Fall in Love with Running Again

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8 Trail Running spots within a drive of Toronto to see the leaves change

Sponsored by Mazda, official automotive sponsor of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.

Fall is arguably the best season to run and to explore the outdoors. Cool temperatures, low humidity, and best of all: colours so vibrant you can’t even believe they’re real. To make things even better, there are so many unforgettable parks and lookouts within a short drive of Toronto that it’s hard to choose which spot to visit next.

To help you narrow down your choices on where to head this fall, we compiled eight of the top fall trail running/hiking spots within a 2-3-hour drive of Toronto (ranked by distance from downtown Toronto), along with a few apres-run activities. With that said, there are still plenty of trails to explore within Toronto itself, but why not make an out-of-town adventure one of these weekends?

These locations are car-friendly with parking at trail heads, and all feature a mix of stunning fall foliage, beginner to expert terrain, and in some cases breathtaking views from elevated lookouts. To help plan your next road trip, reference Ontario Parks’ handy leaf report to ensure you time your trips for peak fall-viewing.

Be sure to plan your run or hike in advance. Many of these inclusions as provincial parks require that every visitor register their visit ahead of time and choose a date and time slot.

Kortright Centre for Conservation
Drive from Toronto: 40mins

Who knew Toronto had 325 hectares of pristine woodlands? The Kortright Centre for Conservation is a gem nestled away just north of Toronto, and offers an abundance of running and hiking trails. This is one of the closest and best spots to visit outside the city’s core.

Mount Nemo
Drive from Toronto: 45mins

With approximately 5 kilometres of trails, Mount Nemo is on the smaller side for a park, but offers unmatched views and colours during the fall. It’s also less-visited than its nearby counterparts, making it a great option for introductory trail runs, or beginner hikes.

Make sure to stop by Brock Harris Lookout on your run or hike. On a clear day, you can see the CN Tower in the distance, and the lookout offers stunning views of the escarpment below. If this smaller park is too limited for your abilities, Rattlesnake Point or Kelso Conservation Area are a short drive away to do a double-header.

Dundas Peak
Drive from Toronto: 50mins
Dundas Peak is one of the most noteworthy lookout points within the GTA and surrounding area. Start off by viewing Webster’s Falls, and then make a pit stop at Tew’s Falls, a 41-metre high waterfall, while you continue to run the escarpment. Note: Dundas Peak is an extremely popular spot, especially in autumn. Visit early in the morning or during the week to avoid crowds.

Swing by Shawn & Ed Brewing Co. in Dundas or Merit Brewing in Hamilton for a post-run snack on your way back to Toronto.

Forks of the Credit Provincial Park
Drive from Toronto: 53mins

There are numerous trails through Forks of the Credit Provincial Park including the Bruce Trail, Dominion Trail, Kettle Trail, Meadow Trail, and Trans-Canada Trail. Notable features of the park include a kettle lake, talus slope, and a passage of the Credit River, for which the park is named.

Boyne Valley Provincial Park
Drive from Toronto: 1hr15mins

Boyne Valley Provincial Park is a mix of local, hardwood forest, open fields, bottomland, and swam situated along the Bruce Trail, an 890-kilometre long trail that connects much of southern Ontario. At the northern part of the park, the Bruce Trail offers excellent views and a lookout.

Mono Cliffs Provincial Park
Drive from Toronto: 1hr10mins

With six moderate trails ranging from 5.6 to 13.4 kilometres, Mono Cliffs Provincial Park within the small rural town of Mono. Walk through a canyon or past 30 metres cliffs on the cliff top trail for a stunning blend of fall colours and waterfalls.

Foley Mountain Conservation Area
Drive from Toronto: 3hr:19mins

Foley Mountain Conservation Area is a three-ish hour drive from downtown Toronto, but well worth it. This conservation area sits adjacent to Westport on the banks of the Upper Big Rideau Lake. Stop by Old Bob’s Lookout and Spy Rock for stunning views of the valley below, and visit Scheuermann or Westport Brewery for a post-run/post-hike pizza.

Bruce Peninsula National Park
Drive from Toronto: 3hrs35mins

Situated at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula near Tobermory, this national park is one of the most popular parks in Ontario. Take Marr Lake Trail for access to Georgian Bay, follow High Dump Trail for a run adjacent to the water for 7-plus kilometres, or tackle Crane Lake to Little Cove for a 30-kilometre trek. Make a visit to nearby Tobermory afterwards before heading back to Toronto.

