Toronto Star

Epic ravine marathon shuns city’s beaten paths

- Shawn Micallef

The “Epic Ravine Marathon” began at Old Mill station last Sunday morning. Old Mill is perhaps the most unique subway station in Toronto. Nestled in the Humber River Valley, you can sometimes see canoes, kayaks and people fly fishing while waiting for the train. It’s a profound mix of town and country.

The ravine network was the inspiratio­n for what was essentiall­y a guerrilla marathon dreamed up by Amish Morrell, artist and musician Henri Fabergé, and a number of others who were regularly going on running adventures through the city.

An editor and curator, Amish grew up in rural Cape Breton and had been running the ravines and waterways as a way to explore the city. “Also to come to terms with the fact that I live in Toronto now, not in Cape Breton, despite my continual denial of this,” he says.

They realized their various running routes could be stitched together to create a marathon-like journey through the city, so they created a Facebook event, not sure who would show up.

For me, it was a chance to see if I could run a marathon, and I quickly learned there’s a reason people spend months training for them.

The route plotted out by the group tried to use surface streets as little possible, though sometimes they were necessary. Hydro corridors were essential in connecting the waterways, like abovegroun­d electric rivers through green swaths of linear park.

It weaved up the Humber River, along Black Creek, through the Finch hydro corridor to the Don River, and back down to the Evergreen Brickworks, ultimately ending at Sherbourne station. The route was 13 kilometres longer than a traditiona­l marathon’s 42 kilometres. This was not a race, however, as there were many stops, and exploratio­n was part of the fun. Some just walked.

The thing about running is you feel every incline you might not otherwise notice, and Toronto’s sometimes-subtle landscape no longer felt so subtle.

As a casual runner a few times a week, doing between three and 10 kilometres without much thought, running with people who’ve trained is quickly humbling.

I ran. I walked. I leaned. I cursed. I sat. I had a hard time getting back up. I ran again. But I always caught up to the pack because there were many stops along the way.

What makes city running different than running a track or a treadmill, especially when the ravines are included, is it’s never boring or monotonous. Being nimble — just you, your spandex and your shoes — allows for lots of exploratio­n.

New for me was the reach of Black Creek north of Lawrence Ave. that we entered at Queens Dr., where we followed its meandering route north, losing track of what streets we passed under. Though completely encased in concrete, the creek has wide “sidewalks” on either side that make for great running (or walking) when not flooded.

A tunnel allowing the creek pas- sage under Hwy. 401was most dramatic, requiring us to use all fours to cling to the side of the angled, slippery surface. The Toronto I woke up in seemed a long way away just then.

When we arrived at York University, we were down to five from the original 30. People caught buses when their bodies or time constraint­s said it was time to stop. Others joined in later.

My own legs gave out at 35 kilometres and I got on the subway at York Mills Station, convenient­ly built next to the west branch of the Don River. Some carried on and two of the original runners, Morrell included, made it to the very end, running in the dark.

The marathon may happen again as there are more ravines to run and walk; try designing your own, even if it takes you months to finish. Use exploring the ravines as motivation. There is a lot to discover.

Join the Adventure Scrobble (group on Facebook to be alerted of future adventures, both silly and semi-serious. Shawn Micallef writes every Friday about where and how we live in the GTA. Wander the streets with him on Twitter @shawnmical­lef

 ?? SHAWN MICALLEF PHOTOS FOR THE TORONTO STAR ?? The group crosses Black Creek underneath Black Creek Dr. The concrete has been upheaved by flowing water.
SHAWN MICALLEF PHOTOS FOR THE TORONTO STAR The group crosses Black Creek underneath Black Creek Dr. The concrete has been upheaved by flowing water.
 ??  ?? Participan­ts climb the embankment at the Exbury Towers on Jane St.
Participan­ts climb the embankment at the Exbury Towers on Jane St.
 ??  ?? Some runners joined the marathon midway, at Earl Bales Park.
Some runners joined the marathon midway, at Earl Bales Park.
 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada