Judging by the lack of emails or any other sign of interest that’d come my way last week I knew that attendance at this run was going to be low. It got me thinking as I was eating breakfast on the morning of the run; 50k is well within my ability so if I wasn’t going to be tearing around back and forth, trying to keep everybody together and on track, what could I do to get more out of the run on a personal level?
I considered the idea of doing 50 push ups after every 5km. Then I thought it a daft idea. Then it wasn’t so daft. I was torn.
Should I be executing this public display of fitness, at my age? Isn’t it a little silly for a middle aged man to be doing something that might be viewed as showing off? I should have grown out of such things by now, right? Won’t people be using that well worn, and much misunderstood, phrase ‘mid life crisis’ on me if I start doing stuff like that? Well, they might, but if I just did it and kept my mouth shut about it, didn’t put it on the blog or facebook, then nobody would know.
But clearly whilst doing 100’s of push ups isn’t beyond me, controlling my lips and fingers, my love of attention and admiration just might be…
Then the next thought was, why would I do it? To prove that I could? No, not at all, was my answer to myself. I am very confident physically. When it comes to running or bodyweight exercise like push ups, if I’m on form then there really are no limits for me that I can easily perceive. My third thought was that I might do it to see how it would effect my idea of the world around me. You see I believeÂ that, as scientists say, we as a species understand a fraction of the world around us. 1% maybe, perhaps less than that. And like many people I am curious to push my mental boundaries further yet, without access to any advanced knowledge, how might I learn more? I find that testing myself physically is one way of getting a different view of the world as being on the edge of exhaustion sometimes offers a stool to stand on, to see further than one would ordinarily.
So, that was set, I’d ignore how the challenge looked to bystanders in favour of doing the push ups and perhaps getting a new vision of life. If I did 50 every 5km that would mean 500 by the end of the run; I’d never done than many in a day before so who knows what effect it would have on me. I was excited to find out.
We met at 9.30 near the midtown area of the city. There was Virgil and Jason, and Tim would meet us a couple of km’s along the track. At the initial Toronto 50km event we’d had around 50 people so it was obviously a little saddening, for me, that the turnout was so low, but I understood. This isn’t a standard event and when things are as different as our event is there are bound to be teething problems until word gets around.
For a start, it’s not a timed event. There is a place for modern day races where people are obsessed with their times, where runners are pampered somewhat with all sorts of goodies at aid station en route and everybody gets a t-shirt and medal, regardless of their finish position, yes, there is a place for these things, but our event isn’t that place.
Runners bring their own food and drink to our event. Vegan food. One of the ideas of the Toronto 50k is to introduce people to the vegan lifestyle; so many runners like to think they’re healthy yet when they exercise they fill their body with crap – anything goes as long as some brand or paid athlete tells them that it’ll make them run faster – and we’re trying to change that.
And also – and this now is the only near-preachy thing I’ll say about being vegan in this blog post – according to current scientific opinion you, whoever you are, as long as you’re a half decent person you’re going to be vegan within the next 10 or 20 years whether you like it or not. If you care to maintain the world as it is, or make it better, you have no choice. If you care for your kids, your family, their health, and the future world they’re growing into, you really do have no choice at all. The only choice you have is how you’re going to make the transition. And our run aims to help you make that transition in a friendly, informed environment. So you think vegan food is unexciting, bland, boring? Dream on, and think again.
This is the energy bar I made before the run, that I shared with the others on the way round.
I ran 53k, and in the end, did 666 push ups, on 3 pieces of this bar. It’s the best energy bar you’ll ever taste. I don’t know you, I don’t know what you’ve eaten before, but that doesn’t change my statement. This is the best energy bar, ever. Ok, perhaps I’m biased as it’s my baby, but give it a try. And it’s so easy to make. Here’s the recipe. It’s a no bake recipe and you can make it in about 30Â minutes, including the time it takes to chill.
1 cup chopped dates, pitted. Soaked for 10 mins in water. Unless they’re Medjool, in which case they’re juicy enough already.
1/4 cup agave syrup
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 cup chopped dark chocolate
1 cup dried cranberry’s
2 tbsp salba chia seed
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
Heat the peanut butter and agave in the microwave for 30 seconds or so, until it melts a bit.
Mix it in with the other ingredients in a big bowl. Mix well using your hands.
Press the mixture into a baking dish that is lined with baking parchment (this helps with getting the bar out after it’s chilled), pack it down well.
Cover the dish with clingfilm and put into the fridge for a quarter to a half an hour.
