at the races A Rioted Run Down Memory Lane

A Rioted Run Down Memory Lane


I competed in a 14-hour race on Saturday and I can’t wait to do it again. 

Ogden Public School, Toronto, Ontario

Serendipity made an appearance last week that took me back to the place where it all started, my primary school. The start line for the much-anticipated Inaugural Riot Relay was directly behind Ogden Public School. It was the location of my first 100m dash, long jump and relay race, in grade 4, that initiated a lifelong love for running. 

There were 22 people towing the line at 7:30 p.m. at the start of a run from Toronto to Blue Mountain in Collingwood. It would cover 140 kilometres in total and teams ranged from groups of 4 to 8 people. 

The start of the Inaugural Riot Relay Race from Toronto to Blue Mountain.

Debuting at this team event were: XMZ Racers, BumbleBeez, QSW Run Crew, Wolfpack, Jurassic 6, Don’t Trip, Hearts N Soles, Father & Daughters Run Crew, Eye Studio, two CHIX LEFT THE SIX teams, Slowpokes, Runners High, Juicy Jamms, Fueled Up, Wings, MVM Bradford, The Summit Seekers, HRC 1 & HRC 2, Running on Business and our team Team Bimiba’idiwag.

Team Bimiba’idiwag – We Run Together

From city streets to concession roads and quiet trails, Team Bimiba’idiwag, the Anishinaabemowin word for “We Run Together,” ran through all sorts of weather conditions, guided by the North Star of the Big Dipper and finished in just over 14 hours.  

The original team consisted of Melanie and April Boultbee, the latter of whom sadly had to drop out due to injury, running warrior Robyn Michaud and powerhouse runner, who was our anchor, Heather Colasuonno.

Organiser Migzy of Me Versus Me Mentality

All teams met at the Lululemon on Queen Street West. The excitement was mounting, and the Red Bull DJ truck and Organizer Migzy P of @meversusmementality were out in full force keeping the atmosphere upbeat. There was BeeVibe Juicery offering beet and ginger juice samples and date bars by Impact and each team received Xact Nutrition bars and fuel gels. After the team and group photos were taken, the first 22 people started amidst confetti and colourful smoke grenades.

Melanie after the first exchange.

Since Melanie and I were familiar with the streets in Toronto, we took the first four legs of the event that took us from Lululemon on Queen Street west to Stockyards through to Weston and then out of Toronto from Peel Region. 

The guiding North Star of the Big Dipper

But the real race started at midnight as we hit the concession roads and met hill after hill on quiet country roads. It was a clear night and a comfort to know the Big Dipper was our guide. As long as it was in front of us, we were headed in the correct direction.  

Arm sleeves out as the weather changed from hot to cool at the third exchange.

For veteran ultrarunner and our race starter, Melanie Boultbee, the team aspect of the relay was the best part—the camaraderie, not only between our own team, but all the teams. Although participants at ultraraces all start together, ultimately, the time spent running a 100 Mile trail race is a solo venture. “Running a relay as a team has its benefits,” Melanie told iRun. “The support provided by each member helps us all.”

Quiet contemplations.

For Robyn, the prospect of running at night was terrifying and that feeling was further amplified at the prospect of doing it alone in very dark stretches of road. She said, “Pushing through and overcoming this intense fear was satisfying as I drew courage and strength from my teammates who were all very brave and completely unbothered by the conditions. They helped me be brave.” 

Robyn is a longtime runner and a leading light in our community. She added, “Beautiful things happen on the other side of fear and when you surround yourself with fierce, brave women you feel you can accomplish anything.”

At midnight Heather started on her leg of the race. We’d already been out for almost 4 hours. Running at midnight was Heather’s jam “I love the unique challenge of running throughout the night, with no sleep, on empty country roads,” she told me, and there was no stopping her.

Crazy challenges are her thing.

“I love a crazy challenge,” she said.    

When it was again my turn at 2:30 IN THE MORNING, with only my headlamp to guide me, I looked ahead on the unlit country road and faced an animal carcass that laid motionless, on its back with the legs stiffly in the air. I gave it a wide berth as I approached it, only to realise it was a giant weed growing on the soft shoulder of the road. It was the ‘witching hour’ and I was hallucinating.  

The thought did cross my mind to just close my eyes and run. Even though my shoes were almost fresh out of the box, they were very reliable transitioning from city pavement to soft shoulders on side roads.  Moreover, running and then jumping into a car and being in the sitting position wasn’t the most ideal situation for a body to recover. A few times at the start of my next leg, the stiffness in my body was pronounced, but as I continued on, the impact and rigidity became less of an issue due to the cushioning provided by the ASICS GEL-KAYANO 31.

Am I hallucinating? It’s a peacock right?

Right around the time I started craving a cheeseburger, the most astonishing incident happened around 5:30 a.m. on my last leg. Suddenly a loud screech came from a house by the side of the road. Ahead was my team vehicle that was stopped and I realised Heather had her camera out. I looked towards the house and there was a second screech, only to see a peacock sitting on a fence. No wonder the screech sounded familiar. I’ve heard the peacocks in High Park Zoo make the same alarming noise. I wasn’t hallucinating. This certainly was a one-of-a-kind run.   

Along the way, the community bonded. Teams in their decked-out support vehicles honked and cheered on all of the runners, each identifiable with yellow reflective snap bracelets. From cowbells to high visibility reflective gear and lights, the fellowship was strong. Those who ran fast, took off like the light, those who ran to finish, put those noses to the grind to get the leg completed. All teams made it to the BLUE sign at Blue Mountain Resort in Collingwood at varying times Saturday morning, however there was a palpable understanding and atmosphere—it was community over competition.

Blue sign finish line at Blue Mountain, Collingwood, Ontario.

Every single one of us who had competed, had won.