Scotiabank Charity Challenge helps Charities take Giant Steps in Fundraising

By | Scotiabank Charity Challenge, Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon | No Comments

By: Amy Friel

When Giant Steps Toronto took to the streets more than ten years ago as part of the Scotiabank Charity Challenge at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, the prospect of raising more than a million dollars towards their cause was little more than a pipe dream.

Founded in 1995, the York Region-based school and therapy centre offers an integrated program of academics along with speech, behavioural, and occupational therapies for elementary school students with autism. Amidst the hundreds of official charities who participate in the Charity Challenge each year, they’re a comparatively modest operation – but their more than ten years of participation in the event has had a decidedly significant impact.

“In the beginning, it was just kind of a group of parents of kids with autism,” recalls Joanne Scott-Jackson, the Director of Development for Giant Steps Toronto. “But we got really enthusiastic, and we raised $20,000 that first year.”

Since their Charity Challenge debut in 2004, Giant Steps Toronto has raised more than $1.1 million in funding for their programs. They’re the smallest charity by far to make it into the Charity Challenge’s “Million Dollar Fundraising Club”. For a local organization with limited resources, it’s a fundraising opportunity that could never have been possible without the marathon’s help.

“Events are kind of risky prospects for many charities, particularly small ones who have limited resources,” Scott-Jackson explains. “You have to have a lot of skill to pull these events together; they’re risky, they’re time-consuming, and they can be costly as well. So for a small charity like us to be able to piggyback onto such an established, world-renowned fundraising and athletic event, the opportunity is very unique.”

For more than 550 official charities who participate annually in six community road races across Canada, the Scotiabank Charity Challenge offers the opportunity for a large-scale fundraising event that’s both low-cost and low-risk, allowing organizations to invest their resources into fundraising rather than logistics. For Giant Steps Toronto, the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon has become their largest annual fundraising event, accounting for about 20% of their yearly fundraising dollars.

And while impressive, their success story is far from unique.

“Since we launched the Scotiabank Charity Challenge in 2003, runners in six community races across the country have collectively raised more than $50 million for community charities,” says Kyle McNamara, Scotiabank’s Executive Vice-President, Global Retail Banking Technology.

To help charities maximize their dollars raised, Scotiabank covers the cost of transaction fees, and offers additional team awards and incentives, complete with cash prizes, to those participating in the Charity Challenge.

“Scotiabank believes in giving back to the communities where we live and work,” says McNamara, an avid runner himself. “The Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon is more than a great running event – through the Scotiabank Charity Challenge, the race raises money for local charities that help to create a stronger future for young people and build vibrant communities.”

For Joanne Scott-Jackson, the event has become a true community celebration, drawing together a diverse collection of individuals who have a deep personal connection to her organization and its work.

“A lot of people who run or walk with us are parents of kids with autism, or family members, or friends, or staff,” she says. “A lot of them have very intimate connections with our charity, and very direct connections with the kids who are benefiting from our program.”

Ever the enthusiastic bunch, Giant Steps Toronto fielded a team of 139 participants in last year’s race – the charity with the largest amount of fundraising participants in the 2016 Charity Challenge, for which they were awarded an additional $6,000 towards their fundraising campaign. The award was the latest in what has become a strong tradition of excellence for the Giant Steps Toronto team, which has now taken home fundraising  prizes nine times over their twelve years participating.

For Race Director Alan Brookes, the Scotiabank Charity Challenge is a particular point of pride, one that embodies the spirit of Toronto’s marquee marathon weekend. At once a celebration of individual endeavour and community engagement, it allows athletes of all abilities to unite in support of the causes closest to their hearts.

“This is always an exciting time – the beginning of training and fundraising for Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon and the Charity Challenge,” says Brookes. “We all share so many hopes and dreams. Very best wishes to everyone on our road to October 22nd. There, we will come together, with one goal: to make our community a better place, and celebrate your achievements. Let’s do this together!”

Runners interested in making their steps (both giant and otherwise) count this fall are invited to register for the race and sign up for the Scotiabank Charity Challenge: http://www.torontowaterfrontmarathon.com/community-and-charity/scotiabank-charity-challenge/

Remembering Ed Whitlock. By Kate Van Buskirk

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By Kate Van Buskirk

I don’t remember when I first learned who Ed Whitlock was, but I do know that for most of my growing up he held almost mythical status in my mind. As a young runner, hearing my dad—an avid marathoner himself—talk about Ed with great reverence forged an image of part-man, part-wing-footed spirit, gliding tirelessly for hours each day along serene cemetery roads, breaking this monotonous habit only to go off and capture world records. My interactions with other members of the Canadian running community over the years have lead me to believe that I was not alone in this impression.

When I finally met Ed in person and heard him speak at the 2016 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon (STWM) elite athlete press conference, my perception of the man only grew more complicated. First off, he arrived in a suit and tie to contrast starkly with the jeans and athletic gear donned by every other runner.

