Tarah Korir Returns From Kenya to Chase Harry’s Spring Run Off Title, by Paul Gains

Tarah breaks the tape to win Harry's Spring Run Off 8K 2012

Tarah breaks the tape to win Harry’s Spring Run Off 8K 2012

TORONTO. March 18th. If history is the judge the 2014 Harry’s Spring Run Off on April 5th will generate as much excitement as any other footrace in its thirty-seven year history. Over the years this 8km race through Toronto’s picturesque High Park has attracted Olympians from the UK, Kenya, Ireland, USA as well as Canada’s best.

Indeed in 1994 an unknown Kenyan by the name of Daniel Komen set the course record of 22:35 before going on to win the 1997 IAAF World Championships 5,000m gold medal and set world records over 3,000m and 5,000m. As always the race has given runners of all abilities the chance to test themselves on a challenging but scenic course.

Krista DuChene, who powered away from the field over the final hill, is back to defend her 2013 title (26:58) but faces a quality field chief among them Tarah Korir.

Korir moved to Kenya last September following the birth of her son, Jayden. Her husband is Wesley Korir the 2012 Boston Marathon champion and now the sitting Member of Kenyan Parliament for Cherangany district – hence the move. Two years ago Tarah won Harry’s in 27:12 and then went on to win the Toronto Yonge St 10k. Both events are part of the renowned Canada Running Series.

Wesley hugs Tarah after her win at Toronto Yonge Street 10K, 2012, just 6 days after he won Boston.

Wesley hugs Tarah after her win at Toronto Yonge Street 10K, 2012, just 6 days after he won Boston.

Since January the couple’s three year old daughter, McKayla Chepchirchir, has been attending a primary school in Cherangany, which has freed up some time for her mother to get in more consistent training.

“I wasn’t that consistent for the first few months,” Korir admits. “I wasn’t really sure where we were staying with Wesley working in Nairobi – he has to be in parliament three days a week – and in Cherangany. We were back and forth a lot. I was sort of running when I could but slowly increasing the amount; a lot of easy miles.

“It was really in January that I started doing consistent training every day. I have mostly been training by myself. Some days I go running with Wesley when he goes on easy days. A guy, who is trying to get a US scholarship, has been staying with us. I run with him sometimes too. If you are staying in Nairobi the place to go, if you are a runner, is Ngong. If you get up at 6:30 in the morning you will see a lot of runners and I sometimes jump in with a group. Most of the running I do is on soft surface roads. My workouts have been some tempo runs and fartlek (speed play).”

Over the Christmas holidays Korir’s parents and sister visited her in Kenya and the time together was both social and work related. Wesley and Tarah, along with her parents, have formed the Kenyan Kids Foundation Canada a charitable organization which strives to improve education, health and wellbeing for Kenyan children. The organization is seeking charitable status (www.kenyankidsfoundation.ca). Now she has plans to race at her previous level.

“I feel that since January my fitness has been coming along,” she reports. “I am not sure it is where it was at two years ago. I don’t know I haven’t ever stayed this long in Kenya at altitude. I feel like I am getting fit again but I am not at my peak yet. I am excited to race again in a competitive environment. I always like to race close to home.”

Despite being in the midst of completing a training base with easy runs of one hour supplemented by longer tempo runs of 1.5 to two hours she has found herself in two races in Kenya already.

Kenya’s first lady, Margaret Gakuo Kenyatta, has been behind a series of half marathon races in each of the 47 counties across the country. They are in support of maternal and child health. Since Korir is a mother of two and Wesley is both a father and an MP, they decided it was a noble cause for them to run together in support of the initiative. Completing the distance has her now entertaining the notion of adding the Banque Scotia 21k de Montreal to her racing schedule when she comes to Canada for April and May.

Korir has adapted to life in Kenya. The biggest challenge, she says, has been incorporating her husband’s political career into their home life.

“I think when Wesley became an MP our lives changed in many ways,” she reveals. “It became so busy. There’s not a lot of time for the two of us. He is an MP in an area with people who constantly want to talk with him.

“The nice thing about Kenya is that most families have mother’s helpers. A lot of girls finish high school and they might help with a family for a short period of time. Makayla leaves for school early in the morning and I go for a run. The girl that stays with us stays with Jaden when I run.”

The 2014 Harry’ Spring Run Off 8k is over 90% sold out at this point and Race Director Alan Brookes promises another professionally organized event.

For more information and race registration: www.canadarunningseries.com


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Running On Tweets

TORONTO. March 16th 2014. As a recovering alcoholic Digital Champion Christa Davidson uses running to stay sober. Christa celebrates 3 years sobriety on January 15 2014 and credits her success to lacing up and pounding the pavement. Inspiring others to set and achieve their running goals is something she is passionate about. The spirit of the running community is contagious and she is proud to be part of it. Connect with Christa on Twitter @christadavidson and on her blog.

