Back in November, I came across a photo on Instagram posted by my friend Heather. In the photo there’s a beautiful trail and I quite seriously suggested we do a trail run together before the end of the year.
Heather is a rock star in the running community. She’s incredibly supportive of other runners and also happens to be super fast! When I was attempting my BQ at the Goodlife Fitness Toronto Marathon in May, I noticed Heather on the course a few kilometres in. I had no intention of trying to keep up with her, but we ended up running side by side for most of the race until I lost steam and she powered on. It was Heather’s first time attempting the marathon distance and she smashed it with a time of 3:09:37, guaranteeing herself a spot in Boston 2017! See, I told you she was fast!
While we were trying to find an opportunity to run together, Heather had the idea to invite some friends to join us on the trail run. We decided the location would be Rouge Park just outside of Toronto and the event would be held on December 10th. Considering the event would take place close to the end of the year, we agreed to ask people to bring a non-perishable item to donate to a local charity. We came up with the name “Jumping Stick, Beyond The Six” and launched the event on Facebook.
I invited all of my running friends who are on Facebook and Heather did the same. We weren’t sure what to expect, but were blown away by the responses. We had almost 40 runners confirm they were attending our event! What started out as an idea to go for a casual run was now an actual event people were talking about on Facebook!
Saucony Canada, who also happen to be my favorite running brand, gave away a pair of their recently released Freedom ISO. The Freedom ISO is Saucony’s first shoe to offer a full midsole of EVERUN Continuous Cushioning. For even more energy return, more responsiveness, more cushioning and a more amazing run from your first step to your last. I plan on adding this shoe to my rotation when I attempt to smash my BQ attempt in May!
Polar Canada gave away their A300 fitness watch. The A300 is both a fitness watch and tracker that makes you move and achieve more. It tracks your daily activity, training, and sleep!
Starbucks Westney offered to provide hot drinks to runners who completed the event. The event was expected to be cold and snowy, so the hot drinks at the end of the run would certainly be well received!
We also offered the option for runners to join us for brunch at the Black Dog Pub. We didn’t just want runners to drive to an event, run with us, and leave; we wanted to spend some time with them as we don’t often get an opportunity to connect with the running community other than when we are actually running!
Finally, we reached out to our friend Paul, Race Director for Run Ajax and another rock star in the running community, to help map out the course. Paul knows the area very well and we wanted to offer an 8km and 16km option so runners who were not comfortable with the longer distance can still attend the event. I don’t think anyone noticed the elevation map Heather posted on the event page because we didn’t have anyone change their RSVP from Going to Not Going! LOL!
My friend Christina and I traveled together to Rouge Park. I haven’t run with Christina in a while and the last time we hung out was in NYC, so we were overdue for a run! Rouge Park is fairly close (just 30km or so outside of Toronto) and we arrived a few minutes early. It didn’t take long before runners started appearing and after a few welcoming words from myself and Heather, we were off!
The first group consisted of 20 runners and we moved through the course fairly quickly. The trail was absolutely beautiful and there were enough roots, drops, and climbs to really keep your mind off the fact it was a little chilly! Paul masterfully led us through the park and we managed to snap a bunch of photos! My buddy Andrew Chak, yes, another rock star in the running community, graciously snapped a bunch of photos and videos throughout the morning.
There is a nice climb about a third of the way into the course, but the real treat was Snake Hill! On the elevation map, it appears as if you’re climbing the side of a mountain. The reality is it’s steep enough to raise your heart rate, but not steep enough to cause anyone to drop out of the second loop!
After completing the first loop, we met-up with the 8km runners at the starting point and another 9 or 10 runners joined us for the second loop. We loaded up Heather’s car with all of the generously donated non-perishable items destined for the Sobeys Toy and Food drive, raffled off the Saucony Freedom ISO shoes and Polar A300 fitness watch, said a few words (left out the part about Snake Hill), and off we went!
Watching the different colors of running attire pass through trees and snow made for an incredible scene and the best part is everyone had a great time! There were a few runners who were new to trail running, including my friend Joallore, who I’ve known well before I started running. He is new to running and it would be the first time he would run through a trail. He really wanted to participate, but was concerned he wasn’t prepared. I assured him even though he didn’t have proper trail shoes, we would keep an eye on him along the way. At one point, Joallore was surrounded by runners and in that moment, I was reminded just how amazing the running community is.
I also got to meet a few awesome runners, including Jessica, who I’ve interacted with a number of times on social media, attended the same events together in the past, but have never met in real life! Jessica is another super fast and accomplished endurance athlete!
At the conclusion of the second loop, we waited in the parking lot for Starbucks Westney to arrive. After a few minutes, they connected with Heather to inform her they were lost and would not make it in time. They were pretty upset about it, apologized, and offered to donate a number of items to charity. I’m not sure when I’ll ever be in their area, but the next time I am, I’m going to purchase a venti something to thank them!
A few runners had to leave, but those who remained headed over to the Black Dog Pub for brunch. They sat us downstairs which gave us an opportunity to be loud, have fun, and not offend the rest of the patrons with our offensive post-run smell!
We couldn’t be happier with the way things turned out and while we were having brunch it was clear we needed to organize another event; perhaps one in the Spring (after Spring marathon season) and one in the Fall (after Fall marathon season).
Thank you Saucony Canada, Polar Canada, Starbucks Westney for generously supporting the event.
Thank you to the awesome runners who braved the cold to run with us and generously donated a non-perishable item for charity!
Thank you Heather and Paul for pulling off an awesome event! Can’t wait to do it again!