At first glance he appeared almost stoic, standing expressionless off to one side of the room, not seeming particularly comfortable or pleased with the media buzz. But if his initial appearance was somewhat severe, everything changed when he obligingly engaged with the journalists and race organizers, his face softening into a kind smile whenever someone approached him. He was soft-spoken and deliberate, answering questions openly and without a hint of self-importance. When asked about his preparation for the marathon last fall, he mentioned an injury that had set him back, saying that that it was very frustrating not to have been able to put in as many 3-hour training runs as he would have liked, but that he supposed “this sort of thing happens as you get older.” He said that last part with a chuckle.

This juxtaposition of a publicly venerated legend with an almost comically dry and understated persona seemed consistent with Ed’s approach to being a runner more generally. By all accounts, he was austere and disciplined in his training, often saying that he didn’t particularly enjoy the rigours of hard running but was rather compelled to regiment by the desire to draw the best out of himself come race day. But he also strongly downplayed, or even flat-out dismissed, any reference to heroism or inspiration. This, despite countless world masters and age group records, including perhaps his most newsworthy accomplishments: Ed was the first, and remains the only septuagenarian to run under 3 hours for the marathon. He did this three times. 2:59:10 at STWM 2003; 2:54:49 at STWM 2004; and 2:58:40 at Rotterdam 2005.

My role as social media lead for the 2016 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon included conducting post-race interviews for the live broadcast, granting me an all-access media pass to the finish line area. The top elites crossed the line to tremendous fanfare, cheered on my throngs of excited fans, media and agents. They conducted their interviews before being whisked away to Nathan Phillips Square for the awards presentation, the cameras and excitement following close behind.

With my on-camera responsibilities completed, I wandered back to the finish line to cheer on the masses and ride out the incredible energy of the morning. I approached the line just in time to hear the announcement that Ed Whitlock was less 1 kilometre away, and was on pace to annihilate the 85+ world record. Annihilate was a good word for it.

Ed bettered the previous record by over 30 minutes, dipping well under 4 hours in the process. Unlike the professional runners whose finish line experiences had been rife with pomp and ceremony, Ed sauntered into the chute accompanied by three fellow competitors (at least 40 years his junior) to the applause of a handful of dedicated fans. He stopped his watch, posed graciously for a few official photos, then asked if he could please have a cup of water. He demanded no attention, his signature grin acting as his only expression of celebration. But amongst those of us who were fortunate enough to bear witness to his feat, the atmosphere was palpable and the feeling was communal: deep respect. It is a memory that I am grateful for and will carry with me throughout my own running career.

Photo Credit: Kate Van Buskirk

Ed may not have seen himself as an inspiration, but he has been exactly that to me for as long as I’ve been a runner. His fortitude, his refusal to acknowledge age as a limiting factor, and his sheer love of running–whether based on compulsion or otherwise–all speak to me deeply and will continue to inspire me as long as I’m a runner (hopefully until I’m 86!)

A few moments later and with all signs of exertion eradicated, Ed spoke on camera with Canadian Running Magazine. He rested casually against the fence as if he were having an impromptu mid-day chat with a friend rather than having just completed a marathon faster than most people can dream of in their lifetimes. He spoke about having to be mentally tough and push through the hardest kilometres of the race when he wasn’t sure that he would be able to finish, something that runners of every level can relate to. And in my mind, that was the quiet heroism of Ed Whitlock: his humanity, his relateability, and his desire to be better at every age.

Tell-tale signs that you need a day off

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It’s often believed that “more is more” when it comes to training.  Runners get stuck in a mindset that the more they do, the better they become.  This is true to a certain extent, but oftentimes the value of a rest day gets forgotten.  If you have put your body through the wringer with workouts, long runs, and cross training without a day off, chances are you aren’t going to recover enough to reap the benefits of your efforts.  Instead, a cumulative fatigue can set in and leave you overtrained or burnt out.

Here are some tell-tale signs you might be due for a day off:

Altered heart rate:
This is noticeable particularly with individuals who train with a heart rate monitor.  Many of us have an idea of what our resting heart rate is, and if you don’t it’s worth figuring out.  When your resting heart rate is altered, it’s a sign that your metabolic rate is elevated to meet the demands of training.  A lower-than-normal heart rate can also be an indication that you’re overtraining.  When you’re feeling off, take a heart rate check and see if it’s trying to tell you to rest!

Increased irritability:
Overtraining can not only affect your physical state, but your emotional state too.  When you’re starting to burn out, moodiness, depression, and general irritability are common.  While we all know exercise is supposed to make us happier due to the blissful endorphin rush, these stress-fighting chemicals are released alongside cortisol which is a stress hormone.  If cortisol levels remain elevated for an extended period of time, it can negatively affect one’s mental health.  It can get to the point that running/exercising is no longer enjoyable, and anyone/anything can send you spiraling into a bad mood, especially if they ask about how training is going!  If that’s the case, take a day or two to reset and allow your body to relax.  Pop into a low key yoga class to really let your mind settle – just make sure it’s easy.

