Sporting Life 10k Race Report & Tea with Jenny Hadfield

First! Some Saturday news…

May is here and I’ve finally come out of my exam-filled study cocoon!  This was my first school-less weekend and I lived it up in the woods running and climbing trees with my sister. We then broke into a golf course and made sand angels on the sandy mounds and did cartwheels on the soft grass. Our plan was to run into the nearby woods if anyone caught us, but there weren’t many golfers out.

Before I realized that getting down was actually the hard part…

Golf course break in photo evidence

Water crossings

Up to no good on the golf course sand

Sand angels!

Golf course yoga

My sister somehow intuitively knew that I’d be celebrating the end of school in the woods (where did she get THAT idea??), so she put up a huge congratulations sign in the middle of nowhere on a tree. When I passed it I was initially pissed that someone had papered my woods. Then I ran back to read it and completely freaked out. I hope it stays up forever!

Here’s her sign.

Later on Saturday I had the awesome privilege of having author and runner and Runner’s World blogger Jenny Hadfield over at my place for tea. More on that story after my race report!


I started my day at 6:45am running to the 10k start line. I’m used to running that distance since I went to school at Yonge/Eglinton for a year, and I would always run to class. It was a cool and quiet morning and I was super excited for the day ahead. I had my chip and bib on and started a steady pace south on Yonge. I saw tons of runners waiting for the Yonge bus and I had to chuckle at myself when they stared at my bib like it was a third eye, probably wondering where in the hell I thought I was going. It was only 7k to the start line.

At the start I found Kat, who I wanted to pace for a 55 min finish. She was so cute with all her running gear and racing stuff! It was her first race ever! I got to meet her lovely family and Lululemon friends. I still remember my first 10k – also my first race ever. I was a different person then, but just as in love with running as I am today, and I know this is going to be the first of many great races for Kat.

Running to the start had warmed me up, so waiting for the race to begin was freezing! The start times were staggered, so my coral went out 10 minutes after the gun time. The plan was to run steady, and speed up a little at 5k to finish in 55 minutes. I told Kat that if anyone fell behind, the other person should just keep going.

I was a little bit worried because on the way to the race I had started to experience a little nagging soreness on the ball of my left foot. I adjusted my form and it disappeared, but I didn’t want it to come back and mess up Kat’s goal time.

Kat and I stuck together for about 5k and then I lost her. I stuck with the 55 minute pace and entertained myself by looking for other VFF runners. I saw 2! The first one I ran to and wished him luck. The other one I couldn’t get to. A couple of people asked me about my VFFs at the start and finish. I think I have my general 10-second explanation down!

I don’t run with music, so I get to hear all the funny comments that people make about me in my monkey feet. I passed a couple of girls who were panting pretty heavily but somehow they had enough breath to go on about my non-shoes. I had to smile.

This was a HAPPY race. I felt so happy and it was a great vibe. I felt that everyone else was happy too. It went by quickly. Before I knew it, we were making all the turns and pretty close to the end. I picked up the pace a little, and when I saw the finish line I sprinted to the end. Always the most fun part of any race! I finished in 53:09.

I picked up my shirt, medal, and a Gatorade. I saw Kat’s family again at the finish, but couldn’t tell them where Kat was. She ended up finishing in one hour, which is AWESOME for her first race! I’m proud of her.

I also saw Jenny Hadfield again at the finish line. I said a quick hello, checked out some of her race pictures, then headed back to run home.

I retraced the race route, so I got to see a lot of runners still coming in. It’s so amazing to see so many people doing something I so passionately love. Pushing hard for a sense of accomplishment. Congratulations to all the 15,000 awesome people who came out today!

Further back I saw a fairly large girl who was clearly struggling. Except she had the BIGGEST smile on her face, and that picked up my spirits. I totally grin like a dork when I run, so it was nice to see someone else do it for a change.

I kept smiling and ran past, back through all the walkers. I got to see the last group of walkers followed by the cop car and saw all the volunteers cleaning up. I watched all the streets open up again, then to my surprise I was soon approached by another runner. She was wearing the Sporting Life race t-shirt and she asked me if I had just run the race, because so had she. She was also running home, just like me!

