Trials, Tribulations, and Triumphs in Toronto 2020-2021: How we can continue to adapt

We’ve all become eerily familiar with the concept of lockdown and stay-at-home orders here in Toronto. Being a Toronto runner has come with some privilege over the last year, but that doesn’t mean that the running community hasn’t faced hardships. Listed below are some of the changes the Toronto running community has seen over the past year, how we have adapted to the new ‘normal’, and some food for thought on areas that can still see change.

Races

Many races over the past year were cancelled or postponed. Race organizers suffered financially, and runners lost a sense of community…not to mention the mental health impacts associated with training for a year for a race to have it cancelled. We’ve now entered the era of virtual races, which has not only helped to re-build the community of Toronto runners, but is no doubt helping race organizers stay afloat. While the running community may be slowly adapting through normalizing virtual races in Toronto, the not-for-profits or charities that depended upon or benefited from donations from race organizers (e.g., Camp Ooch and the Sporting Life 10k) may be struggling to adapt. For anyone hesitant to sign-up for a virtual race because it “doesn’t feel the same”: I encourage you to either sign-up or donate independently to a charity of your choice if you have the financial capacity to do so. Many not-for-profits and charities depended upon race donations, in addition to their in-person programming that has been cancelled. So, while altered races haven’t been ideal for the Toronto running community, there are other stakeholders involved that may still be struggling to make ends meet.

New Runners

Running has been a relatively ‘accessible’ sport (running itself is never fully adaptable or accessible for individuals of all abilities) over the last year for people to take up as a new form of physical activity. With gyms, recreation centres, and parks being closed for months at a time, many people turned to running as a new form of activity to stay active during the pandemic. This has been a great change for the Toronto running community, as we’ve grown now more than ever in increasing the population of Toronto runners. At the individual level, new runners have benefited from both the physical and mental health benefits of running and being a part of the Toronto running community. But, taking up running with limited access to in-person coaching can be challenging on the body! Running is an impact sport, and while the impact can be beneficial in some ways (bone density), too much running, too soon, can be detrimental both physically (injury, altered menstrual cycle) and mentally (burnout, anxiety). For anyone new to running: take it easy! Prioritize rest and recovery days…and not those recovery days that you spend doing your groceries and cleaning your house, but actual recovery days where you embrace lounging on the couch. Don’t be scared to be sedentary. Listen to your body with your runs. Many people are believers of the 10% rule (increasing your mileage per week by no more than 10%). But, many people also say this rule doesn’t always make sense, specifically for new runners. At the end of the day, comfort is key. Be consistent, make sure your body is comfortable with where you are at, and once that comfort level is reached, add in a few more kilometres per week. Or forget about adding kilometres completely and enjoy that comfort zone!

Virtual Community

The Toronto running community has gone virtual! Over the last 14 months, we have built an incredibly strong, vibrant, and active (pun intended) virtual community for Toronto runners. Instagram pages featuring Toronto runners (including our own at RO6) have taken off, and have fostered networks between Toronto runners. Clubhouse has become a hot spot for runners to chat about all things running. But, there’s a barrier here for runners that don’t have social media or don’t have access to devices to join the virtual Toronto running community. Also, some individuals may be struggling to find these communities, or might not know they exist! For anyone who is a member of the virtual Toronto running community: I encourage you to reach out to runners that may not yet be a part of it. Talk to them about your favourite parts of the online running community and how they can get involved. I also encourage you to safely work on your non-virtual running community. A simple way to do this is mentioned in one of our previous blogs: wave at fellow runners! A quick wave can increase that runner’s feelings of belonging and/or representation in the running community – if they’re not a part of the virtual running community, a single wave can have a big impact.