Extended muscle soreness:
When you’re training hard, it’s common to have delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) for one or two days after a workout.  The issue is when that muscle soreness is prolonged, or just doesn’t go away.   If you’re still sore after 72 hours, it’s worth scheduling a day off.  Working out on sore muscle can hinder any muscle building efforts.  Instead of trying to hammer out another workout session, or even pounding the pavement on an easy run, take that time to roll, stretch, refuel, and hydrate to allow your muscles to rebuild without being broken down again.

Insomnia:
When we’re tired from intense training, it’s usually easy to fall asleep.  However, when we’re extremely fatigued, insomnia can set in.  This is due to an overload on the body’s nervous system and hormonal system.  It’s crucial to sleep during the 10pm to 2am period as your body builds and grows during rest, not during training.  The stress of overtraining can lead to anxiety, impair our judgements, decrease cognitive function, and lower our immunity.  Anyone who has suffered from insomnia knows that it’s a negative cycle: the less you sleep, the more you worry about not sleeping, and the harder it is to sleep.  Taking a few days off and focusing on allowing the body to properly shut down at night could be the winning solution to one’s insomnia.

Unquenchable thirst:
Dehydration can play a huge role in overtraining.  Our body sweats during exercise, and the more you exercise, the more you sweat.  A good indicator of your hydration level is to look at the colour of your urine.  The darker the colour, the more your body is struggling to retain fluids because there isn’t enough circulating the body to properly hydrate you.  The dark urine indicates that the body is retaining as much water as it can while still excreting waste.  Therefore, the more hydrated we are, the more water we have in our urine making it more diluted.  Dehydration can also cause headaches, dizziness, muscle cramps, and irritability.  If these symptoms are present, be sure to add in some electrolytes into your water too.

Running & Beer

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Beer and running seem to be a match made in heaven.  From infiltrating local running clubs, races, the Beer Mile, and as a reward for any hard workout or race, beer has added yet another social element to the running scene.

Chemically speaking, brewing beer occurs from the fermentation of starch by yeast.  The sugars in the grain are metabolized which creates the alcohol and CO2.  Although beer is 90% water, and typically four to six percent alcohol, it is still considered a diuretic. Beer does contain sugary carbs, nutrients from the hops, starch, and some electrolytes, but the alcohol content puts a damper on these benefits.  So if you plan on having some post-run brews, grab a glass of water and a snack to have before the beer.

Even with the alcohol content, beer has health benefits when consumed in moderation. Moderate consumption means one 12-ounce beer per day for women, and two for men (but don’t think that the days you don’t have a beer can be added to another day and still be considered “moderate consumption”).  In moderation, beer has been seen to lower risks of kidney stones in men compared to other alcoholic beverages; contains multiple B vitamins and chromium; helps lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase HDL (good) cholesterol; contains hops that are rich in anti-inflammatory polyphenols; and can decrease the risk of Type 2 diabetes.

While it seems quite normal to have a beer after a run, having beer during the run may seem a little extreme, but that’s exactly what the Beer Mile is. We caught up with some of Canada’s top beer milers to share their running & beer stories:


Jim Finlayson

I was one of the rare ones who didn’t really drink beer. Had my first one 2nd year university, 1992, and didn’t care for it. Felt way too bloated, too, and I couldn’t understand how my roommates could drink more than one. And so their surprise when I ran my 5:09 beer mile world record in 2007.

My first beer mile was in 2005. It was a fundraiser for melanoma, in honour of a local triathlete who had passed away. We had a huge crowd. 75 participants and over 100 spectators. The Times Colonist newspaper was on hand. I only did it to support the cause. At the time the world record was 5:42 and I figured if things went really smoothly I could be 6:20-30. Certainly wasn’t thinking anything faster than that, and so I chose Guinness, which isn’t beer mile legal (only 4.4%, and it needs to be a 5% beer). It was late December, just before Christmas, and we ran it in the rain and dark. I had no idea what my splits were. I just ran as hard as I could. Someone told me after the race I’d run 5:12, which seemed impossible to me, but it was corroborated by the official timers. The mark didn’t count as a record since I drank Guinness, but I knew then I would return the next year with a legal beer, which I did, and ran 5:20 drinking Keepers Stout from a can. The year after that I ran 5:09 with Granville Island Winter ale, which stood as the world record for 6 years.

I didn’t run a single beer mile after that until Flotrack hosted the World Championships in the fall of 2014. By then I was a master, with suspect speed and no chugging practice. I thought I would get dusted by these University kids. Figured I would come last. Nick Symmonds was in the race, Lewis Kent, Corey Gallagher. These boys were big and fast and young. They were brash and controversial. In the media guide all of our fastest chug times were listed and mine was the slowest at 8 seconds. Our mile bests were listed, too, and I was nearly the slowest there, with my personal best from 16 years prior. But for whatever reason my body takes to the beer mile. I ran 5:20 and finished 3rd. A year later I took another serious crack at it on the track, just because my curiosity was intense, and ran 5:01 which still stands as my beer mile best.

