Loiselle – Nakluski; Pidhoresky-McKay/Korir-Van Buskirk to square off at Harry’s Spring Run Off as “Run Canada Month” at CRS gets underway

TORONTO. April 4th. The 34th annual Harry’s Spring Run Off 8K & 5K to fight prostate cancer gets underway at 10am on Saturday morning in Toronto’s scenic High Park, with forecasts of glorious weather conditions (sunny with high of +16). The event is steeped in tradition as Toronto’s oldest-continuously-held road race, with pipers, maple syrup, and the promise of more great challenges over its rolling course that features the famous “Spring Road Hill” climax to the final 600m of both 8K and 5K races. Traditionally, it has always signalled “Opening Day” for running in Toronto. This is an especially approriate billing this year as Harry’s Spring Run Off also kicks off Canada Running Series and the inaugural “Run Canada Month” celebrations in the East. A new initiative from Athletics Canada (see website), the member Federation of the IAAF and governing body of running in Canada, NCM is reaching out to a broader base of running enthusiasts with the goal of promoting the sport, healthy lifestyles, particularly greater fitness among kids, and connecting the “sharper end of the sport” with the masses of recreational runners. Appropriately, Harry’s Spring Run Off also features a 800m Children’s Run for those between 8 and 13 years old. 

1994 Start of Spring Run Off. An epic race that included former World Record holder Daniel Komen, Olympic marathon silver medalist John Treacy of Ireland & US Olympian Ed Eyestone, Ottawa's John Halvorsen; plus Kenyan legend Sally Barsosio and Canada's Jaqueline Gareau!

Over 4 decades, the legendary hills of High Park have seen some spectacular battles amongst some of Canada’s and the world’s best, and this year will be no exception.  Up front on the 

"Game face on!" Matt Loiselle battling his way around the Banque Scotia 21K de Montreal course last Spring, where he was 2nd only to Reid Coolsaet

Men’s side, Athletics Toronto’s Matt Loiselle — Canada’s two-time National Half-marathon Champion who also trains regualrly in High Park – is all set to duel it out with Kitchener’s  Derek Nakluski, winner of the 2011 Around the Bay Road Race. To break the tape, they will have to overcome a strong challenge from Kenyan-Canadians Josephat Ongeri (who now lives in Hamilton) and Amos Munyua, plus Kenyan Kibet Rutto. 

The Women’s race gives promise of a similarly tasty tussle as defending race and Canada Running Series champion Dayna Pidhoresky of Tecumseh, ON, will have to fend off serious challenges from Tarah McKay-Korir and Kate Van Buskirk, plus Kenyans Lucy Njeri (the 2009 & 2010 Women’s winner at Harry’s) and Mary Mwangi if she is to start out Canada Running 2012 with a “W”. (for two wonderful, in-depth, pre-race interviews with Dayna and Tarah — up-and-coming Canadian stars — see Pauls Gains recent features: Dayna and Tarah). 

The Men’s and Women’s Masters’ (40+) Divisions will also be highly competitive on Saturday, with Montreal’s Terry Gehl and Ottawa’s Rich Minichiello going head-to-head. They finished 1-2 in the 2011 CRS Masters’ standings after a year-long, see-saw battle. Brockville’s Paula Wiltse (2nd overall in CRS11 Standings) will need to fight off new Masters’ runner and former National Marathon Champion Lioudmila Kortchaguina, plus Nathlie Goyer of St-Bruno, QC if she is to start the season on a winning note.      

“The Spring Run Off is always VERY special to me,” says Race Director Alan Brookes. “I’ve been Race Director since 1986! It signals Spring and all the hopes and dreams of a new season. High Park is a magnificent venue — arguably one of the most-scenic urban courses in North America — and its’ cosy, traffic-free confines and loop courses are highly conducive to spectators. That last hill is always lined with folks yelling encouragement. It reminds me of the Tour de France!”. 

Sasquatch comes off the top of Spring Road Hill in fine form last year!

But Harry’s Spring Run Off  has grown up with the sport over the last 4 decades, and “is about SO much more than just the races up front,” says Brookes. “Perhaps that’s the secret of it’s continued huge popularity; it’s changed and adapted with the times. It’s about tradition, but also new, innovation and the latest tends and top-quality organization.” With key, title sponsor Harry Rosen Inc., it has become an important fundraiser for reasearch at the Prostate Centre at Princess Margaret Hospital. Jack Layton was out to support the cause by walking the 5K two years ago, and son, Councillor Mike Layton continues this tradition. This year, he will be Honourary Starter for both the 8K and 5K, then jump in to run the 5K. Everyone’s combined fundraising efforts are expected to generate over $300,000 for the Prostate Centre. And Councillor Sarah Doucette will again be out to officially “Welcome” everyone to High Park and help flip pancakes to support High Park Nature Centre. 

“High Park on a glorious Spring morning. Spring Road Hill (down it as well as up!), Grenadier Pond, a great souvenir t-shirt, runners’ cap and shoe bag, fabulous Finishers’ medals for everyone, pipers, pancakes, maple syrup and a great cause, plus spectators cheering themselves hoarse for you all around the course! Where else would you want to be?” says Brookes. 

While the 8K is sold out, there are still 200 places available in the 5K. You can sign up today (Wednesday) and Thursday between 11am and 8pm at the Commerce Court Running Room (Details).

Final Elite Start List for 2012 Harry’s Spring Run Off 8K is now posted.

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