Sponsored by Mazda, official automotive sponsor of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.

How To Complete The Whole Shebang

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Presented by Mazda. Proud to be the official automotive sponsor of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.

The Whole Shebang is an event to challenge yourself in a way that you rarely get in a racing season! It involves completing all  four Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon distances:

Half  Marathon (21K)
Marathon (42K)

That’s a total of 78.3 kilometres, or roughly the distance between Toronto and Hamilton.

Traditionally, runners choose one, maybe two, race distances in any given event. This year, thanks to virtual races, you have the opportunity to test your limits and do all four. The Whole Shebang is currently sold out, but if you were lucky enough to snag a spot for this event, read on!

How to Schedule Your Races

You’re ready to run all four races. Now, it’s time to actually plan out when to race.

We spoke with Seanna Robinson, founder and principal of RunningWell Inc. – a company that brings health, fitness and personal growth to employees through running coaching and training. Also a coach with high-performance running group the Monarch Athletics Track Club, and founder and active member of the Lower East Siders running group, Robinson suggests not to race all four as all-out efforts.


Generally speaking, you want to space out longer runs, whether it’s in racing or in training. For the Whole Shebang, you want to maximize the time between the half -marathon and marathon. More time between races means longer recovery.

Specifically, Robinson recommends to run the 10K first, and to use it as a training run.

“Add in a good quantity of km’s beforehand and after, as this will also double as your longest training run before the marathon (probably in the 30K + range). Approach it as a long run with a 10K tempo built in. The following week you could do the half -marathon. I would use this as a B-goal race. Provided you’ve done good marathon training mileage leading up to it, you should be able to run it fairly hard and recover within the next few weeks before the marathon. Given you’ve just done your biggest long run the weekend before, you won’t be optimally tapered, so just use it as a good hard effort and you might surprise yourself.”

She adds, the half marathon “will also be a good fitness indicator before the marathon so you’ll have a better sense of how to pace yourself. Use the next two weeks to taper and recover as fully as you can before the marathon. Throw the 5K in the weekend before as a sharpening effort – I would do this one at goal marathon race pace with about 10K ‘warm-up.’ Then taper on in and have an awesome marathon.”

Sample schedule:

Oct. 1-4: 10K
Oct. 5-11: Half marathon
Oct. 12-18: Rest
Oct. 18-25: 5K

Oct. 26-31: Marathon

How To Prepare For The Whole Shebang

In terms of preparation, Robinson says that your training should be geared towards the marathon—since there’s no faking the distance.

She says, “The best thing people can do to specifically prepare for running hard four times in a month is to carry in a lot of base for strength.” This is because strength will allow you to recover better between hard efforts.

The last, and final piece of preparation is planning out your routes. After that, all that’s left is to put your fitness to the test. in terms of recovery, eat and sleep as much as you can, Robinson says. This will be a taxing month on your body and you’ll have to support it with more nutrition and more hours of sleep.

Presented by Mazda. Proud to be the official automotive sponsor of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.

How To Stay Motivated For Your Virtual Race

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Presented by Mazda. Proud to be the official automotive sponsor of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.

You did it. You’ve signed up for your virtual race. All that’s left between now and race day is preparation. There’s just one hurdle to overcome: staying motivated.

Draw inspiration from these six tips on staying upbeat about your virtual race.

Set Goals

The first step to keeping yourself accountable, and motivated for race day is to set a race goal.

Once you’ve set your virtual race day goals, write them down. Then, to keep your goal top of mind, do any of the following:

  • Hang it from your fridge
  • Make it your phone’s home screen.
  • Update your Instagram bio with your next race and goal.
  • Set your phone alarm’s label to include your goal.

Daily check-ins and subtle reminders of your goal(s) will help you stay focused for race day.

Follow A Training Plan

You have a goal. Now it’s time to bridge the gap between current fitness and race day fitness. To stay motivated, follow a prescribed training plan.

Sticking to a schedule and trusting your training will give you the confidence to keep going, and to crush it on virtual race day. Plus, you’ll have the peace of mind that you did everything you could to prepare.