Running On Tweets.  By Christa Davidson.

Meeting Twitter friends @runningchic and @laulaubird

Meeting Twitter friends @runningchic and @laulaubird

I don’t run with a group and for the most part, I like it that way. In the past I have incurred injuries trying to keep up with other runners while out on group runs. I have learned that if I am on my own or with my one and only running partner, @tamaraconroy3, then I behave and run to my capabilities. If I am in a group situation I am always trying to keep up to the other runners so I’ll have someone to commiserate with.  Group runs are a great resource for many people, I just haven’t found a group that works for me yet.

Even though I am not the kind of person that thrives in a group situation, I do love support. How do you get support, tips, and hints and grow as a runner when you can’t access the wisdom and experience of a running group? Through social media of course!

My journey as a runner and a recovering alcoholic has been publicly supported via social media. I am an active Twitter and Facebook junkie because they serve a need I have to be accepted. The people I engage with on twitter on a regular basis are people I would call friends, even though, most of them I have never met. These friends have filled a role in
my running life and I consider them my running family. Here are some tweets I received recently:

Words of encouragement: ‘Drove past a 42.2 sticker on Hwy 11. 1st thought: Hardcore. 2nd thought: Hey, is that @christadavidson? From @coopkaryn.

Words of wisdom: ‘You will do just fine, C. Patience, persistence…keep hitting the streets & it will come together guaranteed.’ From @ultramyron.

Advice: ‘You are pronating and your feet aren’t strong enough to support the
pronation. You are overusing that stabilizing tendon.’ From @runningchic.

Social media has played a big role in my development as a runner and a recovering alcoholic. If you don’t use twitter, I invite you to give it a try to enhance your running journey. It can never hurt to have more friends and acquaintances with common interests. If you are intimidated by twitter because you aren’t sure how to navigate it, check out this article, “The Beginner’s Guide to Twitter” from Mashable.

TYS10K Christa Blog 2Once you have created your account, look me up here @christadavidson, I am always happy to interact regarding my favorite topics of running and sobriety  You can also search the hashtag (#): #TYS10k. Here you will find all the posts from people that are chatting about their training and preparation for race day.

Social media plays a big role in my life and as part of your preparation for the Toronto Yonge Street 10K and  I challenge you to give it a whirl.

P.S: By reading this blog post you have utilized social media! Let me know what you thought on twitter @christadavidson!

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DuChene Weathers the Winter for Banque Scotia 21K de Montreal Championship Defense, by Paul Gains

Krista winning last year's Banque Scotia 21K de Montreal & the Canadian Championship

Krista winning last year’s Banque Scotia 21K de Montreal & the Canadian Championship

MARCH 13. While many of Canada’s leading distance runners escaped the winter with warm weather training camps Krista DuChene has endured one of the coldest spells in history in her quest for greater success.

Fit and enthused, among other goals, the Brantford, Ontario resident now has her sights set on defending her Banque Scotia 21k de Montreal title on April 27.

The race, which is celebrating its twelfth year, doubles as the Canadian Half Marathon Championship but has also attracted international performers. Two-time World Marathon Champion Catherine Ndereba of Kenya won the race in 2008 a few months before claiming the Olympic silver medal in Beijing. The race has also attracted Canadian Olympians Reid Coolsaet (2011 champion) and Eric Gillis (2012 and 2013 champion) in past years. Gillis, in fact, is aiming for his third consecutive title.

This is the fourth year Athletics Canada has awarded the race national championship status and, at the time of writing, it is 80% sold out. The capacity of 5,700 is expected to be filled easily. Organizers are also proud that over $700,000 will be raised for 50 Montreal area charities in the Scotiabank Charity Challenge.

DuChene, a 36 year old mother of three young children, beat the long standing Canadian Women’s Marathon record at the 2013 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon with a time of 2 hours 28:32, finishing 4th overall in the IAAF Silver Label race. In order to run faster still she has resorted to extraordinary measures to put in the miles these past few months.

“Twice a week I have been setting my alarm for 4:40am to be on the road by 5:00 am no matter what the weather, to get my run in, to be back to get the kids ready for school at 7am,” she reveals. “So I go to bed at a decent time. The nice thing is, I take the boys to school, and then I have a little cat nap. It has been challenging and it has got to make me stronger.

“It has been brutal but I have got no choice other than being on the treadmill five days a week. It’s so much colder, but that’s what you get when you are a mum with kids. I don’t feel sorry for myself. It’s the life I choose and I love it. But it has been rough.”