This nascent beer mile frenzy… I feel like it’s a bit of a supernova. After that first World Championships and before the first World Classic the beer mile burned pretty brightly, and so when I went to the pub with my mates I would order a beer in whatever bottles they had, Sleeman or Heineken or (preferably) anything from Phillips, and I’d get my friends to time me. They’d pull out their iPhones and set them on the table, and as soon as the waitress put the beer down and turned away, I’d go. The truth is I don’t love beer. I can enjoy it, sure, but I’d rather train than sip at it. I’d rather see if I can get under 4 seconds than nurse one. So the waitress would leave and my boys would be ready, and I’d train there in the pub, getting down to 3.37 seconds once, confirmed by the backup timer. We’d only be there for an hour or 90 mins and I’d drink two beers in that time, and they’d be in my hand for less than 10 seconds. It helped having the stage. I wanted pressure on me. I wanted to have the possibility of being ridiculed if I screwed up and spat it out my nose, and so the pub was ideal. I was preparing for the big races. Never had the urge to run after, though. Not on those nights at the pub.

I don’t really fall on either side of the pro/con argument. Clearly I’m not contra beer and, more generally, drinking, but I don’t drink much. I like the environment mostly for the socials. I know alcohol can interfere with recovery and sleep, but I also know keeping the governor on too tight can have the same detrimental effect.


Corey Gallagher

I’ve always thought of myself being a beer connoisseur. I love trying new beers everywhere I go. One of my favourite winter celebrations is our Winter Beer Mile (we also hold a summer one) here in Manitoba. My first one was in 2006, during my first year of university. Every year after CIS championships the team would host an underground beer mile. This time conveniently fell around by birthday, which is on St. Patty’s Day, so it was a fun way to celebrate with everyone.

The only draw back being, its March in Winnipeg, which means there was also a fair amount of snow to shovel.   We would gather the team on a Friday night, hang out and shovel the track for hours. We would then wake up the next morning a bit rough around the edges, and dreading what we were about to do. My first beer mile were terrible, I ran around 14 minutes and was definitely penalized for not holding down my contents.

I’m happy to say things have greatly improved since then, and I look forward to our Winter Beer Mile every year.  Since my first year of university, our Beer Miles have grown beyond just the team. We get all types of people coming out (family members, friends of friends etc) as it’s a great fun and active way to bring people together over beers.

I always look forward to enjoying a casual beer once Beer Mile training is done. Nothing beats a nice cold beer after a hard workout or long run. However, during training I don’t allow myself any casual sipping beers, I practice chugging with everything.

Natasha Wodak To Run Race Roster Spring Run-Off

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By: Paul Gains

Over its four-decade history the Race Roster Spring Run Off 8km has seen world champions and record holders dueling with the nation’s best in a race which traditionally kicks off the racing season.

This year marks the 40th running of the prestigious event – the second with Race Roster as title sponsor – and Canadian Olympian Natasha Wodak is making her debut (Saturday April 8th).

Wodak is the Canadian 10,000m record holder (31:41.59) and represented Canada at the Rio Olympics finishing 22nd in the 10,000m. In addition, she holds the Canadian best performance at the 8km road distance (25:28).

Most athletes turn up here to Toronto’s High Park wondering what kind of shape they have managed after the winter. Though she always delivers a stellar performance on the roads she too is approaching the race cautiously.

“I haven’t raced since September,” the 35 year-old admits. “I was looking for something a little less than a 10k and this race is part of the Canada Running Series. I like all of (race director) Alan Brookes’ events and I thought it would be a good start to my season. It’s something I have never done before and I always like going to Toronto.

“I had surgery on my right toe on December 23rd. I have really bad arthritis in my toe joints and it ended up fracturing the toe. There was a piece of bone fragment that had to be removed and then they shaved down the bone spur to increase the mobility in the toe joint.”

She believes that the toe issue lay at the cause of several injuries the past few years including plantar fasciitis and a couple of stress fractures. These prevented her from a lengthy block of uninterrupted training which begs the question: what could she accomplish fully fit?

Now, well recovered, Wodak has slowly increased her mileage with a berth at the 2017 IAAF World Championships in London remaining the year’s top priority. She qualified with her performance in the Rio Olympics (31:53.14).

“I just want to get in a race, a hard effort under my belt, to start this season,” she says of the Race Roster Spring Run Off.  “I was going to open at (her hometown) the Vancouver Sun Run but I really want to do well at the Sun Run so I thought I need one race before it. I thought this is perfect, a race I haven’t done before.”

The reputation of the Race Roster Spring Run Off is well known to Wodak. The women’s outstanding course record of 25:50 was set in 1990 by Britain’s Jill Hunter (now Boltz) while the men’s record is held by Daniel Komen of Kenya, an equally remarkable 22:35.  Such is the calibre of some of these champions that three years later Komen was both world 5000m champion and world 5000m record holder.

