Nike Women’s 15K Toronto #betterforit

Over the past year and a half I’ve had the honour of being a part of a growing community. This is a community of superwomen. This is a community of strength and determination. This is a community also known as Nike Toronto. You may remember one of my firsts posts about NTC Toronto. You may also remember my skepticism about these free classes that seemed too good to be true. I’m here to tell you they really aren’t and over the last 21 months I’ve had the honour of seeing a movement (and movement in general) in this city explode. You probably wouldn’t believe me if I told you that I’ve had the opportunity to train with incredible trainers, run with world class athletes, and even receive some cool Nike swag all without spending a cent. Well my friends, I am here to tell you it’s true and that you can also do it. I’ll get into that more later but first I wanted to talk about something big that happened a few weekends ago. For the first time in Nike history, Toronto was lucky to host a Nike race in our beautiful city. On June 14, Nike Toronto hosted the Nike Womens 15k race on the beautiful Toronto Islands. You may have heard about the Nike races in San Francisco and D.C. (Tiffany necklaces being handed out by firemen anyone?) and this year Nike decided to take their road races International! The thing that always peaked my interest about these races was the killer marketing leading up to the event. What I loved about it was not a focus on running a personal best race, but instead the power that comes from a community of women working together to reach a goal.

After a long winter where I kind of let my fitness slip away (sound familiar?) from me I was looking for something to get me back into racing shape. I had participated in NTC classes and heard through the Nike network about Nike Run Club Toronto. Nike has run clubs in a lot of major cities all over the world- and much like NTC, you can sign up for free! I signed up for my first NRC event back at the beginning of April (or maybe it was the end of March) and was more than a little bit intimidated. During my first run, we were taken to an indoor track to do speed training – not something I had put much thought or energy into previously. Much to my surprise, I found that while there were certainly some intimidating runners, the pacers were very welcoming and friendly and there were quite a few other people who ran at my pace (phew!). I was really impressed at how much everyone else cheered everyone on, it definitely made it that much easier (not like it was at all easy) when there was constant encouragement. My favourite part, while I was running with the “slow” group, no one once ever used the word slow. We were called the sexy pace group.

As the weeks went on, I participated in weekly speed training and other runs with NRC. I started to notice a marked difference in my speed. The groups slowly got bigger and bigger and bigger which was amazing to see. One of the toughest days was attempting a modified version of the Oregon Speed Workout. It was one of the hottest days of the season yet and it was INTENSE, but more than ever, everyone came together to support each other and make sure everyone finished. While it was one of the toughest, I think it was by far one of the best workouts I’ve ever done in my life- and I can guarantee that I wouldn’t have done it alone.

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Oregon Speed Workout

Race weekend rolled around and Nike pulled out all the stops! There were NTC classes being taught on a floating studio (a floating studio!!) on the harbor and an amazing Nike Women village was set up. There was so much hype and I had the chance to meet so many amazing women who had travelled from all over the world and workout with different Nike master trainers. It was so incredible to see so many like-minded people come together and encourage each other for the purpose of fitness. The day before the race, I participated in a 3km shake-out run. As we ran the last little bit and entered the Nike village, there were tons of cheering and such a strong sense of camaraderie. While I ran a half marathon last fall, when I started training for the 15k, I honestly wasn’t sure if I could run that far by the time June rolled around. Yet on that Saturday morning as we ran into the Nike Women’s village, I felt like I could do anything.

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Hanging out in the Nike Village post shake-out run

Sunday June 14 rolled around after a restless night of no sleep. I departed for the island at 7:00am with my best friend and running pal and an old friend from University who travelled all the way from Alberta to run with us. We waiting anxiously for things to get started and unfortunately, it started to pour. It was not a pleasant start to the day. Luckily, the rain stopped just as our wave was about to start. Already soaked, I figured that whatever happened, happened.

The race course was fantastic (though a little muddy). I’ve always loved the Islands so to run the total distance of all 3 Islands in one go was pretty unique. The coolest part was that we ran a good 2-3km on the RUNWAY of Billy Bishop Airport. It was amazing to enter the runway and see a sea of peach shirts stretch out across the airport with planes taking off and landing closely by. There are some amazing views of the skyline from the island but the view from the runway was probably the best I’ve ever seen and not something that many get to experience! The course wound back on to Centre Island which is where I started to struggle. One thing I love about bigger, high-profile events like these is the amount of spectators they attract. Running through the crowds on Centre Island really kept me going when I really wanted to stop.

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This wall was in the Nike Village and was then moved to the course. Pretty neat to see my own words of inspiration on route and everyone else’s encouraging words.

Shortly after, we ran by a gospel choir singing outside of a tiny church which was pretty neat! We then made our way to my favourite part of the Island- Ward’s island. If you’ve never been there – it’s worth taking a trip! It is so neat to see the houses and the small community that lives on the island year round! Again, I was really struggling here, but there were quite a few small children watching the runners go by handing out free high fives, so adorable and all the motivation I needed! I really hope that kids like that take something from watching such a big race and are inspired to get out there and run as they grow. The last stretch of the race went along the north part of Ward’s island; A boardwalk with awesome lake views. This part of the race was TOUGH but the signs that Nike had plastered along the way were a great source of inspiration. I was in some serious pain at this point when I noticed a sign that said something along the lines of “If your mind is screaming at you to stop, scream back louder” and I actually did try and roar out loud- not much came out though. Near the end, my favourite cheer squad was waiting to push people to the finish line. The Parkdale road runners always seem like such a fun and great group of people. NO ONE cheers like they do. I really wish I lived further west so it was easier to come run with your crew! I see them at pretty much every race and they always help me get through that last bit.

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So close to the end and struggling!

All in all, it wasn’t my greatest race timing wise. I was lacking energy and my calves were giving me a lot of trouble. I felt pretty down at the end because I really wanted to do better. In retrospect, there were a few things I wish I had done differently. I really wish I would have removed my negative attitude and just focused on running and finishing such an amazing race. I wish I had taken time to soak up the experience. I didn’t stop and take any pictures on the runway and I’m kicking myself for that because it was so cool! I think that I often forget (in running and life) to remind myself to stop and smell the flowers and really enjoy the moment. However, it truly was an incredible weekend and I can’t change it now!

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Wish this picture truly captured what it was like to run on a runway!

The most amazing thing was not finishing the race, or running on the airport runway or participating in classes on a floating barge. The most amazing part was being part of such a big movement and community. It was watching my friend who has never raced before finish a 15k race after only a few months of training. It was about talking to a new runner on speed night who had never run anything beyond 3k and didn’t think they could finish the workout (they always did). It was about going on training runs and seeing people run 1km further  they had before- or 2 or 3. It was about running with the sexy pace week after week and talking to the amazing women I met- most of whom were either new to running, or just like me. It was seeing these women stick with it and push themselves, turning the words “I can’t” into “I did”. We may not have been an overly loud or impressive group, but we did it and we are certainly #betterforit

For more information on all the amazing free events you can sign up for, head on over to the Nike Toronto page.

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An important reminder of what it really is all about

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3 happy finishers

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Fin.