Like the majority of Canadians Spring can’t come soon enough and she is anxious to test herself against her peers. She won the Banque Scotia 21k de Montreal a year ago in a very quick time of 1:12:28 – just 19 seconds off Tara Quinn-Smith’s 2009 course record of 1:12:09 – a time widely considered a Canadian best performance on a legal course.

Her margin of victory over Dayna Pidhoresky, the 2011 CRS overall title winner, was a whopping four minutes eleven seconds.

Krista leading Dayna Pidhoresky, on course at last year's Banque Scotia 21K de Montreal

Krista leading Dayna Pidhoresky at last year’s Banque Scotia 21K de Montreal

“I am pretty bad for remembering much about a course at all, to be honest. As many times as I have done Scotiabank and any other race I just get in the zone and look at the kilometre markings,” DuChene says laughing.

“It’s certainly fun to go there to Montreal. It’s a decent course and there are other guys to run with as well as the girls. I remember running with Terry Gehl the masters runner and a couple of other people and thinking I might be close to the Canadian Record.”

DuChene does remember running through beautiful Parc Jean Drapeau and around world renowned Gilles Villeneuve Formula One Circuit. She knows that the race will give her a very real indication of how she has fared through the bitter winter. Always, she says, she wants to ‘set the bar higher’ and improve her performances. And, over the past few years she has been one of the biggest proponents of the Canada Running Series winning the overall title in 2012.

“All of the CRS courses are so well laid out, we are taken care of, and every detail is always perfect. It’s great that you never have anything to worry about,” she explains. “Once you get there you go with the flow which makes focusing on the task great. Dayna was second last year coming back from an injury. But in past years there have been a group of people that ran together and, I mean, it would be great if we had that this year.”

Apart from her training on the roads and on the treadmill at the Brantford YMCA her days are filled with domestic activities.

“I spend some time with my daughter just reading books, drink coffee, maybe take her to a play group or the library,” she reveals. “Then I volunteer at the kids school once a week, help in the classroom, then come back and have a real nap, half an hour or so. I mean, laundry, housework dishes, laundry groceries it doesn’t end.”

Krista, jubilant, at the 2012 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon Finish Line

Krista at the 2012 STWM Finish Line

During the winter Olympics she was often parked in front of the television watching the women’s hockey. During her days as a student at the University of Guelph she played on the women’s varsity hockey team.

“I watched the women’s Olympic final game. It was pretty phenomenal,” she says laughing. “I sacrificed a nap that afternoon. I think it was one of the days I got up early.”

DuChene reveals she and coach Rick Mannen have been working on improving her speed and strength which will likely cause nerves in her competitors. Last year, it will be remembered, she won the hilly Harry’s Spring Run Off 8k in Toronto’s High Park in a fast time beating Kate Van Buskirk, who was a semi finalist in the 2013 World Championships 1,500m in Moscow.

Among her other Springtime ambitions is to run a fast 10,000m on the track at one of the two major California track and field meets.

“The goal was to work on my speed and strength and we have been doing that,” she says. “We might back off a little bit; I don’t want to run a fast 10k on the track and get an injury that takes me all through the summer to recover. Definitely I think I can run faster still. I am not sure what marathon I will do. Ideally I would like to do the Commonwealth Games in July but I am not sure if I will be named to the team because they are taking a smaller team.”

Clearly, the results of the Banque Scotia 21k de Montreal will reveal a lot about DuChene’s fitness. A successful defense of her Canadian Half Marathon title would be a fitting result given the harsh winter she has tolerated. At 36 she just keeps getting better.

For Race entries and fundraising see http://www.canadarunningseries.com/monthalf/index.htm


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Why I’ll Never Run Boston

TORONTO March 10th 2014. In 2010 Digital Champion Emily Gray cheered on runners at mile 22 of the New York City Marathon, and cried. Inspiration had hit, and she knew she had to get involved somehow. When early 2011 rolled around, on a whim, she signed up for her first half marathon and in August 2011 bit the bullet and signed up to run the 2011 NYC Marathon as a guide for a disabled athlete with Achilles. Running keeps Emily fit, sane, healthy, happy and inspired on a daily basis. She is always looking to push her own limits, run her best, and learn from every race. You can often find Emily running all over Toronto (join her! Or at least wave to her), or hitting up every gym out there to try every workout in the city. Connect with Emily on Twitter @EmilyMcGray.

Why I’ll Never Run Boston. By Emily Gray.

TYS10K Emily Blog 1

I’ve never been the first one across the finish line, even in training. Often I trudge, shuffle, complain and occasionally I full on cry. Since childhood, I’ve always been a supremely competitive person. Wanting to be the best, at the expense of being my best. Let’s face it, there are certain people who are built for the marathon…and I am not one of them. I am dense, muscular, strong and predisposed toward short powerful exercises followed by a sweet, sweet nap. When I started distance running in 2011, it pushed me so far outside my comfort zone that I found myself constantly frustrated and unable to make it through the longer distances without walking, while I could power up a hill with relative ease.

