Dave – This is quite possibly my favourite race of the season, despite the fact that I’m far from a good 5k runner, and that it’s usually pretty cold this early in the year. It’s just such a good atmosphere, the Achilles charity does excellent work helping the disabled get into sport, and Steam Whistle beer is great so the after party always is, too. And add to all this, the race starts underneath the CN Tower and everybody is in that special sort of festive mood that St Patrick’s Day generally brings with it, you can see you have a unique event going on slap bang in the centre of Toronto.
I caught the subway down to Union Station – the race doesn’t start until 10.30am so there’s plenty of public transport even though it’s a Sunday morning – and picked up my race pack in the Steam Whistle Brewery. It was about -4C outside but the sun was angling in through the huge windows making inside a sunny, warm place to be. It was almost a shame to move outside for the race, but it had to be done!
There aren’t corrals in this race so if you want a clear run at a fast pace you need to get on the front row. I was about 5 rows back yet still I had a few very young kids in front of me that I had to weave around once the gun went off. As for the rest of the course, there is a slight uphill and usually a fierce headwind at some stage (this time it was coming back along Wellington from about 2.5 to 3.5km), few crowds but ample marshals. It’s all over before you know it and then you have the happy task of receiving your medal and bottle of water from the volunteers…
Virgil – The Achilles Canada St. Patrick’s 5k run; I’ve always loved this race for the festive atmosphere and scores of runners dressed up in Irish Green costumes. Today was no exception, there were green top hats, orange tresses, shamrock shaped glasses and leprechaun outfits everywhere. I would say nearly half of the crowd dressed up or at least incorporated some green into their running outfit that morning, myself included. It was a freezing cold day so I ran in tights, a tech shirt and long sleeve top. There were a couple of vendor booths lined up in front of the brewery. Once I made my way inside I was able to pick up my bib and race bag without issues.
It was a packed crowd inside as runners were trying to stay warm. I picked up two boxes of Lucky Charms cereal to give away and headed out to drop off my bag. At the start line I took a few pictures before squeezing in with David and the other runners just before the gun went off.
Last year I remember running around slower runners and kids as the gun went off and everyone burst out of the start gate. This race wasn’t organized into formal corrals, despite a fairly large crowd of over 1100 runners. Once there was a slight gap in front my me, I started my watch and ran over the timing mats. I wanted to try to find a clear path around other runners to go for a good time. I started off well for the first kilometre, but short distances aren’t my forte. I was doing my best to keep a sub 4:40 pace and monitoring it. The race leader already had a sizable gap on the rest of the field and had already run around the 2.5k turnaround, by the time I saw him. He flashed by me just as I passed the 2k mark.
The GPS was giving me wonky readings because of interference from the buildings on Wellington Street. At first it was a speedy 4:20 pace, but jumped to 4:40 before dropping back to 4:35. I must have started off too fast because I was getting burned out by the fourth kilometre. The finish line was just beyond reach as I missed my PR by 40s. Nonetheless it was a fun day and there was plenty of Steam Whistle Pilsner and chilli (both meat and veggie options available) going around, accompanied by an entertaining live band to complement the festivities.
I met up with my friends and sat on the floor to eat and take in the music. I was really pleased with the shirt design, and the bib pickup and bag checks went smoothly. I highly recommended this event for people who want a fast early season race, runners who want to dress up and party after in the brewery, and anyone who wants to be Irish, at least for a few hours!
Achilles Canada did a great job at this perennial favourite. To discover more about this race, and to register for next year, visit https://achillesstpatricksday5k.ca/