42 for 24. By Dan Way

TORONTO August 3rd 2014. Digital Champion Dan Way is a familiar face among the Toronto running community. He started running and training seriously in 2010 after moving to the city to attend graduate school. Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon 2014 will be Dan’s 7th marathon. It was also his debut/first marathon back in 2011. Dan considers STWM to be his “hometown” race and is working hard to run another PB in 2014. Connect with Dan on Twitter @DansWay07 and on his blog.

42 for 24. By Dan Way.

Alan_vs_DanWayI’m not sure how it started or who initiated the wager, but when I line up at the start of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon on Sunday, October 19th, there will be much more than just personal bests and pride at stake.

My goal, as always, will be to run as fast and as hard as I possibly can and to leave nothing out on the roads. But as I cross the finish after 42.2K, there will be one more reason and a bit of extra incentive to glance up at the clock and hope for a fast time. That being an ice-cold case of my favourite brand of brews.

Yes, that’s right: I’m running for beer! 42K for 24 beers. My prize if I’m fast enough. To do so I need to run faster than than Race Director, Alan Brookes did some 31 years before! 2:34:39 or better. Not my personal best time, but the time I nonetheless will aim to beat at STWM.

Few people truly appreciate the vast amount of time and energy that is spent planning and preparing in the days, weeks and months ahead of race day. Not just by those training to run the race, but perhaps more so by those working to organize it. This is especially true of a world-class event like STWM, which hosts some 25,000 participants as well as thousands more volunteers, spectators and race day officials.

In the past decade or so, there is one person who has done more to grow and develop the sport and activity of recreational running and racing in Canada. Working tirelessly and endlessly behind the scenes to ensure that each and every event detail has been taken care of. Catering to those at the front setting national records, those in the middle running for personal bests, as well as those further back raising hundreds and thousands of dollars to support worthy causes. STWM is but one of several exceptionally organized and implemented events hosted by the Canada Running Series, a small but committed organization responsible for many of the best running events in the country. Many could recognize their tireless and tenacious leader. Many more would not.

Fewer still know that on October 2nd, 1983 (some three years before I was even born), Alan Brookes ran his fastest 42.2K at the Toronto Marathon on some of the same very streets that I and 25,000 others will run on Oct. 19th, more than 31 years later.

2:34:40.

A personal best of some three minutes and a time he would never better in his five or so years of competitive club running. In fact, when asked about his subsequent races, Brookes seemed more proud of having run several 3:30 and even 4:00+ marathons with friends and fellow members of the running community. This included the 100th anniversary of the Boston Marathon in 1996, as well as running internationally in Berlin and London.

At the peak of his training Brookes was running 80+ miles per week in and around his native Guelph, Ont. as a member of the Waterloo County 3As (Amateur Athletics Association). Brookes says his number one motivation to train was simply “to beat the other guys [in the club]!” Brookes didn’t shy away from giving due credit to his club, his coach (Vic Matthews) and his many teammates who pushed and pulled him through the rigorous workouts and training. He’s convinced that being in a group, as part of a team, made much of the difference in how successful and how satisfying his running and training would be.

I couldn’t help but draw striking similarities Black Lungs Dan Wayto my own amateur running ‘career’ running and training here in Toronto with my own club, ‘the Black Lungs’ who offer endless support and motivation. Brookes is quick to credit part of the surge in running popularity to the growing number of run clubs and crews: especially among youngish, urban types, like myself, who seek the camaraderie that comes with belonging to a committed and at times competitive community. These crews can now be found filling the streets, tracks and trails of cities across the country at seemingly all times of the year. The loneliness of the long distance runner is no more, or at least it need not be!

Brookes is excited to see the running community continue to grow and flourish. He’s proud to be a part of it and his involvement and activism should be applauded. Brookes is an outspoken proponent of the sport of running at all levels as well as for the continued emphasis and importance of recreational running for physical health, emotional wellness and community spirit.

We all have our own reasons to run. We all embark on our own journeys to train, run and race. Brookes has been there before. He’s been an athlete, is now an organizer and has always been an activist. Before the races begin, we all owe a great amount of thanks and praise to those like Alan Brookes. Thanks to him, I will line up on Oct 19th with a greater appreciation and immense respect for the work of event organizers and directors.

And if I can beat Brookes’ time of 2:34:40, I’ll also get a cold case of beer to toast him with!

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