I completed my first half marathon in 2:18:36, and yes those are 36 very important seconds. At the time I didn’t really consider myself a “runner,” (because I didn’t feel I could brag about my time) more someone who had finished a half marathon. Even after my first full marathon I felt disappointment in being so far off my coworker’s projected finish time, that I missed the fact that merely finishing the race was the major accomplishment. Other runners would pass me on the course and I would get a
familiar sinking feeling in my heart and gut; “I have to keep up.” “You can’t let them pass you.” “You are weak if you walk.” “Everyone thinks you’re slow.”

Those extremely defeatist thoughts carried over into my training runs, I ignored aches and pains, and finally found myself running on a fractured foot. Somewhere along the lines I decided that I would be faster if only I could lose 5 pounds, 10 pounds…it would be easier. Somewhere I heard “To run faster, you have to run faster.” It stuck, despite my inability to apply it. Every training run I thought, “you have to run faster.” Talk about missing the point.

As I started to gain more experience and knowledge in the distance running world, I started to realize that I had to be a bigger friend to myself than I had been if I expected to continue with the sport. My body is able to do amazing things. Qualifying for Boston isn’t one of them…and that’s okay. In case you didn’t hear that: IT’S OKAY!! As I allowed that reality to sink in, I found that more and more people aren’t focusing on that elusive Boston Qualifier, but on getting across the line by whatever means possible. I found other training options that didn’t involve yelling at yourself and adopted 10 & 1′s (now 20 & 1′s), and the world continues to spin. I take a walk break every 20 minutes, training or race, and run for time rather than distance on long runs. At first I scoffed at these new techniques, but quickly found that I listen to my body, I move at my own pace, my brain is excited, happy and kind…and I run faster. And farther. Wait…what? Turns out that positivity and actively listening (and responding) to how I’m feeling makes me feel like I can accomplish the best I can. Every run.

TYS10K Emily Blog 2During my most recent marathon, I got an incredibly well timed walk break on a particularly nasty uphill section, and silently cheered. The girl next to me cried out “NO! Don’t walk!! You can do it!” I replied by slowing my strides, tipping my water bottle in the air and saying “Oh, honey, this is planned.” At the 17km mark I passed her, and never saw her again. As the half marathon runners started to overtake me on the course, I felt the familiar competitive drive kick in as I heard a pack of long, lean, towering gazelles thundered toward me. This time, however, I calmed myself. “Keep up” was replaced with “run your own race” “remember you have twice as far to go,” and (my favorite) “you are your own personal Kenyan.” I finished in 4:28:16.

My half marathon record stands at 2:05:11, and I’m chasing the 2 hour mark this season (Not to mention working toward a 52 minute 10k on April 13th!), and I couldn’t be more proud. I am a runner! Not because I run Boston, not because I run marathons, not because I can run without stopping…I am a runner because I run.

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Long Run bRUNch

TORONTO. March 8th 2014. Digital Champion Heather Gardner believes group running is a great way to promote healthy, active living and build community.  As the owner of Tribe Fitness, a Toronto fitness community with the goal of sweating for social good, Heather believes the true benefits of fitness go beyond doing a body good, to the enhanced state of mind which allows us to open our hearts, connect, and find the beauty in the everyday. Connect with Heather on Twitter @RunSoulCycle and on her blog.

Long Run bRUNch. By Heather Gardner. Tribe Brunch

There are many blog post and research articles available to tell you the importance of fueling post run – what to eat and when. While after some runs we’d rather be showering, or lying in bed, fueling is key for a speedy recovery. This post won’t tell you what to eat after you’ve drained the tank – instead, here are my three favourite Toronto restaurants to hit up for post long run #bRUNch!

3. Sadie’s Diner and Juice Bar. Located at 504 Adelaide St W. Sadie’s Diner and Juice Bar offers an extensive menu of “comfort foods, updated.” The usual omelets, pancakes,and French toast are featured on the breakfast menu along with items such as tofu scramble, which is scrambled tofu served with home fries, veggie bacon or veggie sausage and toast, as well as Huevos Rancheros, which is two eggs over easy on corn tortillas with salsa, refried beans, guacamole & cheddar cheese (there is also a tofu version of this dish). The staff are pleasant, and atmosphere is quaint (be sure to checkout their Pez wall), I do suggest bringing cash, as when I was there the debit machine was down and our whole group and to add on to our run to find some cash to pay.

I recommend: The Huevos Rancheros with scrambled eggs. View the entire menu.

