That time a 100 year old ran a marathon in Toronto

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By Ravi Singh

One day, a bearded figure with origins in a small rural town no one ever heard of and who was witness to an astonishing amount of history—two world wars, the partitioning of India, the invention of television and the iPhone, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and more—decided, for no particular reason, to go for a little run.

“At 89 years, he took seriously to running and ended up in international marathon events,” is one of the many excerpts of Fauja Singh’s Wikipedia page that manage to be astonishing, hilarious, delightful, absurd, and inspiring. Like any biography befitting a proper legend, Fauja’s life has come to read as a blend of truthful elements, life lessons, perhaps a little embellishment, and tales of extreme adversity leading to unlikely triumph.

The oldest man to ever finish a marathon at 101, supposedly didn’t walk until he was five. Running through every story about the man they called the Turbaned Tornado, however, is an unquestioned reverence for what he achieved, the impact he made, and the people he inspired.

The adventure was triggered when Fauja met Harmander Singh, President of the Sikhs in the City Running Club, himself a marathoner 160 times over, met Fauja. The latter had moved to the UK in 1994 to stay with his son after another one of his children passed, leaving him with no close relations in his homeland of India.

Accordng to Harmander, “his simple outlook on life and respect for all based on his religious values of remembering God, working honestly, and sharing with others” resonated with everyone from youth, fellow runners, and even the Queen, who included Fauja as part of the 2015 New Year Honours List.

“Fauja Singh was introduced to me by Sukhjeevan Singh, a local businessman, in 1999,” Harmander recalls. Fauja was hoping to enter the London Marathon, but had missed the cutoff date. Harmander had previously run London in support of the Harefield Heart Transplant Trust on behalf of Sukhjeevan, whose son was awaiting a heart transplant. Harmander had subsequently trained Sukhjeevan to run the London Marathon on his own, so the latter figured that Harmander could find Fauja a bib and train him in the 12 weeks remaining before the race.

In 2003, race director Alan Brookes invited Fauja to the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. He’d come back again in 2011 to celebrate his 100th birthday. Though Guinness never verified his record because of an absent birth certificate, his time of eight hours made him the oldest marathon finisher in history.

After 42 kilometers, Fauja still had the energy to entertain admirers and leave a legacy in the city. Harmander explains that the race “…was the trigger for many health conscious initiatives such as the ‘Inspirational Steps’ program organised by the Toronto based Guru Gobind Singh Children’s Foundation, which has evolved into an annual series of different distance races attracting over 500 participants from the South Asian communities.”

Now, past his 108th birthday, Fauja continues to move, though his comparatively sedate routine covers about six miles of walking every day. According to Harmander, “He is coping well with the onset of nature on his body and is reluctant to let people down who wish him to attend their functions.”

“Fauja has always said he loves the attention in a respectable way and feels he must be doing good if his actions or presence inspires people to become more active and positive about themselves,” Harmander says.

The marathon is meant to humble us and show us a world beyond ourselves. Fauja, humble as he is, might be one of a very few runners whose life and personality make the marathon seem small.

This runner literally wrote the book on what it’s like to run all around the world

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Globetrotting author and elite American marathoner Becky Wade-Firth is ready for the race of her life in Toronto

It’s hard to believe that this Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon will be Becky Wade-Firth’s first race in Canada. The 30-year-old is surely the most travelled entrant on the race’s elite start list.

In July 2012, fresh out of Rice University, the Dallas native travelled the world on a Watson Fellowship to immerse herself in multiple running cultures across countries. The documentation of her year of running abroad is now bound in Run The World: My 3,500-Mile Journey Through Running Cultures Around the Globe, a must-read memoir for runners, published in 2016.

“After college, I wrote a proposal about how I would spend my dream year and how I would pursue it,” says Wade-Firth about her application for the fellowship, which promotes purposeful travel and is granted yearly to 40 graduating seniors across the United States. “I built my proposal on long distance running cultures and training styles because I fell in love with the lifestyle I had in college.”

And so began Wade-Firth’s running pilgrimage to parts of Europe, Asia, Africa and Oceania. She ran on the world’s fastest one-mile course in New Zealand, she learned about ancient Midsummer Rituals in Finland, and she tackled punishing tempo runs up the mountains of Switzerland.

“One conversation that resonated with me was when I asked an Ethiopian athlete how much she ran every week and she had no idea.”

In Tokyo, she crammed onto the Namban International Running Club track with thousands of others for weekly practices, followed by a public bath and social drinks. In Ethiopia, she relished the laid-back running culture. “One conversation that resonated with me was when I asked an Ethiopian athlete how much she ran every week and she had no idea,” says Wade-Firth. “She guessed somewhere between 30 and 100 miles.”

