Tag Archives: Toronto

Confessions of a winter runner…

Today’s post is a guest post by Allison Larsh, who was profiled on The Fartlek Runner’s Toronto Runner series.

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=winter+running&iid=4510111″ src=”c/4/4/f/Unusual_Arctic_Cold_9f97.jpg?adImageId=8569166&imageId=4510111″ width=”380″ height=”248″ /]  You know the one thing that really kills me about summer days? That everyone else loves summer days. You go out for a run —say on a trail by a certain valley — and soon enough you realize that everyone (and their dog!) had the exact same idea. All of a sudden, escaping for a bit of solitude during a run is a little bit harder to do. But, switch the calendar a few months and I’m singing a different tune. I can run the 7.5 km loop without seeing a single other person. It’s me, the trail, and the sub-zero temperatures.

That’s right. My name is Allison and I’m a winter running fanatic.

First, let me get a few things I don’t like about running out of the way. These things are pet peeves, and it’s probably too early in our relationship to tell you about them because I’m afraid I’m going to come off as, well, a bit of a bitch. But, here it goes. I don’t like dodging people on the sidewalk, especially when they are on my half of the sidewalk. And I don’t like to be hot and sweaty. Also, I’m pale, and let’s face it, this skin was not made for the sun. And last, I run to be by myself. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy running with friends, because I truly do. But, a lot of the time, I run to get into a better headspace, my headspace, without interruptions. I know, this is making me sound cranky, it’s just that running really is my alone time.

The thing that people don’t seem to realize is that running is actually more comfortable in the winter. I know, it sounds crazy, but hear me out. It’s a summer day — let’s say a balmy twenty degrees centigrade. You go out, tank top and shorts, and you start out feeling fine. Then you knock out a few kilometers, and your internal temperature rises a few degrees. After 10 km, you’re outright hot. If it’s humid, your legs have started to feel heavy and every step feels a little bit harder than it should. This doesn’t happen when it’s cold. Instead, you start out a bit uncomfortable. But, throw on a hat, some winter leggings, a wind proof jacket with a soft under, and some mittens, and for the vast majority of the run, you’re… wait for it… comfortable. Last night, the Weather Network told me it felt like -14. Well, I’d like to argue. After 2K, it felt more like perfection.

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=winter+running&iid=3429676″ src=”0/9/1/2/Germany_Hit_By_c388.jpg?adImageId=8568324&imageId=3429676″ width=”380″ height=”253″ /]Of course, there are some problems that I haven’t quite sorted out yet. For instance, I am not happy with how early it gets dark. And some days, with the wind chill it really is just too cold. But for the most part, I promise, once you get out there, you will wonder why it took you so long. There are days where the snow is fresh and the sun is shining and it will more than match that beautiful fall day or that perfect summer afternoon. One of the best things about living in Toronto is living in a city with four seasons. Winter is definitely one of our most, ahem, talked about. It’d be a shame to write it off without testing it out first. When you come home and pull off that ice encrusted toque and peel away the layers to settle into a bath, you’ll be proud of yourself for adding a little bit more of a challenge to that tempo run, or that speed work, or that long run. It will make you feel more confident in your running and more optimistic about what you, yes you, can do as a runner.

There’s certainly something hardcore about running in the winter. I don’t usually wave at runner’s during the summer (those fair weather runners!). In the winter though, I smile and sometimes even say “hi”. You can’t ignore the feeling of understanding. That is, in a nut shell, what I love about winter running. I don’t run to spend time with other people. I run because I love to run. When I see other runners, especially in the winter, I am struck by a feeling of community, and it always makes my run just a little bit better.

Oh, I almost forgot the absolute best thing: all that winter running gear totally hides any and all jiggling. Promise.

You can hear form Allison on her blog at www.larsh.ca


Toronto Runner: Aestus Rogers

For several years, Aestus Rogers ran on and off as a way to keep his weight from skyrocketing. “I always ran on treadmills and never with any kind of direction or purpose,” he says. “A couple of years ago I pushed myself too far and ended up with bursitis in my hip.” This injury left Aestus on crutches and unable to work at his nursing job at St. Michael’s Hospital for three weeks. “The whole winter was a write off and I began to pack on the pounds,” he recalls. “I was really miserable, so my husband took me to the Running Room and signed both of us up for a Learn to Run clinic in May 2008. I learned a lot in the last year and a half, and now my weight is where I want it to be. Along the way I also discovered how much I love running as well!”