2. Thompson Diner. Located at the Thompson Hotel, 550 Wellington Street W. Thompson Diner, although the most expensive brunch spot on the list, offers a variety of post run fueling options in both food and liquid form. You’ll find classic items on the menu including omelets, breakfast burritos, pancakes, and oatmeal, but you’ll also find items such as their Breakfast Poutine, made of fries, chopped turkey sausage, poached egg, hollandaise sauce and gravy, or their famous Brunch Burger, which is a beef burger with a fried egg, bacon and melted cheddar served on a powdered donut. The service here is what you’d expect from the Thompson Hotel (friendly and professional) and chances are pretty good that you might see a film star or professional athlete dining at the booth next to you. Open 24 hours.

I recommend: The buttermilk pancake with your choice of banana. blueberry, or chocolate filling. View the entire menu.

1. What A Bagel. Located at 130 Spadina Ave, What A Bagel, is a dine in and take out bakery and eatery. Their menu contains a variety of items served is sizes perfect for someone who has just rocked a long training run (they’re big with lots of sides). You can order omelets, breakfast sandwiches, a variety of specialty eggs including benedict florentine and benedict with salmon, French toast/pancakes/waffles, fresh fruit bowels you design, fresh bagels still warm or my favourite chocolate croissants hot from the oven (I’m pretty sure these are the best in Toronto – if you know of better please share!). The seating exists in a variety of configurations so they can support run clubs of larger sizes, just be sure to arrive early, because it gets packed! Weekend hours: 8am-5pm.

I recommend: Making your own custom 3 egg omelet. Get it the way you want and it’s served with sides galore! And of course you need a chocolate croissant on the side! View the entire menu.

Where do you love to eat post run? Share it in the comments!

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Wiebe v Watson; Wodak v Cliff. Modo Spring Run Off Vancouver 8k kicks off Canada Running Series by Paul Gains

Rob Watson. Game Face on!

Rob Watson. Game Face on!

The 2014 Canada Running Series kicks off in Vancouver March 23rd with the Modo Spring Run Off 8km race through picturesque – and world renowned – Stanley Park.

For many runners it’s a signal that spring is upon us and the hard winter training is behind.

There’s a lot of ‘new’ at this year’s event beginning with a new title sponsor Modo, the world’s largest car share program which is surely a suitable match for an environmentally conscious race series. And, organizers are also pleased that there is a new charity benefiting from the fundraising component.

‘Take A Hike’ strives to help ‘at risk’ youth turn their lives around with the help of adventure-based learning specialists, teachers and social workers. The program teaches life skills and attempts to repair relationships between participants and their families. Moreover, graduation from high school is high on the list of priorities.

There are many other benefits to racing this 8km too on an accurately measured, safe course. Besides the souvenir t-shirts on race day, for the first time ever, all finishers will receive participant medals.

rs_srov13-0086The elite fields are expected to be tougher than ever. As an added incentive the Canada Running Series has put up prize money for the top three male and female B.C. athletes, in addition to the regular prize money. That’s a significant gesture that recently hired B.C. Endurance Project coach, Richard Lee, is excited about.

“That’s excellent news,” Lee declares. “Any kind of support is helpful and Alan (Brookes) and Clif (Cunningham) and the Canada Running Series do a great job supporting both Canadian and local B.C. athletes. It’s great they are stepping up to that. As we all know it’s a pretty meagre existence being a full time athlete. Probably half of my group are full time athletes and trying to make a go of it off their running income. A bump in any source of income is great. Kudos to Clif and Alan for putting that together.”

Lee’s training group includes 2012 Olympic marathoner Dylan Wykes, 2013 Canadian Cross Country Champion Natasha Wodak, Rob Watson a two time world championship participant, and 2013 Vancouver Sun 10km winner Kelly Wiebe.

All but Wykes are expected to line up in Stanley Park March 23rd and challenge the men’s and women’s event records which are held by Ryan Mckenzie (23:40 – 2008) and Malindi Elmore (26:49 from 2010).

The men’s race will likely be a battle between Watson and Wiebe. While Watson has announced he will run the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon in May Wiebe is more suited to the shorter races. Over the 8k distance this will be a real test of speed. Watson it should be remembered represented Canada in the 3,000m Steeplechase at the 2009 IAAF World Athletics Championships in Berlin.

Natasha Wodak. SVHM11 058_IJ_SVHM11_1000Meanwhile Wodak leads the women’s field. In addition to winning the national cross country title last November, just a month after making her marathon debut at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, she has won two Vancouver Sun Run 10k races. She faces fellow national team member Rachel Cliff who finished second to her at the Canadian cross country championships and just a step behind in the 2013 IAAF World Cross Country Championships. They finished 24th and 25th in this global event.

