Category Archives: Toronto Runner

Toronto Runner: Kathryn Mitchell

Kathryn holds her finisher's medal after completing the 2009 Chicago Marathon last October.

In 2004, Kathryn Michell took a Learn to Run clinic to prove to her running friends that the sport was not for her. As a goal of the clinic, she complete a 5k road race, which left her in a confusing spot — she had been bitten by the running bug.

“I never dreamt of running,” says Kathryn. “I hated running in high school, but it’s brought me the knowledge that I can indeed take on a challenge and step-by-step break it into the pieces that make it possible to complete.”

Typically running two-to-three times a week, Kathryn has been revving up her training to four to six in preparation for the Chilly Half Marathon this weekend and the Around the Bay 30k Road Race at the end of the month. She also has plans to run Nike’s women only marathon again this October in San Francisco.

“I love to travel. I was six or seven weeks old when my family moved from Canada to St. Lucia, and I was three-and-a-half when we moved back,” recalls Kathryn. “What better way to travel? Finding an event that mans something, signing up, and making it happen.

Kathryn took a dip in the Pacific Ocean after the 2009 Nike Women-only Marathon in San Francisco

This takes a bit of planning, but I try to pick the events I’m hoping to do for the upcoming year and figure out how I’ll be able to financially swing them. Seat sales, deals on hotels and paying for most of it before I actually get there make it all work.

Getting ready for many of the far-away events, Kathryn can be found running with friends all over the city. “I live near the Kay Gardiner Beltline trail and I love the surface of the trail and running through city, while staying in a park,” she says. “I also run a lot in Bloor West, and will often run the waterfront, Humber trails and High Park with others. There are just so many choices in Toronto.”

Kathryn’s running life and professional life got a lot closer in 2004, when she began working for the Beaches Running Room. She became the store manager of the High Park location in 2005, and eventually in 2008 moved to the Commerce Court location where she is today.

Often combining vacations and races, Kathryn is seen here at the 2008 Disney Half Marathon

In the future, Kathryn has her eyes set on more international runs, including the Dublin, London, Paris, and New York marathons, and the Rock’N’Roll series (which includes Arizona, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Nashville, New Orleans, Philadelphia, San Antonio, San Diego, San Jose, Seattle and Virginia Beach).

Beyond the events, bling and sway, Kathryn has found that there are many un-quantifiable rewards to the sport. “Running has brought me new friendships. It’s taught me discipline and its rewards,” she says. “It’s let me know when I have slacked and allowed me to be more open through discussions during long runs.”


Toronto Runner: Dave Emilio

After a very active childhood, Dave Emilio found that his activities had taken on a more social nature. “By my late 30s’ I realized that I was not healthy and not feeling well all the time,” he said. “I set out a plan to run as part of a weight management and overall health improvement strategy.”
Now running five to seven days a week, Dave is usually putting somewhere between 65 and 110 kilometres in a week depending on the time of year and what race he is training for. “I follow a combination of several plans,” says Dave. “It’s not far removed from any one plan and involves the pyramid structure of base, strength and then speed.
“I believe a lot of potential is built up between programs with steady, high mileage easy running. Most people drop off their mileage after a race and then start from scratch with each new race and wonder why they don’t improve their race times.”
Since May 2007, Dave has run 14 marathons and one 50k ultra marathon. “My favourite should be Mississauga, as that’s where I first qualified for Boston,” says Dave, “but I will always think fondly of my first marathon in Ottawa. Nothing beats crossing that marathon finish line for the first time.”
Last May, Dave achieved one of his running goals when he qualified for the Boston Marathon with one minute and 49 seconds to spare. “Now my short-term goal is to run a personal best of a sub 3:19 marathon this April in Boston,” he says. “After a three-week layoff with a broken toe in December I have my work cut out for me, but I’m working hard.”
When asked what advice he had for those of us who hope to one day qualify, Dave said, “If you want to qualify for Boston, be patient. Run lots. Lots of easy miles, warm up and cool down and you will stay healthy. Then, work hard and don’t be afraid of the dark mornings. Fast marathons are run with proper training, not just positivity. Massage, cross training, good food, good sleep and time management are all necessary, whether or not your goal is to qualify for Boston.”
In addition to Boston, Dave will also be running the Around the Bay 30k Road Race in March (he hopes to get a silver medal, which are award for completing the course in under two hours and 15 minutes) as well as a second attempt at the 50k distance. Mississauga and Ottawa marathons will round out the spring racing season and he is the four-hour pace bunny at Ottawa, his fourth time as a Marathon Pacer. On top of these plans, Dave will run four to five more marathons this fall and hopes to finish one of them in three hours and nine minutes or better — his ultimate goal is to complete a sub three hour marathon.
“Running was a way to get healthy, but now it is a way to remain healthy,” says Dave. “I feel better than I ever have. Yes, sometimes I’m sore from workouts, but overall, running has made me feel good all the time. Racing keeps me well rounded, eating and sleeping better than I normally would. I will race as long as I can!”
In addition to his own personal running goals, Dave has also looked for ways to engage with the running community in Toronto. In 2006 he launched a running blog that would eventually become Running with Scissors. “It’s a place to share running thoughts, notes, data, and basically keep track of my own running,” says Dave. “It is also partially to compliment the Running Room clinics with a place to hold info like training schedules and documents.”
This past January, Dave announced a new project he’s piloting — The Beaches Runner’s Club. “The Beaches is a great place to run and the people who run around here are great,” says Dave. “Why not bring them together.” His hope is that the club will allow the many little groups within the running club to come together and to see that people always have someone their pace to train with. “I’m also looking to see about getting younger runners out there,” said Dave. “I think there are a lot of young people who do not know the value and enjoyment of running — let’s see if we can help them see the light.”

