Dan and I ran the Toronto Yonge St. 10k on April 21, six days after the Boston Marathon bombings. We went to pick up our race kits the day before. Race kit pick up was really well organized and they even set up a mini expo where you could buy running gear, learn about some of their sponsors (get free samples) etc. They also gave out special bibs to pin onto your back in support of Boston.
One of the sponsors was Subway and they had a booth set up promoting their “Commit to Fit” campaign. You could spin a wheel and then you had to do a type of exercise to win a Subway gift card and a bag. Dan spun the wheel and had to do 10 push ups. He didn’t want to do the push ups so I did them for him (all unmodified too, which I was really proud of). A small group gathered and watched me finish my push ups and then they gave me the gift card and bag. The bag had a sign in it (good if you’re a spectator at the run, you can write a motivating message on it and hold it up) and a water bottle.
The next day we got up bright and early and headed out to the run. I dressed in blue and yellow to show my support for Boston and we both wore the special bibs on our back. It was really cold when we left that morning so I overdressed (I didn’t realize my mistake until about 5k through the run). I think the rule of thumb is to dress as if it’s 5 degrees warmer. Even though I knew this, it was still hard to do because I was freezing!
Since it was Sunday morning, the subways weren’t running so we had to wait for a shuttle bus. I could tell Dan was nervous about the timing because I’m pretty slow in the morning so we left later than expected. We had a bag to drop off with some warmer clothes to wear after the race and bag drop off was between 7:30 and 8:40 a.m. Dan was worried that we would miss it and be stuck running with the bag. As we stood waiting for the shuttle, more and more runners joined us (as well as non-runners of course). Later on, the bus was packed with runners, excitedly chatting about the morning, eating Power Bars and getting their iPods and Garmins ready. The run starts in our old neighbourhood at Yonge and Castlefield, so we know the area really well. One runner tried to get off the bus a stop too early and when he asked how far it was to get to Yonge Street another runner said “You’re getting off too early. Wait until Castlefield!” So he said “Sorry!” and got back on. The bus actually didn’t stop at Castlefield though, it stopped one over at St. Clements, which still worked out for us. At this point Dan was very concerned about getting to bag drop off on time so we ran down St. Clements and north on Yonge, dodging other runners along the way. Of course we had plenty of time and there was a line up for bag drop off.
At this point I really had to pee, so I told Dan that I was going to get into the giant porta potty line and he told me to try to meet him in the Yellow corral where we were set to start running from at 9:05 a.m.
I should point out, in case you didn’t know, the Toronto Yonge St. 10k and the Sporting Life 10k, which Dan and I ran last year, used to be the same race. Canada Running Series (who now does the Toronto Yonge St. 10k) used to organize the Sporting Life 10k, with Sporting Life as their title sponsor. I think last year CRS dropped Sporting Life as the title sponsor and changed the name of the run to the Yonge St. 10k. Sporting Life decided to continue with their own race and called it the old name Sporting Life 10k (so Yonge St. 10k used to be the Sporting Life 10k). Confused? I was really confused about it last year. Because of this, they run on the same route.
Anyway, back to the recap. There was a moment of silence in honour of Boston before the start of the race. At 9 a.m. the elites took off. I was still in line for the washroom. Finally I got to go and I thought I might still be able to catch up with the Yellow Corral. I started running up the side of where the runners were and as I got closer a volunteer told me that Yellow had just gone and I would have to join Blue. I was fine with that. I’d say I get into the wrong corral about 50% of the time anyway. Also, Blue seemed to be more my pace. Yellow was more Dan’s. I signed us up for the same so we could run together and I had been feeling optimistic about my speed at the time.
I spotted the 55 minute pace bunny and the 1 hour pace bunny and decided to try to get closer to them.
