TORONTO. April 7th. It was an absolutely magnificent morning in High Park for the 34th annual Harry’s Spring Run Off 8K & 5K to fight prostate cancer. Bright blue skies, sunshine, temperatures around 8 degrees, low humidity and no wind welcomed the sold-out crowd of almost 5,000 in the two events. It was “Opening Day” for Canada Running Series in the East, and a fine launch for the inaugural “Run Canada Month”. There was a buzz in the air, a sense of occassion. And the races, especially the competitive 8K did not disappoint. Thirty-seconds of silence was observed immediately before the 10am Start to remember Jack Layton, a great supporter of Harry’s Spring Run Off, the Canada Running Series and the cause. Councillors Mike Layton, Mary Fragedakis, Sarah Doucette, MP Peggy Nash and MPP Cheri DiNovo were all on hand to add to the sense of occassion (with Layton & Fragedakis also running the 5K). By the time the running was done, Athletics Toronto’s Matt Loiselle (23:55) and St.Clements, Ontario’s Tarah McKay-Korir (27:12) were crowned as new Champions, and the Prostate Centre at Princess Margaret Hospital went home $300,000 better off. Over the 7 years of Harry Rosen Inc.’s title sponsorship of the Spring Run Off, over $2 million has now been raised to fight prostate cancer.
“It was a perfect day for racing,” said Loiselle. “I love running in High Park, and there was good competition for the first race of the year.” Canada’s 4th ranked Men’s marathoner had initially hoped to be taking a final run at the Canadian Olympic standard at Rotterdam Marathon next weekend, but a minor injury setback earlier in the year derailed those plans. Yet it was clear today that the 27 year-old who trains regularly in High Park with Coach Hugh Cameron, is coming back into strong form. “Josephat (Ongeri of Hamilton) took it out pretty quick. We were about 2:50 at the K,” said Loiselle. “There was a pack of us until between 3k and 4k. I just wanted to make a move on the (Centre Road) hill there, and push hard to the end.” After halfway, the lead group was down to three, with Loiselle, Kenya’s Kibet Rutto and Kitchener’s Derek Nakluski. By 5k Loiselle was out ahead and the battle was for second. Ongeri paid for his early aggression and dropped well back to leave Nakluski and Rutto to sprint up the last, gut-wrenching 600m Spring Road Hill. Nakluski finally broke the Kenyan over the last 200m, to take a 7 second advantage 24:11 to 24:18. “I fell back after 5k,” said Nakluski. “But I battled and was able to get him on THE hill!” (see the post-race VIDEO interview with Matt Loiselle).
The Women’s contest was perhaps even more absorbing, as both Tarah McKay-Korir and 1500m track star, Kate Van Buskirk of Athletics Toronto, made their Canada Running Series debut’s this morning, bringing exciting new talent to the roads. McKay-Korir’s winning Women’s time was the fastest in a decade at Harry’s, since Lioudmila Kortchaguina ran 26:51 in 2002. Van Buskirk is coached by former Canadian 1500m record-holder Dave Reid, whose family, along with the Dyons and the Camerons, founded the Spring Run Off in 1979 as the first “money-race” in Canada. She was effusive about the experience:
Great morning at Harry’s Spring Run Off; gorgeous weather, solid competition, amazing energy, and a course that feels like home! I thought that 8km would put me a little out of my element, but I guess all those 10-milers in the hills of Clermont (Florida) have kicked the strength up a notch. Thank you Alan Brookes & CRS for a wonderful first experience at the Canada Running Series…so proud to be racing on Canadian soil again!!
But it was Tarah who stole the show! “It was a lot hillier than I expected,” she said. “But I managed to conquer the hills and come out on top. I took it out hard with the downhill. I wasn’t planning on going out that fast, but because of the downhill (at 1.5k) I found myself in front”. It was a lead she never relinquished. “She’s a tough runner and maintained that gap,” said Van Buskirk. Despite coming home third, defending race and CRS Champion, Dayna Pidhoresky of Tecumseh, was also happy with the morning’s work. “I was off for a while in the winter (with an injury), and recovering from the Around the Bay 30K two weeks ago. This was just a good race to get in, and I look forward to progressing as the season goes on.” (see the post-race VIDEO interview with Tarah, Kate and Dayna).
Perhaps the best race of the morning fell to the Masters’ Men. Terry Gehl of St-Charles, QC and Ottawa’s Rich Minichiello battled each other all through CRS 2011, and they picked up where they left off. “It was a tight race to the line,” said Gehl. “I was dead on THE (final Spring Road) hill. He was coming on me, and I was just trying to hang on to the end. I didn’t know I was going to win ‘til I crossed the line.” Gehl ran 26:05 to take the title by a second. Brockville’s Paula Wiltse took the Women’s Masters’ crown in 29:34, and it was great to see Lioudmila Kortchaguina second in 30:11 – just three months after the birth of her son, Anton. (see post-race VIDEO interview with Terry Gehl).
Most of the top finishers will continue to celebrate Run Canada Month with the Canada Running Series by moving onto compete in the Toronto Yonge Street 10K (formerly Sporting Life Toronto 10K) on April 22nd and the Athletics Canada National Half-marathon Championships at Banque Scotia 21K de Montreal on April 29th. Van Buskirk will return to the track with hopes of an Olympic 1500m berth.
Complete Results available at http://www.canadarunningseries.com/springrunoff/csroRESULT.htm
For further information and entry to upcoming Canada Running Series events see www.RunCRS.ca