This girl was awesome, she looked like an ultra marathon athlete. She was slim and toned and smiley. It was a privilege to share the road with her. We wished each other well when she turned off to go home. And now I know I’m not the only crazy running to and from races. There ARE other crazies out there. Somewhere.

Shortly after that I started running into foot traffic from Sporting Life racers who had taken the shuttle bus or the TTC to Eglinton and St. Clair stations, heading back to their cars. I ran past them. Then all of a sudden… it was just me. Empty streets and having to stop for traffic lights again.

I was over 30k at this point and starting to feel it. I pulled out my mp3 and played…. poetry. Lately I’ve found poetry will motivate me about 1000 times more than any type of music. If you choose the right poems, it’s a breath of fresh air in every verse. I listened to some Robert Frost and Rudyard Kipling. And just like that I was home!

I knew I was 8k away from a marathon distance, so although I was slowing down, I decided to go for that one last loop. I put my mp3 on repeat and listened to my favourite poem ever – Rudyard Kipling’s “If”. Here’s my favourite part, which has become my mantra:

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”; ….

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!

I ended up almost memorizing the entire poem, which is here:


If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!

I’ve discovered that my brain (and probably yours) is very favourable to repetition and memorization on these long runs. It loves to repeat things over and over and it’s much easier for me to memorize anything while I’m running. So I do. I find it keeps my mind fresh, engaged, and motivated. It gives me the sense that whatever I’m feeling physically or mentally or emotionally has already been felt before and put into words by other great men and women. So I draw strength from them.

For me, it beats the crap out of Lady Gaga. And by the end of a couple long runs, I have gained the ability to recite some amazing poetry from memory.

At the end of my marathon distance, I was tired but still happy. I didn’t have to collapse like I did for my last marathon. I didn’t immediately seize up, and I wasn’t moody. Like last time, it was strange to walk again but my feet are no worse for wear. I think I can call this day a success.


The legendary Jenny Hadfield was in Toronto this weekend for the Sporting Life 10k. I found out through Facebook that she was staying in the hotel about a block away from my house. So I sent her a note and invited her for a run. Unfortunately, her expo commitments didn’t allow her time to do that, but she came over to my house on Saturday night for some tea instead.

We had a great chat about running and nutrition and other things. Like all runners, I found her so inspiring. One thing we spoke about got me thinking.

Jenny has been interested lately in the effects of exercise on the human brain, which is a deep interest of mine. We spoke about my partner’s brain injury, the body mind connection behind my barefoot running, and the mental stimulation of running trails. Jenny totally got my trail obsession, and it was so great to gush about trails to someone who completely understood.

I kept thinking about these mental connections on my way home from the race, and why it was so easy for me to memorize poetry while running. I’ve decided to dedicate the month of May on my blog to a series about the body mind spirit connections behind running.

The month of April was all about running and nutrition, and I was able to get some amazing guest posts on what my favourite runners were eating. But I want May to be more personal and mental/spiritual.

You hear so much about the physical aspects of running, but I’ve personally found that mental strength is at least 80% of the battle for me, if not more. So my theme for May will be:

Strong body. Stronger mind. Strongest spirit.

I feel that in that order lays the secret to truly happy, truly fulfilled runners.

On another note, May is also my birthmonth! If you’ve been reading my blog for a year, you’ll remember that I celebrate my birthday the entire month of May (the 28th is my actual birthday), and I’m a strong advocate of EVERYONE celebrating their birthmonth this way. Let’s be honest. Life is short and after 11 months we freaking deserve it.

For my birthmonth this year I planned my ultra on May 14th followed by a marathon on May 15th with some good friends, a roadtrip, and what is sure to be an amazing experience. The crazy back-to-back distances should get me a Marathon Maniacs membership. Just in case there was any lingering doubts regarding my maniac-ness.

I’ll also get to meet a lot of dear Facebook friends that I’ve long admired but never seen in person, plus meet up with tried and true friends again. I’m SUPER excited about this month!

If you don’t want to miss a post, subscribe to my blog on the top left hand side of this page. I also added a new page on this blog to help promote my nutrition services. You can view it HERE, and please help spread the word! (I do online services for people who don’t live in my city.) I start my first day of work as a holistic nutritionist at a naturopath clinic on Tuesday. I can’t wait!

I’m putting this post up early, so my next one won’t be until Thursday. Have a great first week of May everyone!