The first place I ever went running was the Toronto Waterfront Trail. I hated running in high school, could never have imagined I’d ever run once I wasn’t forced to. I was slow, got side stitches, and my best friend at the time was my polar opposite: athletic, buff, fast, loved running.
Years later, I fell in love with running while living in Toronto. A couple of half-marathons and a few 10k runs later, I was on-and-off serious about the sport. Never serious enough to substantially improve my personal best or to stick to a regular running schedule. Nonetheless, I pounded the pavement enough to feel fairly happy with myself and I was lucky to get a runner’s high once in a while. Over time, my regular stomping grounds started to feel stale, even though I kept reminding myself how lucky I was to run in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and how lucky I was to live right by the water where the view alone was worth running for. On days when the wind cut right through me, the waves beat against the side of the pier, and the snow was thick on the ground it took a bit more willpower to remind myself of my ‘luck’, and to remind myself that I really do love running.
When I moved to London everything pretty much stopped. Looking back now, moving to London had one thing in common with my move to Toronto over a decade earlier: it threw me off my game on many fronts. The difference was that on top of my busy full-time industry job I was taking care of moving related issues, and spending a lot of time with business travel. With little energy and few day-light hours to spare, running fell to the back of my mind and my running shoes started to gather dust. Slowly, I also gained weight and my running clothes fit tighter than they ever did before. To top things off, on a random walk down University Avenue in Toronto, I cracked my left foot. I was on my way to the Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting the next day, and had no time to go see a doctor until over a week later. X-Rays showed I had stress fractures and had to walk as little as possible for the next three months. Running was just not an option. Not knowing how I got these stress fractures I played it safe (or in part played a running-procrastination game) and decided not to run for at least four months. That easily turned into double.
Then I had my stopover in Toronto. Being on another business trip, I flew into Toronto first before moving on to Cleveland to visit Kent State University. I had a Saturday to myself and had nothing on my schedule aside from meeting my best friend. Out of nowhere I got the idea to go running by the Toronto waterfront again. I figured, even if I got a half hour run in, that would be a good thing.
I slipped into some warm clothes, laced up my running shoes and set out for an energizing jog along the waterfront boardwalk.
One positive thing about Toronto is that no matter how cold it is, more often than not the sun is bright. The opposite of the more dreary London weather. Perhaps it was the sunshine, perhaps it was the water, perhaps it was the feeling of ‘being home’, but the moment I broke into a jog I started smiling.
My feet hit the wooden boardwalk by Queens Quay and Bay street. I started picking up speed and noticed the wind wasn’t too bad. I was prepared with my running gloves and a brand new Under Armour reflective hat (reflective on the inside, to keep my head warm), a sweater and some moderately warm running pants. The weather cooperated too, it could have been colder, like the one time years ago I went on a 16km run by the water with snow on the ground and high wind speeds. That day I did not have any gloves and it felt like my hands would fall off by the time I made it halfway on Lakeshore Blvd. I was so miserable that I remember wrapping my hands in some spare item of clothing I had with me to make it home.
This time around I had gloves, a hat and there wasn’t too much wind. I was surprised how long I managed to run without having to slow down and walk. It was impossible to stop smiling and I felt overcome with a really strange mix of nostalgia, homesickness, pride, happiness, and sadness. When I set out to do my waterfront run I thought it would be nice to be back. I didn’t think it would touch me this deeply to run my very first running route again years after the fact. After I moved away from Toronto. When I did live in Canada this route had started to get a little bit boring. It is amazing how time away can refresh your perspective.
Before I knew it, I was at my usual turning-back-point for a short run. It’s close to Ontario Place, past the island airport. Altogether that makes for a respectable 7km+ run. Coming back to Toronto on a business trip, or otherwise, is always great. Getting a chance to run my old route… priceless!
Suggested supplies for this run:
- Pants that cut the wind a little
- Layers/warm top
- When there is snow, snow cleats are advised
- In summer: forget the layers and the gloves but never forget your sunglasses!