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Toronto Marathon reveals epic new virtual event

One of the most unique and popular marathons in the country also a vital charity fundraiser

Almost a year ago, physical events started cancelling. One of the first to pull the plug in Canada was the Toronto Marathon. At the time, it was unexpected and the reaction wasn’t easy to handle for race director Jay Glassman. But now everything has changed, and virtual events are becoming more and more popular as a way to help runners set goals, train and compete in addition to supporting events, such as this beloved annual race in Toronto. 

The virtual Toronto Marathon, Half Marathon, 10K and 5K offers registrants the opportunity to choose their distance, and design a course at a time and place of their choosing. Runners have until May 31 to compete and log their best run. 

Registration includes virtual tracking, a promo-code for the ASICS online store, a virtual race bib, downloadable custom branded finisher’s certificate, race medal, Karbon event shirt, plus discounts and promotions from event sponsors. 

All this for $45. Yes, please. 

“People are looking for goals, especially after being isolated for so long. Many have continued to run and many have started running as a result of the pandemic, so they’re looking for a goal to strive for,” Glassman says. “The charity component is huge as so many events have been cancelled and revenue is down, an event like this provides an opportunity to raise pledges for a charity of choice.”

Charities have played a key role in the Toronto Marathon since its humble beginnings. The event was Princess Margaret Hospital’s original third-party event fundraiser — something that is now standard with events from coast to coast to coast.  

Glassman says, this year the event is concentrating on five charities to support with the Toronto Marathon: The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation, Canadian Mental Health Association, Sick Kids, Heart & Stroke, and the Canadian Cancer Society. 

The race broke new ground in other ways as well, including the now world-renowned psyching team initiated 17 years ago by Dr. Kate Hays. It has since grown to a team of 30-35 sports psychologists who work with runners to get them to the finish line during physical events. 

“We call it ‘mind over marathon,’” says Glassman. “With people hitting the wall sometimes it’s physical but sometimes it’s mental. Our psyching team can help give you some of the tools to visualize and help you reach your goals.”

Get Out There spoke with Dr. Hays about the benefits of virtual races. And she confirms that there is much to be taken from virtual events. 

“There’s a difference between training for an event and actually doing the event. Virtual runs give the opportunity to “do” the event and to be acknowledged for accomplishment,” she says. “They can also be a method of connecting and competing with running buddies…at a distance.”

She says it’s important not just to continue to run but to train and set goals. The Toronto Marathon is an excellent place to start. 

The race, in past years and in years to come, has made it a mission to take runners through the many amazing Toronto neighbourhoods and sights that make up this great destination. And, it’s what keeps runners coming back year after year. Runners like Collingwood, ON resident Nick Brindisi, who ran his first Toronto Marathon in 1988.

“What I like about the race itself is the fact that it’s the one that truly gives the participant a tour of the city. You get everything from North York to Casa Loma, the Rosedale Valley, St. Lawrence Market, the downtown, the waterfront and CNE to mention a few,” Brindisi says. “Couple the sightseeing with a course that has more downhill than up and you have the potential for a fast time.”

Glassman took over the race back in 1995 and has successfully guided it through a series of changes from having to relocate from the original Queen’s Park finishing area, as well as being forced to move the event date from the fall to the spring. 

Although the pandemic is, of course, unprecedented and has done serious damage to the outdoor sporting events we know and love in Canada and around the world, it is reassuring that races such as the Toronto Marathon will continue. But it needs support as a virtual event this year and has put together a great program for participants. 

“We offer a  fun goal-oriented experience,” Glassman adds. “We hope that people will choose to support one of the charities that we’ve partnered with as they all need our support more than ever.”

For more information and to register go to Torontomarathon.com

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