6 Reasons To Run The Durham Quarter Marathon


Every year, my race calendar is a combination of the old and the new. Although I like exploring new races and new challenges, there are a handful of events that I put into my calendar every year. One of these is the Durham Quarter Marathon, or DQM. This event has all of the right ingredients, like great organization, a scenic course and a great cause.

This year I was kind of bummed, because I came down with a nasty cold several days before the race. For most of the week, it looked doubtful that I would be able to run, and it and touch and go right up until the night before the race. Fortunately, though, my immune system did what it does best, and I woke up on the morning of the race feeling  just a tiny bit congested but otherwise fine.

I’ve missed races due to illness or injury before, and it’s never fun. This event in particular is one that I never want to miss (the only race that I hate missing even more is my annual autism fundraising run). Here are some reasons why I love this race so much, and why I believe all runners in the GTA need to try it out at least once.

1. DQM raises funds for a cause that I am absolutely in love with. The Refuge is a place in Oshawa that helps homeless youth. They provide meals, basic supplies, clean clothing and a place for homeless teens to go. DQM does not merely support this cause by putting logos everywhere. The organizers provide a very practical way for runners to make a real difference. Instead of getting one of those reusable shopping bags that runners already have too many of, you get the race kit in a small cardboard box, which you can then fill with supplies and return to The Refuge at a later date.


2. DQM is one of the smaller events. It does not have the massive numbers of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, or the Yonge Street 10K. This means two things: you don’t have to fight ridiculous crowds in order to be squeezed into your corral, and the race has a wonderful community feel. When you run DQM, you feel like you’re running with friends. That community spirit travels with you along the entire course.

3. The course is absolutely marvelous. The run starts at the Oshawa City Hall (just a block away from free covered parking), and it runs along the Oshawa Creek and the Waterfront Trail. The last little bit offers a lovely unimpeded view of the lake. It’s a net downhill course, which means that the start is at a higher elevation than the finish. There’s something in it for runners of all levels – a nice combination of ease and challenge. There are a couple of decent uphill stretches in the second half, and a lovely little downhill right at the end, so that runners can build up good momentum for a sprint to the finish line.

4. The logistics of this race are so well organized that it’s impossible not to enjoy the experience. The 6K and 7K markers may have been slightly off, but apart from that, the course was well marked. There were four aid stations along the course, spaced fairly evenly. The organizers also provide bag check facilities, and for runners needing to get back to the start area, a free shuttle bus. Not one of those old school buses that make you feel like you’re being spanked whenever you go over a bump in the road, but a nice comfy city bus.

5. There’s a great finish line vibe. This year I loved the finish line announcer. He was announcing and encouraging runners as they sprinted down the final stretch, and he managed to make everyone feel like a champion. The atmosphere was one of support and celebration. I felt a tremendous sense of collective goodwill as I wandered around the finish line area picking up my bag and getting my post-race banana.

6. I appreciate a good coincidence as much as the next person, but how could you not love a race where you can take a picture of last year’s bib and this year’s bib that looks like this? Who knows – maybe if I run this race often enough, I’ll have a nice little collection of Lucky Number 7’s.


This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Finish line shot is credited to the organizers of DQM. Shots of the bibs and the race kit box label are credited to the author.


Running for Boston: Toronto Yonge Street 10K

2013-04-21 14.11.09

There is something very strange, and very uplifting, about standing at the start line of a race less than a week after a marathon was targeted in an act of terror. Especially when you are one of several thousand participants, most of whom are wearing special bibs declaring their support for the city that the bombing happened in.

To say that the atmosphere at Sunday’s Toronto Yonge Street 10K was amazing would be a gross understatement that does not begin to describe what it was really like. Start-line energy is phenomenal enough as it is. Add in the fact that thousands of runners are all banding together in solidarity for those affected by the Boston bombing, and you have something truly spectacular.

For that reason more than any other, I was mentally ready for this race. I should have been nervous, considering that my worst race ever was just two weeks in the past. I had not exactly had a resounding start to the season. But instead of being nervous, I was excited about this race for days. Judging by the fact that you could almost reach out and touch the atmosphere at the start, my 6000 or so fellow runners were excited as well.

Not only was I mentally ready for the race, I felt physically ready as well. Just a week before the race, I had gotten my training back on track, and I had also moved back to a cleaner way of eating. I was realistic enough to know that I probably wouldn’t make a personal best time, but I thought I had a shot of beating a pace of 6:30 minutes per kilometre, which would have given me a time of 1:05:00. That would be enough to set me up for a good solid few weeks of training leading up to my next half-marathon.

As is my custom, I placed myself quite far back in my corral, and so when the race started, I found myself boxed in by runners slower than myself. For the first kilometre or so I kept having to slow down and dodge around people. I didn’t mind – in fact, I counted on it. If I didn’t get slowed down at the start, I would go out too fast and run out of gas before the first aid station.

As it happened, my first couple of kilometres played out exactly as planned from a pacing point of view. Sometime during the second kilometre, I found my space to run and I settled into my pace. In spite of the fact that most of the first 7km or so are downhill, I deliberately held back for the first half of the race. Downhill running can be easier from an exertion point of view, but if you’re not careful, it can be absolute hell on the knees and quads. Apart from that, I feared that if I went nuts on the downhills, I wouldn’t have anything left for the last 3K or so.

I made the halfway point in a little less than 32 minutes. I was happy with that. I was going at a pace I thought I could maintain for the second half, and I was on track to beat my goal time. I had a buffer of a minute or so, which would come in handy if I started to fade near the end.

Instead of fading, though, I ran the second half faster than the first. I was tiring physically, but absolutely uplifted mentally. The crowd support along the route was fantastic. There were little kids holding out their hands to high-five passing runners, people cheering us on by name, and folks holding handmade banners that said things like, “Run for Boston!” It occurred to me that coming out to support the runners in the aftermath of the Boston bombing was as much of a big deal for these people as running the race was for me. In a sense, I was running for them, for these wonderful folks who were showing solidarity with the running community, and I couldn’t let them down.

And so I sped up. I smiled and waved at everyone who cheered. I high-fived the children who stood there with their arms stuck out like traffic policemen. I gave a thumbs-up to the people holding banners. I drank in the positive energy that they all offered, and before long, I was sprinting for the finish line, where spectators and runners alike were cheering loudly, not only for the victory of runners crossing the finish line, but for the triumph of a community absolutely united against violence and fear.

In the end, my time was 1:02:48 – more than two minutes faster than my target, and only 68 seconds off my personal best. Not a bad showing at all.

During the winter and the early weeks of spring, my mojo went into hibernation.

I’m pretty sure it’s awake and ready to go for another season.

(Photo credit: Kirsten Doyle)