The runner had planned to visit nine countries, but that number quickly ballooned when she followed new acquaintances to new land. She wrote several entries in a travel blog entitled Becky Runs Away, and inserted her final statistics on the blog’s landing page.

Countries visited: 22

Beds: 72

Pairs of Running Shoes: 11

Miles Run: 3,504 (that’s 5,639 km)

Wade-Firth wrote online so that her mother and sister could follow stories of her adventure, but had little aspiration of turning her entries into a book. Her blog, however, gained so much traction that her high-school friend, who had become a literary agent in New York City, nudged her to take her writings one step further. By 2016, Wade-Firth published with Harper Collins, which led to new opportunities for the now-30-year-old.

“I realized you can make endless connections through travel and running and the intersection of both,” says Wade-Firth, who now contributes regularly to Runner’s World, among other outlets. “Now people will ask me for running route recommendations, I get to talk at bookstores and expos… it has really opened doors.”

Wade-Firth hopes to write a second book, but is in no rush to publish.

“Writing a book is kind of like running a marathon,” she says. “The first one, I was so naïve, it just happened. The second one, you see it differently. You know the amount of work it takes to succeed – you just want to nail it.”

Wade-Firth has now waited over five years to perfectly nail a second marathon. Her debut in Sacramento in 2013, shortly after her year of travel, remains her best to date: 2:30:41.

Lately, however, training is going well. Wade-Firth now lives in Boulder, CO and just last year reached new heights in the half-marathon, running 1:11:15. This year, she has already raced five times in her marathon build, and has only lost to two of her compatriots in that stretch: 2011 Pan-American steeplechase gold medalist Sara Hall and 2016 10,000m Olympian Emily Infeld. Wade-Firth now brims with confidence, and believes it possible to achieve the IAAF Olympic Standard of 2:29:30.

“I feel like my PR is way overdue for being shattered. I feel like I’ve been ready before – the conditions were off and I haven’t done it. I can talk all I want – Toronto is the day to put it all together.”

Why Toronto?

“One thing about Toronto is that it likely won’t be hot and humid there,” says Wade-Firth. “I know some people go there to run fast.”

And what does an expert on running cultures have to say about the one in Canada?

“Polite definitely comes to mind. I shared a cab with Cam Levins in Philadelphia once, and cooled down with Emily Setlack (at the Rock and Roll Philly Half-Marathon) and she was speaking so highly of her Canadian competition. It seems like there is an intimate community of runners.

“I also think Canadians are really tough, similar to the Scandinavians. Getting through a cold winter requires a different type of toughness. I’ll have to go up there and see for myself.”

How The Maddie Project embraced running to make a difference with youth mental health

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On April 11, 2015, Madeline German Coulter, 15, took her own life after grappling with mental health challenges. She was the first child and only daughter of Nicole German. Maddie’s death tore through the family, but where most parents might crumble, spiralling into depression themselves, German rallied, founding The Maddie Project, a charitable organization.

“The organization is really focused on two primary areas,” German says. “One is around creating awareness to reduce the stigma around youth mental health. And the second is helping to provide uninhibited access to kids and their families who are struggling with mental health challenges.” These mental health challenges include anything from depression and anxiety to eating disorders and psychosis.

Since its foundation, The Maddie Project’s main goal has been raising funds for the North York General Hospital Foundation where Maddie spent some time while suffering from depression. German pledged to raise $1 million for the foundation that would go towards the creation of Maddie’s Healing Garden. The outdoor space surrounds Phillips House, a re-developed Georgian-style mansion located up the street from the hospital that acts as the home for child and adolescent outpatient mental health programs.

Six months after Maddie’s death, German and The Maddie Project committed to entering the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. “People just wanted to do a run to raise money and awareness,” she says. But since then, it’s become one of the organization’s major fundraising and awareness events. The run now sees upwards of 100 participants of all ages competing in the 5km to the marathon, supporting The Maddie Project.

“There’s nothing more compelling than a bunch of teenagers getting up at 7 a.m. to advocate for youth mental health. It’s hard enough to get them out of bed as is.” German laughs.

Phillips House and Maddie’s Garden were officially opened on September 4, 2019, thanks to the $1.6 million The Maddie Project has raised over the last four years—and $320,000 of this was raised during the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. “This is our fifth year doing it,” German says.

The Maddie Project’s fundraising goal this year is $50,000, but German is quick to mention that “the awareness is as important as the fundraising.” Each participant running for The Maddie Project will proudly wear a purple shirt and will be led by team captain Robert Agouri, one of the organization’s top individual fundraisers.

Even Maddie’s two younger brothers, Zac and Sawyer Coulter, participate in the run, acting as the organization’s national youth ambassadors.

