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.


The Challenges Of Autism Family Vacations


It’s a word that brings smiles of anticipation to most families, but strikes fear into the hearts of autism parents everywhere.


For your average garden-variety family, a vacation is a chance to get away from the stresses of work and school, to travel to a scenic place, and to do things that are exciting and different. For your average autism family, a vacation is a chance to get away from the comforting familiarity of work and school, to travel to an unfamiliar place full of strangers, and to try desperately to do the same things you do at home, while cramming your entire family into a single hotel room.

For autism families, vacations are not vacations. Vacations are stressful ordeals that leave parents more worn out than if they had simply stayed at home.

But still, we do it. We put ourselves and our kids through the angst of disrupted routines, unknown places and new experiences, because we feel that it is good for our kids. We recognize that we will never be able to enjoy a vacation away if we don’t at least try. And for some of us, it gets easier. Maybe our kids gradually get used to the idea of going away, or maybe us parents get better at figuring out ways to make it work.

The key to what I very loosely call my own “success” is in the planning. Am I packing enough shirts with horizontal stripes? Do I have an extra hat just in case my son loses the one he has? Do we have the right Lego pieces and Mr. Potato Head parts? Spare batteries for the Leap Pad? The pillow and comforter? The DVDs and something to play them on? Am I catering to the needs of my typical son as well as my son with autism?

Then there’s the logistics of the trip itself. We plan what to bring in the car for the drive. We call the hotel to arrange special check-in arrangements so my son doesn’t have to spend too much time in a loud, brightly lit lobby in an unfamiliar place. We call a gazillion restaurants to get a sense of whether they are suitable environments for a child with autism who is already overwhelmed.

By the time we actually get there, we’re all exhausted and cranky, and not really in a vacation kind of mindset.

My dream is to have a family vacation that actually feels like a vacation, and I am starting to think in terms of all-inclusive vacation deals like the ones offered by Club Med. It wouldn’t take all the vacation stress away, but it would at least mean that some of the planning was taken care of.

And if that means that we can truly enjoy a vacation together as a family, and come home feeling refreshed and relaxed, I’ll take it.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle, published in accordance with my disclosure policy. Photo credit to the author.