Eric Gillis, Dayna Pidhoresky have convincing victories at 33rd Annual Harry’s Spring Run Off


… and a HUGE THANKS to everyone who came out to make the 33rd Harry’s Spring Run Off such a great day yesterday — runners, walkers, spectators, volunteers, fundraisers, costume runners, sponsors. Here’s my Race Report. We’re posting a bunch of VIDEO clips onto YouTube from my new toy, the Flip Video Camcorder as well. But I’ve tried to link to some of the ones we already have posted, in the Report below. For updates, new postings, keep your eye on the Canada Running Series & Toronto Waterfront Marathon Facebook pages, and my tweets  ( @alnbrookes ).

Two weeks to Montreal! It promises to be a special one…

The Start. Eric Gillis leads the charge at 33rd Annual Harry's Spring Run Off 8K.

TORONTO. April 2nd. Eric Gillis of Guelph’s NB Speed River Track Club and Windsor’s Dayna Pidhoresky both notched convincing early-season victories at the 33rd Annual Harry’s Spring Run Off 8K in High Park this morning. Gillis crossed the line in 24:20, almost a minute ahead of club-mate Cleve Thorson.  Danny Kassap, returning for his first race in two years, following set-backs from his heart attack in the 2008 Berlin Marathon, was a jubilant 3rd in 25:43. Pidhoresky finished in 27:41, a comfortable 37 seconds in front of runner-up Emily Tallen of Kingston. London’s Leslie Sexton was 3rd in 28:27, with defending champion Lucy Njeri, who had won the last 3 years in a row, a disappointing 5th. They were part of a record, sell out crowd of 5,000 that packed into Toronto’s most picturesque park on a glorious sunny morning.  The 8K had 2,600 participants, the 5K another 2,200, and 200 kids started the new Children’s 800m dash. Combined, they raised an impressive $350,000 for prostate cancer research at Princess Margaret Hospital, on what was a special morning at “Opening Day” for running in Toronto.   

Eric Gillis breaks the tape in 24:20 to retain his title at Harry's Spring Run Off 8K

 Both Gillis and Pidhoresky took off hard from the opening horn, on the challenging High Park course. It was a perfect morning for running: bright blue, sunny skies, 6 degrees at the start and 10 degrees by the time the mid-packers were finishing and the 5K was starting. “It’s always nice to get a win,” said Gillis who entered the contest as defending champion. “I took it out at a good effort. I was just supposed to get a ‘rust buster’ out of this race. I haven’t raced since the marathon (Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront, 2:12:08) last September. It was a good solo effort; a good time for me now, for where I’m at.”  It set up the Spring nicely for Gillis – who was never challenged – to go onto some fast 10Ks at Vancouver SunRun, Sporting Life Toronto 10K and Ottawa Race Weekend 10K. “I’d like to run a PR at 10K this Spring,” Eric said. “Definitely to get under 29 minutes – 28-something. Then I’ll take a bit of a break, and then start the 200km weeks of marathon training for Scotia Toronto Waterfront in October, and hopefully an Olympic qualifying time (sub 2:11:30).”

Dayna Pidhoresky takes women's title at 2011 Harry's Spring Run Off 8K in 27:41

 Dayna Pidhoresky showed why she is an exciting new talent on the Canada Running Series scene, as she cruised to victory, just 6 days after hammering the field at last Sunday’s Around the Bay 30K. “My legs were really sore after Around the Bay,” said Pidhoresky. “But by Thursday I started to feel good again, and had a bit of speed back. I was just going for the win today, then ease up in the last bit, to save it for Montreal.” Starting her first real year on the roads after a surprise 1:13:15 half marathon debut in Detroit last October, that got everyone’s attention, Dayna served notice today.  The Canadian Half marathon Championships in Montreal is on April 17th, where it appears she can provide a good challenge to Athletics’ Toronto’s Megan Brown, for the National title.

Behind Gillis and Pidhoresky, the day unfolded in equally memorable fashion. As Toronto’s oldest continuously-held road race, the Spring Run Off is steeped in tradition and a sense of occasion. Today was no exception. In keeping with tradition, Piper Dave McGonigal led the runners to the start. After 30 seconds of silence to remember Mark Dailey, “The Voice of Toronto” and regular MC at the race who lost his battle to prostate and other cancers in December, Councillors Sarah Doucette and Mike Layton sounded the horn. They then went off to flip pancakes at the Pancake Breakfast in support of High Park Initiatives, a year-round nature-educational programme for kids at the park. As well as the fleet of foot, the field was swelled by charity and fun runners, vying for the “Best Costume” and fundraising awards. Best Costume went to a Sasquatch (a $100 gift certificate to Harry Rosen menswear). The Globe and Mail team, led by Captain, CEO and prostate cancer survivor Phillip Crawley, won the team title, by raising more than $20,000 for the cause.  The Survivorship Team came second, raising in excess of $12,000, captained on the day by Councillor Mike Layton representing the Layton family and his father Jack – a prostate cancer survivor – who was absent, engaged in another race. It should be noted that the Globe Team included editor Amberly McAteer, “The Reluctant Runner” columnist, who not only showed up but completed the 5K in 38:14!  

Sasquatch conquers Spring Road Hill to take "Best Dressed" award.

A spirited Master’s race was won by Montreal’s Terry Gehl in 26:21, some 21 seconds clear of Ottawa’s Rich Minichiello, who narrowly defeated him for the 2010 Canada Running Series Masters’ title, setting the stage for some good head-to-head re-matches throughout 2011. Brockville’s Paula Wiltse handily took the Women’s Master’s crown in 29:50.

The day concluded with a spirited 800m dash for kids 5 to 13 years old. A new addition to the Harry’s Spring Run Off tradition, it gave much evidence of the energy, enthusiasm, new talent and bright future this event provides to each Toronto Spring, each Canada Running Series season, to the sport, healthy lifestyles and the fight against prostate cancer.

Complete Results:

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