Take it out of the fridge, and then out of the bowl, cut the mix into bars and transfer to an airtight container.
How simple is that? And yeah, it’s very, very tasty indeed and will give you loads of energy. I’m not saying it’s the healthiest bar but if you’re looking to exercise hard and want a balance between something that’s relatively good for you, full of power and tasty, then this is it.
So back to the run.
Another reason that the run has yet to gather many attendees is that it’s over 50k long and it’s too hard for some! It’s partly on trail, which is sometimes steep and very hard going, and partly on road, which provides for easier sections. And those who can do it easy – for there are many such athletes around – many of them are just into running as fast as they can rather than undertaking a communal fundraising experience during which they might have to sacrifice their own instincts and objectives in order to help less experienced runners achieve their own goals of simply finishing a very testing run. For those runners I’d say, perhaps think of this as a run where you’re acting as a pacer, perhaps, rather than anything else.
And there’s no medal, no crowds, no grandstand finish either. This puts a lot of people off.
But for those who are into building community, and for those who want to help raise funds and awareness for the Toronto One World Sanctuary (http://oneworldsanctuary.ca/) for which this run is the fundraiser, and learn a little more about eating vegan and the many green trails of the city of Toronto, it’s a good option.
A final reason why the turn out was low was that, it’s winter! And it was snowing, and -4.
But that was ok. We stood there before setting off, making final adjustments to our kit, and I was thinking, it’s snowing hard right now and that is in itself a beautiful thing but even if it wasn’t it doesn’t matter because when you’ve been outside for hours on end as I have in the past, running or hiking all day, you understand that rare is the time that a day won’t offer you moments of magnificent weather at some point. We’d get our moments of awe, when sun or cloud or the play of light on the forest would make us gasp, I was positive about that.
Jason was carrying a 7kg backpack; he’s getting ready for the epic Marathon des Sables in April and this was a good time for him to test out running with the same backpack and weight as he’d be using during this week long desert race. And Virgil was looking to finish his first ultra marathon. We met Tim after a few minutes on the Beltline Trail, he was in fine form and we set off along the northern end of the Mt Pleasant Cemetery before cutting more north and dropping down into Sherwood Forest.
I won’t go into route details here, if you’re interested in where we run the perhaps consider turning up at the next run! Instead, here are some photos I took as we ran, offering an idea of the winter landscape through which we passed.
As you can see it was a snowy, hilly first part. The snow was hard packed and for Jason it was great training as it felt a little like sand does when it still has the cold of the night on it. Hard but with some give in it, much like he’ll experience during the MDS in Morocco.
Then the sun came out and we ran in silence for a while, such was the beauty of the landscape. It might also have been that we were getting too tired to talk as we were now at about the 25k mark…
We came out of the Glen Stewart Ravine and Lake Ontario was glinting at us from the end of the street opposite. We practically raced to it, what a joy it is to see the lake under these conditions. The snow still lay on the beach and by now it was a very warm plus 1 or 2.
After skirting the lake for a few kms we turned back up the Don Valley and eventually met up with the Beltline Trail again. By now the sun was starting to dip and a chill was making itself known. I felt pretty good at this point – we’d each had our highs and lows during the run, times when you felt little able to move and other times when you felt full of life and sprinting, and now I was on a high – and was still managing to crank out the push ups. Until the 400 mark I was doing sets of 50 but after that I didn’t have much left in my shoulders so I was running ahead of the gang, or dropping back and catching them up later, and doing 10 or 20 at a time. I decided to stop at 666 push ups as it was a fun number and yes, after doing the first 500 I felt like a beast so why not have the number to go with it. Had it altered my perception of anything at all? Probably not but by the time I’d done them I’d already become a different person – running all day does that to one – and it was impossible to think back to how I was before. Was it worth it though, did it feel good? Yeah, my whole frame felt great, very powerful, packed with spark and life, like it should do.
We got back to the cars just as the sun was setting. We were all pleased to finish and very proud of Virgil for completing his first ultra. It’d been a testing course and to be out running for over 7 hours is always going to be mentally taxing, and he’d handled it all excellently.
Thanks to Lush Handmade Cosmetics, Salba Smart Chia and Fresh Restaurants for supporting the run (best goodie bag ever!) and if you feel like fundraising for the Toronto One World Sanctuary, or running on cruelty free fuel, then get in touch and put yourself on the mailing list for the next run, which’ll happen in the summer of 2016 – email@example.com