There is a well known saying within the global running community which is, “If you’re not running…you’re cheering”. I have never missed out on a race due to injury until now and have grown accustomed to pounding the pavement amongst thousands of other runners who rely on weeks of training and cheers from the crowd to get to the finish line. As an injured runner there are several phases of recovery that you go through and denial is part of that process. Once I passed the denial phase and realized that running in this year’s Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon was no longer a reality, I decided to see what it was like on the other side. Turning my focus to community, I channeled my energy for this year’s race into fundraising and cheering. Participating in the Scotiabank Charity Challenge and raising money for the Children’s Wish Foundation opened my eyes to a whole other side of running. Plus, cheering with Parkdale Road Runners and NRC, I was part of the most epic cheer squad EVER at the 19km mark.
Winner of the 2015 Toronto Waterfront Marathon 19 year old Shure Demise from Ethopia
To my surprise, witnessing 26,000 runners take on the course was much more powerful than any personal running experiences have been. Sure, running would have been rewarding, especially if I had PB’d or better yet BQ’d (Boston Qualified), but I became obsessed watching each runner pass me wondering what their story was, how they got to the start line, and who they were they running for. Were they running for themselves? Were they running to pace or support someone else’s goal? Or, to raise money or awareness for a charity? STWM is remarkable because you see participants at all levels from Elites to beginners, running or walking everything from a 5k to a full marathon. Known for being flat and fast, this course is perfect for those looking to Boston Qualify or simply PB. Most importantly, runners are encouraged to challenge themselves beyond the physical element of the race and run for a charity through the Scotiabank Charity Challenge.
With Jessie Zapo of @GirlsRunNYC
Naivasha Thomas Co-Founder of Undo Ordinary Photos by Jess Baumung
My personal highlight of this year’s race was partnering with the Children’s Wish Foundation as part of the #ScotiaChallenge, to help raise money and awareness for my favourite charitable organization. In case you missed my first Children’s Wish Ontario Chapter experience you can read it here. Another special element of this year’s race was Bridge the Gap (BTG). BTG is where run crews converge in a selected city each year and are hosted by that city’s members – this year’s STWM saw over 30 run clubs from around the world. The ethos of BTG is to “Train Hard. Run Harder. Play Hardest.” From Friday to Monday, the international BTG community took over “The 6” and visited the AGO, sang shameless karaoke at the Gladstone Hotel, did a special shakeout run with Parkdale Road Runners and of course the highly anticipated post race party where there was a DJ battle with a music set by each city in attendance.
Being on the sidelines, I had more time meet some of the amazing runners I’ve connected with via social media over the past few years. Watching my friends pass me at Crew Love Corner gave me goosebumps. Locking eyes with each of them as they approached, and watching the energy being transferred from the cheer squad to each runner was intense. Their reactions to recognizing familiar faces all screaming, playing music and throwing copious amounts of confetti was priceless. It is something you have to experience yourself to understand.
Photos by Tobias Wang and Sydney Allen Nash
It was only then when the FOMO of not running the race disappeared. My spirit animal Leigh Gerson of Black Roses NYC, who has been my social media pen pal for almost a year, cruised to the finish line of the half in 1:24:28 minutes, coming in 3rd place in her age group (that’s with no training ladies and gentleman). She is a beast and inspires me and other female weekend warriors every single day! Witnessing my #OnTheRunTO girls run their first half-marathon was extremely emotional. As I watched them run by me, the last three months flashed before my eyes. I recalled every rain run, injury, the 6 a.m. training sessions and the altering they made to their social lives to accommodate Saturday morning long runs. I was so overwhelmed when I saw Anna Bediones, I literally jumped into the race and ran with her for 20 feet. Each of the 25,000 runners deserved to have every single one us at “Crew Love Corner” standing in the freezing cold cheering our butts off for them.
It has been almost a week since race day and if you’re following the hashtags #STWM, #ScotiaChallenge and #BTGYYZ on any social media channel, you will see that people are still posting photos keeping the vibe alive. That’s how powerful the weekend was. Due to the race’s popularity, registration for the 2016 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon opens in just a few weeks on November 17th 2015. Need a bit of motivation or want to make your run in next year’s race more meaningful? Take part in the Scotiabank Charity Challenge and raise funds for a cause close to your heart. To learn more about this epic race weekend and to find out how to register for 2016, head to TorontoWaterfrontMarathon.com.