Two more of Lee’s athletes, Dayna Pidhoresky, who recently moved to Vancouver from Windsor, Ontario, and 2013 B.C. Timex Women’s Road Race Series Champion Sabrina Wilkie are likely to be in the fray as well. In 2011 Pidhoresky was the CRS overall series winner and has now overcome a series of injuries.

“The Modo is the Spring litmus test to see how winter training has been going,” Coach Lee says. “It has been a bumpy road for a lot of the people in the group. For Natasha it was a new experience for her to recover from a marathon and although she ran well in the fall and won national cross I think she did that more off talent than anything.

“But now the last couple of weeks things have started to come about and people are having some really good workouts. I expect they are going to show some good fitness in the 8k.”

ENTRY is still open to all at www.springrunoff.ca


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Running Relationships

TORONTO March 5th 2014. Digital Champion Jennifer Wilson started running in the summer of 2010, completing her first race ever at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon. After crossing that accomplishment off her list, she resolved to never run again. Luckily, that one didn’t stick, and with the help of a good running buddy, she got off the treadmill and into the streets and never looked back, finishing a variety of races including her first marathon last year. Jennifer is thrilled to be a TYS10K Digital Champion this year as she also trains for what will hopefully be a sub-four 42.2K and her first triathlon. Connect with Jennifer on Twitter @jenwilsonTO and on her blog.

Running Relationships. By Jennifer Wilson

When I first laced up my trainers, it was to TYS10K Jennifer Wilson Blogrun away. I was going through a divorce and wanted something to get me out of the house and make me feel accomplished. What started as a few trips around the block led to my first half-marathon three-and-a-half months later at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.

Then, I swore I’d never run again. It took too much time, and was boring. I’d crossed it off my bucket list and that was that!

Months passed and my runners gathered dust until a friend asked me to join her for a run. I figured a quick 10K would do no harm, so I headed out. That fun run quickly turned into my second half-marathon, and one of my closest friendships. Those weekly runs became a chance to vent and brag about ups and downs in careers, romances and life in general. Three years later, we’ve both survived some major ups and downs, and we’re still putting work out dates in our calendars.

A little over a year and a half ago, I expanded my running buddy roster. After a stress fracture meant I was sidelined, just weeks before what was supposed to be my first marathon, I was inconsolable. My (fairly new at the time) boyfriend, grasping at ways to make me feel better, offered to train for my next race with me. After cautioning him that it was the 30K, notoriously hilly Around the Bay, my late-sleeping, non-running boyfriend started learning the joys of slippery sidewalks and long, slow runs. A year after our first run, we crossed the finish line of the Niagara Marathon together. Running as a couple provides a great way to de-stress together and discuss our days, plus an awesome way to explore our city and the places we travel.

Running keeps me healthy, for sure, and I love the thrill and camaraderie of race culture. But it’s also become an essential part of some of the most important relationships in my life. How’s that for motivation for getting out for a training run with a friend?

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Train. Race. Friendship.

TORONTO March 2nd 2014. After watching runners in 2012 run passed her house during the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, Digital Champion Alyssa Cheung told herself “I am going to run a marathon one day”. Little did she know that “one day” was going to be the following year. In 2013 Alyssa ran her first 10k at the Toronto Yonge Street 10K, her first half in May and finally a full marathon during STWM. It was one of the toughest yet most rewarding experiences in her life. With her first year as a “runner” in the books, Alyssa is training hard to break personal records and ultimately qualify for Boston in the coming year. Connect with Alyssa on Twitter @The_Real_Alyssa and on her blog.

Train. Race. Friendship. By Alyssa CheungTYS10K Alyssa Andrew

There is no doubt that the running community is special. We can all agree we are an odd breed of people, many of us choosing to run in negative 30 degree temperatures and call it FUN!

Through running I have made countless friendships with many inspiring and amazing athletes. Whenever I try explaining the running community to “non-running” friends (which there aren’t many of these days), they just don’t get it. So what do I do? I recruit those friends to become “running friends” as well!

One of my really close friends Andrew always told me, “one day I will run a race with you.” Well that “one day” is finally going to happen April 13th at the Toronto Yonge Street 10K!

Just 25 minutes into talking to my friend Andrew the other day, we had him signed up for his VERY FIRST RACE! The Toronto Yonge St. 10K is now the race I am most excited for this year.  Having the chance to share this race experience with a close friend means it is going to be very special.

Andrew is one of the nicest and most inspiring people I know and I am very grateful to call him my friend. When he sets out to do something, his determination and drive get him there, and there is no doubt in my mind that he will succeed on April 13th at TYS10K.

