“Some days are diamonds, some days are rocks,” Tom Petty sang, and the same goes for runs and races. As runners, we know this, and accept that risk every time we head out the door. The conditions, the training, our diet, our mind state, and then all the other little variables that can go wrong: our music doesn’t work, our watch runs out of batteries, you drop your water, a car pulls across the course.
On Sunday, I joined more than 15,000 runners at the Sporting Life 10K for Campfire Circle, which offers a social cure for families in crisis. Formerly Camp Ooch, I have a friend who runs this event every year and feels deeply indebted to the charity, which helps her own family generously and immensely, and she’s never made it through her run without tears.
Those tears of joy returned Sunday, and seeing so many friends on the course and along Yonge Street buoyed my 9-year-old who has historically had mixed results on race day. Some of it is his father being bull-headed and not always giving him the proper support he needs, and some of it is his getting older. He was 6, perhaps, when he ran the Toronto Zoo run, and has basically left racing to his 11-year-old sister ever since. The Sporting Life 10K, presented by ASICS, has raised more than $23-million and welcomed more than 300,000 racers, and there’s a feeling to the event that you pick up even when collecting your bib at the store. It attracts its share of walkers and people pushing strollers, and the feeling of camaraderie and accomplishment is electric. The volunteers smile. The participants are excited. It’s an event, not a race, and the energy around the day feels propulsive.
Race morning greeted us with near-perfect conditions. And the corrals, though crowded, were smooth. People weren’t jostling. Instead, there were high-fives: it was an accomplishment just to be there, and I ran into my cousin with his daughter in our orange wave. Matthew, my boy, got off comfortably from the start line and he ran calmly for the first two K. Other racers encouraged him on the course, and the crowd support was amazing. I was so proud. He was having fun!
That’s the key to getting your children into running: make it something they enjoy, not something that’s testing them. You don’t want them to feel overwhelmed, stressed out, or defeated. When Matthew wanted to walk, we walked. And the speed difference between his walks and runs wasn’t so vast as to lose our momentum. A kilometre takes us just over 7 minutes, so we could see real progress as we hurtled towards the finish line of our run.
Deeper into the race, other participants began making more of a fuss around Matthew. 10K is an enormous accomplishment, we’d previously only tried five, and the other runners were impressed by Matthew and he felt encouraged, looked about ten-feet-tall. I followed his lead and we walked and ran, walked and ran, until midway through the eight and nine kilometre mark: at which point my man took off like a shot. This little kid, weaving through traffic like a motorcycle cop in pursuit. I couldn’t believe my eyes. For all of us, a negative split is desired. It just feels better when you speed up at the end and finish strong, not like a wounded animal, come staggering into the finish line.
Matthew ran like the dickens, like Natasha Wodak, and everyone roared. We have a photograph of him crossing the finish line and, instinctively, he threw up his arms: victory. He had won.
Sunday’s event produced 16,000 winners, and raised more than $1-million for a charity that helps families experiencing unimaginable grief. Matthew understood what we were running for, and he felt the support, even the love, between runners, spectators and a cause close to all of our hearts. When you’re running with your kids or running alone, volunteering at an event or just jogging around, think of the freedom and the power we are expressing while we participate in the sport we choose. It’s a gift and the Sporting Life 10K was a reminder of the very best of running we all can share.
Photograph courtesy of MarathonPhotos.Live.