Now that Maddie’s Healing Garden is operational, The Maddie Project will continue to raise money for the North York General Hospital Foundation, and has also established fundraising partnerships with Skylark Youth and Families, and Outward Bound Canada.

The Maddie Project has funded over $200,000 to Skylark Youth and Families, a walk-in clinic that doesn’t require an appointment or a health card, and launched their partnership with Outward Bound Canada this year. “It’s a fully-funded trip for eight young women that had struggled with mental health,” German says. The trip allows participants to experience the great outdoors in northern Ontario near Sudbury.

Looking to the future, German says The Maddie Project will continue to support and nurture those partnerships and youth in the community. “I think, for us, it’s really about continuing the conversation.”

Malindi Elmore’s shot at redemption

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After missing out on qualifying for the 2012 London Olympics, Malindi Elmore put running behind her—competitive running, at least. Having trained seriously since age 15, the sport had driven her to her proudest moments but also her lowest. In 2004, a year after graduating from Stanford University, she achieved a lifelong dream, representing Canada in the 1,500 metres at the Athens Olympics. Four years later, she missed Beijing by 0.7 seconds.

“I had the IAAF “A” standard but that’s when Canada had an “A+” standard to make the team,” Elmore says, referring to the mark that track and field’s governing body sets for entry into the Olympics, and the fact that Canada had raised the bar even higher for its athletes. Two weeks before Beijing, the track world was rocked by a doping scandal. Five athletes—three Russians and two Romanians—entered in the 1,500 metres were suspended for doping infractions. The reduced field forced the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to advance all 1,500 metre athletes straight to the semi-finals.

“I was the fastest person in the world not to make it.”

“Hilary Stellingwerff and I both didn’t make the team despite having standard, and we were fairly appalled by the fact that suddenly [five] women were out of the event and it actually went straight to semi-finals,” she says. “I was the fastest person in the world not to make it.”

The missed qualifications in 2008 and 2012 were augmented by further injuries, causing Elmore to describe the last few years of her running career as frustrating. “I had to kind of take a step away at a certain point,” she says.

After retiring in 2012, Elmore played around with the idea of running the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, but a pregnancy derailed the plan. Instead, looking for a fresh start, she took up triathlons. Over the span of three years, she raced 16 Olympic distance triathlons, 12 half Ironmans, and 2 full Ironmans, competing professionally at the 70.3 distance. Her Ironman time of eight hours 57 minutes 22 seconds, set in Arizona in 2016, is still the fourth fastest time ever by a Canadian woman. “I love a challenge, and I needed something refreshing,” she says. “But I’m really not a great swimmer, so it was tough.”

In 2018, when Elmore gave birth to her second son, she started to transition away from triathlons. “I decided swimming and biking takes too long, so I got back into running.” When she says running, she stresses that it was recreational. “I was just running an hour at like 5:00/km pace, which was a fast pace at that point.”

It was while she was out on a run with her husband, two-time track Olympian Graham Hood, that she once again floated the idea of the marathon. “I’d had too much coffee that morning. I had too much energy,” she laughs. But her husband jumped on it. “He was like, ‘That’s a super idea. I’ll coach you.’”

This was in September 2018, and after scouring the upcoming race calendar, the couple settled on the Houston Marathon in January for Elmore’s debut, four months away. It wasn’t much time to get in shape, but rather than buckle under the pressure, Elmore thrived under the added mileage. “I had a lot of injuries because the track was just so hard on my body,” she says. “For me, I seem to be OK with doing more mileage.”

Leading up to the race, Elmore and Hood had settled on 2:40 as her goal time. “I thought it would be reasonable because I’d run under three hours in my Ironman and off not a lot of training.” But two weeks prior to the race, Elmore crushed her final workout, causing the couple to reassess. “We were like, ‘Maybe I can run faster than 2:40. Maybe more like 2:35.’”

Elmore’s fitness had finally clicked into place and her finishing time in Houston reflected it. She finished seventh in 2:32:10, the third fastest marathon by a Canadian this year and only three minutes off the Olympic standard of 2:29:30.

At 39-years-old, Elmore is entering her upcoming race at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon with confidence. She has her sights firmly set on securing a berth in Tokyo and redeeming those missed opportunities in 2008 and 2012. “Probably winning Toronto or at least being top two at Toronto has got to be a goal for people who want to be on the team,” she says. “I’m really optimistic that we’re able to field three women to Tokyo.”

Kinsey Middleton: Strong and Free

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Dual-citizen and defending Canadian marathon champion embraces the maple leaf, and hopes to don it in Tokyo

Kinsey Middleton earned her red and white stripes when she broke away from competition at last year’s Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, stopped the clock at 2:32:09, and earned the national crown. It was a first Canadian title for the then-25-year-old, in her debut in the race distance.