As a way to give back, Aestus decided to become a coach for some of the clinics that he had taken and enjoyed. Currently he’s finishing coaching a Learn to Run clinic that meets three time a week in downtown Toronto. “I can’t wait to see these new runners across the finish line of their first race at this year’s resolution run,” he said. “They’ve worked really hard and are all doing very well.”

When he’s not coaching a clinic, Aestus likes to hit the recreational trails in Toronto. Among his favourite are the belt line, Moore Park, the Don Valley trails and the Martin Goodman trail. “Anything that gets me off of the sidewalks and away from the cars and stoplights, “ says Aestus. “I live less than a kilometer from the intersection of Don Valley and Martin Goodman, so I’m pretty lucky to have those choices so close to home.”

Aestus running at the 2009 Beaches Jazz Tune Up 5 km run.

This coming January, Aestus will begin training with a clinic for his first marathon — the ING Ottawa Marathon. The support and camaraderie of a running group helps keep him motivated. “It [the Ottawa Marathon] is one of my goals for 2010, and I’d like to start working towards Boston in the next three or four years,” he says. “Ultimately, I’d love to run marathons around the world. In Marathon, Paris, New York, Sweden, etc.”

This past fall, Aestus ran both the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon (1:58) and the Goodlife Fitness Toronto Half Marathon (1:58) with his husband. “My husband has always been a slower runner than me,” admits Aestus. “When I crossed the finish line at Goodlife, I stopped and waited to see him finish. While I was waiting, I checked my phone and found a text message from him — he had already finished and was looking for me! I was so proud of him. I was excited about my own time, but was elated at his accomplishment.”

Since his encounter with bursitis, running has had a profound impact on Aestus. “Running has changed the way I feel about myself. Physically, I look so much better than I did two-years ago, but it has also changed my everyday life as well. I have more strength, more energy, more endurance, and a more positive outlook,” he says. “Running has even enhanced my spirituality — when I’m out running alone for a LSD, It becomes meditative and I have some of my best moments of clarity while I’m running.

Aestus running in his kilted best at the 2009 Cambridge Highland Games 3rd Annual 8 km Road Race

I’m happy with myself, and proud of my achievements. I love that I have been able to inspire some of my colleagues and friends to get out and moving. It really feels good to know that I’ve had some part in helping them to find the courage to take those first steps. When we started running, my husband and I finally discovered a fitness activity that we could both enjoy and share, so it has even enhanced my marriage in a very direct way.”

For more on Aestus, visit his website at www.aestus.ca.

Quick Facts:

Favourite Shoe: Nike
Favourite Gear: Garmin 405 watch and ipod
Age: 42
Motivation: Having new goals.
Best part of running Toronto: It’s a beautiful city. There are lots of parks and trails. There are lots of running groups all over the city, and it’s pretty flat.
E-mail Sig: “DEAD LAST FINISH is greater than DID NOT FINISH, which greatly trumps DID NOT START.”

Hello winter…

The craziness of the season is here — the holiday parties, lunches, and shopping. With so many demands at this time of the year (not to mention the lovely slush storm Toronto had this week), it can be tempting to skip that midweek run to get more done, or to seek asylum in the warmth of your home. I know this because I did it Wednesday night. For the first time, I skipped a planned run. In my defense, I had just finished an hour-long weight lifting class and had run five speedy kilometers on the treadmill before that. But I had the best of intentions to finish this off with a brisk 10km. That was until I stepped out of the gym, and into the blustering cold of the city street, something in me said, “hell no.” I think my body may have been in shock — we’ve been spoiled with such a long and moderate autumn that made it seemed as if the reality of winter would never arrive (ya right, dream on!).

Instead, I went home Wednesday night and did some work on the blog (you’ll notice we now have a facebook page and there are a few other bells and whistles on the blog), and I didn’t give another thought to leaving the house.

Then yesterday I regretted not going for my run, and it made me think of one of quotes Allison Larsh told me about for her Toronto Runner profile: “I’ve often regretted not going for a run, but I’ve never regretted going for one.” So there was no skipping last night’s 10km. The official temperature was -9˚c, but with the wind chill chill to it to -21˚c!

I bundled myself up with two layers on the legs, three on the torso and a pair of double layered socks. I used one of those running headband things with a toque overtop and winter running gloves. The first few kilometers were uncomfortably cold and several times I regretted not lathering my rosy cheeks in Vaseline. There was an incredibly strong head wind coming from the west (the direction I was running into, but figured it better to have it on my back for the second half) that would nearly blow me into the streets when I crossed at intersections.

