Do you want to build a snowman run the Dopey Challenge?

You want to run 48.6 miles around Disney World over four days? I did it – here’s what I learned.

1. Pack more running clothes than you need.

Pack two pairs of shoes. Pack more than four outfits – especially if you are wearing a costume. The weather this time of year in Florida is crazy. We had a temperature swing of 20+ degrees and it rained. Pack stuff that works for hot and humid runs and runs in winter-like temperatures. And pack a throwaway layer. You might need it – even in Florida.

2. Wear a costume.

When we did Princess in 2016, we felt silly because we just wore thematic shirts. For Dopey we went all out – and it makes a difference. People compliment you more, people cheer for you more, it makes everything happier and more festive.

3. The running isn’t the worst part – the early mornings are.

Those 3:00am wake-ups are going to kill you. Plan to nap and to get in bed early, early, early to combat them. That said, don’t try to skimp on Disney’s recommended arrival time. Stuff happens – buses get lost, line-ups are long, bibs are forgotten. Disney’s starting area has so much stuff to do and see and can solve most of your problems. So suck it up, get there early and take it all in.

4. The courses are crowded.

Especially the marathon. Submit a proof of time if you can to get in an earlier corral, and therefore have a less crowded course. If you’re running in a group, don’t run 3-4 across. Stay in your lane and don’t get frustrated if the crowd is so big you can’t run your pace for a little while.

5. The points between the parks are looooong.

There are miles and miles of highway you need to get through before you hit up the four parks and ESPN. This is true in the 10k, half-marathon and full marathon. Try not to let it get to you. Use this time to refuel, enjoy the course bands, take a walk break, talk to your fellow runners, text your friends if you’re a runner who does that. Be completely present in the parks, zone out here.

6. Make fun your #1 priority.

This is a marathon with a roller coaster and an open bar at the halfway point and with childhood characters lining the route for you to meet. Embrace that spirit and don’t freak out if your times are slower than you’d like. That is not the point of Disney races. Go on the roller coaster, get the picture, thank the volunteers. Disney is about fun. So make it fun.

7. Wear the medals proudly.

When you go out and about and enjoy Disney afterwards, wear a medal (or 6). You’ll get so much kudos and see so many other runners out doing the same, it makes you feel like you are part of something special.

8. Share the Disney magic.

Run with a friend, if you can. Or bring your family to enjoy the experience. What you are doing is hard and amazing and you’ll need someone to share the journey, support you and celebrate the accomplishment.

The are 48.6 of my favourite things (about running the Disney Dopey Challenge)


1. Being chased down by a runDisney official photographer – thinking they were going to kick us out of the race when they wanted our picture for their Facebook page.

2. Spending all weekend dreading running through ESPN because we were told it was going to be terrible, but end up loving it thanks to A+ character stops, changes in terrain and school bands and cheerleaders and a banana station.

3. A chocolate aid station with 5k left.

4. A “Let’s Get Down to Business” singalong with the 3 Shirtless Bros at about 7k into the 10k.

5. When the half marathon got cancelled, an impromptu half happened at Pop Century resort, with hundreds of runners, aid stations and spectators that could be heard across the lake.


6. Getting a shout out from the runDisney MC at the beginning of the 10k.

7. Getting to feel like we were starting the race at the beginning of the 5k and 10k, thanks to the new mini-corral system.

8. The spectator who went crazy for as at every spectator station. We saw her about 5 times (including the finish!) and she cheered so loud for us.

9. Roller coasters and shots halfway through the marathon. We didn’t do either but appreciated it was an option.

10. Seeing all the half marathoners who upgraded to the full crushing the full course.

11. All the princesses in Epcot!


12. A+ medals.

13. Beast character stop!

14. Genie character stop!

15. The dude we met before out impromptu half. We weren’t excited about it but he was so so so excited – he called it his most favourite Disney race ever – we fed off his energy and were pumped to crush 13.1 on our own.