Toronto Runner: Beth Douglas

Beth Douglas never thought of herself as a runner. “I have always been involved in basketball, volleyball, softball and soccer, but never thought seriously of running for any sort of distance,” she recalls. “In university, part of my kinesiology education involved participating in various sport activities, one of which was running. The first five kilometres was tough, but after that, I was hooked.”

From those first 5k, Beth completed her first half marathon at last year’s Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon in two hours and 15 minutes. “I beat mayor Miller,” she jokes. “I had some knee issues during the race, and I drank too much Gatorade, but finishing that race was one of my most personally memorable running moments I’ve had.”

In addition to personal accomplishments, Beth’s accomplishments in running have also involved inspiring others in the sport as well. She has been coaching running clinics since 2006, coaching primarily Learn to Run, 5k and 10k distances. “Seeing people complete my running clinics, and then go on to run a half marathon or full marathon is so rewarding,” says Beth. “Inspiring people to love running as much as I do is a dream goal that I hope to achieve.”

In addition to running and helping teach others to run, Beth is also a licensed Chiropractor with the Commerce Court Health Centre, treating many runners who find themselves with various running-related inflictions. “I see the whole spectrum in my practice,” says Beth, “from injuries related to over use, to things like plantar fasciitis. My goal is to help these runners get back on their feet while educating them on how to stay there.”

Currently running three to four times a week, Beth admits to being a bit of a fair weather runner, and is trying to challenge herself to run outside year round. “I’m really trying to run through this winter,” she says, “otherwise, you can find me on a treadmill at the gym, but really, it’s not the same.”

Beth finishes her first half marathon at the 2009 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.

To keep her focused on her training, Beth is running the Around the Bay Road Race at the end of March in Hamilton and is looking at running the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon again this September. “I don’t aspire to run a full marathon,” says Beth, “but I’m a competitive person and challenging my race results is important and pushes me to see what my body can do.

“Running is a huge outlet for me and allows me time for myself where I can think and sort through any issues I may be dealing with at home or work. I have also met so many wonderful friends through running and it was a great way to make Toronto feel more like a home.

“I’ve definitely gotten to know the city better through it, and discovered new neighbourhoods with every long run — there are so many routes to choose from.”

Quick Fact:
Favourite Shoe: ASICS 2140
Favourite gear: ipod

Running for cancer survivors: a journey to wellness

Claire was the 2:15 pace bunny for the Mississauga Half Marathon in 2006

As a running instructor for the Running Room and Nike, I have taught numerous beginner clinics, but none have touched my heart and soul more than the Breast Cancer Survivor Clinics. As we all go on our weekly long runs, and pass runners on Toronto’s numerous paths, we assume that everyone who is running must be healthy.

This is not always so.

I have been privileged to teach three Breast Cancer Survivor Clinics on behalf of the Running Room, which are tailored to women who have had cancer, although I have not had cancer myself. As with any running clinic, we embark on a nine-week journey to increase their fitness level; this is a wellness clinic for thrivers. As a group they learn about fitness, but most of all, they build self-esteem and a network of fast friends. Cancer survivors share a powerful bond, which coupled with a common goal of the 5K Run for the Cure makes for a magical experience.

