Race History

Be a part of the proud tradition of Toronto's big Spring 10k!

Since I've been running and organizing races, there has always been a BIG Spring 10K in Toronto, a very special day for running in the city. It's been something that has always drawn us to the sport, the healthy lifestyle we all love and share; but it's always had a high profile to promote our lifestyle to the broader, general community.

In the late '70s and early '80s, it was the Cadet Cleaners 10K that started off the tradition of a fast, downtown Spring 10K. Almost from the beginning, the good, late April/early May weather and downtown route attracted 4,000 participants—and that was a lot, 30+ years ago! In the early thru mid-80s it morphed into the Eaton's 10K. It started on Bay Street, behind the Eaton Centre, ran to the EX along Lakeshore, then back to the TD Centre on Wellington. Everyone had their PR at Eaton's. And everyone knew the course was about 9.8k, but counted it anyway!

1988 entry form
1988 entry form (click to enlarge)

When Eaton's stopped doing the event in 1986, I snapped up the date and organized the Caledon Springs 10K, running from the Columbus Centre uptown, down through Forest Hill to College Park at Bay and College. We promoted it as providing "an accurate and a safe course, and an accurate finishing time and place for everyone" [Eaton's 10K had also only provided results for the first 300 finishers—everyone else had to look at the clock as they crossed the line!]. Once our Caledon Springs 10K set the trend, others had to follow.

1992 entry form
1992 entry form (click to enlarge)

By the end of the decade, Caledon Springs was gone, and the event was renamed the Columbus Centre 10k, keeping the same course. In 1990, the Canada Running Series was born, as the "Coors Light Running Series presented by Q107". The run became the Coors Light Columbus Centre 10K, then the Reebok Columbus Centre 10K.

As part of its illustrious history, the Columbus Centre 10K was won in 1996 by a young Moroccan-immigrant dishwasher from New York City, who rode the Greyhound bus to the Tdot, and blew everyone away through the leafy streets of Forest Hill, winning in 29:38. His name was Khalid Khannouchi. In 1997 he won the Chicago Marathon in 2:07:10, the fastest-ever marathon debut at that time. Two years later he won Chicago in a World Record of 2:05:42 and became the first man on the planet to run under 2:06. In 2002 he set another World Record of 2:05:38 at London.

White Ribbon Campaign

White Ribbon Campaign
News clippings from 2000 (click each one to enlarge)

In 1998, Sporting Life began their sponsorship. The route was modified, to run from Sporting Life store, down Yonge Street, to downtown, but the basic principle of a fast, downhill course for the BIG Spring 10K continued. In fact, it's flourished, growing from around 1,200 participants in '97, to almost 15,000 this year. The quality and sophistication of the event has also changed enormously in a generation, with bands every mile and a rocking post-race party, the technical tees and finishers' medals are all new, the professional CRS organizing team have added corrals and wave starts, shuttle buses and webcasts, but these have only added to a fine, Toronto running tradition.

Over the last 3 decades, the charities have also changed, from the YMCA Community Fund to the Columbus Centre, The White Ribbon Campaign and Camp Oochigeas. But always, they've been important local charities, to capture the spirit of Toronto, and give back to our great city in the BIG Spring 10K.

For 2012, we had to slightly alter the date, moving it to the 3rd week of April (in 2013 it will be Sunday, April 21st, 2013), to make room for the GoodLife Fitness Marathon, but a later start at 9am, giving us similar weather to the week or two later when we've usually run, and making it a little easier to get to the event in the morning. Finally, after a decade of "Marathon Wars" in Toronto, we hope that this will bring peace and harmony to everyone's running Calendar. It will be a logical and complementary transition to move for the 8K or 5K of Harry's Spring Run Off in High Park on April 7th, to the Toronto Yonge Street 10K on the 22nd, then perhaps the GoodLife Marathon or Half or the Mississauga Marathon & Half on May 6th, to the BIG Marathon or Half at Ottawa Race Weekend, on May 26-27th.

Alan Brookes,
Canada Running Series Director