Customize Your Race Route

Imagine this: racing your favourite route at a time that best suits you.

Customize your virtual race day route to your liking, and to your comfort level. Not only will this ease the nerves on race day, you’ll be able to draw motivation from actually mapping out the route.

Want to get even more creative? Set up an aid station with your Nuun hydration and fuel on route. Draw kilometre markings on the road with chalk. Although there’s no replicating the cheers and crowds of in-person races, you can do the next best thing.

Make it as fast or as challenging as you desire.

Partner Up*

A running partner can be a secret to success.

A friend not only keeps you accountable, but can actually be a source of motivation in and of itself.

Think about it: when training together, you put in work for yourself, but also for the other person. And vice versa. As much as running is an individual sport, this team effort can be a boost. There are few better aspects to running than having someone with whom you can share your struggles, your triumphs, your highs, and your lows.

*Most importantly, ensure a safe social distance with others, and follow precautions set out by healthcare and medical professionals.

Look Back On Your PBs

Looking back can help move you forward. Revisiting past races where you executed your plan can be motivation as it reminds you that you can do it.

Make It Fun

There’s no denying that your motivation may dip in the lead-up to any race. The key is to stay consistent in your training, and spice up race day to raise the excitement.

Here are a few ideas to add something a little extra for virtual race day:

  • Set out your race outfit the night before, and take a pre-race gear photo (like this or this).
  • Create a race day playlist—listen to your favourite songs to pump yourself up to race. Music can also be a great way to stay upbeat during the training phase.
  • Buy yourself a special beverage and meal for post-race to celebrate your accomplishment.
  • Ask a friend to bring the virtual race medal with them to give to you at the finish line so you can wear it proudly.
  • Wear your New Balance Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon Virtual souvenir shirt in the days and weeks after the race. You earned it.

That’s it, now you know how to stay motivated for your virtual race. All that’s left is the racing itself.

Starting Oct. 1, be a part of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon Virtual Race. From 5K to marathon, race any time between Oct. 1-31. Register now at STWM.ca.

Presented by Mazda. Proud to be the official automotive sponsor of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.

How to Fuel During Your Virtual Race

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You trained, you registered for your virtual race, and you set goals. The final item on the list: practice and execute your virtual race day fueling strategy.

Follow these tips – for the before, during, and after – for your next race. This will help you get the most out of your fitness, and speed up post-race recovery.

Keep It Simple

It’s been said before, and it’s worth saying again: don’t try anything new on race day.

Stick to what works. Eat the same foods and take in the same liquids as any other run. No need to get fancy and try a new nutrition strategy on race day. This will help with GI issues and keep your nerves at bay.

Plan your nutrition a few weeks before race day to give your body a test-run. For example, if you’re 4-6 weeks out from your goal race, practice your nutrition on your long runs. This helps your body acclimate, and allows you to practice how and when to fuel.

Adjust For The Conditions

Not all race days are created equal.

Humidity, temperature, and the sun all play a role. Additionally, factors like weight and sweat rate affect your fuelling strategy.

Nuun’s Experiential Marketing Director Mike Sommers recommends taking 4-8 ounces (120-240 mL) of fluid with electrolytes for every 20-30 minutes of running. In most cases, you’ll only need fuel for efforts longer than 45 minutes. Shorter races don’t require much mid-race fueling. In these cases, pre-race hydration, a pre-race meal you’re used to, and the post-race recovery is key.

For any race distance, being hydrated can help prevent fatigue and bonking, and reduce cramps. This is why taking in fluids and fuelling before the race is crucial.

Don’t Just Focus On The During

Focus on the before and after.

Nutrition and hydration is more than a reactive process. Hydration and fueling are essential in the days and hours leading up to your race.

The recovery portion of virtual race day is equally important. Be sure to celebrate, but consume liquids other than alcoholic beverages. Your body craves electrolytes and hearty meals including protein-rich foods.

Plan Your Route

The logistics and execution of fuelling is as important as the strategy. Below you’ll find a few options on how to actually fuel during your virtual race.

Option 1: Carry your fuel

This is the most flexible option as you have access to hydration and nutrition at all times. Carry a handheld water bottle pre-mixed with Nuun Sport or Nuun Endurance, which is designed for efforts longer than 90 minutes. Or, consume gels as required for every 30-40 minutes of activity.