Middleton threw down nearly perfect splits and crossed the finish line with relative ease, after notoriously exclaiming “This is so much fun!” near the 16K marker while running alongside Leslie Sexton and pacer Natasha Wodak. Murphy’s Law, which especially holds true for young, first-time marathoners, clearly did not apply to the Boise, Idaho native.

“I have been dreaming of being an Olympian since I was in kindergarten.”

That was the beauty of Middleton’s 2018 performance: it seemed effortless, her step up to the marathon almost serendipitous (barely a year prior, she focused on the 1,500m.) But the honeymoon is over now, judgment day is approaching, and the stakes at this year’s Toronto Waterfront Marathon are higher than ever. Not only does Middleton have a title to defend, she gets to chase a long-time dream: Tokyo.

“I have been dreaming of being an Olympian since I was in kindergarten,” says Middleton, from her home in Boise, “and I knew at a really young age I could choose the country for which I would try to compete.”

Middleton has never lived in Canada, but she represented the country for the first time at the 2018 IAAF World Half-Marathon Championships. Her grandmother currently lives in Guelph, and her grandfather in Nova Scotia. This fall, Middleton is eager to show her nation of heritage to her husband for the first time, a nation for which she grows fonder every year.

“As soon as I made the decision that I wanted to run for Canada,” she says, “it feels like home every time I go. Even though I don’t live there, I feel such a sense of pride. Representing Canada internationally would be my dream come true.”

To make that happen, the Oregon State and Idaho graduate plans on showing up in Toronto and the marathon trials more prepared than ever: she has ramped up her training, adjusted her lifestyle… and made sure to brush up on her Canadian trivia (more on that later).

The training

“Physically, I feel different this year than last. I am averaging around 120 miles (roughly 195km) and my highest week has been around 130 (roughly 210 km.) It’s hard because you want to play the comparison game. My coach has made the workouts harder this year, so that I don’t get caught comparing. A big test effort we will do a few weeks out is 7 x 5km at marathon pace. Last year, I ran that workout at the exact same pace as I did the marathon, so I think it will be a great indicator of what’s possible.

Mentally, I think just having the experience, I’m going in knowing what to expect. Sure, the pressure is greater for having won last year, and the field is more stacked this year because it’s the (Olympic) trials, but I think I know better what I can accomplish this year. Last year, my coach did such a good job telling me “this is your first marathon, it is not going to be your best marathon.” So, now, I’m nervous, but excited for the next ones.”

The lifestyle

“I used to train full time, and wanted to balance it with something. After the (Canadian trials) marathon last year, I started working at a holistic medicine office in Idaho. I used to work at the office, but it was hard to balance with running. I felt like I had to do it all. So I asked my employers if I could work from home, and they were so supportive. They said “we really want to have an Olympian working here!” So I manage to balance work and running. This year, my routine looks like this:

  • Wake up at 6:30 a.m.
  • A.M. run with my team (Idaho Distance Project)
  • Strength work at the gym for an hour
  • Work from home (also try to fit a nap in on the big mileage days)
  • P.M.: shakeout run around my neighbourhood trails
  • Make dinner—I love cooking big healthy meals so I have leftovers for lunches.
  • Walk my pups (Hank and Duke) with my husband in the park behind our house
  • Bedtime around 9 p.m.

I think I wasn’t doing as many of the “little things” in last year’s marathon build up. Specifically, I wasn’t doing the gym or strength work, which has made a big difference this time around. Also, taking the time to nap and rest is more of a priority this build up as well.

The Canada Quiz

Middleton says she still gets (friendly) flack from some of her competitors for being born and living across the border. So, we gave her the chance to prove her Canadian-ness by giving her a pop quiz.


 Who is Canada’s Prime minister?

Justin Trudeau (1 point)

Canada’s official animal

Not the Canadian goose… oh! The moose! (0 points – Correct Answer: Beaver)

What is the name of a one-dollar coin?

The Loonie! (1 point)

Name the Canadian who invented Basketball?

I don’t know… but that’s because I know nothing about basketball! (0 points – Correct Answer – James Naismith)

What is Canada’s national sport?

Curling… no! No, I know this: lacrosse! I knew it wasn’t hockey. (1 point)

Name of the person who invented the telephone

Bell, that was his last name (accepted – Alexander Graham Bell – 1 point)

Name of current Canadian marathon record holders?

Easy. Cam (Levins) and Rachel (Cliff) *bonus marks for being on first name basis with the record holders (1.5 points)

Number of provinces and territories?

Well, I could name you the provinces. Then there are two territories. Yukon and North West Territories. (0.5 points – Correct Answer, three territories)

Capital of Canada?

Ottawa (1 point)

 

(Photo by Pete Staples/USTA)

Name of the first Canadian to win a grand slam tennis title?

