TORONTO September 28th. Defending “Neighbourhood Champions” St.Lawrence are going all out to retain their title in this year’s Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, Half & 5K, on October 14th. As part of this effort, they’ve announced that internationally acclaimed “livable cities” guru, Gil Penalosa, will be one of their “Champions” this year, going the distance not only to win the $6,000 prize from Scotiabank as Toronto’s most-vibrant Waterfront neighbourhood, but to raise additional pledges to support the breakfast programmes at the Market Lane Public School and the Downtown Alternative School. Penalosa will be running the 21K distance.
The former Commissioner of Parks & Recreation for Bogota, Columbia, is now Toronto based, as Executive Director of 8-80 Cities, but is continuously travelling the globe, advising decision makers and communities on how to create vibrant and healthy cities for all: from 8 to 80 years old. His focus is the design and use of parks and streets as great public places, as well as on walking and cycling for recreation and transportation. Gil is passionate about cities for people, regardless of age, gender, and social, economic or ethnic background.
We recently caught up with him – where else but on the road – and had the chance to ask him a couple of questions about running and city-building, a passion that STWM Race Director Alan Brookes (a former Canadian History Professor) also shares.
STWM: Why are you running the STW Half?
GP: I’m running the STWM 21K (I do not like “half” it’s too much fun and effort to call it “half”) because I want to support the St Lawrence Neighbourhood as well as to enjoy the gorgeous scenery along the streets of Toronto. We’ll be going through some great neighbourhoods, with trees that are already starting to change colours so the view will be magnificent and the scene of enjoying it with thousands of running colleagues will be most fun.
STWM: Why is running important to you (in your life)?
GP: Running is great for my mental, emotional and physical health. It is a time of “me with me” which allows me to think, dream while doing some exercise. I travel much and running is the best way to see cities and enjoy places. As an example, in the past 12 days I have been in Calgary, Red Deer, Toyama City, Tokyo, Mexico City, Villahermosa, Guadalajara, Toronto, St. Louis, today Alexandria, Friday Minneapolis, and Sunday Águeda in Portugal. I have gone for a run in 80% of those cities; it takes away the jet lag, and I feel like “I landed” in the city, once I watch the streets, some parks, sidewalks, store windows…and especially people of all ages doing multiple activities. This provides me with enjoyment and a feeling that I could not get on a car where I would not have the direct contact or walking where I would not cover the same area.
STWM: How does running intersect with your broader, “liveable cities” strategies/views?
GP: When we look at cities from the air, the largest public space are the streets; by “public” I mean the space that belongs to all: young and old, men and woman, rich and poor…all. How are we going to use them? It is not just to move cars from point A to point B; we create community on the streets, meet people, develop relationships, enjoy stores. The streets are magnificent places where we meet as equals and develop a sense of belonging, to the City, the country, to humanity.
Gil is now set up to take online pledges for the Breakfast Programmes in St.Lawrence schools.
The St.Lawrence Neighbourhood invites everyone who is not running on Sunday 14th to come out to their award-winning cheering site in Berczy Park at Wellington & Church, enjoy great atmosphere, entertainment, food, and the neighbourhood’s great pubs and restaurants. Oh, and cheer on the thousands of runners as they go by, in our wonderful, liveable city!