16. Cruising to the finish line with a full crowd in the stands.

17. Accidental post-marathon cider.

18. DJs with more energy at 4:30am than I’ll ever have in my life.

19. The people who dressed up as the 101 Dalmatians. There were 101 of them.

20. The people who dressed up as the monorail.

21. The petting zoo at 25k.

22. Mickey and Minnie character stop!


23. Everyone who made a “fly, don’t run” joke on the course.

24. The guy who ate the best banana of his life at 26k.

25. Starting a mass wave of people using the bathroom in the woods in the marathon starting corral.

26. Wearing a tutu and going to the bathroom in the woods anyway.

27. Every kid who held out their hand for a high five.

28. Every person who cheered for “Flora, Fauna and Merryweather!”

29. The marathon shirt matching Jill’s costume perfectly so she wouldn’t get cold but could still be in costume.


30. Singing along to “Let It Go” in the 5k.

31. Canadian Donald Duck character stop!

32. Being Tweedles with my sister.


33. Seeing people buy beer, margaritas and turkey legs on their way to the finish line in the marathon.

34. Running through Animal Kingdom for the first time ever.

35. Running through Hollywood Studios for the first time ever – and there being huge crowds of people cheering.

36. In fact, the last 5k of this marathon might be the best final 5k of any race I’ve ever done.

37. Wearing a tutu and fairy wings for a marathon wasn’t terrible.


38. Seeing a group of minions several times out on the course and cheering for them.

39. Oreos in the snack boxes.

40. The many, many congratulations from visitors and cast members when we wore our medals out and about the next day.

41. How, after a terribly cold start, it became perfect marathon weather.

42. Running through the castle.


43. Being able to sleep in a bit because the half was cancelled.

44. Being randomly filmed or photographed because our costumes were awesome.

45. The Big Bad Wolf’s theme song blasting on the marathon course.

46. Seeing the classic rides on display on the marathon course.

47. Fireworks to start the race. Always.

48. Feeling so strong and happy throughout the entire marathon. I never bonked, never felt weak and never wanted to stop.

.6 So many stressful things happened – Jill’s flight was delayed and she missed the expo, the half was cancelled, I lost my bib and my flight home was cancelled – and it was still a memorable, magical weekend.

Race Recap: Valley Harvest 10k

Getting ready to run! Here I am in the crowd of 10kers.

Getting ready to run! Here I am in the 10k crowd!

Thanksgiving weekend in Nova Scotia was one for the record books. I don’t know what the weather was like in Toronto, but I’m going to do all kinds of bragging because this particular holiday weekend, here at home, was incredible. And the best part of the weekend, besides my Mommy making me a Thanksgiving/pre-race dinner, I went running.

Knowing I had the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon to run the following weekend I figured running another 10k would be excellent preparation (and motivation) to train a little harder and get my legs in better shape for the 21.1k in store. Luck was on my side this day, as I ran fast I felt strong and enjoyed the day immensely. Other than the fact I was sweating buckets! I wasn’t prepared for the weather, as odd as that sounds.

Dad, as my new personal running aid, happily took on his second job when I took him to Wolfville. He also came to Halifax with me for the Maritime Race Weekend where he counted pirates and took lots of pictures of me! (another fantastic weekend) Dad and I however have our differences, and one particular difference is around time. We hit the road way before the sun came up – even before the chickens were awake – my race started at 9 so we had time to drive to the home of Acadia University (and the starting point of my race) that morning. I dressed in layers with the thought that I would change once we arrived, if needed. Now, I forgive my dad because he’s new at this running thing, but there is no need to panic around timing with races. We were able to find a parking spot no problem and traffic wasn’t bad at all. This isn’t New York, Dad. I also had to pick up my race kit, so again, Dad you’re forgiven for the level of stress you were exerting on me. I collected my race kit, went to the ladies room, and even had time to watch the marathoners and half marathoners start their race. That’s how much time we had. All this stress and snapping at each other, I realized while we waited for my start time I didn’t have my music. I didn’t change my clothes, I didn’t have an extra hair elastic. It was then I felt really unprepared  Dad in his charming and apologetic way offered to go and get the things I needed, but my response was “it’s only a 10k, I’ll be fine”. I don’t know if that’s terrible of me or awesome I can say that. But that’s how I felt that morning. I was feeling pretty good.