Bianca! (1 point)

Score:

8 out of 10 – Maple syrup in her veins!

Why Virginia Lee has run every single edition of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon

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By Ravi Singh

In 2013, Virignia Lee was accepted into the Chicago Marathon via lottery. Given that Chicago is traditionally run a week or two before the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, Virginia figured it was best to skip her hometown race.

That changed when the team at Canada Running Series informed her that, along with run streak legend Rick Rayman, Virginia was the only runner to have run every single edition of the event.

From that point, Virginia, a full-time personal trainer and fitness professional who divides her time between Toronto and Miami, has been fiercely protective of her distinction, going to any length to make sure she’s at the start line every October.

Virginia will keep her streak going this year as part of her goal of running 50 marathons by age 50. The 2019 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon will be #47.

Why her record matters

“I know I don’t look like the typical marathoner or the kind of person who would hold any kind of marathon record. I want people to see that even if you don’t fit the stereotype of a hardcore runner, it can still be done. I like that the Toronto Waterfront Marathon has given me this recognition and that I can be a representative of Toronto’s diversity in running.

You also hear that the older you get, the more you’ll get injured, but I want to show that it’s not true.”

“Another big difference was that instead of a timing chip in your bib, you ran with a velcro strap around your ankle.”

What’s changed

“The first year, CRS had a table at the Sporting Life store near Yonge and Lawrence where I filled out a form in-person. I’m pretty sure I also paid cash.

I can remember at my second time participating, there were only a few hundred of us running. I didn’t want to sign up too early and risk not being able to run because of injury, but back then I was able to register in-person on race day and collect my kit. Another big difference was that instead of a timing chip in your bib, you ran with a velcro strap around your ankle.

I’ve collected over 20 Waterfront Marathon shirts, most of which I gave to my mother-in-law. In those years, the shirts didn’t have a unique design like they do now. But I loved the shirt from my second Toronto Waterfront Marathon, which was the only one that was primarily cotton.”

What she’s risked

“Maybe it’s selfish, but last year I missed a friend’s wedding for the marathon. Most of my closest friends and family have come to accept that I think of this as my race and they don’t question it.

Two years ago, I ran even though I was strongly advised not to. I sprained my ankle and had to DNF a race that was meant to be a tune up. I did physio and tried to recover as much as possible, but still had to go super slow and was definitely not 100%. After the marathon, there was no racing for the rest of the fall and following spring.”

Virginia’s tips for longevity

“It took a long time for me to consider myself a runner. Running was always a small part of what I did, but I was definitely always a gym rat and that’s probably what’s kept me running for so long. Every runner should weight train and cross train.”

Dylan Wykes on the joys of coaching, the process over the end result, and racing on his own terms

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Dylan Wykes says his best running years were in 2011 and 2012. It was right around this time that the Kingston, Ont. native transitioned into a full-time runner, moving from Vancouver to Flagstaff, Arizona at the end of 2011 to train at high altitude. In 2012, Wykes ran 2:10:47 at the Rotterdam Marathon, finishing seventh overall. The time ranked as the second fastest in Canadian history (he’s since fallen back to fourth, behind Cam Levins, Jerome Drayton, and Reid Coolsaet) and qualified him for the 2012 London Olympics. Wykes miraculous season continued with a 20th place finish at the Olympics in a respectable time of 2:15:26. But then his success came to an abrupt stop.

“The years leading up to [the Olympics] were really hard on my body, and to qualify for London, I had to do three marathons in pretty quick succession,” he says. “They just took a toll on my body.” After the 2012 Olympics, Wykes ended up with a stress fracture in his pelvis, crippling his meteoric rise. He spent the next four years chasing after results, but the injury would flare up, forcing him to deal with the repercussions.

Wykes racing in Toronto in 2011, trailing behind Eric Gillis, and Wykes, Gillis, Reid Coolsaet and Rob Watson at the 2007 Canadian Cross-Country Championships

Wykes ramped up his training again in 2016, taking a crack at the Rio Olympics, but the attempt fell short, leaving him disillusioned with his career as a competitive runner. Instead, he devoted himself to coaching.

“I would love to make another Olympic team. I won’t deny saying that.”

Back in 2012, after the London Olympics, Wykes connected with an old, Ottawa running buddy of his, Mike Woods (you may have recently seen him competing in the Tour de France, as he has transitioned to a career as a pro cyclist). Woods was coaching a group of local athletes and asked if Wykes wanted to get involved. Together, the two created Mile2Marathon, a personal coaching service.

The Mile2Marathon crew (with Wykes far right) in Ottawa.