The race was founded in 1978 as a means for RMP, the Canadian distributor of Brooks Shoes, to promote the brand while putting something back into the sport. Mike Dyon, himself a former national marathon champion, remembers the race’s inauguration well. As one of the principals of RMP Athletic Locker – along with his father Robert and brother Paul – he founded the race with the help of his club, Etobicoke Striders.

Dyon says they were pleased with how quickly the race grew into one of the biggest local races reaching 1,000 plus entries within the first few years. Held inside the park, it affords spectators many opportunities to see the race. He also fondly remembers his late father’s idea of giving out maple syrup to the top ten finishers. This has become a race tradition.

“He also came also up with the idea of having a bagpiper pipe everybody down to the starting area,” Dyon adds.

In 1981 the race became the first in Canada to offer prize money, helping turn the tide towards professionalism.

Former Canadian 1,500m record holder, Dave Reid, a club mate of the Dyon brothers, has attended and volunteered at all but one of the races. The athletic performances of the superstars like Komen, the US’s  Ed Eyestone, and 1995 world 10000m champion Sally Barsosio, are well etched on his mind.

In 1994 Barsosio, he remembers, had to be coaxed out of the Grenadier Restaurant where she was sheltering from the bitter cold. Even though she missed the start she went on to win the race. Three years later she was crowned world 10000m champion.  But his personal highlight was the 2003 edition held in the aftermath of a devastating ice storm.

“I get up Saturday morning, ice everywhere, and get to the park at 4:00 a.m.,” Reid remembers. “The main maintenance guy had actually pulled two massive plows and salters off the main streets. They were working like mad all throughout the night, right up till the 10:00 a.m. race time.

“At 8:00 a.m. the police wanted to cancel the event and I told them that it would be safe by race time. The workers salted and plowed the two huge hills about ten times and sure enough the race went off. I still can’t believe we pulled it off or that 1,400 runners showed up.”

That infamous Spring Hill Road has seen many a fine runner humbled. Organizers have capitalized on this with a ‘Kill the Hill Challenge’ whereby runners can compare their times up the 365 metre long climb. The prize, naturally, is a bottle of maple syrup.

This year, following the race all participants and their families and friends can head over to Henderson Brewing Company for a complimentary beer. The brewery is also providing a Grand Prize to the top fundraising team at the Race Roster Spring Run Off.

Another addition to the event is a free training run led by 2016 Canadian Olympian Genevieve Lalonde and Tribe Fitness this Saturday morning, March 18th.

And so Wodak is stepping into a race with illustrious history and charm relishing the opportunity. Like all Olympians she has extraordinary ambition for the upcoming year.

“Obviously the World Championships this summer,” she explains. “I already have the qualifying time. So that is awesome.  I would like to get fully healthy and run a fast 10k and hopefully a fall marathon.”

The Race Roster Spring Run Off will give her an indication of her progress towards these goals.

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To run with Natasha Wodak at the Race Roster Spring Run Off or for more information on the Training Run: http://canadarunningseries.com/race-roster-spring-run-off/

Safety Tips for Runners

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Running safety is of the utmost importance, but sometimes it gets pushed out of people’s minds as thinking about the consequences isn’t appealing. Run-ins with bicycles, cars, dogs, or other people are all things that could have a potential risk associated with them. The best way to eliminate any fear or reluctance while out on a run is to be properly prepared. Follow these simple guidelines for best practices in run safety:

  • Know your route.  Make sure you’ve planned ahead according to what time of day you’re running at.  If there’s a route that’s well-lit and more populated, choose that if you’re heading out in the dark.
  • Tell someone where you’re going.  Not only is planning your route good practice for your own benefits, but it makes it easier to share with someone else.  If you’re planning on heading out on a solo run, inform a friend, significant other, or family member of where you’re going and how long you’ll be.  That way, should anything happen they’ll know where to go.
  • Be aware.  It’s easy to zone out while on a run, especially when we get into a good rhythm.  However, it’s important to keep tuned in to your surroundings throughout the entire run and not just when you deem it necessary.
  • Avoid headphones.  While it’s nice to have the company of some good music or an interesting podcast, running with headphones can eliminate the sounds of the things around you.  It can be difficult to hear an approaching bike, car, person, or even a foul ball from a recreational baseball game if you’re plugged in. If you must have your headphones, leave one ear out.
  • Be visible.  Don’t assume because you’re wearing a light coloured jacket that people will see you.  Instead, make the assumption that no one can see you and dress appropriately.  Wear high-vis gear such as reflective vests, headlamps, and other clip on lights so people know exactly where you are.
  • Bring your phone.  It’s always nice to leave your phone at home and take a break from the incessant buzzing of e-mails, texts and other notifications, but sometimes it’s smarter to bring it with you.  You can set it to ‘Do Not Disturb’ so your pocket isn’t constantly making noise, but at least you’ll have it in case of emergencies.
  • Carry ID.  Heaven forbid something does happen during a run, having a piece of identification can help if you’re injured or in a situation where you need someone else’s help.
  • Run with a group.  It can be a local running group, a friend, or your dog. When you run with someone it decreases the chance of being targeted as a victim, and provides a helping hand if you get hurt.
  • Trust your instincts.  Don’t put yourself in a situation where you feel uneasy.  If heading into the trails as the sun is setting doesn’t make you feel confident, stick to a well-lit path.  If there’s a person that doesn’t look trust-worthy, veer away from them or change direction accordingly.
  • Follow the rules.  Face oncoming traffic; look both ways before crossing the road; obey traffic signals; and check around you to avoid bumping into an oncoming or passing runner.
  • Vary your route.  Not only does it keep things fresh for you, mixing up your route can stop recognizable patterns.  Be sure to stay in familiar areas and keep in mind where the nearest open stores/businesses are.
  • Know basic self-defense.  Take some time to learn some basic self-defense moves to properly prepare you for any situation that may occur.
Ed Whitlock Dies at 86