Erin mentioned she’d like to run the Valley Harvest Marathon one year where it falls on Thanksgiving weekend it would be an excellent reason to come home. I agreed. It would be a lovely time to be home and an excellent reason to run. When I met my friend Katie and her husband Bryan in Halifax (who was going to run the marathon this weekend, but decided against it due to injury) I thought about running too, after Katie told me to. I didn’t think about it before, but my pre-half jitters made me do it, so a week before I signed up  for the 10k. Running anything more made no sense.

Making my move!

Making my move!

I couldn’t have asked for a better day, but the only thing I was a little disappointed by was the actual route. First, I have to say after all this I spent away from Nova Scotia I’ve grown to appreciate how beautiful our little towns really are. And Wolfville is no exception. It’s stunning, quaint and just plan pretty. I was hoping to get this during my run. The out and back we did was okay, but I wanted to see more of the town. I also liked the idea of starting and ending the race in the Acadia track (I felt like a superstar!) but this also made for an awkward start leaving the track and a more difficult end when approaching the university. It was hard to shift onto the sidewalk to allow oncoming traffic to pass. This is didn’t like, when I’m ready to make my move at the end I want room to do it without interfering with other around me. It was a tight squeeze in some spots and that sprint to the end was deceiving.

The Nova Scotia runs I’ve completed have proven their worth in my mind. Hey, I came second in my age group for the 10k! With a few minor things the important stuff was done right. The route was well marked, getting in and out driving wise was simple, more spectators would have been nice, but the volunteers were great. You can’t have it all. Next time I’ll consider the half or the full. Then I’ll see more of the town for sure.

Race Recap: Maritime Race Weekend

He and my hardware!

Me and my hardware!

After a busy month or two… okay let’s face it I’ve been neglecting the blog big time and there is no way around it. But this past weekend (marking the middle of September, almost 3 months since my return home) was indeed a busy one. I ran two races! Yup, two. And I took a Kettlebell Certification course in Halifax. Another yup. I’m now certified to instruct kettlebell swings, jerks, and snatches believe it or not. I’ll break that part of my weekend down in another post.

The Maritime Race Weekend has to be hands down one of the best races I’ve ever signed up for. I’m still blown away by the amazing organization – minus the one day race kit pick up having me stressing out days before the race – the cleanliness was superb (believe it or not even the port-a-potties were clean, as far as port-a-potty standards go). But the energy and costumes set the tone of the weekend the moment Dad and I arrived. I had my very own cheer squad consisting of my Papa, my good pal Katie Conrad and her husband Bryan. Katie even made me a sign! She’s the best (hi, Katie and Bryan!).

The Friday evening Sunset 5k was a lovely little out and back along the Eastern Passage shore in Dartmouth. It was a truly picturesque, a true east coast beauty of an evening. Everything about the night (and day) felt right. We drove up from Digby that morning, I met Katie to collect my awesome race kit, I had a great breakfast, and lunch, I was well hydrated and felt ready to run. We arrived quite early at the starting point, worried about the parking situation, but this gave us plenty of time to find a spot, tour around, and plan our attack for tomorrow morning – knowing I had to run then high-tail it out of there for my training meant we needed a solid game plan. We walked the ferry docks, scoped out the pirates and bought some treats along Fisherman’s Wharf. This gem of a spot is far enough out of the way making it an excellent place to run, but not too far that you’re in the middle of nowhere. But seeing the view it wouldn’t have mattered how far you’d have to go to get there. Nova Scotia is quite pretty when you stop to look at it, or run past it! The entire event was smooth sailing from Friday evening to Saturday morning one excellent reason why I’d go back faster than you can say Arrrr!


5k down, 10k tomorrow!

5k down, 10k tomorrow!

I loved the 5k. The last time I ran one was ages ago, my first race ever! I ran a PB which is totally the reason why, but I loved the feeling of running fast! It’s a feeling you don’t often get in long distance running. That goes for me at least. Where the speed came from I have no idea (I like to think it was the training I’ve been doing with my run club- learning to run a 5k) but it was there and I took full advantage of it from the moment that musket blew till I crossed the finish. Yes, a musket was our starting sound. See, this race was great. My mentality towards the 5k distance shifted this day when I realized 5k isn’t as far as it seems (of course that’s when you only have 5k to run). Knowing when I’d reach the turn around point I’d be halfway done wasn’t a feeling of “Ugh, I still have half way to go”, but more “I’m half way there!” I was flying without even realizing it. I came sprinting towards Fisherman’s Wharf – the smell of fried clams and french fries earlier in the night was so yummy now made me want to vomit – which probably helped with my sprint to the end. I finished at 25:17.