“The idea is to work with people of all ability levels,” Wykes says. “We build on our experience as athletes and try to help other runners by sharing that experience. We put a lot of time and energy into building a community to give people of all ability levels an opportunity to train with other people and have something that they can enjoy.” Not to mention coaching from some of Canada’s top runners. The service boasts four Olympians and multiple Canadian champions in a range of events.

After missing out on the 2016 Olympics, Wykes put his own running on the back burner. “I kind of took a step back,” he says. “I didn’t have the drive.” Instead, Wykes turned his attention to building up Mile2Marathon, which he admits “was a bit all consuming.” Occasionally, he would still go out for runs to maintain the lifestyle, but they were rare. “Sometimes I’d go a couple months without training.”

“I started running again every day and it was just something that I enjoyed.”

In 2018, however, when Wykes, along with his wife and two daughters, packed up their lives and moved from Vancouver to Ottawa, there was a sudden change in his outlook towards running. “When we moved to Ottawa last year, I was kind of reinvigorated to get back into it,” he says. “I had a bit more time where I could just focus on myself. I started running again every day and it was just something that I enjoyed. I started doing some workouts and started doing some races again.”

Although Wykes didn’t expect a second wind in his running career, he’s training hard and is slotted to race at this year’s Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in October. “I love that it’s the Canadian Championships; I love that it’s a race that Alan Brookes has put on for years,” he says. “I’ve raced it a couple times in the past, so I’m really excited to compete. I think Alan’s got a great line-up of Canadians in the race. Some young guys. Some old guys like myself and Reid, and some guys in between.” Wykes will be joined by 25 of his own Mile2Marathon athletes racing in either the marathon or half-marathon.

During the race, Wykes’ main goal is to stay competitive. He wants to finish as high up among the Canadian racers as possible. While he is reluctant to admit it, the idea of qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is knocking at the back of his mind. “I would love to make another Olympic team. I won’t deny saying that.”

But Wykes isn’t sure he’s quite ready to hit the Olympic standard yet, and even if he was, this whole comeback is about avoiding pressure and enjoying the process. “I’ve tried to go about the last year or so without putting many expectations on myself and just enjoy the process as they say. It’s been something where I’ve really enjoyed…I don’t know what you’d call it, this last phase of my competitive running career.”

Dylan Wykes running career by the numbers

• Running for Frontenac Secondary School, Wykes won a number of OFSAA Championships, including 3,000m titles in 2000 and 2001 ( he admits that often, however, he would lose to fellow Olympian Nate Brennan).

• In 2002, he won the National Junior Cross Country Championships.

• After high school, he competed for Providence College in Rhode Island

• In 2003, he finished 49th at the NCAA Cross Country Championships.

• In 2004, he finished 15th in the 3,000m at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships.

• In 2004, he ran 7:58 for 3,000m in Boston.

• In 2008, he finished third at the North American, Central American, and Caribbean Cross Country Championships.

• In 2009, he finished second at the North American, Central American, and Caribbean Cross Country Championships.

• In 2010, he won the California International Marathon in a time of 2:12:39.

• In 2011, he ran 28:12 for 10,000m at Stanford University.

• In 2011, he ran 13:43 for 5,000m in Eugene, Ore.

• In 2011, he ran the NYC Half in 1:02:14, finishing 11th (two spots ahead of Reid Coolsaet, and less than two minutes back from Olympic medallists Mo Farah and Galen Rupp).

• In 2011, he finished sixth at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in a time of 2:12:56.

• In 2012, he finished sixth at the Rotterdam Marathon in 2:10:47 (the fourth fastest Canadian time ever recorded).

• In 2012, He finished 20th at the London Olympic Marathon in 2:15:26, the top Canadian.

The Canadian Marathon Trials, Explained

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For the first time in a very long time, Canada is getting proper Olympic Trials marathon race to see who could be going to Tokyo next summer. The 2019 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon will do double duty, hosting many of the best distance runners in Canada, all vying for a slot. The trials are designed to significantly help Athletics Canada’s National Team Committee (NTC) decide which Canadian marathoners will get to represent the maple leaf in Tokyo next summer.

The key word here is help.

Winning the trials does not necessarily guarantee one’s seat on the plane to Japan. More layers are involved, and we’ll explain them here. Getting on the national team is actually a pretty confusing task, and we’ll do our best to unpack it for you.

Here, we answer the key questions runners and fans might have about the qualification process for the marathon at the 2020 games:

Does the Canadian marathon trials winner get to go to Tokyo?

Short answer:

Not necessarily.

Long answer:

An athlete who wins the Canadian marathon trials AND achieves the Tokyo qualification standard during the period of Jan. 1, 2019 to May 31, 2020 will be named to the team. So, if the winner of the trials does not satisfy the standard set out by the IAAF (the international governing body of the sport), they must wait and see how the next several months unfold for them, and others (more on that in a bit).

