All images credit to Inge Johnson/Canada Running Series.
As Olympian Reid Coolsaet and Pan-Am Games medalist Rachel Hannah lift the black cloth to unveil this year’s Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon (STWM) finisher’s medals, Race Director Alan Brookes proclaims, “This year is about celebrating movement!”
As with last year’s medal, more than a hundred runners gathered for a run led by Canada Running Series and Run TO Beer that culminated in the reveal in sight of its depicted subject.
The medal, once again the baby of photographer and designer Inge Johnson, brings together an array of Toronto icons. On its face, the medal depicts an old-model Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) streetcar traversing the Queen Street Viaduct, which itself arches over the Don River, another Toronto icon.
Given Torontonians’ beloved and often justified pastime of complaining about the state of public transit in the city, the snark around choosing the TTC to represent movement is perhaps hard to suppress.
The streetcar, however, remains a thing of beauty and was once a marvel of movement and, along with the rest of our transit system, can and should be again. It’s the kind of movement, like running, that creates a city we can be proud of—one that’s friendly, sustainable, healthy, and equitable. The symbol of the streetcar is representative of the kind of city building that we’ve done before and can do again.
The Queen Street Viaduct too, with Eldon Garnet’s flourish of a clock and inscription from Heraclitus – “the river I step in is not the river I stand in” – is itself an example of movement as more than just function. In fact, we runners weren’t the only ones clamouring for a shot with the viaduct that night, as an engagement photo shoot had also chosen one of Toronto’s last remaining truss bridges as its backdrop.
This year’s medal adds another edition to Johnson’s “landmarks series” of finisher’s medals that, when strung together, form something of a love letter to Toronto’s architectural gems and a reminder that Toronto is a pretty fun city to move though, especially when you run.
Yes, the constant disruptions and overcrowding on transit and the hell of gridlock often make our day to day movement not just tortuous, but non-existent for long stretches. In these instances, our rising blood pressure and anxiety over punctuality and the stupidity of those sharing our roads don’t exactly give way to drinking in the beauty and history that surrounds us. Our focus is understandably on getting the hell where we’re going.
Running is a bit different, at its best letting us move while bit by bit shedding the tension we may have built up and not letting our focus become too embedded in one notion or another. Our mind can wander just enough that we catch a reminder or new revelation of how much beauty and eccentricity is scattered throughout Toronto.
Within a few weeks, Toronto runners will move out of base training and begin their build toward their hometown race. As the long run starts to extend, we’ll find ourselves covering more ground throughout our city.
Hopefully we’ll have many moments that capture our spirit, including ones like a streetcar making its way across the Don River as the sun goes down, and be reminded that movement should be imbued with both calm and rapture.
Despite the many ways in which we might have an inferiority complex toward our big city counterparts, there are many reasons to love moving through Toronto, especially on foot. Whether that’s the uninterrupted surges along the expanses of Lake Ontario, the glimpses of our skyline in the distance, or of any of the landmarks that have graced STWM medals over the years, that movement just seems to enhance the joy and privilege of calling Toronto home and the place where we run.
Then, in October, we’ll get to share that city and the joy of moving through it with thousands of friends.