Katie and Bryn stayed with me for the firework show (yup, there were also fireworks and a giant inflatable pirate at the end) I collected my first medal walked along the runners stations collecting food and water – again taking full notice of the lack of garbage around. This made be so happy. We called it a night shortly after and packed it in, as early as I could, to get up and do it all over again.

My 10k also went very well- given I hadn’t been running farther than 5-8k over the past 2 months. But earlier in the week I made myself run 13k just to make sure I could still make it to 10k. Lucky for me I could. I felt really strong throughout the race, having only one mental bump along the way just before reaching that halfway point. The weather was perfect, the group of pirates were much more plentiful this morning than the evening prior. But you wouldn’t have known once you got out on the course. With 4 races to choose from the field was a mix of 5kers, 10kers, half marathoners and full marathoners. Some who would have ran with me Friday night, others perhaps a little more serious about their Saturday run. I enjoyed the 10k too, but I have to admit I had a moment of disappointment when I discovered my finishing time wasn’t another PB. 54:01 although was good enough to claim 5th place in my age group wasn’t a sub 50. But really, what was I thinking? I got greedy that’s what.


Second sprint to the finish. Day number 2 also done!

My second sprint to the finish. Day number 2 done!

Collecting all my treasures moving through the runners finishing spot I walked away with a three medals in total for completing the Tartan Twosome, lots of fuel to get me through my next challenge of the day, and one hell of a weekend of running. Like I said before, this is one race I’d run again for sure there matey.

Race recap: Highland Yard 10k

At the start, ready to run.


Matt’s family has a cottage in Minden. It’s lovely and wonderful and we don’t go there enough. This summer was a busy one, but I was so excited to book the August long weekend up north and get in some rest and relaxation (oh, and some Olympics watching too!).

But then, I got an email from Matt.

His mom (hi Debbie!) wanted to know if I wanted to run the local 10k — the Highland Yard — that just so happened to be on the Sunday morning of the long weekend. She was doing the 5k walk with her friend Shelley (hi Shelley!) and Shelley’s mom.

I couldn’t say no. Even though I didn’t feel race-ready, I was stuck in a corner. I needed to run anyway. What else was I supposed to do?

I said yes.

And then I stressed and stressed and stressed.

I didn’t want to embarrass myself. But it’s not like I totally stopped running. And FitStreets meant I was getting in something of a tempo workout once a week. But the Highland Yard 10k made me face the very problem I’ve been avoiding all summer.

I’m not running enough to be in race shape.

I would face all that at the Highland Yard. It would be my kick off to two intense training weeks for the Midsummer’s Night Run. There’d be no relaxing taper this time. I needed to boot up and boot up big.


So sleepy! This was before the race!


The race was at 10am, which would have been a problem if the horrid heatwave hadn’t let up. But it thunderstormed the night before and the morning was gray and cooler than normal. Still humid, but it wasn’t a death trap. We headed downtown. It was the first year of new organizers, so Debbie wasn’t sure how the day would unfold. We were pleasantly surprised to find an excellently managed small race. The course was an out-and-back through the main stretch of town, then along the main roadway to and from town. The race kit had a dri-fit hat, coupons to pretty much every local business and anti-inflammatory meds — more than I’ve gotten in some big-time race kits. Way to go, Minden. There was about 100 people running the 10k, then 150 running or walking the 5k. There were no corrals, just a grouping at the start and an adorable man yelling instructions we couldn’t hear. (Someone eventually got him a microphone.) At 10am we were off! My race strategy was to hold on to a 5:30 pace as long as I could, then hang on for a sub-1:00 time. Scientific, I know. But it worked.

Sort of.

