We have found our people (!!!) – a group of 6 other individuals who also enjoy running as much as we do. Thus we have come together to form the Relay Marathon Team known as the HOT POTATOES! Here is how the story began.
A while back, we posted our Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon (STWM) race recap and hashtagged the post to our hearts’ content. Lo and behold, the hashtags caught the attention of the STWM Facebook page who then featured our post and blog on their website. We immediately experienced an exponential increase in viewers who visited our page and had our little taste of fame (hello 135 views in one day!). Gillian, who happened to be searching for runners to form a Relay Marathon Team for the 2015 GoodLife Fitness Toronto Relay Marathon, stumbled upon our post and learned about Runivores. What caught her attention was that Emily looked vaguely familiar from university, and so Gillian messaged us about running. We obviously jumped at the chance of running in a team, especially a relay marathon which we have never tried before. Next thing we know, we were introduced to a group of friendly people each with their own unique running story. Some were seasoned runners who have completed a few half-marathons, while others were getting back into running or was new to the scene. We first met each other over a hot bowl of Korean Soft Tofu Soup (yummm) in late January. We were quite surprised to find out that we all have some mutual friends, with the majority of us going to the same university at one point in time. What a small world, honestly that six degree of separation theory is quite true!
Our next team bonding activity took place at an Escape Room where we were locked inside a themed room and had 60 minutes to figure a way out by looking for clues and using them to solve puzzles which will unlock items or doors (these things are becoming quite popular in recent years). We decided to challenge the most difficult room with our combined brain power, the Mummy’s Curse, but alas we never escaped. It was a lot of fun nonetheless, trying to problem solve our way out – yay teamwork! After our Escape Room excursion, we met up with the final few members of the team. This was the first and ONLY time all 8 of us were together…at least until race day (it’s tough to schedule a free day that works for 8 people, we tried).
Throughout the course of March and April, our team tried to meet up for group runs once a week. There were always at least 3 people present for the run, but the biggest turnout was only 4 people (which isn’t bad, 50% attendance is a pass)! Our training ranged in distance (5 – 8K) and locations – from the typical sidewalk running, trail running, going around a scenic pond and surrounding marsh areas, and doing laps around a high school track. It was definitely motivating to run in a group, especially during the chilly late winter/ early spring days when it’s so easy to say “Oh it’s too (insert harsh weather conditions) to run outside today”, and skip out on the run. Instead, because we have already made plans to run with people, this held us accountable to show up and actually run. Besides that benefit of group running, we get to socialize, now who can pass on that.
Our team was named by the ingenious Jeremy who thought it would be fitting to be called HOT POTATOES since the game “Hot Potatoes” consisted of passing a potato around players, much like the concept of a relay team passing on the baton. Appropriately so, we passed along a tiny potato during the relay as our unofficial baton. As for team colours, we went with the Tri-Colour theme of red, blue, and yellow because it was our university colours. (Sidenote: Stephie had to wear white because of her pacer shirt – sorry for not following the team colour!)
Before we knew it, race day eve was upon us! Half of the team were able to attend the Race Expo to pick up race bibs and shirts (thank you!). Our teammates checked out the competition roster and were quite confident that we could place in the top 10 out of 69 teams.
Next comes a recount from each teammate about their racing/ general running experience in the order that they ran in. Each runner completed 5km, with Jeremy running 7km at the end to cover the full marathon distance.
I asked to run the first leg of the race because I was also lucky enough to be a pacer bunny for the half marathon. Which meant I had a total of 40 minutes between the start of the two races to run my 5km portion, and go back to the start line for the beginning of the half. Talk about time crunch, there was no way I could cover that distance even if I sprinted like my life depended on it. I managed to work out some changes to where I started my pacing, so all I had to do was walk back after my leg of the race (whew! sprinting averted).
Being at the start line, I was able to check out my competition carefully: okay so I’m running against a couple of elementary school-aged kids, some older gentlemen with a head of white hair, and the real sporty looking ones. Most of them didn’t look like a threat to our top-10-finisher goal, but boy was I wrong. As soon as the gun went off to signal the beginning of the race, BAM the little kids sped off into the distance. I was running at a relatively faster pace than usual (watch read 4:30min/km), but these kids always had their 10-meter lead over me…I was speechless at how fast they were. Actually I was breathless, literally. I eventually shifted my focus back to my own run and maintained my pace, this was all about the speed game. Soon the big hill came into view signifying the end of my part. I spotted Gillian right at the beginning of the checkpoint eagerly bouncing up and down. I threw the potato into her hands and sent her off with a “GO GO GO!” (in retrospect I should’ve shouted something more encouraging like “Go Gillian Go, Rock that hill!”, my bad – competitive Stephie kicked in).
