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Sporting Life 10k 2011

The Sporting Life 10K – Where It All Started

Race Day: May 1, 2011.

Due to the unfortunate loss of Danny Kassap after the Sporting Life 10k, the report below was left on the back burner for a while. Time to move on, and celebrate all things running!

Like so many, I started running on a New Year’s resolution, nearly 160 lbs of me back in 2002. But unlike so many, it was not through a learn-to-run programme. Instead I threw myself to the wolves at my ski club, to a group of seasoned runners who went for a “nice and easy” 10k every Saturday morning before hitting the slopes. The first time I joined them, I wisely turned back early for a short 6k. They caught me anyway. The next weekend, turned back at 8k. They caught up again. Easily. The third week, I took the plunge and made it the full Monty. By the time I got back to the club, the ladies in the group were already sliding away from the chalet, having had plenty of time to change into their winter garb and ski boots.

What a race to chose for your first. The big daddy of them all.

I was tricked into running the 2002 SL10k. Spring was around the corner, ski season almost done, and my new running pals said we should enter the race. All agreed and I naively signed up the next day. After a month of Saturdays, I was still the only one who had signed on. They said not to worry, because our running route was THE TOUGHEST 10K I would likely ever do (and it still is). Yet I was doubtful I could crack 50 minutes, and set that as an optimistic goal. The rest is history.

The SL10k was the easiest 10k I have ever run, and it gave me a brilliant time (45:40) for my first ever road race. I was hooked and have since made road racing my passion. I continue to thank my ski pals who got me running: Rich, Keith, Jim, Anne, Terri, Steve and others. Each time I PB at the SL10k, a bit of the glory goes back to them. So here I am in 2011, thanking them once again. Seven consecutive PB’s at SL10k, one for every year I entered, and counting. There are no better reasons to keep returning to this race, the race that started it all for me.

This year, 275 runners crossed the finish line under 40 minutes. In Canada, only Vancouver’s Sun Run finishes more runners under 40. Anyone who is anybody in the GTA running establishment puts the SL10k on their race calendar. Throw in your lot, see how you stack up. Everyone prepares to give this race the best they have, and the SL10k rewards them all for their effort, even those like me who mail it in. The top finisher’s prizes, master’s prizes and even the age category prizes are out of reach to all but the best. Winning here at any level is a bold achievement. Even if you are not that fortunate to win something, you will likely earn a 10k PB that you cannot get close to again, at least not until next year’s race.

Anthony Davey, Scott McDonnell, Paul Leduc were at the start line. Know your competition. If I could keep up with these guys I would achieve my goal of running under 35 and crush my old PB of 36:08. Off we went, and I was after them riding their coat tails for as long as I could. A nice thought it was, just not going to happen today. Paul set off way faster than 3:30/k, so I was not staying with him. Kept Anthony in my sights. Scott started to fade into the distance, and I felt no compelling urge to match him. At some point I lost Anthony too, likely around the 7k marker when I had a nap and a lousy 3:45 split.

At 8k (28:45) I calculated I was on pace for 36 minutes plus if I didn’t smarten up. Mental math is almost impossible when you are pushing very hard; this was not my case. Jane Cullis passed me shortly after, schooling me on the effort and sacrifice necessary for a winning result. Then a pack of four men around my age passed, and with them went my chances for an age prize. Pride crushing embarrassment was just minutes away.

A gimme PB was slipping through my fingers. Recognizing my dire straits, I finally woke up, knocking down a 3:35 split and kicked a final 3:30 to the finish line to claim a PB, this year a 35:49 snoozer. The SL10k had delivered yet again, even if I wasn’t all that interested. A solid but unspectacular result, to quote Mr. Davey. It seemed we all had suffered mental focus issues; no one in my chase group cracked 35. Perhaps something (other than old age) was going around. I got back out on the course for a 10k cool down. My training plans were calling for 30k today, but 20k would suffice, the slacker that I was.

I returned in time to take in the awards. An eye-popping finish had decided the winner between Olympic hopefuls Reid Coolsaet and Eric Gillis, crowed race organizer Alan Brookes. Then I drifted over to the prize table, to check out the winners of my age category. Davey was there in second. And third? Completely unexpected and totally undeserved for the effort given. But I’ll take the prize anyway, no matter how cheap it was. Really, just a cotton NB t-shirt for 3rd out of 532 dudes my age? NB must be spending it all on Speed River – at least it is going to a worthy group of athletes who need all the help they can. For them London 2012 beckons. Go for it guys and gals!

My son can have the shirt, but the memory of finally age prizing in the biggest Canadian 10k this side of the Rockies? That is mine, forever linked to the passing of Danny.


Born and raised in Hamilton & Stoney Creek. Ran X-Country in high school, but not really special at it - a middle of the pack finisher. But then again, really didn't know how to train. Didn't run after Gr 12 due to nasty shin splints. Really never ran in proper shoes back then. Didn't try to run again until age 30. Then tried. And tried. And tried. Shin splints every time. Finally got it going for good at 38 in proper shoes and I have vowed never, ever, to stop running again.

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