When I ran the Sporting Life 10k last year, I finished in 1 hour and .3 of a second. I decided to try to finish in under an hour this year (though I wasn’t sure how since I hadn’t done any speed training). The route is really good for getting a PB (personal best) because it’s mainly downhill. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m pretty slow and typically run 10k in about 1 hour 7 mins on my long slow runs.
Anyway, the countdown happened and soon we were off!
I think I must have zoned out while I was running because I was looking for Eglinton Avenue and all of a sudden we were at St. Claire Avenue! The run was pretty good. I was feeling good, there was crowd support (little kids trying to get high fives, some people with signs). There weren’t a lot of people but the people who came out were wonderful. I was also starting to feel hot and regretting my decision to dress so warmly. oops.
When I was about halfway through I saw a man running wearing a fuzzy viking helmet and carrying a piece of yellow chalk. He was running effortlessly, then stopping on the sidewalk, drawing a big Boston ribbon on the sidewalk, and then running back and joining the crowd. He left yellow ribbon chalk outlines on many sidewalks while still managing to maintain a fast pace. I thought he was amazing!
For some reason I ran in the middle of the road for most of this run. I typically choose a side and run on it, but for whatever reason I seemed to feel comfortable in the middle. I should also mention, when the horn went off at the start I took off past the 1 hour pace bunny and tried to gain as much distance between us as possible. I spent a lot of the race wondering how far behind me she was. Sometimes I would see her in the corner of my eye and I would start running hard again. When we finished on Yonge and turned onto Richmond I heard one of the volunteers say “Here comes the 1 hour pacer!” so I freaked out and started running hard. It was actually kind of stressful knowing that she was right behind me. I know I lost some time at the drink stations (I can’t for the life of me run and drink at the same time so I have to walk or else I’ll get the drink all over me. I even fold the cup into a v to make it easier and everything). Around 9k in I was running out of steam and the bunny was right beside me. Finally I let her go. I just couldn’t keep up and I watched her run off into the distance as my dreams of beating an hour were dashed. In hindsight I kind of feel like I could have held on for the last kilometre if my brain hadn’t given up. But it’s hard to say.
I also usually take really great race pictures. One of my talents is finding the photographer, slowing down a little when I see them and posing. I also always try to run whenever I see a camera. For this race I was intensely focused on the bunny behind me, and I was running in the middle of the road so I didn’t really notice the race photographers. Because of that, I ended up with pictures like this.
When I saw the finish line I started to sprint. Part of me thought that maybe I could make up for some lost time and squeak in under an hour.
I finished! And my official time was 20 seconds slower than last year (1 hour 20.2 seconds). I kept wondering how that happened considering how much better I felt this year. Maybe the stress of the bunny nipping at my heels was too much for me. Who knows.
The finishing chute was very well organized. I got my medal and picked up some refreshments (they had bagels, apples, bananas, juice, water etc.).
I called Dan and he actually heard his phone ring so we were able to find each other. They had some early bird specials for signing up for the run early. If you signed up for the run by a certain day you got a second technical t-shirt, so we went and picked them up.
After meeting up, Dan and I also took pictures with our medals.
Then we headed home.
I really enjoyed the Toronto Yonge St. 10k. It was well organized and I love the route. We may continue to run it every year. Compared to last year’s Sporting Life 10k, the Toronto Yonge St. 10k was better organized. The race kits were better (last year’s Sporting Life 10k had snacks in it that were either expired or right about to expire and hair ties that were broken etc.), there were more porta potties at the start line (there were several at the Yonge St. 10k whereas last year there were only 3 at the Sporting Life 10k) and the finishing chute was easier to navigate (last year we didn’t find any of the water or snacks. We found out later that it was further down, but it was hard to tell because of the crowd and we didn’t really know where to go). One of the bonuses is that all of the proceeds for Sporting Life 10k go to Camp Oochigeas, which I think is amazing. The Yonge St. 10k also raised money for charity (also amazing).
Hopefully I can run it again next year and maybe I can even run it in under an hour! (and hopefully not add another 20 seconds to my time!)