Legend Ed Whitlock Dies at Age 86

By | Community Leaders | No Comments
Ed Whitlock

Credit: Todd Fraser/Canada Running Series

Just a week after his 86th birthday the ever so gracious and remarkably talented long distance runner Ed Whitlock has died at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto.

In a statement issued this morning his family wrote:

“The family of Ed Whitlock is saddened to report his passing on March 13, 2017, of prostate cancer at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. His 86th birthday was on March 6th. His wisdom, guidance and strength of character will be greatly missed by his wife Brenda, sons Neil and Clive, and sister Catherine. The family requests privacy at this time.”

Although he was an accomplished British club runner in high school and in university Whitlock put the sport on hold while he embarked on an engineering career in Canada. As a master’s runner, he quickly established his credentials becoming the first septuagenarian to go under the 3-hour mark with a 70+ world marathon record of 2:59:10 at the 2003 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, an event to which he became particularly attached.

Ed Whitlock

Credit: Greg Henkenhaf/Canada Running Series

A year later he improved that record with a 2:54:49 at age 73, again in Toronto. Eventually he set world master’s marathon records for age 75+, 80+ and, most recently, 85+ with a time of 3:56:38 M85 last October 16th, 2016 in Toronto. In all he set roughly 25 world master’s records over distances from 1,500m to the marathon.

Alan Brookes, the race director of the Toronto event, an IAAF Gold Label race the past three years, enjoyed a longstanding friendship with Whitlock.

“We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Ed Whitlock, The Master. The Legend. This is an enormous loss to Canada and the global running community. Somehow we thought Ed would just go on setting records forever. We are especially saddened at Canada Running Series.

“We grew up with Ed. He won many of his 20+ year-old shoes at our Series’ races in the ’90s and, in many ways, he defined our Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. He will always be a vital part of the identity and spirit of that race.

“In 2003 Ed shocked the entire running world when at age 72 years he ran 2:59:10 at STWM, to become the first 70-year old on the planet to go under the magical 3-hour mark. Ed was, overnight, every marathon runner’s hero. He then ran the 2:54 with us the next year – a race he often said was his finest performance.

Ed Whitlock

Credit: Photo Run

“Over the next couple of years, the STWM grew from 935 to 2,526 participants and keeps growing. ‘Don’t limit yourself,’ was one of Ed’s key messages, and it was one we latched onto. It gave us the vision and the inspiration of what STWM could become.

“We travelled many miles together. He will be deeply missed, but his indomitable spirit, his love of racing, his modesty and inspiration, and so many unforgettable Ed memories, will be with us always.”

Whitlock’s story has been told in periodicals around the world. He lived a hundred yards from Milton’s Evergreen Cemetery where he did his daily training. It consisted of laps of the cemetery for hours. With his customary sense of humour he called it ‘very fast walking.’

“I actually got up to three and a half hours this time,” he said after his most recent marathon record. “The thing is three hours doesn’t do it any more. That’s the hell of it. I need four hours now. And it’s only going to get worse.”

Ed Whitlock

Credit: Action Sports International

At races all over the world he was approached by runners of all ages who wanted pictures with him as well as autographs. The attention made him a little uncomfortable.

“I don’t know how to respond to them. Well how do you respond to that?” he said with a laugh. “I suppose it’s nice for people to say I inspire them but I am somewhat embarrassed and I don’t know what the appropriate response is to that.

“I don’t consider myself to be an inspiring person. I am not one to stand up on the stage and say ‘you all can do this.’”

An inspiration to millions around the world, a reluctant one perhaps, but a gracious one nonetheless.

Article by Paul Gains

Running Solo

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By: Katrina Allison, Speed River Track and Field Club.
Photo Credit: Michael P Hall.

