Often, when I’m running out in the country, or even on paths by the lake, I’ll encounter a hill. It could be a nice roller, or a steep SOB, and depending on where I am in my run, I’ll be huffing and puffing up the hill and wishing the path was more flat. Have you ever wished that you could do a race that was perfectly flat? Well the Pearson Runway Run is just that. A perfectly straight, almost flat race.
Toronto Pearson International Airport is the largest and busiest airport in Canada. According to Wikipedia, it saw over 34 million passengers! Once a year, they shut down one of their runways, and let the runners and walkers take over. The Greater Toronto Airport Authority (GTAA) organizes a 5km run and a 2km walk down the runway. They also park a FedEx cargo plane at one end, and let you take a tour through it. It’s a well organized race, with some cool food at the end, and a neat medal shaped like an airplane.
Now you may be thinking: “Hey, a totally flat race, with not a hill in sight! Perfect to PR on!” Not so fast. There are some challenges with this race. Firstly, it takes place in mid-June. The past two years I’ve done it, it has been hot, humid, and sunny. Being a runway, there isn’t a lot of shade. None, to be exact. So if you don’t do well with the heat and sun, it may not be for you. Also, running on the runway is a bit like running on a treadmill. Because there are no real good frames of reference to look at, it doesn’t feel like you’re getting anywhere. All the buildings are far away, and don’t look like they’re getting any closer. It’s a bit disconcerting to get to the 2.5km turn around point and be able to see the finish line, 2.5km away and know you still have to run 10-15 minutes to get there.
Another challenge is the logistics. Because it is a runway, they are very strict about leaving any garbage on the race route. This year they didn’t provide any bottled water on the route, but offered one water station at the turn around point with cups. Perfectly acceptable, but still, something to think about.
The race started at 9:00am, so I got there at around 8:15am. The meeting place is one of the maintenance buildings next to the runway at the south side of the airport. There is loads of parking available, with lots of volunteers quickly routing you to the first available spot. Nice! After putting on sunscreen and organizing what I was bringing (phone, race belt), I headed to the building. Lots of runners were milling around, warming up, stretching, etc. I took the opportunity to do some warm up runs, and sprints, to shake off the rust. I hadn’t run all week, and really didn’t have any expectations with this race, other than to have fun, and not walk too much.
At 8:45am, we were all gathered together and escorted by security personnel to the start line on the runway
I managed to find some people from work, including my boss, who was running the 5km pushing his son in a stroller. “Great, he won’t kick my ass this year” I thought.
I positioned my self about half way back in the line. After some last-minute instructions, the horn sounded, and we were off and running!
Like I said before, I didn’t have any crazy aspirations with this race. In my mind, I figured that I could hold a nice 5:30min/km pace for the whole thing. While warming up, I had notions about maybe running a fast 5:00min/km pace and seeing how long I could hold it up, but I decided not to. I’m having a hard enough time with running these days; adding pressure to perform when it was likely I couldn’t maintain it is silly. Seemed like I was setting myself up for failure. So 5:30 it was.
Thanks to my warm-up, I didn’t have the customary crappy feeling I usually get in the first few kms of a race. I settled in and enjoyed the view. It’s kinda cool watching the planes take off and land on the runway next to the one the race was running on. It was pretty far away, so no real danger, but still close enough to see the planes, hear the roar of the engines, and smell the burning rubber of the tires touching down on the asphalt.
At the turnaround, I grabbed a cup of water and walked for 30 seconds. I know I said I wouldn’t walk, but I don’t drink and run very well. As I was walking, I saw my boss with the stroller, approaching the turn around! No way he was beating me today! I dropped the cup, and picked up the pace. The finish line seemed so far away; I knew I still had around 15 minutes of running to go. Eventually it was in sight, and I was close to coming in under 25 minutes! I was already running faster than I had started, but didn’t want to look at my watch. Just kept my eye on the prize, picked up my legs, and drove it home.
Chip time was 00:25:19.8; not too shabby. Just over a 5:00min/km pace! Probably faster than I’ve run in a while. I was very happy with that. The statistics are here if you want to see them. Total negative split! Woo hoo!
Hopefully this will jump start my training and help me get more motivated to run. I’m still having issues finding time to train. I need to try harder to get up in the morning and get some sort of workout in before the day begins.
Next race is (likely) going to be the Dirty Dash in Waterloo, followed by the ENDURrun Sport in August