TORONTO. April 9th. Robert Winslow and Rachel Hannah cruised to comfortable victories at today’s 38th Annual Race Roster Spring Run Off 8K in High Park, in 24:42 and 27:51, respectively. It was race # 2 in the 2016 Canada Running Series, the country’s premier running circuit. Steeped in tradition as Toronto’s oldest continuously-held road race, the Spring Run Off is famous for its scenery, its challenging hills and weather, and its "Opening Day" position in the city’s running calendar. Today did not disappoint, with bright blue skies and a crisp -4 degrees for the almost 3,500 runners in the 8K, and the 5K and 800m Kids Run that followed.
This year’s main bill was a re-match between U of T Track Club’s Rachel Hannah and Vancouver’s Dayna Pidhoresky in the 8k. Hannah, who won the bronze medal in the Pan Am Games marathon in Toronto last July, and Pidhoresky raced together at the Houston Marathon in January, chasing the Canadian marathon standard for the Rio Olympics (2:29:50). They went through 25k with Dayna slightly ahead, 1:29:24 to 1:29:32, before she was forced to drop out with stomach problems. Rachel went onto set a new PB of 2:32:09, just shy of the standard. Today they again started out together, with Hannah just a step or two ahead:
"I felt quite good, and comfortable throughout the race. It was really good to be out racing again," said Rachel. "I tried to be pretty conservative the first kilometre or two. Felt really smooth. Then I started to pick it up a little bit. I felt good on the first hill (at 3k) and that gave me good confidence. I really got away from Dayna around 5k, 6k. I was feeling really strong and I didn’t want to save it ‘til that last hill!" By the time they crossed the line at the top of Spring Road hill the gap was 14 seconds. The ageless Lioudmila Kortchaguina was third in 28:35. The 44 year-old from Markham also claimed first Master’s honours. Part of the tradition of the Spring Run Off, Lioudmila was overall Women’s Champion in 2002 and 2003.
Although it was his first time racing Spring Run Off, Robert Winslow continued the strong Speed River Track Club tradition at the Spring Run Off. With teammate and defending champion Eric Gillis racing the Berlin Half-marathon last weekend as "proof of fitness" for Rio, the challenge fell to Winslow to uphold the Guelph club’s reputation – and he did so convincingly. It was the 27 year-old Winslow’s first podium finish with Canada Running Series and he couldn’t have been happier.
"I cruised through the first couple of K, then hit the first hill around 3k, and that’s when things started to open up. I opened the gap more on the big downhill at 5k, then just tried to maintain ‘til I got to the last hill as I knew it was going to be a tough one. I just tried to work that last hill hard – it’s easier to do when you know the Finish is right there. I’ve been getting some good workouts in with Eric and Reid [Coolsaet] and the rest of the Speed River gang. I was hungry to get going today and get some good racing in."
A new, up and coming CRS star, 19 year-old Ehab El-Sandali of Toronto West Athletics, took second in 25:12, holding off Paris’ Josh Bolton (25:20). Ehab is the current Canadian Junior Cross Country Champion, and represented Canada at the Pan Am XC Championships in Caracas, Venezuela last month.
Canadian Running and Runner’s World magazine sport-science columnist Alex Hutchinson took the Men’s Master’s title in 27:22.
The accompanying 5K was won by Miles Avalos in 16:20 and Jenni Dwyer in 20:09.
One of the highlights of the morning was a new "Kill The Hill Challenge" (#killthehill) that timed all participants up the final 365 metres of the infamous Spring Road hill. Invited, elite athletes were timed but not eligible for "King and Queen of The Hill" awards. The titles, complete with cloaks, crowns and tiaras, PowerBar and maple syrup prizing, went to Luka Senk (79.7 seconds) and Vicky Siemen (1:34.5) in the 8k; to Avalos (79.0) and Dwyer (1:40.2) in the 5k. Interestingly, both runners-up in the 8k posted the best elite times, with Ehab El-Sandali "killing the hill" in 73.0 and Dayna Pidhoresky in 1:34.
Despite the chilly temperatures there was a festive, "Opening Day" atmosphere. It was a day of family fitness, fundraising and fun in Toronto’s grandest park. More than $55,000 was raised for the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation. Councillor Sarah Doucette flipped pancakes in support of High Park Nature Centre. And she was joined by MP Arif Virani and MPP Cheri DiNovo to help hand out awards. Councillor Mike Layton let his feet do the talking, running the 8k and "killing the hill" in 2:36.
Complete results for the 8k and 5k, including the Kill The Hill Challenge at CanadaRunningSeries.com.
Next races in the Canada Running Series are Banque Scotia 21k et 5k de Montreal, April 24th; and Toronto Waterfront 10k, June 25th. (CanadaRunningSeries.com)