The students at these courses are as diverse as you can imagine — ranging from age 30 to 70. Some have only recently completed treatments, while others have been in remission for over a decade. These ladies bravely face a wide array of health challenges, ranging from depleted energy, to depression, to lymphedema, to weight management. While some cancer patients suffer from weight loss due to drug therapies and treatments, a great number experience weight gain.

The sessions begin like most other clinics, with a little lecture on a wellness topic followed by a group run/walk. The lectures focus on topics ranging from nutrition, speed walking and injury prevention, to oncology-related topics such as cancer support resources and the effect of lymphodema on exercise. These clinics are particularly individualized, with some students walking the entire nine weeks, while others take on the traditional run/walk format. Everyone is welcome to proceed at their own pace, and each and every lady’s accomplishments are applauded, whether they manage to walk five blocks or run five kilometres.

While some instructors enjoy teaching marathoners who are striving to qualify for the Boston Marathon, I love teaching cancer patients who are brave enough to take that first step out the door. My personal philosophy is that teaching running and walking clinics is an honor. I have never met a student who didn’t teach me more than I taught them. It takes a deep inner strength to combat cancer, and when I ask my students whether they are nervous about entering their first race, they always reply, “How hard could it be after chemo?” My role as an instructor is to lead, encourage, inform, listen, smile, and inspire, but frankly it’s my students who do that for me every day.

As you head out the door this week for your long run, wondering whether you can manage that nagging hamstring, and whether you have brought enough Gatorade with you, just think — how would I feel if I were worrying about my next round of chemotherapy instead? Embrace each and every run as a blessing. Wave to every child you see in a stroller. Smile at everyone you pass, you never know what they are going through.

About Claire:
Claire Colle has completed four marathons and 12 half-marathons in her running career. She has been a running instructor with the Running Room since 2005, coaching Learn to Run, 5k and Breast Cancer Survivor clinics. She was the instructor for the 2009 Nike 10k Cancer Survivor Walking Clinic and teaches group cycling classes four-times a week at GoodLife Fitness Clubs. She has her RPM Les Mills certification for cycling, Schwinn cycling instructor and Can-fit-pro certification. By day, Claire is a Marketing Manager at IBM and a mother of two teenage sons.

Toronto Runner: Maxine Featherstonhaugh

If you’re a runner in Toronto, you must have been living under a rock not to recognize Maxine Featherstonhaugh. Last year Maxine was on all the marketing materials and posters for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon (pictured left). Having run the event six times, it’s no surprise that she loves it so much — her favourite place to run in the city is near the water. “Running with all the geese, swans, ducks and other birds, is very peaceful and makes me feel very free,” says Maxine. “I usually run first thing in the morning, so I often see the sun rising over the lake, which can be quite incredible. Sometimes I’ll see a beaver swimming in the lake or sitting on the ice when it’s frozen. I even saw a little fox once, feasting on a goose and carrying it away in its mouth.

“As the trail moves through Queens Quay, I love seeing the tourists who are enjoying our city, and going through Cherry Beach takes you into a more forested area where you can breath in the smell of the trees and grasses.”

Maxine first took up running in 1996 with a co-worker. “I can’t even remember why I started,” says Maxine, “I assume it was to improve my heath, but seeing the increasing muscle definition in my legs definitely motivated me to continue running.”

While muscle definition might have kept Maxine going early on, now she says that being able to run is motivation in and of itself. “Running is like breathing, it’s just a part of me,” she says. “I get excited every time I get to go out for a run — ok, maybe not when it’s -23°C with the wind chill, but once I’m out, there is no other place I would rather be.

“Running is my meditation, it’s my time for me. It has brought me strength, both physically and mentally; it takes me from upset to happy; it takes me from happy to happier.”

In 2003, Maxine ran her first marathon at the Burlington Marathon Rock ‘n’ Roll Canada in four hours and 38 minutes. On January 1, Maxine ran the Texas Marathon, bringing her marathon total to an impressive 23. “Some might think that this sounds crazy,” admits Maxine, “but while running in Texas, I came across a lot of people that have run more marathons than I could imagine. One guy has run over 400, and some of the runners have done marathons every weekend, or twice a week. Now that’s crazy!”

Maxine crosses the finish line at Scotiabank on September 28, 2008, having just realized that she’d qualified for Boston.

