by Alan Brookes
Toronto’s oldest continuously held road race, the Spring Run-Off is famous for its scenery, challenging hills, good weather, and as being the “Opening Day” race, in the city’s running calendar.
In order to put something back into the sport of running, Mike Dyon, (distributor of Brooks running shoes in Canada) set up RMP Athletic Locker in 1977 with help from his brother Paul and father Robert. That’s where the history of the Spring Run in High Park begins.
Industry leaders; Robert Dyon, Charlie Reid and national marathon coach Hugh Cameron wanted to have the race on the roads, but it was too expensive to get permits. They instead laid out the course in High Park and scheduled it to always occur on a Saturday and designed the track to assure that it would be one of North America’s prettiest urban courses.
They were pleased with how quickly the race grew into one of the biggest local races, reaching 1,000 plus entries within the first few years. Mike fondly remembers his late father’s idea of giving out maple syrup to the top finishers. This has become a race tradition, along with having a bagpiper pipe everybody down to the starting area.
In 1981 the race became the first in Canada to offer prize money, helping turn the tide towards professionalism and attracting some of Canada’s finest runners. Over the years, notable Canadians include Peter Butler, Art Boileau, Sylvia Ruegger and Anne Marie Malone, along with current Canadian distance stars Eric Gillis, Krista Duchene & Natasha Wodak. In the early 90’s the race hosted some of the world’s best, including Eammon Martin & Jill Hunter from Great Britain, and legendary Kenyans Daniel Komen and Sally Barsosio.
More recently the event has grown dramatically, to a cap of 4,600 — as many as the scenic course can comfortably hold. The Spring Run-Off has continued to flourish and progress with the times, attracting great sponsorship partners (including titles from Brooks, DuPont, PowerBar, Harry Rosen and now Race Roster) while also being embraced by fundraisers & charity runners.
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 charity participant, it’s time to celebrate!