The good: Easy access; consume as needed.

The bad: You need to carry your fuel.

Option 2: Set up an aid station and run a looped course

Choose a looped course and set up your own aid station. This can be as simple as planning a route around your house and looping back every 30-40 minutes. Alternatively, go full DIY and make your own aid station. Set up a small table with your bottles, or place them on top of your car.

The good: No need to carry your fuel; looped course.

The bad: Out-of-sight means your nutrition may go missing; can only access periodically.

Option 3: With a little help from your friends or family

Ask your significant other, training partner, or friend to support you on route by asking them to provide nutrition. They may set up shop on route at a pre-determined spot. Or, they can bike alongside you with the proper nutrition. This allows for easy access whenever you need fuel.

The good: Peer support; easy access; no need to carry fuel.

The bad: Requires another person’s commitment; route needs to be better planned to avoid traffic.

Join us for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon Virtual Race, and run any time between Oct. 1-31. Entry includes: a New Balance souvenir shirt, unique finishers medal, virtual bib and finishers certificate, discounts from the Running Room and Nuun, and much more.

*Photo credit: Nuun Hydration

How to Set Virtual Race Goals

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Your choice of weather, preferred route, and an opportunity to try something new. These are the realities of virtual racing.

Although your favourite race of the year may be cancelled due to COVID-19, a virtual race may be just what you need to prepare for a (hopefully) in-person 2021 season.

When it comes to goal-setting, here’s how you can manage expectations, and get the most out of your body on virtual race day.

The A-B-Cs of Virtual Race Goals

One of the best ways to avoid race day disappointment is to set varying goals. Instead of having a singular focus, make A, B, and C goals.

Colin Murray-Lawson, coach of Toronto’s High Park Rogue Runners, says your A-B-C goals may look like:

  • ‘A’ goal: Everything goes right on race day. This could be a personal best.
  • ‘B’ goal: This goal should continue to motivate you even when you begin to struggle a bit. This might be a season’s best.
  • ‘C’ goal: A fall-back goal, like finishing the race, and knowing you gained valuable experience pushing your limit.

Plan For What Works For You

Are you an early-riser? Or are you an evening runner? The real beauty of virtual racing is that you can pick a day, and time, that best suits you.

Remember the adage, ‘don’t try anything new on race day?’ This remains true, even for virtual racing.

To help hit your race goal(s), map out your preferred route, and choose a time when you feel most confident racing. Murray-Lawson recommends using a familiar route as you can draw from your past training on route as inspiration, and you know exactly what to expect.

Earlier this year, for the Under Armour Spring Run-Off Virtual Race, the High Park Rogue Runners chose a hilly route to mimic the undulating course of High Park. Why? Choosing a route that makes the virtual race feel like the real thing can be a source of motivation.

Bonus tip: choose a low-traffic route to avoid stopping, and to reduce the need of crossing roads.

If you’re in Toronto, try the Martin Goodman Trail, which runs adjacent to sections of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon route. Running the route a few times before virtual race day gives you a chance to scope out the course beforehand in case there are any detours, closures, or construction.

Adjust Your Pace, Accordingly

Virtual races can be great exercises in learning your optimal racing plan.

For example, on race day, try different pacing strategies to see what might work best for you. Perhaps you’re better off going out a bit faster. Or, you may get more out of yourself by playing it safe for the first half of a race. The only way to determine your optimal race strategy is to try new approaches.

Similarly, virtual races are a great time to try something new. Have you mastered the 5K? Why not attempt the 10K. Are you a marathoner craving some speed? Try the half-marathon.

In these cases, revisit the A-B-C goals section to manage expectations, especially if you’re trying a new race distance for the first time.

Not Sure Where To Start? Use Training As An Indicator

If you haven’t raced in a while, look at your recent training to get a sense of fitness. It’s safe to say that you’re likely only going to get out what you put in.

Your past training – look at the past few months, and not just weeks – can keep your goals in perspective. Having your training in mind will allow you to go hard, but not too hard, to get the most out of yourself.

Capitalize on your training before year-end by joining us for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon Virtual Race Weekend, featuring a 5K, 10K, half-marathon, and marathon. Choose any day between Oct. 1-31 for your optimal race time, and submit your results online to see how you stack up. Registration is now open.