Last year, Maxine decided that 2009 would be her year of the marathon, so she ran nine of them. The first seven were between January 1 and May 24 (Texas Marathon, Surfside Beach Marathon, Seabrook Lucky Trail Marathon, the Boston Marathon, the Waterloo Marathon, the Mississauga Marathon and the Ottawa Marathon), then she ran the other two in the fall (Scotiabank and the Goodlife Fitness Toronto Marathon). “Three of them were part of the Texas Marathon Triple (Texas, Seabrook Lucky Trail and Surfside Beach),” says Maxine, “where I received a free hat and jacket for completing all three events. How cool is that!” She also ended up running four of the marathons within 35 days – including Boston, Waterloo, Mississauga and Ottawa.

In total, Maxine has run Goodlife three times, Mississauga five times, Scotiabank six times, Texas three times, Seabrook Lucky Trail twice, Surfside Beach once, Boston once, Waterloo once, and Ottawa once.

In case you’re wondering what goals Maxine may still have left after her year of the marathon, you might be surprised: “To win a 5k this summer,” says Maxine. “Another dream goal is to run all five of the marathon majors. I ran Boston last year, and I have applied to the lottery for the New York Marathon for this year, then maybe the Chicago Marathon next year, the London Marathon the year after that, and the Berlin Marathon the year after that.”

In the mean time, Maxine is training for this year’s Around the Bay 30k, Boston and Mississauga marathons. “Around the Bay falls perfectly on a 29k long-run day, so it will be nice to do a long run with a whole bunch of people. Plus it’s a fantastic race that I like to do every year.”

With so many races under her belt, Maxine’s two most memorable running moments have both happened within the last two years. “The first one is the moment I crossed the finish line on September 28, 2008 at Scotiabank, and realized that I’d qualified for Boston,” says Maxine. “I knew that day could have gone on either side of the 3:50:59 I needed. I had said the day before that if all of the stars aligned then I would probably qualify, but you never know how you will feel on race day.” She didn’t take a watch or music with her that day either as she wanted to just run with how she felt, and says she felt fantastic.

“There was a clock at the half-way point, and with my calculations I was about four minutes under Boston Qualifying time. Then at 30K the clock showed that I was bang on if I had kept that pace,” recalls Maxine. “For the last 12.2k I had no idea how I was doing, and then when I reached the finish line and saw that clock my jaw just dropped and tears sprung into my eyes. As cliché as it may sound, it was truly an amazing moment, and I had made it with 2:02 to spare — I finished in 3:48:57.”

Maxine holds back tears as she runs the 2009 Boston Marathon.

Maxine’s other most memorable running moment was actually running the 2009 Boston Marathon. “It was incredible! As a marathoner and a Canadian, it was everything I expected it to be; the history, the people, the scenery — spectacular. I could not have run any faster than I did because I was busy holding back tears of joy with almost every step. I was the ultimate tourist looking up at everything and taking in every single moment.”

Having run marathons all over North America, Maxine says that Toronto is still her favourite place to run. “There is nowhere that I would rather run than in Toronto. I love that you can run in the middle of the city with all of the hustle and bustle, or you can run down the Leslie Spit and feel like you are no where near a city. A long run can take you from Lake Ontario near the CNE all the way up to Canada’s Wonderland where you will go through many different neighbourhoods. It’s amazing and the options are endless.”

Quick Fact:
Favourite Shoe: ASICS 2140

Maxine’s top three running tracks:
Kashmir by Led Zeppelin
Freeway by Linda Perry
Bring the People Together by Live

Toronto Runner: Tracy Germain

When Tracy Germain moved to Toronto from New Zealand, she considered herself a boxer. “I couldn’t find a boxing club near my house, so in the meantime I took up running until I found an alternative,” Tracy recalls. “It turns out that I loved running and I couldn’t stop once I got into it.”

That love has seen Tracy run several marathons over the last couple of years, including last year’s ING Ottawa Marathon (4:20), Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon (4:16) and the Goodlife Fitness Toronto Marathon (4:16), as well as several 30k races (Around the Bay -2:43, and Midsummer Run – 2:53).

Now running five to seven times a week, Tracy likes to mix up a medium-long run, a long run and three to four recovery/speed/tempo runs into her training mix. She has previously followed a Hal Higdons intermediate marathon plan, but for this year, Tracy’s planning on using Peter Pfitzinger’s 55-mile-per-week plan to try to get a 3:40 when she runs the ING Ottawa Marathon in May.

“Running has become such a large part of my life,” says Tracy. “While it takes up a lot of my spare time, it also keeps me healthy, energized and sane.