Race Day thoughts:
- Finally spotting one of the Runivores running at me and handing me the small potato so I could conquer the only big hill on the course.
- Seeing my friend’s face and shouting his name as I passed him the potato. So glad he was there so I didn’t have to keep running. >_<
- Hugging my teammate (whom I missed at the checkpoint!) as she was nearly the end of her first 5K!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! SO PROUD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
- The countless group jumping photos.
- The death of our team mascot, the little potato that we passed from runner to runner, that I did not witness but became aware of only when it was too late. =(
I feel blessed to have met these fun loving people who share my enthusiasm for running! Thank you to every one of the Hot Potatoes for helping me make this idea of running a relay marathon come to life!! I hope we have run more relays together in the future, whether it be the Goodlife Toronto Marathon next year or another race! =)
I was not much of a runner in the past. It began as a goal to stay fit, then it was a way for me to get re-energized to study into the evening when I needed the extra adrenaline. When I moved abroad, it was a fun way to sightsee and enjoy the company of friends. But by far, joining the Hot Potatoes relay team has been best motivator to run. It gave me a goal, a distance a time to work towards every time I step onto the treadmill or the road. There’s also the added bonus of meeting such great and positives people including the Runivores. I’m sure this is going to be the first of many many races I’ll participate in the future. 🙂
This was my first time running a marathon relay and it had truly been a wonderful experience.
Running on the relay team in elementary school was one of my favourite memories, so I was definitely excited for the chance to race as a team again. With the directions to get to my start point scrawled all over my arm, I left Stephie on the shuttle bus and walked to the 25K marker. I was almost 3 hours too early, so I walked to the finish line and got to see my supervisor race his 5K! I was nervous I would miss Matt as he came past because there were so many people standing around on the street – it was definitely an adrenaline pumped moment when I saw him speeding towards the 25K sign. I was running at a pace I only dreamed to be able to maintain this far into a marathon race, which felt so strange (there was actually an individual marathon racer running alongside me – incredible, I tell you!). It was a feeling of exhilaration when I finally saw Peter at the 30K mark and passed him the potato.
I’ve always believed that as much as running seems an individual sport, it really isn’t. There’s a unique bond amongst runners because of the mutual understanding of what it feels like to challenge personal fears and embrace struggles. I’m so thankful to have met this group of runners and gotten the chance to race with them as a team! GO POTATOES!
Running as a team in this relay was a really neat experience! For me, it fully embodied a very important study tip I received in university: Make molehills out of a mountain! Which, in other words, equates to taking a horrifyingly large task and breaking it into manageable bite-size pieces… In this case, we took a 42.2 km race, and broke it into 8 manageable legs.
Additionally, I always saw running as an independent sport – a chance to exercise my body and cleanse my mind. I never thought it could be such a social activity! I’m happy to say that I am now a comfortable “talking runner” (if that makes any sense at all), and I have made great friends through this experience. I hope to continue running and laughing with them for many years to come.
***Jeremy’s section will be updated when his blurb arrives***
After taking a bijillion team photos of the jumping and selfie sort, and eating our share of bananas and oranges, we headed off for a big post-race celebratory meal at Salad King! And who can forget about dessert, which we checked off with bubble tea at Chatime (that roasted milk tea with grass jelly is a must-have)! We were later pleasantly surprised to discover we placed 13th overall with a final time of 03:38:11, what a perfect way to end the day!
It has been a blast training and running with this group and we can’t wait until we race together again (half-marathon anyone?…or how about a full marathon?). Thank you Gillian for recruiting us to be on your team and being the most enthusiastic and organized captain! And thank you HOT POTATOES for being such fun and supportive running friends. With that, we’ll leave you with a quote about running and friendship (yep we’re cheesy like that).
“Friendships forged through running are as beautiful as they are strong. Strengthened by each shared stride, and tempered by exhaustion, they are bonds difficult to break.” – Anonymous