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.”
“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.”