When I found out about the Holly Jolly Fun Run, the new race three years ago that is on Toronto’s Santa Claus Parade route and right before the parade takes place, I wanted to do it. It’s almost like being in a parade and that has long been on my marathon bucket list and unofficial “bucket list”*. However, visiting Toronto in mid-November is not part of my usual plan.
But I’m on mat leave through November this year and it was a really logical time to visit Toronto: most of my immediately family had already visited so it was time to bring E to Halifax to visit my mother, it is practically Christmas and I won’t be going to Halifax over the holiday season, it is relatively easier time to travel with an infant and if my cousin can do it so can I (!), and it’s low-season for domestic flights.
After clearing with a race coordinator that it would be okay to bring E in an infant carrier and what time the course closes, I happily registered for the race (er, walk).
My intention was to walk a 5K route on the Seawall four times in the month leading up to the race and it was important because E gets heavier each day! I did a 5K walk just twice with a best time of 54 minutes. Other than that, I often go out and about with him in the infant carrier but at a leisurely pace.
In the weeks leading up to the event, I was beset with nerves about it. Was I ready? What would the weather be like? Will E be warm enough? Or will E overheat in the fuzzy blue onesie I want to put him in? Will I be able to keep up the fast clip walk I needed to do? Would I be dead last? Would it rain? (I don’t have a rain cover for the infant carrier.) I found myself the night before feeling anxiety similar to that I experience ahead of real races and I just wanted it to be over with!
To feel better, and because it was necessarily, I planned the day to the hilt. We had to leave Richmond Hill and get into the city to park at Lil’ Sis’s boyfriend’s then take transit to the race start. After the race, we had just three hours to pick up lunch, make our way back to the car, pick up a hostess gift for later that day and get to my cousin’s! I hadn’t even factored in time for feeding E and changing his diaper – fortunately that was only about a 20 minute chunk of time in total.
I knew what I was going to wear regardless of weather. And upon learning it would be a balmy 12 degrees, I knew not to put E into a furry onesie as he would be right up against me and would overheat. I dressed him in three layers including his fleece hoodie and brought an extra hat for him and we were good.
The previous day, we attempted to go downtown for packet pick-up from Lil’ Sis’ boyfriends and it was a headache of not inconsiderable size when we learned that trains were not running between St. Clair West and St. George and we had to take a shuttle and we were burdened with a stroller. Our transit to the race start was just to be a single bus down Bathurst and the stop was very close by.
But the buses seemed to be so few and far in between. The first one blew by our stop so I had to run – with E in the carrier and I don’t run with him one – to catch the bus. It wasn’t going far enough anyhow. The second bus stopper but wouldn’t let us on as it got full and I found myself pleading to the driver (to make the passengers shift down) but nothing. The third bus didn’t even stop, it was so full. In the end, Lil’ Sis scrambled back to the boyfriend’s and got the car to drive me the fairly short distance (by car) to the race start. As a consequence, she didn’t hang out with me at the start, but I also didn’t have as much time I needed to kill either, just 11 minutes by the time I arrived.
Bloor West was already packed with spectators lining it on both sides. Many were set up with folding chairs, enjoying the sunshine and weather, playing on the streets before the race started. I had time to get a selfie with the Raptors mascot, The Raptor, before the confetti canons went off signalling the start of the run and showering the start line in red and green scraps of paper!
So much more rapidly than I could imagine, my section of the race thinned out. A police car brought up the rear and that meant driving alongside me. I had a police escort! I was mortified! Every so often, he would blast his siren for a moment, at the request of children at the parade. So I walked as quick a clip as I could not exactly knowing my pace for I had turned on but put away my RunKeeper. Presumably the police officer would roll down his window and let me know if I was falling behind?
After the 1 km mark, I overtook a family of three dressed as gingerbread men who would stop and pose with anyone. Children who stood on the street – the race route – with their arms extended to high-five runners looked past me in eager anticipation to see the gingerbread men. I get the feeling it was mostly women and mothers who noticed anyhow that this participant is not quite like the others.
Bloor West is just a four-lane street on the stretch used for the parade/race route and it felt cozy as it was lined throughout on both sides with spectators. We turned right to head south on University and that is six or eight lanes wide and not both sides were open to spectators. It was a different feel from colourful Bloor to university grounds to wide boulevard to Financial District.
I high-fived with many children and found myself catching up with the only other walkers in the race, an older man and woman. I made sure to overtake them, too and keep putting distance between me and the cruiser although at one point, I knew I slowed down and the car got closer.
Since when was I such an attention monger? I smiled and waved and even feigned sort of blowing kisses to show appreciation when at times waves of cheers arose and when one section cheered, the neighbouring section would figure out why and cheer as well. It all sounds great but I had the silliest grin on my face throughout. Early on, on Bloor, I had a brief moment of almost feeling overwhelmed – it’s a bucket list/dream come true. I made it happen, and I had E along for the ride although he’ll never remember it.
Just one blip. The crowds were thickest at Dundas and University where all four corners of the intersection were lined with spectators and rails were erected to keep them off the road. Several police officers were milling about at that intersection to control traffic and the ground is criss-crossed with street car tracks. It started to occur to me that it would be great to get a selfie at that point and I started to reach for my phone when my left foot hit a dip in pavement to a track or the slightest uneven and I started to roll my ankle! I didn’t even hurt anything but it was a wobble enough for the closest police officer to inquire if I was alright. I’m perfectly fine and it was only my pride that was destroyed! So I motored out of the intersection without a selfie or picture of the thick crowds!
Except for a speedster (saw his name early in the results) from Copenhagen, I came from farthest away for this small, super-fun really local 5K. With a 48-minute finish, I was faster than any of my two fairly earnest practice walks. I came, I saw, I walked!
Overall result: 619/628 total participants
Chip time: 48:12
Age division result: 52/52
Gender division result: 411/418
* I don’t maintain a proper bucket list but several items just knocking around in my brain.