break from our very alienation and isolation, the one between and within ourselves, between our ways of life and our environments, between our origins and our identities, as runners, but also as humans. It is a movement that temporarily occupies a space where 300 people gather every week during the winter months to train and take care of themselves, together. It is a movement against the logic of the quick fix, of fast-everything, a eulogy of slowness while running, of the “take your time” – and trust the process.
When you run at Dix30, you might meet people, or even just nod or smile to someone. You might counsel a beginner, or offer some of your water to a parched sprinter. You might also just be there to do your training, or literally, just to be there. Because it is there that we are all sharing a temporary space where we can all celebrate what brings us together.