Despite all this, after the first few kilometers I was nice and toasty warm. My toes, which only a few blocks back felt like they were frost bitten, were now snug and warm, and I was trotting along a fairly decent pace.

What this long, drawn out post is getting at is, don’t skip your runs because of the cold weather (dangerous weather, yes. Cold and wind, no). It’s likely one of the few things that will keep us all sane through this insane time of year and land us on the other side fit and ready for another (much warmer) season!

This week’s runs:

Date Distance (km) Pace (/km) Time
December 2 14 4:39 1:04
December 3 10 4:53 48:42
December 6 25 5:00 2:04

Seasonal musings…

It officially appears to be that time of year again – that time when I will begrudgingly put away my running shorts (or at least relegate them to my gym bag), along with my tank tops and thin running socks, to don full-length pants, a fleece sweater, wind breaker, and double-layer socks.

Aside from the additional clothing requirements, there is something about running in the colder months that I find appealing; a quiet serenity that is lacking in the deliciously hot days of summer. And while it’s still fairly temperate, it won’t be long before each contraction of my lungs will yield visible puffs of moist air, and the sweat being wicked away from my body will freeze on the outer layers of my garments.

But during that time of year, the air is crisp and clean (or as clean as it can be in the largest city in the country) and it is as close to solitude as a Torontonian can get while being outdoors. Icy sidewalks are largely abandoned for underground routes. Typically busy trails and paths lack their usual mosaic of cyclists, roller bladders, and pedestrians. All that is left are the runners who push through the obstacles of their environment to achieve the goals they’ve set for themselves — whether that’s maintaining a base for next season or training for one of the early spring marathons.

I began my first running clinic in the dead of winter, and this year, I look forward to beginning the clinic for my first marathon in the same.

The past week’s runs:

Date Distance (km) Pace (/km) Time
November 10 13 4:50 1:02
November 14 8 4:47 38:09
November 15 18 5:07 1:31
November 17 10 5:00 49:51

odds and ends…

The weather in Toronto has been fantastic this week! We’ve been incredibly fortunate to see temperatures in the double digits during the day with lots of sunshine! Of course, it’s getting dark earlier, and so I had my first nocturnal run of the season on Tuesday that took me for 13 km around the beaches and lakeshore. It was a lot of fun, and I had forgotten how slippery a sidewalk covered in leaves can be!

Last night, I had the opportunity to go to a “body pump” class at the Union Station Goodlife Fitness gym and thoroughly enjoyed it. Now that the training season is done, I’m trying to get out and try some different classes and exercises that I might enjoy either for cross training, or just for fun. I’m heading to a spinning class next Monday and have plans to check out the local pool later next week.

There is lots going on in the running blogs post-marathon season — Yumke had a great post about the bravery of the other side of racing season – the one where despite dedication and training, there is an injury or race day doesn’t turn out like you hoped. Yesterday, the G&M’s “jockology” column was on music’s affect on running and can be found here. Running with Scissors also has a great post about embracing the “silly season” of running before the next season begins! For the parents reading this, Runner Dude has a post on using running to be a healthy role model for your kids.

I’m busy putting together what I hope will be a weekly feature, and am looking to launch it early next week. I’m also planning a nice LSD for Sunday and so far the weather people are indulging me with continued weather bliss!

Winter’s coming, so I’m going to soak up as much of that last bit of warm dry pavement as I can before it’s gone! I’ll finish this post with a video I found over on Dave’s blog, called “Why do you run.”

Sunday LSD

This morning I decided to go for a nice long 23 km solo run, adding 10 per cent onto last weekend’s half marathon (took 1 hour and 56 min. — 5:03/km pace).

I started off in Toronto’s east end at Main Street and Danforth Avenue taking a route down to the lake, along the boardwalk, through Cherry Beach, up the DVP trails and finally back through Taylor Creek park. This route was inspired by a write up about Toronto running trails in the November/December issues of Canadian Running (pg. 28/29). I used Map My Run to map out the route  — if you’re interested in checking my route out, you can see it here. Also, if you wanted to shorten it to 20 km and make it a full loop, just cut out Ash Bridges Bay and Cherry Beach and just run straight across Lake Shore Avenue. This way you could start and end in the downtown core.

I’ll be on a plane first thing in the morning heading for the mountains of central Mexico. I’ll be running every chance I get, hoping to take my camera along with me so I can share the sights and trails I find. It’ll also be El Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) during my trip, which I’ll definitely be blogging.

Hope everyone had a great weekend.


Hasta Luego Amigos