We have been keeping each other motivated thus far with training, updating each other on new milestones and setbacks. While this is Andrew’s first race, I know that it definitely won’t be his last. We all know what it’s like to be a new runner, so if you have any advice or encouragement for Andrew, please sent it his way via Twitter @cloudlocke. Tell him @The_Real_Alyssa sent you!

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Springtime Signals Launch of Canada Running Series, by Paul Gains

230_TF_HT12_0640TORONTO. February 26th.  It’s a sure sign Spring is on the way as the 2014 Canada Running Series launches with the Modo Spring Run Off 8km race in Vancouver’s picturesque Stanley Park, March 23rd.

The eight race national series offers a positive race experience for runners of all levels from beginners and recreational runners to the competitive and international class who race for prize money. And with Modo, the world’s first English speaking car share, aligning themselves with the Series the season is off to a tremendous start.

A year ago Alberta’s Kip Kangogo, a landed immigrant from Kenya, won the Vancouver Spring Run Off. It was an ominous beginning as he eventually collected enough points to win the overall CRS men’s title. Kangogo, who is a resident of Lethbridge, Alberta has declared his intention to defend his title this year.

“The CRS are the best races that we will ever have in this great nation. All the years I have been running they have always been supportive,” he declares, “Last year I wanted to be the CRS overall champion and that’s what I promised myself from the beginning of the season. When my daughter was born in June I said ‘I want to win Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon for my daughter Emma.’ Then after that race I said to myself ‘I have got to win the overall.’

Victory at last! For Kip Kangogo at TYS10K, after 3rd place in 2011 and 2nd last year.

Victory at last! For Kip Kangogo at TYS10K, after 3rd place in 2011 and 2nd last year.

“I was very close to (Olympian) Eric Gillis in points. I knew I was not going to run Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon because I was going to run the Victoria Marathon so I said the only way I could beat Eric is to go to the Oasis Zoo Run 10K in Toronto. After beating him at Toronto Yonge Street I wanted another race that would give me an advantage over him. So I went to the Zoo run going head to head against Eric Gillis.”

Lanni Marchant, who has been at a high altitude training camp in Kenya throughout the winter, won the overall female title in 2013. Both she and Kangogo earned $2,500 bonuses in addition to the prize money from the individual CRS races.

It was her third place finish at the Series’ flagship event, the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon that provided the year’s biggest highlight.

The 29 year old from London, Ontario finally eclipsed the Canadian Women’s Marathon record. Finishing in a time of 2:28:00, she claimed a $28,000 bonus to go with her $8,000 third place prize. Silvia Ruegger’s record had stood since 1985. The Waterfront event attracts runners from all over the world and for the past seven years has earned an IAAF Silver Label. That’s quite a distinction, but as Race Director Alan Brookes emphasizes the Series is for everybody.

Krista DuChene and Lanni Marchant after both breaking Silvia ruegger's 28 year old National Record at STWM 2013.

Krista DuChene and Lanni Marchant after both breaking Silvia ruegger’s 28 year old National Record at STWM 2013.

“The primary purpose is to promote the sport and show that the sport is still there and relevant and inviting to a wide range of people,” he declares. “When we all get our kit on you can’t tell the president of a bank from the unemployed laborer. It’s very inclusive, which is one of the things I like about the sport of running.”

Several Canadian international runners including Olympians Dylan Wykes, Reid Coolsaet and Eric Gillis as well as 2013 World Championship team members Rob Watson, Kate Van Buskirk and Krista DuChene have raced alongside Marchant at CRS races. Moreover, they have helped promote the events. All have seen their careers flourish because of the availability of these races.

This year’s STWM is scheduled for October 19th. But the full Series includes [see 2014 Calendar] the Modo Spring Run Off Vancouver 8k (March 23), Harry’s Spring Run Off Toronto 8km (April 5), Toronto Yonge St 10km (April 13), Banque Scotia 21k de Montreal (April 27), Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon and 5k (June 22), Vancouver Eastside 10k (September 13), Oasis Zoo Run 10k Toronto (September 20).

Brookes likes to point out that each of the races is run along accurately measured and unique courses. In addition to Stanley Park, Toronto’s High Park and Parc Jean Drapeau in Montreal are the settings for CRS races. The Oasis Zoo 10K also serves as the Canadian 10km Championship and traverses the grounds of the Toronto Zoo. Then there is the Toronto Yonge Street 10km where runners can take delight in running down one of Canada’s most famous streets.

Credit for the Series’ success must go to the professional team of event managers working alongside Brookes.

Harry's Spring Run Off 8K Start, 2012“I think we have a fantastic team with sixteen full time people,” Brookes reveals. “They are committed to a healthy lifestyle and they are event professionals. We have people who have worked at the Vancouver Olympics and at the Canada Games. Over the last decade our sport has become professionalized and we believe strongly, passionately that the organization has to be professional. Organization and innovation are our key principles.