“I’m a bit of an A-type personality, so my goals keep me motivated. I organize them and work out how I’m going to go about achieving them. I find running can become routine after a while, so I don’t even think about it – I either get home from work or wake up in the morning and I’m ready to go out running before I even think about it.”

To combat that monotony of the intense training that is required for endurance running, Tracy turns to audio books and podcasts to keep her mentally stimulated during longer runs. “I’m a super geek and I get super bored of music, but love to listing to books or podcasts,” says Tracy. “They’re usually running related, but not always — sometime a few science-related ones make it onto the play list.”

With so many kilometers to log, Tracy has covered many of the trails available in Toronto, but like many runners, has found that the Martin Goodman Trail is one of her favourites. “I run it [MGT] at least three times a week, and it’s so good to not have to worry about cars, stoplights, etc., but my favourite real trail is the Moore Park Ravine because it’s gravelly, muddy, hilly and oh so fun to run on.”

Among Tracy’s most memorable running moments has been a toss up between finishing her first marathon, which she says, “totally sucked, but was amazing at the same time,” and those moments when you’re out running and realize how beautiful the world is and how much we take for granted. “The beautiful green space we have for a big city is amazing and there is still a lot of good trails,” says Tracy. “All the other people you see out running and the small events that get put on through out there year are just icing on the cake.”

While she is definitely a driven runner, Tracy also likes to keep her goals in perspective. “Eventually, I’d really like to get under 3:30 for the marathon, but then if I achieve that goal, I’d probably start dreaming about finishing in three hours.”

Toronto Runner: Craig Hyland

The beginning of Craig Hyland’s journey into the world running has been repeated many times by other guys looking to impress a girl. “A girl I was interested in was a runner,” says Craig, “and like most guys, I wasn’t going to let a little thing like the fact that I hadn’t really run more than 500 meters before deter me.” Once Craig started running, he found it quite addictive. “It’s become a way for me to decompress, a way to challenge myself, while improving my overall fitness.”

Now running two to three times per weeks, Craig ran both the Ottawa Half Marathon (2:05) and the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon (1:59). “I find that my pre-race preparation is much more mental than physical,” he says. “I visualize myself running strong, pushing hard, and crossing the finish line. I’m a firm believer that if you get yourself into the right mental space, your body will follow. Of course I have to admit that I also indulge in an extra large pre-race coffee too.”

While he’s currently enjoying some down time after last year’s season, Craig has his eyes set on running the full 2010 Ottawa Marathon at the end of May. “I plan to start training for Ottawa in the spring,” says Craig. “I’m running it strictly for the personal challenge of completing the marathon distance, and frankly I’d would just like to finish while still standing.

Among Craig’s fondest running memories is when he ran his first half marathon in Ottawa in 2008. He remembers approaching the final hill nearly two kilometers from the finish line and having every fibre and muscle in his body telling him to quit. After digging deep and pushing himself through that final obstacle, he was able to complete the race. “The desire to push past the mental and physical barriers that we think we have is one of the greatest rewards of running,” says Craig. “The feeling of going one more kilometre longer than we think we can. I think every runner has had the feeling at some point of letting themselves down. That they didn’t push as hard or as far as they could have, and sometimes we just don’t have it in us. But conversely, I think we have also had the experience of running faster and further then we ever thought we could.”

At last year’s Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon, Craig decided to raise money for the Canadian Cancer Society as part of his training for the event and in memory of family members who fought the disease. “It was definitely a great feeling to combine a sport that I love with the opportunity to give back to the community,” says Craig who ended up raising more than $700 for the charity.

And it’s in that community aspect of running that Craig finds both motivation and inspiration. Like many runners, he feels that one of the best parts of running in Toronto is the people, whom Craig describes as “warm, open, supportive and motivated.” New runners who are just starting out also inspire him. “For a lot of us, running five, 10, or even 20 kilometres is no big deal,” says Craig. “But to see a person for whom even a couple of kilometres is a struggle, and yet find it within themselves to push past the their barriers, and succeed in their goals, is an inspiring sight.”

Quick facts:

Favourite Shoe: Saucony Hurricanes
Favourite Equipment: Lululemon running shorts
Favourite thing about running Toronto: People
Motivation: New runners

Craig’s top running tracks:

Eye of the Tiger by Survivor
Back in the Black by ACDC
Extreme Ways by Moby
I’m Shipping Up to Boston by Dropkick Murphy’s