Toronto Pearson Runway Run 2012 Recap

This run comes at a weird time of my life. In this month alone I will make three round trips to Saskatoon from Toronto (average 3.25 hours each way) and the run took place half a day after returning from my second week-long stint in SK. I was still excited to do the run but there were soooo many other things to think about.

On my first flight to Saskatoon, I sat next to a guy who vaguely reminded me of Captain Awesome from “Chuck” and as we flew into Saskatoon’s John G. Diefenbaker Airport, he was trying to figure out which runaway we were landing on. I joked, wondering if he was an airport geek and he told me he’s a pilot. (Swoon!) I love flying but I don’t know my runways in any of YYZ, YVR or YHZ! But when we were coming back to Toronto at the end of my first week I got a little emotional and felt super privileged to do the Runway Run.

By contrast, I was tired and disgruntled coming in to Toronto yesterday. Over dinner one evening the pan-Canadian group of work colleagues talked about airports and when we talked about transport to and from YYZ no one told me of any secret way to get there quickly and economically. Why is there no GO bus from downtown to the airport? Why is the TTC solution so shoddy? We talked about Vancouver and given the location of our Vancouver office, the Canada Line was a boon because there is a station right under the office that goes to the airport. In that way, until there is good transit to the airport, they thought Toronto is not a world class city. Don’t we love to dump on where we live??

But I’m still “from away” when I’m in Toronto and the small-city part of me has always been in awe of Toronto icons like the CN Tower and bustling and relatively massive Toronto Pearson Airport. It is the most busy airport in Canada and I guess I feel like Canada is it for me.

So in a bad planning move I took the airport bus from near my house to the airport. $20. But in the morning I Googled the rest of the trip I needed to make to leave the airport and get to the airport authority administration building and it would be an hour walk on the highway and only Mississauga Transit-which hadn’t started running yet-were options from the airport. I really should have taken TTC all of the way but had tunnel vision to take airport bus to “near” the race start first and in a civilized fashion. One humiliating $20 taxi ride with a driver heavily reliant on his Magellan and I arrived tail-between-my-legs to… the most fun pre-race party ever!

Since I did not have a chance to pick up my race kit earlier in the week, I was urged to arrive by 8 and there was no queue at all, no problem if I had arrived later. I ordered a small ladies shirt and she hesitated and informed me they were out of small and only had… I’m expecting her to say extra-large… extra-small and medium. Took the extra-small and I don’t think I will regret it.

I spent the first half an hour taking pictures of the warehouse, a massive store of what I think was road salt, the best food spread at a race, activities for the kids and our first glimpse of the runway.





The opening ceremony started at 8:30 and sponsors were roundly acknowledged and fundraising efforts for this year’s charity, Hope Air, were applauded. A young mother from near North Bay shared her story of how Hope Air has helped and continues to help her by bringing her and her six-year-old daughter Ally (also present and obviously to the crowd) back and forth to Toronto. Ally is six years old and has a brain tumor. Hope Air connects her to weekly treatment that would otherwise be a 16-hour drive away.

As the race director spelled out the logistics of the race it was a little surreal to me: oh, did I come here today to run? 5K? People around me kind of look like they will run. Eek! What is 5K again? I have been “training” on a treadmill all this year but don’t know 5K.

We assembled outside the warehouse and shortly after 9 a.m. the 5K runners followed the green sign onto the runway. The route is a simple out and back on runway 24L closed down for our run. 24R is still open but the largest jet to use it was Westjet’s 737 and the average was Embrauer-175 like the one right next to the start/finish line. Most planes were taking off and used 24R east-to-west since, I read in the forum, the “big boys” were on the other runway (23) clear on the other side of the terminal from us.

I set out on the same pace that I go on a treadmill and felt desperately slow. The route was flat as a pancake and I had no music and could only entertain myself watching the airplanes taking off which were too small and sparse and unvaried in airline for my liking!

Given all the strict logistics imparted on us I wasn’t surprised there wasn’t a water station. But then there was one and they were giving out whole unopened bottles of Dasani water (while at the finish line they were doling out Nestlé water). This, after warnings that the danger was refuse on the runway could get sucked into the engines!



Knowing that I have most definitely trained myself slower and made no effort to run outdoors my only goal was to run non-stop as I do on a treadmill and I imagined that I was running 7-minute kilometers at best. I brought a sling pod MEC bag and it was not comfortable to wear and chafed my neck. And was I really running with all the food I snagged from the tables? Oh, yes I was.

So I entertained myself reviewing economics graphs in my head and did not stop for water or taking pictures. The latter did not occur so much amongst the 5Kers since the 2K walk was created for those who really wanted to linger and take pictures right at the beginning where the Embrauer sat. So I was surprise to finish in 30 minute but shudder to think about my placement with that finish what with all the peppy kids also registered to race!

A Fed Ex plane was off a small distance from the course and open to tours but I was loathed to walk that far and it looked
like there was a queue so I started heading home.

Official race photos are by Ryder Photography and available later.

Timing results by Sport Stats and here are mine:

Chip time: 30:39.8
Place – overall: 514/1215
Place – age group: 61/228
Place – gender: 205/708

On this day..


  1. Sugel says:

    This is an EPIC race. So many fabulous things to enjoy. Airside is awesome. Thrilling venue and racing while planes take off on parallel runways is fun! I imagined “racing” the planes as they took off. In my imagination, I was faster. There’s a jet out on the tarmac – one at the start line and one at the finish line. One was Fed Ex, the other Air Canada. The flight crews stood on the stairs and waved as we lined up. I didn’t expect to get a finisher medal so having a whole troup of Boy Scouts there to hand them out was sweet. I also met the airport falconer after the race was over. The post race food was good. The usual fare plut some extra goodies – a bear claw? – that was new to me but oh, soo good. This race is excellent for challenging personal bests since it’s super flat. I couldn’t help taking a camera with me (I carry a pocket camera in my fuel belt) and was so glad I did! It’s a super venue for cameras and if you don’t carry one, make sure your cheering section has one on hand. Once you get air side, there’s a couple places to take pictures with the planes as back drops … a terrific photo op! I’d run this race again in a heartbeat.

  2. gold price says:

    This previous Sunday was the Sunday of all Sundays, the Sunday I suited up and did battle against the elements running outdoors during the heart of a Canadian winter. Me against nature… I am sure it had nothing to do with my upcoming race and my previous treadmill runs … Of course not!

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