2015 Race #9: Toronto Pearson Runway Run 5K, Mississauga, ON

Date: September 26, 2015
Gun Time: 20:33
Chip Time: 20:06
Placing Overall: 32nd out of 1550
Placing in Age Group: 7th out of 197 (M40-49)
Theme Song: Jet Airliner“, Steve Miller Band

Sometimes, it’s fun to do runs that offer something a little out of the ordinary. I tend to be on the lookout for these, and the Pearson Runway Run is a pretty good example, given that it presents the opportunity to run along the tarmac of one of the world’s busiest airports. I had been running a lot of 5K races lately, but the chance to do something unusual like this was a powerful draw, and so I decided to do one more, and we made it a family affair with everyone piling into the car early on a Saturday morning to head up highway 401 to check out the scene. It was a great morning for the event, with the sun shining, cooler temperatures in the 50s, and only a slight breeze.


Brendan decided that he was going to do the run as well, and Lori and Dana were signed up for the untimed 2K run/walk. The swag included was pretty decent; we all got nice shirts, and there was a reusable plastic water bottle included which I thought was a nice touch and very environmentally sound (there were stations at the airport where you could fill them up). Also, lots of energy drinks and bars were free and on offer from different sponsors, and there was a kids’ zone with a bunch of activities. The run expo was in an aircraft hangar at the periphery of the airport which made for an interesting location. Lots of first responders were there with gear and vehicles for the kids to check out, and you could watch the jet traffic taking off from the hangar doors along a runway parallel to the one we would be running on. A couple of jets were parked nearby for an up close experience, for those inclined to have a look.



So, the pros: lots to see, unusual and intriguing race location, and the volunteers staffing the run were great and super friendly.

All that said, this was not a race that was without its problems.

First off, it was pretty much impossible to warm up, because there was nowhere to do it. Upon reflection, I can understand this, since it’s probably not advisable in this day and age to have people running off unaccompanied in random directions on airport property. I had to settle for doing a few laps around the parking lot, but even this became a bit dodgy as it started to fill up with vehicles.

The second, and much bigger, problem was the organization of the start. For some reason, the organizers had a warm up in the hangar with entertainment (including a beat-boxing guy who was, admittedly, great) at the exact same time as many of the runners were lining up to begin the race. For those of us in the hangar, there was no warning whatsoever that the race was about to begin, and Brendan and I only realized that we needed to hoof it out to the runway when I saw people streaming off in the distance toward the start line. By the time we got out there, we were at the back of a large crowd of several hundred runners and the horn for the start went off as I was wishing Brendan luck on his first competitive 5K. So, the upshot of this was that I had to move to the outside, tear past as much of the crowd of runners as I could, cut inside the start gate, and motor away past the rest of the crowd. This ended up adding about 25 seconds to my gun time. I guess it could have been worse – at least there was space on the wide open tarmac to maneuver.

Anyway, as you might expect, I ran this one flat out, given the no hills, very little wind, and conducive temperatures. Maybe there was something psychologically satisfying about blowing past a bunch of people, but I felt like I was really moving, and at the turnaround I mentally pretended to race the jets that were taking off opposite (I lost to them, but you know). The one downside was the mental aspect to running a long straightaway, as the perspective in these cases always seems to be that you aren’t moving.

Brendan taking time out to wave.

Brendan taking time out to wave.

I ended up in 32nd place and the start-line snafu cost me 5 places, but I had a PR by chip time, so I guess I really was moving. Brendan did well too – I cheered him as loudly as I could at the finish as he came in around 27 minutes. Not bad for a 9 year old neophyte.

At the finish.

At the finish.

The younger, and handsomer, of the two runners.

The younger, and handsomer, of the two runners.

A neat little medal was our reward (for the walkers, too!) and I would say the day was a great success. Hopefully the logistical problems with this race will be worked out next year, but even despite these, it was well worth going to.

2015 Race #3: Edison Festival of Light 5K, Fort Myers, FL

Date: February 21, 2015
Gun Time: 21:12
Chip Time: 21:06
Placing Overall: 95th out of 1207
Placing in Age Group: 7th out of 47
Theme Song: Fat Bottomed Girls“, Queen

Well, one race was apparently not enough for me in the Florida heat, so I found myself at the Edison Festival of Light in downtown Fort Myers preparing to lace ’em up again. Frankly, it was a treat not having to run through snowbanks, and I had been taking full advantage over our vacation, going out for training whenever I could. The Edison Festival is a good time, with a bazaar, lots of food, and live music, and the family and I took full advantage of this as we waited for the late afternoon race to begin. Lots of tall skinny teenage track club types were hanging around the start line in their gear, sizing up the competition; the race is a magnet for competitors state wide and has apparently hosted a masters’ world record and an American open record in the past.


This distance was a bit more in my wheelhouse than the longer races I had been learning to run. I was a 3K and 5K runner as a youth, and I was still pretty comfortable with these types of events. I was curious to see how much of that aerobic capacity I had maintained over the years, given that I hadn’t run competitive middle distance in, oh, 25 years or so. A gentle breeze wafted through the swaying palms as the sun started to set and we were called to the start line.

Though limited to about 1200 participants, this was the largest race I had run in to date, and the spectator support was great. The 5K is run just before the Festival of Light Parade, and the streets were lined with thousands of people, cheering loudly. I had not run in this environment before and the adrenaline was surging to the point where I had to take some calming breaths before the gun and remind myself not to take off too quickly.

Having positioned myself toward the front of the pack, I settled into a fast pace as we steamed down Edwards Drive along the Caloosahatchie river. The cheering crowd was energizing and I was rolling along at about a 6:30 mile through the first third of the course.


I realized pretty quickly that my cold weather training had another flaw; namely, I was getting a bit bothered by the South Florida heat and humidity. The temperature at race time was around 74 degrees, which, while not blazing hot, was not quite what I was used to. Usually I am a bit bemused by water stations appearing on a 5K course, however I was glad to be able to use the water on my head and neck to cool down a bit as I tried to maintain a fast pace.

Rounding the last corner I dug deep and started to sprint to the finish. I could see the finish line clock was still sub 21 minutes, and though I gritted my teeth and gave it everything, I couldn’t quite get there in the 20 minutes and change I was hoping for. Here’s video of me crossing the finish line at 21:12 (I’m in the grey shirt and blue shorts to the left of the picture).


In the end, a top 100 finish was a pretty good consolation prize. I was only several seconds short of placing top five in my age category and winning an award, and out of 252 Masters’ finishers I was 12th. Plus, according to Lori the band serenaded us with Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls” as our group of runners hit the finish, which I would have found hilariously ironic if I had actually heard it (I guess I was so focused on finishing I shut everything else out).

The old man can still pick ’em up and lay ’em down when he wants to, I guess.