The first 2 kms were great. I ran them 5:35, 5:35. But then I got hot and tired and began to focus on how crappy I felt and not on my goal. An amateur mistake. The conditions weren’t brutal and I wasn’t hurting. I was just too aware of what I was doing and it was getting me down. Boo. The third kilometre I slowed brutally, unaware of how much time I’d lost. 6:30, I think, was my pace. Then, just as I was conceding that a sub-1:00 race wasn’t going to happen, Debbie’s friend Bink (hi Bink!) came up behind me. Bink is lovely and a strong runner, and I didn’t want to let her pass me. I picked it up and we ran the 4th and 5th kilometre together right on a 6 minute pace, not really talking. Thank you, Bink, for running with me and not taking off. I really appreciated that and it got me focused again.

At the turnaround point, there was a water station. Bink walked through it, I chose to keep on running. My thought was that if Bink caught up to me, we could run the rest of the race together. But if she didn’t, then my time would be a-okay. Kilometres 6 and 7 were good. During kilometre 8, my calf got tight. It’s happened to me before — never during a race though — but it wasn’t painful, just distracting. I chose to run through it and reassess if it got worse.

It didn’t get worse.

Then I passed Debbie, Shelley and Shelley’s mom, powering through the 5k like pros. Home stretch! I held on to my 6:00ish pace until the final curve into town and sprinted home, praying I’d be under 1:00.

My time?

1:00 exactly.

Was I disappointed? A little bit. It’s my slowest-ever 10k time. But I ran the whole thing and learned a whole lot about my running. My base fitness is much, much higher than it was a year ago. But I’m going to need to work much, much harder if I want to see that “getting faster” goal become a reality.

I had a lot of fun at the Highland Yard. Minden came out and truly impressed me. It made me want to run more small town races, and made me feel proud to support a local event. Thanks, Debbie, for asking if I wanted to do this.

I might even do it again next year.


The race: 1:00

The route:

View The Highland Yard in a larger map

Sister Act: Toronto Yonge Street 10k Race Recap

Finishing the race at the same time!

Erin’s story:

I don’t really remember how it all began, but Jill suddenly became keen to run a race. Because I decided to include the Toronto Yonge Street 10k (the new/old race that emerged after the Sporting Life 10k debacle — which I still don’t really understand) because it fit in nicely with my planned marathon (now half-marathon) training. It was my first-ever race just a year ago and I remembered having a great experience — it’s an easy course with a great crowd — and suggested that Jill give this race a try. As you already know, by the time we lined up at the start line Jill already had 1 race under her belt, but that didn’t matter. It was time to race 10k. Down Yonge Street.

Jill slept over (yay sleepovers!) and we woke up to a REALLY cold day. This was a challenge because we didn’t want to check bags (I had a bit of a time crunch because I had a bridal shower immediately after the race), so we each grabbed old long-sleeve shirts to trash at the beginning of the race. After the race? I had no idea what to do.

These shirts weren’t enough. It was that cold. The shuttle was quick and easy, and we spent 20 minutes bouncing around trying to not freeze. Once we started running, it was fine. The tailwind and 4 degree weather was perfect.

The race plan? I wanted to run sub-55, but knew I probably couldn’t do it on my own. I let Jill set the pace (she had no idea about this) and adjusted accordingly if we fell too far off the 5:30 mark. This worked out great — we hit 1k right at 5:30, but fell bit behind at 2k. We coasted through, running fast, but strong. I felt good until about the 8k mark, when I started to fade. I made Jill yell encouraging things (the best one? “Matt is buying brunch after!” but once we turned the corner down Bathurst, I was the one with the energy and we kicked it up a notch for the final km.

This was a great race. I pushed harder than I ever had in a race before, we stayed on pace and it was great to have someone next to me I could push forward or lean on accordingly. We made a great time and I don’t think I cold have PRed without Jill by my side. Yay us!


Jill’s story:

I have to say running races is way more fun than I had anticipated. Plus running with Erin is the best! It’s an excuse for me to sleep over and Erin feeds me. Best big sister ever! We always have the “runners breakfast” which includes toast with peanut butter and honey and bananas. See running is totally the best.