FG_TYS10K13_1349“Everyone from the Olympian to the first-time person at the back of the pack, we want them to have a great racing experience so they will come to love the sport as much as we do. We want to see them coming back to all of our events.”

All CRS runs now have finishers’ medals for everyone in the event, to add to the positive, celebratory atmosphere. Brookes points out that there has been a huge growth in running and in the number of road races across the country. He is committed to raising the standards everywhere.

“There are some very good new events but the quality is very uneven and that is one of the biggest challenges with race directors.” he continues.

“We have the inaugural ‘Race Directors Summit’ hosted by Athletics Canada at STWM this fall to try and work together collaboratively to make sure race organization is consistent and top quality so everyone gets a great experience.”

Members of the team will be working at the 2014 Chicago, Pittsburgh and Houston marathons in an effort find other ways to deliver a better product.

TYS10K14 Medal.web.display-1The team will introduce the latest technology in tracking volunteers and suppliers at Toronto Yonge Street 10k and STWM 2014. “Bar codes and GPS will allow the race Unified Command Centre to track all people, products and vehicles in real time, so that we can literally deliver a better race to all participants,” says Brookes. “We will continue to invest in our people, training, and innovative systems.” Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront will also be launching a state-of-the-art hotel booking system in early March, which allows for easy online bookings at a wide range of more than 20 hotels, and at the best prices available. These are both technologies developed by the Chicago Marathon.

With less than a month to the Modo Spring Run Off 8k the excitement is building and places in all the CRS races starting to fill up. No doubt 2014 will be an even bigger success than in the past.

For information on Canada running Series 2014 events, and ENTRY see http://www.canadarunningseries.com/crs/index.htm

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Rest and Running: A Fine Balance

TORONTO. February 24th 2014. Tina Benigno is delighted to be back as a Digital Champion with Canada Running Series! In October 2013, she ran her third full marathon as a Digital Champion for STWM. Tina started running in 2009 for cognitive and emotional well-being, as well as physical health. As her ability improved, she gained more confidence. Tina’s best race time is from the Toronto Yonge Street 10K last year. She’s aiming to get a personal best at this year’s TYS10K! Follow Tina as she reflects on her training and life events on Twitter and on her blog.

Rest and Running: A Fine Balance. By Tina Benigno.

Rest is easier for some of us!

Rest is easy for some of us!

Listen to your body. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? I sure thought so, and still do, so it’s humbling to realize that maybe I’m not as good at listening to my body as I  thought. I have been a runner for a few years now and it was only when I would get injured and sick while training for events that I realized just how critical it is to pay attention to my own individual abilities and circumstances. Yes, I rested, but perhaps not as much as I needed to. With the incredible and supportive running community on social media, it is easy to get lost in the whirlwind of other people’s training updates and ‘personal best’ announcements.

It’s no secret that rest and recovery during race training are important. “Essential REST: How to Recover Right” is actually the feature headline on the current issue of the running magazine keeping me company on my desk. These things can make you a better athlete! It seems like everywhere I turn, there are articles about how sleep, active recovery and nutrition can improve athletic performance. Some of you might be thinking, “yes please, I NEED MORE REST,” while others might be pleading “No! I rest enough. Let’s move!”

Resting, especially when sick or injured is crucial, even though it can definitely be frustrating. If you are not sick or injured, then of course the duration and type of rest depends on many things including what you’re fitness goals are (i.e. what type of event you’re training for, if you’re training for one), health conditions, and physical ability. This is when a coach or trainer can come in handy!

It is crucial to take days off during your week to let your body recover, reaping the benefits of your hard work. Ever since taking a personal training course a few years ago, I have been preaching to those people closest to me that being in bed by 10:30pm is crucial to ensuring you are asleep during the two peak periods of growth hormone release ( 11P.M. and 1A.M.), even when I myself can’t always be asleep by that time.

These days, I take rest very seriously. In fact, I am writing this blog post in my pyjamas! I put in the training that I can, but I also sit back and let my body do the rest. I have learned that as tuned in as I am, truly listening to my body is something that I am still learning to do well. Sometimes I just don’t like what my body is saying, but ignoring it isn’t usually going to help and could even make it worse.

Rest is not waste. Without breaks, I break down. I have learned, much to my dismay, that I have a somewhat low threshold for stress (both emotional and physical), so am working within these means. No matter how high or low your threshold, you have one. Knowing this is liberating! Embrace the rest!

I’m looking forward to seeing all of you rested and ready to go at the start line of the Toronto Yonge Street 10K in April!

How do you make time for rest during your training schedule? Do you find it hard to slow down?

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