Date: September 13, 2015
Gun Time: 20:23
Chip Time: 20:21
Placing Overall: 15th out of 896
Placing in Age Group: 2nd out of 43 (M40-44)
Theme Song: “Bling Bling“, Juvenile & Lil Wayne
“Canada’s premier 5K road race,” the website calls it, and you’d best believe it.
I’ll admit I was a little hesitant to cough up the rather hefty entrance fee for this race. Yes, it was supporting several charities. Yes, I’d get a chance to see the Canadian 5K Road Race Championships held just prior (but not participate – I need a sub 20 minute 5K time to do that and I haven’t quite got there yet). Yes, there would be local luminaries there. But what really decided me was the spectacular race kit on offer, which included over $150 worth of New Balance running gear. (This would turn out to lead to bit of a colossal fail on my part, but more on that later). So, out came the credit card, and “boutique” race it was.
I ended up driving into downtown myself for this one, since the fam didn’t seem all that keen to join me at 7 AM on a Sunday for the trip, and one could hardly blame them. It looked like it was going to be a bit of a soggy day with pewter-grey skies above, and more than once on the way I drove through a spattering of rain. Having secured a parking spot near Davenport and Avenue road, I wandered down to Jesse Ketchum public school in Yorkville where the staging area for the run was to be. And a rather nice spot it was, nestled in among condo towers in one of the tonier districts of Toronto, with an artificial playing field and running track to warm up on.
There was already a ton of food out, and pre-race cookies and pastries from artisanal bakery Bon Appé were apparently de rigeur. I watched as the athletes (true athletes, as opposed to weekend warriors like me) went through their various preparations for the 5K championship, which was being run first, starting at 9 AM. I found out later that several of the Team Canada track and field participants from the Pan-American Games were there, and the field was an extremely fast one.
As for the rest of us, we were running the open B & O Yorkville race starting at 9:45, and we probably looked rather less athletic standing around stuffing our faces with cookies and bagels. Lots of participants were wearing the stylish black shirts that came in the race kits, especially since there were draw prizes for those seen at the event wearing the gear. Sadly, I was not among them thanks to my own inability to check the gear size I entered when registering for the race and having gotten… a Men’s Small. Sigh.
Despite the grey day, the winds weren’t too bad, and as it turned out the rain largely held off. I headed over to the start line to check out the elite runners, who were starting to assemble for the 9 AM gun. The race route was an extremely fast one, heading down Bay Street to Dundas, than across to University and up around Queen’s Park Circle to Avenue Road, and left on Davenport to the finish. The race included males and females of all ages, and they sure looked a lot faster than me. I doubt I’ll ever decide to take on that level of competition despite the fact that I am actually pretty close to qualifying standard – I guess my pride is rather too easy to wound.
The mayor of Toronto, John Tory, was there to count the runners down to the horn, and later spoke to the assembled open runners, praising us for our fundraising efforts, which raised over $250,000 for various charities. When asked if he was going to run the event, Mayor Tory demurred, claiming he would be embarrassed by his time (I suspect he’d be alright – his predecessor Mr. Ford may have had a bit more trouble). Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown said a few words as well, and he is in fact a runner (and a pretty good one, although all false modesty aside I would end up beating him). Given this, I was a bit surprised not to see Kathleen Wynne, the Premier of Ontario, as she makes a rather big deal about being a runner – perhaps something to rectify next year, Madame Premier. Consider the gauntlet thrown.
Anyway, eventually the time came to toe the line, and as we amassed on Bay Street I tried to get a position in the scrum near the front. Mayor Tory was there once again to count us down, but before that happened we all posed for a selfie that ended up on the Mayor’s Twitter page, naturally.
So then the horn went, and we were off. The first section down to Dundas was a slight downhill, and there was a moderate breeze at our backs blowing us along. I really felt like I was flying along and it was pretty neat to do a road race straight through my old stomping grounds; the run took me right past my old apartment building at Bay and Wellesley. We took the turn at Dundas and I was still passing people on the short section of the street over to University where we would turn north and head back up to Davenport. Going was a little tougher here – the breeze was now right in our faces and the route was a slight uphill, but I felt really strong and carried on at a fast, steady pace.
At Avenue Road and Bloor some poor kid turned an ankle, or something, because he suddenly sprawled on the asphalt writhing in pain. You know how as a runner you kind of feel bad passing someone who is injured, and you give them the commisseration face? Like, “Hey dude, tough luck, keep your chin up, I’d stop to help but I’m kinda in the middle of something here?”
Yeah. I did that.
Anyway, I was sitting on another runner’s shoulder as we were about to make the turn onto Davenport, and some of the elites, bless ’em, had gathered along the route and were shouting encouragement to us. I don’t know if it was this gesture that did it, but I found a gear I didn’t know I had and just powered down the stretch to the finish. Coming around the last bend I was maybe 150 yards from the finish and I could see that the finish line clock had just turned to 20 minutes flat. I knew that I would have a PR by a substantial margin, which tempered my disappointment with my race kit snafu rather a lot.
I burst across the line with a big smile, was handed a fancy bottle of Flow alkaline spring water, and I went to go get my big ass medal.
Post race refreshments were as spectacular as advertised, with hordes of tuxedo t-shirted volunteers handing out goodies, including Clif Bars, Mamma’s Pizza, and a whole array of lunches from Paramount Foods (including a killer falafel sandwich I quickly scarfed). After watching the elites get their medals, I went to check the posted results and was astonished to find that I had another podium finish. This earned me a second big ass medal and a picture with all the other age group winners. Not bad for a fat old dude, I guess, though one could argue that the really fast folks were in the race before mine. (I obviously worked hard to ignore this fact).
This race was really fantastic. Super well organized, really friendly, great course, and though it was expensive the value for money was outstanding. I will definitely be doing this event again. And, for what it’s worth, the wrong race kit size fiasco wasn’t a total loss – my son got a really nice pair of running shorts out of the deal, and my wife got a new shirt and pullover. A pat on the back for Dad’s largesse, although I think next year I’ll make sure I have the right size…