What’s the standard?

To obtain standard, an athlete must achieve at least one of these feats:

◦ A marathon time faster than 2:29:30 (women) or 2:11:30 (men)

◦ A top-10 finish at this year’s IAAF World Athletics Championships in Doha

◦ A top-five finish at an IAAF Gold Label marathon (that includes Toronto)

◦ A top-10 finish at a Marathon Major Series Race, which includes:

▪ Tokyo
▪ Boston
▪ London
▪ Berlin
▪ Chicago
▪ New York

So, a runner who wins in Toronto this fall, provided they achieve the qualification standard, will be selected to race in Tokyo. But, winning in Toronto without having achieved the standard is not enough to make the team.

What happens to the other athletes? Who else can qualify?

Up to six Canadian marathoners (three women and three men) may be selected onto Team Canada. The full team is named at the final nomination meeting on July 2, 2020. Here is how athletes who did not win the marathon trials can get chosen:

• An athlete who does not win the Canadian marathon trials but achieves the standard during the aforementioned qualification period will be nominated as an additional athlete. This athlete may eventually be selected to compete in Tokyo.

• Additional athletes are named to the team after the national marathon trials champions are named to the team (provided they have achieved standard).

• In the event that there are more additional athletes than spots available on the team, the NTC will rank the additional athletes in the order they are likely to finish at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in the Marathon. The following criteria will help guide the NTC’s decision:

◦ Current form and fitness
◦ Proven ability to perform on demand
◦ Finishing position at the 2020 Trials; and
◦ Recent head-to-head record against other athletes under consideration.

Is that all?

Probably, but perhaps not.

The Hail Mary:

The IAAF publishes a full list of athletes who have achieved the qualification standard for Tokyo. They then look at what would happen if each country would select their maximum number of qualified athletes (Canada’s maximum number is three.) If fewer than 80 athletes are on that list, athletes closest to IAAF standard will be added, so that the list reaches 80 names. The Canadian Trials winner will qualify for Tokyo if he or she appears on the extended version of the list, despite not having the qualification standard.

Michal Kapral’s history of oddball records

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By Ravi Singh

The Kid

There are lots of ways to process the magnitude of the marathon. Of course, there’s the official distance of 42.195km. That’s roughly 105 laps around a standard track. Various forums across the internet place the step count at anywhere between 30,000 to 50,000 steps.

At the 2017 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, local runner Michal Kapral also had to factor in approximately 130,000 tosses and catches. In support of the Sick Kids Foundation, Kapral went after the Guinness World Record for the fastest marathon run while juggling five balls.

“I do serious things in my life, but I like to keep that kid inside me alive.”

Kapral had luck at STWM in the past. In 2004, he set the record for fastest marathon run while pushing a stroller (2:49:43), which he followed up with the joggling world record the next year with a time of 3:01:41. He’d subsequently best his own record, including with a 2:50:12 at STWM 2007, which still stands as the joggling marathon record.

To those who might ask Kapral the basic question of “Why?” his response would be, “I’ve always liked to do things that are different and that’s followed me most of my life. I don’t really like to grow up. I do serious things in my life, but I like to keep that kid inside me alive.”

Dropping the Ball

In all previous attempts, Kapral juggled three balls, which he insists is actually quite intuitive and gels well with the mechanics of running. In 2016, he even joggled the entire Chicago Marathon in 2:55 without dropping a single ball.

From the very beginning, however, Kapral says there were signs that he was approaching his “Icarus moment” with the 5-ball attempt. Before his marathon attempt, the longest recognized joggling world record was 5K, set my Matthew Feldman 2011.

“There was definitely a high chance of failure, but I felt I had a 50/50 shot at the record.”

“I knew there were going to be drops, but I thought I could get to the point where I could comfortably run 400m without dropping any balls,” Kapral explains, but adds, “I was lucky if I could even get to 100.” Add to that the fact that most of his training was done on a quiet street near his home or around a track.

With no shorter races under his belt and an admittedly rough training cycle, Kapral still felt, “There was definitely a high chance of failure, but I felt I had a 50/50 shot at the record.”

At the start, Kapral recalls, “I was in an absolute panic. I tried to stay at the front of the slowest corral, but a few runners shimmied in front of me and I was squished right in. I never had that experience while training.” In a race with thousands of others, the 5-ball pattern also acted as a visual obstruction.

From there, it only got worse, almost comically so. Kapral recounts, “Around 2K into the race, I pulled a muscle in my hand, which has never happened. It started as a tweak and then got progressively worse.” The second 5K of the race took Kapral 56 minutes.