Way back when Erin and I started this blog one of my new years goals was to run a real race. The Yonge Street 10k was a perfect place to start. Knowing this was a distance I could handle, plus the race is mostly downhill, and Erin had run this last year and planned to do so again this year, there was no reason for me not to sign up. And after my successful first real race in High Park (which was planned after signing up for the 10k) and a very solid run with the Pubruns crew the weekend before and having just climbed the CN Tower – I was still riding high on the “we could do anything!” mentality – I felt confident going into race day. Plus Erin and I decided to run the race together and under an hour. Easy! I was actually excited to run, for once.

But that Erin, she’s so clever. I knew we’d be much happier with a sub 55 time, but I didn’t know the tricks she had up her sleeve. Next time I know to push much harder. Running with Erin is when I feel my best, she usually guides me along and keeps me on pace. When we have run together it’s always been shorter than 10k, so I kept this in mind and that Erin knows best. I didn’t want to burn myself out early on, especially where I don’t really know what my running capabilities are just yet. My plan was to let Erin take the lead (as she usually does) and I would follow suite. I really didn’t want to think too much about anything, only that we’d be running together.

To even better prepare myself for the race I convinced Cecilley (my work friend) to run too. After talking about it all the time on our lunch hour mini workouts, it was rather easy. Now I had running buddy! Erin and I are very busy. If don’t have time to watch our shows together when would we ever run together? I needed backup support. It also helps that Cecilley and I not only work together, but live in the same neighbourhood too. Having Cecilley to run with made up for not having Erin around for pre-race training. This would be Cecilley’s first race too, and that made me happy. This race was very contagious (but really, who woulnd’t want to run down the middle of Yonge street?) because Jenn (my roommate) decided to run this race too. Jenn was insanely fast and finished 10th (10th!) with a time of 40:56. I both love her and hate her for this.

But I was very happy with the way Erin and I finished. We both pushed and helped each other along the way. When I felt slow Erin was there to help pick up my pace. There were moments when I felt I could have ran faster, but I stuck with Erin and used her as my guide. I had this worry of going to fast to quick, and needed to stay on track to save some juice to gun it at the end. The 7-8k stretch was the hardest for me. I stopped enjoying the run for this portion and wanted it to end.

Thank goodness it didn’t last too long because when that finish line came in sight, sprinting to the end together made the whole race totally worth it. Erin took off and I had to catch up! I know Erin went full speed ahead because sprinting is the best way to finish, not because she had an ulterior motive and secretly wanted to beat me. That would have been okay, I’m the middle sister, I’m used to this. Jokes! We both did good. Yay us, indeed!



The race: 10k in 54:57

The route:

The 2012 Running Plan

I’ve been thinking a lot about my 2012 running goals. I want to get faster, but considering that 2011 was my first full year running, that shouldn’t be hard. I think I want to run a marathon.

Okay, that’s a lie.

I know I want to run a marathon. But the time commitment, the physical exertion, the training — even thinking about it exhausts me!

The plan, then (because I am a wimp!) is to start training for a marathon on January 2 and see how it goes. If I ended up drowning in work (thanks, Canada Reads!), I can always scale back to the half-marathon if need be.

We will see.

So here’s the Winter 2012 racing plan:

Training begins on January 2. Right now I’m in holiday maintenance mode, which means running when I can, but not worrying too much about it. Which is a good thing, because it’s hard to run on back-country Nova Scotian roads when there’s two feet of snow on the ground! Thank goodness for showshoeing!


March 25, 2012: Around the Bay in Hamilton, Ontario



I am signed up and ready to go. (This is why I think a marathon is in the works. Why train for just 30 when you can *gulp* train for 42! It’s just 12 more!). My running pals Kate and Bronwyn have signed up too and there’s a few guys at work planning to run, so it should be fun.


April 22, 2012: Toronto Yonge Street 10k in Toronto, Ontario


The politics around the creation of this race are troublesome, but it fits the training schedule. I had a blast last year at the Sporting Life 10k (my first ever race), so I’m looking to top that time of 57:15 and be in great condition for…


May 6, 2012: Goodlife Fitness Toronto Marathon in Toronto, Ontario



The big race! The current goal is sub-5 hours (I’m a turtle, that’s okay). Kate is training for this as well. We did our first on the same day (mine, Goodlife, hers, Mississauga) so I want to commit to this and share our first marathon experience together.

