HARRY’S SPRING RUN-OFF 2015 RACE REVIEW
Saturday, April 4, 2015 marked the 37th Anniversary of the Spring Run Off. The course was originally laid out in High Park and designed to be one of North America’s prettiest urban courses, all within the park. It was to be THE event to open the running season in Ontario.
The “Spring Run Off” offered the first prize money of any road race in Canada–$1000 to the first-place winner–but, at the same time, it would be for all runners. Prizes also included cases and cases of fresh-bottled maple syrup from Archie McPhee’s farm in Orillia as lucky draw prizes and age-category awards. A piper piped the runners from the registration area by the schoolhouse over to the start of the race near Grenadier Restaurant, and 1200 participants ran across the Start Line to create this Canadian rite of Spring.
Harry Rosen is now the major sponsor of the run (this year they celebrated 10 ‘remarkable’ years’), and charitable contributions go to conquer prostate cancer.
Because the race is totally in High Park, it has a very ‘community/neighbourhood-type’ feel. There are events for kids, and the local community is out in force. At the same time, however, it seems larger than it is (over 2000 participants this year) and attracts a consistently fast field. This year, Eric Gillis was the male winner in 24:16.7 and Heather Petrick was the fastest woman with a time of 28:12.0. With the Canadian Running Series running the event, it has all the feel of a large race…a ‘real’ stage…great organization…a large volunteer base…lots of sponsors’ tents…post-race massage…no shortage of post-race fuel…’big race’ chutes for the Start and Finish…and it runs like a well-oiled machine.
I ran the 8K course which is totally within High Park. The first few kilometres are a bit of ‘out and back’ around a few loops including an initial downhill (which feels really great until you realize that it’s THE hill that you’ll be climbing back up at the end!) and one uphill around 3K before you start working your way to the southern edge of the Park. At about 6km, you turn around and start a slow climb back to the start. It’s an easy run along paved paths and streets…never too crowded…and with several music stations along the way. There is an impending feeling that you are moving inexorably to that final hill…and then you hit it with about 500 metres to go. It’s stiff and steep…and of course (like all good hills in a race) the real difficulty is that it’s right at the end (why do they do that…I know…I know…). The feeling is just fabulous, however, when you crest the hill, see that there’s one final turn and then just a few metres to the Finish Line where your heart is absolutely pumping and you’re pretty-well spent. That’s what a race is supposed to be, isn’t it?
Two thoughts. First, while 8K doesn’t seem long, the course has a real mix of hills, paved trails, and flat road sections so it’s a good workout. Second…it’s only a week after Around the Bay, so it’s nicely placed in the race calendar, and for those who usually do their regular long runs on Sunday, the fact that this race is on a Saturday morning means that it’s like an extra bit of speedwork that doesn’t interfere with your Sunday schedule. For example, I did the 8K and then ran 36K on Sunday morning with no problem.
Finally…the race starts at 10:00am. For Torontonians, this means that the subway is running (the race Start/Finish is right across the street from the High Park Station) and you don’t have to worry about the hassle of parking your car. What’s better than that: a quick, short race on a Saturday morning which lets you get home by noon for a full breakfast!
(Mitch finished 2nd in the 8K in a time of 37:37.6)