My name is Katrina Allison, and I am a 10,000m runner with Speed River TFC. I was born in Vancouver where I was introduced to the sport through the Thunderbirds Track Club, and then attended the University of Guelph where I competed for four and a half years as a Gryphon. Recently I have taken on my next academic chapter, where I am studying to become a naturopathic doctor in Toronto. I am now running post-collegiately, and am still coached by Dave Scott-Tomas and the Speed River group in Guelph. I’m currently gearing up for an outdoor track season after suffering an injury that put me out for the 2016 season.

Most runners would agree that running is an activity best enjoyed alongside their closest training partner or community running group. However, many of us will find ourselves lacing up alone at some point or another. While having a training group provides structure, a social outlet, and a little friendly competition, running on your own can also have benefits. The key is approaching solo workouts with the right mindset.

  • Stick to a schedule. If training on your own for an extended period of time, the flexibility of being able to fit workouts and runs into your own personal timetable is a definite plus, however it can also lead to a loss of accountability. If you procrastinate a run because there’s no group to notice your absence, it may lead to runs being skipped or pushed off. I recommend planning out your week’s workouts ahead of time. That way you can still navigate social events, work or school obligations, all while ticking off your training plan.
  • Download an upbeat playlist. Or don’t! If the hardest part of a solo run is getting out the door, having some tracks on hand that energize you and make you want to move can definitely do the trick. That being said, don’t be afraid of running sans tunes. You’ll be amazed at how therapeutic a run can be when you allow your mind to wander without the bombardment of the latest beats. Before you know it, you’ll be back at your door with a clearer mind and a few km’s in your legs.
  • Use GPS sparingly. Without the pressure of your training partner breathing down your neck, it may seem difficult to push yourself to the pace you know you’re capable of running. This is when a GPS watch can help give you an indicator if you’re way off pace, or right where you need to be. If you know what pace you normally run with a group, you can use that as a bench mark for solo workouts. But don’t berate yourself if you’re a second or two off pace; the mental toughness aspect of your workout is definitely higher than when you’re just coasting behind your workout buddy.
  • Change it up. Workouts can get monotonous when you don’t have playful banter to make the miles blow by. It may be helpful to constantly keep your body and mind guessing by trying new things. If the thought of doing the same set of mile repeats around the same park at the same time every Tuesday makes you sick to your stomach, it’s definitely time for some creativity. Hit the track one week, followed by trails the next. Throw in some hills, try change of pace workouts, find a cross training modality, and add in some strength training. Your fitness and your sanity will thank you.
  • Appreciate the chance to listen to your body. As much as running with others helps us to push ourselves, it can also cause us to push ourselves too hard. Training solo even one or two days a week can help you stay in tune with what you’re body is telling you, and give you the chance to comply with your body’s needs. You may even notice earlier indicators of overuse injuries that would have been drowned out by the latest recount of Game of Thrones with your pals. Go the pace that best facilitates your recovery and preparation for the next big race or workout, and check in with how your body is coping with your recent training.

How Important is Sleep for Runners?

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Sleep is probably the most under appreciated tool in a runner’s toolbox as it helps to prevent injury and rebuild muscle.  But in a world where working into the wee hours of the night is considered a badge of honour, it could be negatively impacting your training.  Lack of sleep can affect us in many different ways and these are some of the most crucial effects to be aware of:

  • Brain function: anyone who hasn’t had enough sleep and has to go to work/school can attest to what a struggle it is to be productive.  The foggy-brained feeling can lead to a decrease in creativity, and increases the chance of giving up on a complex problem.
    Not only that, emotions and anxiety run high when we’re sleep deprived.  A lot of problem solving, decisions, and judgements are made while we sleep; if we don’t allow the natural processing of information, it can cause increased stress and lower cognitive functioning.
  • Tired eyes.  Nodding off during a boring lecture, meeting or while working on an assignment is a big indicator that you haven’t had enough sleep.  Having 6 hours or less of sleep triples your risk of being in a motor vehicle accident.
    When we nod off, it’s because we are actually having a “microsleep” where we actually fall asleep for a few seconds at a time.  This occurs especially during monotonous tasks like driving and can be incredibly dangerous.  Not only that, our hand-eye coordination is impaired, which is why a lot of note taking looks rather messy when you’re tired!
  • Altered diets.  When we lack sleep, our body tends to crave food as a of boosting our energy levels.  These cravings are usually for high-carb, calorically dense foods such as dessert, chips, pasta and bread.
    There are two important hormones that are released throughout the day that signal hunger and satiation: leptin signals to our body that we’re full; whereas ghrelin sends signals out that we’re hungry.  Leptin levels increase as the day progresses, and peak at nighttime.

    If you’re staying awake late at night, there is an increased ghrelin release to convince the body that it’s hungry, even when it doesn’t need more food.  This malfunctioning hormone signals put people at risk for weight gain if they’re continually sleep deprived.