Joggler Out

Then the cameras from the race’s online broadcast arrived. It’s one thing to be suffering on the course in front of spectators, but quite another in front of a global audience. The cameras lingered on Kapral at the 16K mark, capturing drop after drop after drop, each one requiring him to step back to the drop point and start again. He eventually puts both hands on his waist and looks down at the ground, clearly crestfallen. At this point, he had been running and juggling for nearly four hours.

At 17K, Kapral had enough. At the insistence of pacer Zach Warren, a fellow joggler and former world record holder, the pair were still going to finish the marathon as regular runners within the six hour limit. That required them to negative split the race by two hours.

“The crowd kept me going and later in the race there were few spectators. The crowd was essentially the volunteers and they were just incredible as well as the other runners,” Kapral remembers. Together, he and Warren came in just under the six hour limit. “I would have loved to come into the finish breaking a record, but at that point I was just another runner and it still felt great,” Kapral concludes.

Laugh It Off

The man who has won races and runs marathons significantly faster than the average runner while juggling barely avoided finishing dead last that day.

In 2017, STWM was a debacle, but it’s also been the site of Kapral’s greatest victories and he acknowledges both as special. Even if the 5-ball record wasn’t meant to be, Kapral says he wouldn’t trade the experience of branching out of his comfort zone.

“It’s a matter of committing to a goal you set out no matter how crazy it might seem.”

“You often wonder why you’re doing certain things and why you can’t just be a normal runner, so I contemplated that a good bit as I trained,” Kapral says. He concluded, however, “It’s a matter of committing to a goal you set out no matter how crazy it might seem. I loved the training even if it was frustrating and I didn’t get as good as I expected, it was a ton of fun.”

Zach Warren, Kapral’s pacer in 2017, has studied laughter as part of his PhD, and Kapral says he’s very much into making people smile, an endeavour at which he succeeds on every run.

That’s perhaps the element of play that’s central to Kapral’s whole joggler persona. Like a child first learning to kick or throw a ball, the process itself is as amusing as anything and brings as much joy as mastering the skill. That’s the marathon–a place where adults can still play. If Kapral were to worry about embarrassment or perfection, that would mean growing up. Like a kid, perhaps he’ll also never learn. Kapral is currently chasing a 5-ball record at the 10K.

Put a Ring on It! 30th Anniversary Shirt Reveal

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Last night, at the Downtown Yonge St. Running Room, over 50 runners filled the bustling location to witness the unveiling of the 30th anniversary Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon shirt design.  

Race shirts are an important part of the experience for runners. Not only does the shirt act as a form of recognition, but it also lives on to represents the accomplishment as they continue using the technical tee to train for future races.  Many friendships in the running community have started with an excited, “Hey, I ran that race, too!…”

Jessica (wearing the half-marathon shirt) and Richard (wearing the training shirt).

 

To kick off the evening National Event Director, Charlotte Brookes, said a few words on the history of the marathon. On behalf of Alan, she fondly remembered when Canada Running Series started out as the Coors Light series (a “six pack of races”). 30 years later we are lucky to be celebrating milestone after milestone, thanks to our dedicated community.  

New Balance athlete, Jessica Kuepfer, also described her positive experience returning to the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon each year. This is a huge compliment coming from someone who, as she jokingly put it, “doesn’t like to repeat races”.  

Next up, Richard Kuchinsky (Directive Collective), said a few words on the inspiration behind his designs: 

This year’s race shirt is a special one… as an anniversary race year, it is also the first metallic print on a technical shirt in the history of the race! 

Photo by Edison Yao.

The full marathon shirt design.

The designs are as follows: gold on black for the full marathon, silver on black for the half, and silver on red for the 5K.

The design features 30 rings, for the 30th anniversary of one of Canada’s best IAAF Gold Label Marathons.

These rings represent the waves of the waterfront course and the energy that emanates from a runner’s core focus. As every runner knows, a runner’s strength comes from this inner center; your core is what allows us to push through when the race gets hard.

Our training, and the unique reasons why each of runs, is part of this core that pushes us forward from the heart through the legs.

Integrated into these rings is the word TORONTO. Just as the city itself is part of what makes the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon special. 

The letters, like the course, the neighborhoods and the other runners, are all connected and integral components of this special event.

And to mark the occasion, every shirt also features a special 30th Edition badge.

The group run, paused for a quick photo at the TORONTO sign.

 

And with that, the shirts were revealed, and the runners took off on their respective, celebratory runs (routes and direction courtesy of the Running Rats run crew).

Sound like fun? Join us in celebrating this classic Toronto event on October 20th, 2019.  

Shirts will be available for pickup at the Health and Wellness Expo for registered runners only.  

Register for the marathon, half-marathon, and 5K runs here More information available on stwm.ca and @TOwaterfront42K  

#ItsYourMoment 
#TOwaterfront42K
#InfinitePotential 

 Photo credit for all photos: Edison Yao