History of the Race

"How it all began"

Celebrating its 34th anniversary in 2012, the Spring Run Off holds a special place on the Canadian running scene.

Spring Run-Off History

Shortly after Mike Dyon, his brother Paul, and father Robert set up RMP Athletic Locker to distribute Brooks shoes in Canada in 1977/78, they decided to put on a run, in Mike's words "to put something back into the sport".

Robert Dyon, Charlie Reid (Dave Reid's dad) and national marathon coach Hugh Cameron laid out the course in High Park. It was designed to be one of North America's prettiest urban courses, all within the park. It would be THE event to open the running season in Ontario.

Charlie Reid came up with the idea of a Canadian "Spring Run Off". It would be the first road race in Canada to offer prize money, with a $1,000 first-place purse, yet it would be for all runners. Besides the cash, the Spring Run Off would give out cases and cases of fresh-bottled maple syrup from neighbour Archie McPhee's farm in Orillia, as lucky draw prizes and age-category rewards. A piper piped the runners from the registration area by the schoolhouse to the start near the Grenadier Restaurant, and 1,200 fitness folks set off to establish this legendary Canadian rite of Spring.

Over the years, the event has grown dramatically, to a cap of 3,000 — as many as the scenic course can comfortably hold. And it has hosted some Canada's and the world's finest runners. In the early years there were some great battles between Mike Dyon and Dave Reid's Canadian running friends — Peter Butler, Art Boileau, Greg Duhaime, Dave Edge, Sylvia Ruegger and Anne Marie Malone (see historic pics). Then came the great international runners: Eamonn Martin, John Doherty and Jill Hunter from the UK, masters sensation John Campbell of New Zealand gunning for a masters world record in 1991; and super-Kenyan Olympians and world-record holders Daniel Komen, Sammy Kipketer and Sally Barsosio. Daniel currently holds the men's course record with a breathtaking 22:35 (1994), and Jill Hunter holds the women's mark of 25:56, set in 1990.

Yet the lure of the Spring Run-Off lies strongest in the fact that it IS a "people's run". The maple syrup is running, the sun is shining and the snow receding. Whether you're a serious runner, a weekend jogger or a walking enthusiast, it's time to celebrate!

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Tips on how to run the Spring Run-Off 8k

The Spring Run Off also derives much of its lure from its special, scenic course, all on paved roads and paths in High Park. It's the perfect route for an early Spring "tune up" as well as run off. The distance is ideal — not too short to deprive you of a good "test of fitness" (to get you out the door!), but not too far to do you in! It also offers a variety of terrain, ideal for building early-season strength (or simply for great views along the way!), and having fun practicing your form running on the flat, downhill and up.

Start to 2K:

Picture yourself on the mass start with thousands of running friends, old and new (check out recent photos on the HSRO webpage). Start easy! Find yourself some space, check your breathing and your form, and RELAX, settling into your pace. From the start, around past the restaurant and up West Road, past the Bloor Street entrance, provides a nice, gently rolling start for you to get comfy and settled in. Just after the 1km mark, as you pass Bloor Street entrance, you get your first treat, as you plunge DOWN Spring Road. Remember to lean forward a little and keep your arms down… that way your momentum will carry you and you'll conserve effort. It's fun, falling downhill as you did as a kid.

The mile mark is at the bottom. Don't be surprised if your "split time" being called out sounds a little quick — it's the downhill. Mike Dyon recalled this point in his first Spring Run Off as a 23-year-old. "They called 4:16, 4:17. I thought 'oh my gosh, that's close to my 1-mile best and I've got 4 miles left to go!'"

Settle back from 2k to 4k:

Once you're down "the hill", settle down. It's a sobering thought that what goes down, must come up! Nice and easy along the remainder of Spring Road and you're ready for your first uphill (there are only 2 on the course, and 2 good downhills). That's Centre Road, at 3km.

Remember, same EFFORT, not same pace on the uphill, and you'll enjoy the change of scenery. Keep your head up, eyes fixed over the crest of the hill, and your hips forward, so your body weight is nicely over your drive-shaft (legs). When your eyes and head go down your rear goes out and you run into the hill, not over it! With "same effort', not same pace (ie. you have to slow markedly on the uphill), you should crest the top in good shape, passing tons of folks who pushed too hard up the hill and died at the top…. On Colborne Lodge Drive up the centre of the Park now, you'll pass the large water station just before 4K and the left-turn back down west road. Thanks to all the volunteers from Etobicoke Huskies/Striders, Toronto Olympic Club and Riverdale Collegiate!

Slow down a bit BEFORE you reach the water station, get your breath so you can swallow more easily, find some space, decide if you'll take water (at the front of the station) or Gatorade (at the back), and fix on one or two of the volunteers. Pick up a cup and take it easy. Run a bit with it if you need, but get 2 or 3 big mouthfuls/swallows inside you. Everywhere, there are spectators cheering you on. Now the fun really begins!

4k to 7k, "pump it up"!

Once you've let the water settle, you're almost ready to turn to the right and PLUNGE down the path to Grenadier Pond. If you're planning to test your fitness, this is where you start to make a move, after a conservative first half. Almost 30 seconds down on Eamonn Martin's course record, this is where Daniel Komen started to make his move in 1994. As the famous jingle said, "in my mind I am a Kenyan!"

If you're out for the FUN, this is the part to savour the marvellous scenery.

Around the bottom of the park you go, checking your form, working to stay smooth and relax. After 6km you start to wend your way back up to the Finish and the second uphill, the famous Spring Road rise that you came down at the mile.

The last kilometre:

Remember Spring Road at the mile? The one you charged down thinking of Mike Dyon and his 4:16 and Eamonn Martin and his 4:10..? Well, all you have to do is get up this thing and you're done! It's the most famous, legendary part of the Spring Run Off and you want to remember and savour it all. Spectators line the whole hill on both sides, urging you on. Go easy on the first part of the incline, think of your effort and your good form, then when you can see the top and the right turn into the Finish, give it all you've got. Smile, hear the crowds.

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5K runners/walkers

You start the famous course near the Grenadier restaurant, near the top of Centre Road Hill, at the 3K mark of the 8K course, then run the last 5km of the route. This gives you the same flat, relaxed first kilometre, concluded with a big downhill (that the 8k-ers meet at the 5K mark). Simply follow the advice given to them. By doing the 5K, you get 1 major down and 1 major uphill; the 8K folks get 2 and 2.

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