  • Heart risks.  Chronic sleep deprivation can put increased stress on your heart and put you at risk of developing hypertension and increased blood pressure.  Sleep is when the most cell regeneration occurs, and as your blood vessels constantly regenerate, they are highly sensitive to any changes in that process.
    If the blood vessels aren’t properly repaired while resting, it can lead to stiffness in the arteries, and reduce your healing efficiency.  Neither of which are good things when you’re placing demands on your heart and vessels during hard interval sessions!
  • Impaired immune system.  Lack of sleep can boost the inflammation in your body.  Not only does that affect your chances of gaining weight, developing diabetes and increased heart risks, it can make you more vulnerable to getting sick.  Getting at least 7 hours of sleep can help ward off the seasonal cold.

Conquer Hill Training with these Four Workouts

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Hill training is one of the pillars of any runner’s workout program.  Through the course of a season, the type of hill training can vary from short, explosive hills, to longer hill repeats, to runs on a hilly course depending on the purpose of the workout.

There are many benefits of including hill training into your running program, with the most obvious being added strength and power.  Running uphill requires increased muscle recruitment from our main movers which improves their muscle endurance and neuromuscular responsiveness.  Not only do hills benefit runners from a physiological standpoint, but they can help to improve form, posture, cadence and efficiency.  It’s difficult to run with poor form on hills as the uphill propulsion requires a runner to be on their toes, with a slight forward lean from the ankles, and a higher cadence to drive you up the hill.  The less time you spend on the ground, the quicker your feet move, and the faster you get up the hill!  Hills provide similar speed and strength benefits as track workouts without too much impact on the body.  This is essentially why a lot of programs have hills as an integral part of any off-season and start-of-season training.  It helps get the body into shape, increases speed and power, without the risk of injury.

So what types of workouts are there and what’s the best way to execute them?

1. Short, explosive sprints:

As these workouts are short and powerful, they are not a primary fitness-building workout, but are a great tool for working on form and efficiency.  There are two main purposes to these workouts.  They work on activating and improving neuromuscular system function which is the main communication between the brain and the muscles. By improving this system, the speed of signaling from the brain to the muscles increase and you’re able to recruit more muscle fibers to create more powerful movements.  Second, these hills enhance the heart’s maximal stroke volume, which is the amount of blood pumped out with every heartbeat.  The more blood pumped out in a single beat will decrease one’s heart rate, resulting in a more efficient heart.

During a workouts, the hills are a maximum of 30 seconds long, with a gradient of 5-15%. Using one’s anaerobic system, the athlete can focus on an efficient running technique with vigorous arm movements, high knee lift, with the hips kept high and forward to utilize our big muscles groups like the glutes, quads and hamstrings.

How to do it: Start with four or five reps of 50–100m (10–30 seconds) up a steep hill, then build up over a few sessions to eight to 12 reps. For recovery, walk back down the hill and wait until 2–3 minutes have passed.

2. Medium hills

Starting to get into hill repeats, medium hills take between 30-90 secs to run up.  They combine the benefits of the short, explosive hills as listed above, as well as stressing one’s muscular endurance and tolerance of lactic acid. Combining the anaerobic system of the short, steep hills, and the aerobic component of a longer duration interval will build up your blood lactate as you go up the hill; aka your legs start to burn and you have to keep going.

How to do it: Choose a grade of hill that still allows you to run near race pace, about 6-10%.  Similar to the short hills, form is key: a good knee drive; hips pushed forward; and the back is upright. Aim to increase the number of reps about 1-2 every time a medium hill workout is on the training schedule.  Using a slow jog to get to the bottom of the hill again is a big part of your recovery between intervals.  When you’re just starting out do about 8-10 repeats, and increase gradually each time you do the workout.

3. Long hills

The longest hill intervals are between 90 sec to 3 minutes long.  These sessions are best for people wanting to improve their hill running skills and improve their aerobic fitness and muscle strength.  Compared to strength training in the gym, hills are a functional way to increase the muscles capacity to withstand intensity while working the muscles necessary for running fast: muscles surround the hips, glutes and quads.  Most of your energy comes from aerobic sources, but there will still be a bit of lactic acid buildup in the legs, but it’ll feel more like muscle fatigue compared to the burning muscles the shorter intervals provide!

How to do it: Due to the broad spectrum of duration for these longer intervals, note that the further you’re going, the less intensity you can apply.  When starting out aim for 6-8 hill repeats lasting over 1 minute each, and build in a few more reps every time you repeat this workout.  It’s a great simulation of longer track intervals without the pounding.

4. Rolling hills

While hill intervals won’t necessarily make you a better runner on a hilly course, incorporating a hilly route for long runs/tempos will be useful.  Knowing what kind of course your goal race is going to be on will help you determine just how hilly your runs needs to be.  Doing longer efforts on a rolling course will allow you to maintain your pace while going up and down hills, as well as on a flat surface.  If you attack a hill too hard early into the race, you could tax your legs and suffer during the race before you expected.

How to do it: Try to maintain the same effort going up and down hills; you’ll naturally go faster on the downhill without increasing your effort. Not only that, but running downhill at a decent effort is great practice too. Hilly routes will work your muscles in both concentric and eccentric contractions and will prepare the body for the pounding of running downhill.