And I want to say I ran a marathon. Can’t knock it if you don’t try it.

My training program is a combination of the Around the Bay training, Hal Higdon’s Novice 2 marathon plan and Run Less, Run Faster. I’ll share the details with you in a later post!




Race Recap: Beaches Jazz Tune-Up 10k

I have been a “runner” (I still have trouble with this word, but every book and article I read on the subject says anyone who ever runs, at any pace, for whatever reason, is a runner, so I’ll go for it) for about eight months now. While I still have extremely conflicted and complicated feelings about the actual act of running, after 2 10k races and a half-marathon, I can say that I enjoy racing. I enjoy the night-before ritual of laying out the racing gear and putting together a pre-race meal, wondering if I should stick with the tried-and-true classics, or mix it up and go for a fancy carb-heavy Runner’s World-approved entree. I enjoy waking up at a ridiculous hour and heading to the race, coffee in hand, while the rest city is sleeping soundly.

It takes me back to the many, many years of playing basketball, where camaraderie was found in the craziness of skipping the late-night parties, the grueling workouts and the early morning wake-up calls, all to push your body to the limit for no other reason than you love the game.

Saturday, July 24 was the date of my second-ever 10k race: the Beaches Jazz Tune-Up. I was nervous, as the sweltering Toronto weather has meant I’ve skipped more training runs than I’ll admit, but thanks to the rain the night before, the morning was cool (in comparison) with a nice breeze off the water. It was still humid, but nothing unmanageable.

I was also nervous because my friend Sarah’s wedding was the day before. (Congrats Sarah & Craig!) It was a morning wedding, but if you put me in front of an open bar….well, let’s just remind everyone that I was born in the land of Alexander Keith and leave it at that. Thank goodness it was a morning wedding, otherwise this 10k race wouldn’t have happened.

The Beaches Jazz Tune-Up (5k, 10k, 20k) is an out-and-back, starting at the Kew Gardens and winding along the Martin Goodman Trail. Other than the scenic Start/Finish the course is boring. The 10k route takes you long Lakeshore, into an industrial wasteland and just when you start to hit a woodsy trail, you turn around and come back again. Oh well. I didn’t choose this race for the views.

My race plan was to push hard for the first half, assess how I felt and where I was, then go easy for the third 2.5 and push hard for the final 2.5k. There were water stations at the 2.5 intervals, so I hoped to hit each station under 15 minutes, walk through each station quickly, and wind up with a time around the 58 minute mark.

The first half of the race went exactly like that. I found a tall blonde running about 5:45 pace and kept her in my sight. (Anyone who is taller than me is my automatic enemy.) The first water station came up at 14:20, exactly where I wanted to be. I rounded the 5k mark at 28:00 even, a tad tired, but feeling pretty good. It helped that a large biking group, decked out in expensive gear and crazy-looking bikes, was on the road next to us, ringing their bells and cheering us on. I love spectators. I slowed down, as I was exactly on pace and was worried about burning out. The last few kilometres in my previous 10k (Sporting Life in May) were brutal, so I wanted to play it safe here.

Around the 7k mark, my left hip started to burn a bit. This has never happened before, but it wasn’t too intense. I decided to keep an eye on it, but not freak out. I slipped through the final water station at 42:00 and decided to take a bit of a break. I upped the 30 second walk time to 2 minutes to let the hip ease up and catch my breath. I was ahead of schedule, so all was good. I then picked it up, until I saw the final km marker. A hard push to the end, dancing around parents picking up kids to run across the finish line with them, a few exhausted runners, and others giving the final push. 58:01. Not bad. A second slower than my goal time, but since this race wasn’t chip-timed, I can always blame it on my watch, right?

Afterword, I felt decent. Overall, it was a much better experience than my first 10k, where my pacing was erratic and I was completely spent for the rest of the day. This race, in comparison, was a consistent solid effort (except for the short window at the final water station) and I felt accomplished at the end. The time was slower (57:15 compared to 58:01), but chalk that up the the heat and the flat course (Sporting Life was downhill, Beaches is completely flat), but it was a better race.

Then we had brunch. Brunch always makes me feel like a winner.

Next up: A Mid-Summer’s Night Run on August 20th.