As August winds down, the oppressive humidity and scorching temperatures of the summer start to fade away. For many, this signal of cooler weather conjures images of multi-coloured leaves and the season for nutmeg spiced beverages.
For runners, it is the ultimate signal that fall race season is upon them– an opportunity to shine after a summer of grueling training. A chance for new personal records and running moments that create memories and milestones.
The history of running in Toronto and the surrounding area is rich with memorable occasions that sometimes make it into record books and mainstream media. Here are 5 moments in running history in Greater Toronto and Hamilton area that highlight some of the interesting achievements that have occurred.
Toronto Marathon Participants Hold World Records
Typically when the words record and marathon are heard together, it conjures a picture of an Olympian. In Toronto, it is not Olympic records but Guinness records. Take for instance in 2019, Melvin Nyairo set a record of 1:15:35 for the fastest half marathon dressed as a fruit (a banana to be exact) at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon (STWM). Or perhaps Jared Levine who at the same race set a record for fastest marathon (3:02:20) dressed as a supervillian (the Riddler). For an extraordinary feat, in 2007 Michal Kapral set the record for the fastest marathon (2:50:12) while juggling 3 objects at the STWM.
The Oldest Person to Run A Marathon in Toronto
On October 16, 2011 the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon invited a special guest to complete the course. Fauja Singh, a centenarian, completed the full marathon course. Although the record could not be verified by Guinness World Records due to a lack of birth certificate, he became the first 100 year old to finish a marathon, completing the course in just over 8 hours.
While Singh may be the oldest person to run a marathon in Toronto, the title of the fastest octogenarian goes to Ed Whitlock. Whitlock holds the title of the oldest person to run a marathon in less than four hours. During the 2016 STWM, Whitlock completed the course in 3:45:34.
The Oldest Race in North America
Often when people think of the oldest race in North America, thoughts turn to the Boston Marathon. However, most people would be wrong in their line of thinking. The title of the oldest race is held a little closer to the Six (Hamilton to be specific). The race? The Around the Bay Road Race. This particular race started on Christmas Day in 1894, a 30km race around the Hamilton area.
Many winners of this race went on to run the Boston Marathon including Thomas Longboat, an Onondaga from the Six Nations Reserve who won the 1906 Around the Bay Road Race and went on to win the Boston Marathon in 1907.
Toronto on the World Stage
While the Boston Marathon is the crown jewel for marathon runners, Toronto has been host to some elite athletics. In 2015, Toronto was host to the Pan Am Games. These events set the stage for competition between world class athletes. Athletes such as Lanni Marchant competed and won medals. Of particular pride in these games was Andre De Grasse, a GTA resident, who went on to win the gold medal in the 100 and 200m events. This year, De Grasse also went on to win the gold in the 200m sprint at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic.
Toronto has always had a connection to strong runners who have qualified for the Olympics including Gabrielle Debues Stafford and Lucia Stafford who both competed at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Inclusivity in Toronto Running
A little closer to home, there are achievements that are happening everyday and in local run clubs. Recently, the Air Up There Run Club competed in the Speed Project. The Speed Project is a 550km relay typically from Los Angeles to Las Vegas; this year it went virtual. The Air Up There run club was the first BIPOC exclusive team to compete in the Speed Project.
Of note too is the Toronto Pride and Remembrance Run which celebrated its 25th anniversary this year.
What are some of your favourite Toronto (and surrounding area) running moments?