“When I was younger, I would skateboard by myself for hours and hours, I just loved it. I’d just work on one trick specifically or build a little wooden box in the front yard and ride it for hours, whether there was someone with me or not. I feel like I’m like that with the running too. I do enjoy running with other people, but I also really enjoy just running by myself for hours on the trails or wherever I can.”
Jesse Booi’s route to running hasn’t exactly been conventional. He’s been running less than a decade but has already made his mark at the elite end of the sport. However, before he fell in love with running, Booi had a different passion.
“I remember when I was a kid I was into skateboarding for so long, from when I was 10 to my mid-twenties. I’d give 150 percent to everything, every little aspect of it, so I feel like I’m kind of a nerd in that regard.”
And running was not something Booi thought he’d ever find himself doing:
“Definitely when I was a skateboarder, I would never picture myself being one of those people who runs down the street at six o’clock in the morning with a headlamp on or whatever – one of those weirdoes.”
So what changed? Well, Booi admits that he reached a watershed moment in his life. He was a heavy smoker by the time he hit his mid-twenties and was living a pretty unhealthy existence. He knew that something had to change.
“I just remember starting to run and at the time I still smoked, so I’d go run around the block then have a cigarette, and I was like, ‘this is just ridiculous’, but I’d see how far I could go. Then I started really getting into it and really feeling it.”
The final piece in the puzzle was when Booi met his wife, Michelle. She was a runner and perhaps saw potential in Booi. So she signed him up to a marathon, in secret, and he knew that he’d have to get through that.
From that point on, there was no looking back.
“When I get into something, it’s just a natural habit if I like it and I’m passionate about it, then I tend to go 150 percent. Maybe it’s a little bit overboard. My wife even says I can be a little bit obsessive about things.”
Running changes everyone who takes it up – some more than others. But when you take it to the level that Booi does, the changes can be fundamental, both on the body and mind:
“I kind of look at running, especially the longer distance stuff, almost like a form of meditation. So, it definitely gives me the time to ‘clear my head’, or get into different thoughts and what not. I think in the clearing the head aspect of it, it calms certain parts of the mind. It gives you a lot of time to just breathe by yourself, think about things and work things out. So, I think in that regard it’s almost made me more of a chilled, less negative person. Not to say that I was the bearer of darkness before, but I think a lot of people do have some negative stuff once in a while and I think that the running has made less room for those negative thoughts.
“And it’s made me very healthy. It’s given me something to do daily, other than skateboarding because I’m not skateboarding any more. It’s made me look at what I’m eating and what I’m doing for exercise. It keeps me in shape.”
So where will you find Booi now? Having started off in the cityscape of Vancouver, hitting the sidewalk, he soon heard of runners racing over seemingly huge distances on the trails. Curiosity, plus his gritty determination, meant that soon enough Booi was seeking out off-road places to run.
During that time Booi cofounded the Fraser Street Run Club with Cody Callon. The core of the group was Booi, Michelle, a friend called Kathryn Drew and Cody. They formed a community-based, social group that grew to 40 members at times.
Booi also raced. A lot. Some of his best results are a 1st place finish at the Finlayson Arms 100km in 2017, 1st at the Whistler 50-Miler in 2015. A win at the Hallow’s Eve 42km in 2014, 1st at the Mountain Lake 100-Miler 2018 and a podium finish at the Fat Dog 70-Miler in 2015. Oh and a marathon PB of 2H45M along the way.
After a while, though, the draw of the trails became too strong. Booi and his wife moved to North Vancouver and then eventually Squamish, so they could have the trails right on their doorstep.
Jesse Booi represents some very important aspects of running: discovery, dedication, curiosity, grit and determination. Those qualities have taken him a long way already. And we’re excited to see where they take him from here.