By Paul Gains
Tristan Woodfine successfully defended his Race Roster Spring Run Off 8k title today while the women’s race went to London, Ontario’s Leslie Sexton.
Held in Toronto’s scenic High Park for the 41st consecutive year, the race launched the 2018 Canada Running Series. Spring seemed to have been delayed though as runners were subjected to sub-freezing temperatures and a strong wind.
Sexton and Woodfine, who is studying to be a paramedic at the Ontario Health and Technology College, were the 2017 CRS overall champions. They both earn 45 points to go to the top of this year’s CRS points race.
Brave early front running from Kyle Grieve, proved beneficial to Woodfine.
The 24 year old towed the field through the halfway point in 12:27 with Woodfine, Trevor Hofbauer and a half dozen other ambitious contenders two seconds behind. But over the next two kilometres Hofbauer, who was using the race as both a workout and a fitness test before racing the Prague Marathon next month, took command.
The Spring Run Off finishes atop a steep 352 metre climb and it was just before the foot of this hill that Woodfine made a decisive move. Charging past the tall figure of Hofbauer he eventually squeezed out a ten second margin of victory stopping the clock at 24:36 to earn $2,000 first place prize money.
Hofbauer held on to second while Grieve was an impressive third in 24:52.
“It’s definitely a positive sign,” Woodfine said of his win. “I have been doing marathon training, lots of marathon tempo, so coming down to 8k and being able to race pretty quick is nice because I haven’t done much running at that pace. I am definitely happy.”
“I got up that first hill at 3k feeling pretty good and thought ‘alright if I can hold this effort the next couple of kilometres I should be able to punch out that last 2k pretty good’ And, knowing this course, if you go out too hard that last ‘K’ will punish you.”
Hofbauer, who was first Canadian finisher at last year’s Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, and was crowned 2017 Canadian Marathon Champion, was pleased with his performance.
“I was catching up on Kyle but then Tristan blew by me,” he said. “I told him to ‘go get it.’ I wasn’t concerned about pushing on that hill. Tristan got it and I am happy for him. I think I am in a good spot and will have to see how it plays out in a few weeks.”
Sexton’s victory was impressive. By three kilometres she had a commanding lead. The expected challenge from Sasha Gollish never materialized as the 36 year old Canadian international stepped off the course unable to overcome the flu.
By 4k, which she reached in 13:55, Sexton had an advantage of more than twenty seconds. At the finish she had stretched that to 59 seconds, finishing in 27:53 with Laura Desjardins of the Newmarket Huskies second in 28:52. Rachel Hannah of New Balance, the 2015 Pan Am Games marathon bronze medalist who had also been suffering from a cold, finished third in 29:21.
“I am happy with how that went,” a very composed Sexton revealed. “I actually came down with a cold a few day ago and so I wasn’t sure if I was going to be ready to race today. I was feeling alright this morning, so I thought I would go out and give it a good effort and not worry about the time.
“I am happy with it. It’s a big confidence boost going into the Banque Scotia 21k de Montreal two weeks from now. I was pushing the pace from the start. At the hill around 3k Sasha must have pulled out. The bottom of the hill I had people with me; when I was at the top I sort of looked behind me and didn’t see anyone behind me.”
Desjardins, another in the long line of national class runners coached by Hugh Cameron, was pleased to be on the podium
“To be honest, I don’t have as much experience as those other girls have. I just did what my coach said ‘stay positive throughout the whole thing.’ I knew they were ahead of me but I just stayed focused on what I was doing and didn’t worry about anyone else.
“People were telling me I was second but I just was always thinking ‘someone could be coming up behind you.’ I felt pretty strong, my coach is big into hills. So it was tough but I kept pushing until the end.”
This was the 41st running of the Spring Run Off and once again the race got underway with the traditional playing of bagpiper Dave McGonigal. Perhaps he was the only one present to have wished for a warmer day. He wore his kilt.
For full results, visit springrunoff.ca