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.


Race Report: Durham Quarter Marathon

Freshly soaked by a fire hose!

The Durham Quarter Marathon is the race that I almost didn’t register for. At 10.549 km, it’s such an odd distance. I’m not sure why this was a deterrent, considering that my favourite race distance is the half-marathon. 21.095 km is not exactly a round number. In the end, I registered for this race because I wanted to run a race in the middle of summer for the sake of hot weather training. I also reasoned that it would be a good benchmark for me, being exactly half the distance of my “A” race, which is coming up in October.

Then there was the cause: The Refuge, which helps homeless youth. Who wouldn’t want to run for such a great cause?

Leading up to the race, I started to feel a cold coming on. This happens to me so often that I have come to the conclusion that it’s all in my mind. It’s part of my mind trying to trick me into believing that my body is not capable.

My mind should know by now that I’m not letting a stupid cold stop me from running a race.  I ramped up the vitamins and fluid intake, and dealt with the guilt of missing a training run so I could rest. When I woke up on the morning of the race, I felt fine.

The race started at Oshawa City Hall, about two minutes’ walk away from free covered parking. I picked up my kit, pinned my bib to my shirt (no small feat considering my – um – curviness up top), and ate my pre-race snack with plenty of time to spare for warmups.

At the start line, I positioned myself about fifty feet behind the 1:05 pace bunny. My goal was based on average pace – I wanted to beat 6:15 minutes per kilometre. I had not worked out what total time that translated into, but I knew that if I stuck close to the 1:05 bunny I would make it.

By race standards, this one was quite small. There was no lack of enthusiasm, though, from the runners, the onlookers, or the race officials and volunteers.

There was a count-down, and then we were off! I didn’t really know what to expect. The race had been advertised as a net downhill course, but all that meant was that the start was at a higher elevation than the finish. It didn’t mean there wouldn’t be hills to climb. I had not seen either a route map or an elevation chart, so I didn’t really know how to pace myself.

So I started fast, staying close to the 1:05 bunny. Although I was still with him when the first kilometre ticked over, I decided to dial it back a little after that. I felt OK, but it was a fairly warm morning and I was well ahead of my goal pace. There was no need to knock myself out. I let the bunny go, figuring that I would probably catch up with him later.

Most of the race was run on park trails. This meant there was nice shade cover for much of the distance, and for the first few kilometres, there did seem to be more downhills than uphills. I had no trouble keeping ahead of my goal pace, and I was having a lot of fun. There weren’t enough runners around me to clog the path, but there were enough to maintain that race vibe that runners love to be a part of.

The aid stations were spaced at just the right intervals, and the course was dotted with signs that said things like, “Run like you just stole something” and “Don’t stop, people are watching”.  There were also some cheering squads along the route, blowing noisemakers and ringing bells. There was one man enthusiastically egging the runners on while holding a sign that said, “Go, random stranger, go!”

In the seventh kilometre, I saw what I now refer to as Monster Hill #1. It rose ahead of me like a personal Everest, and I saw the runners ahead of me slowing to a walk as they were defeated by this monster.

The show-off in me emerged. I was going to run all the way up this hill, as God was my witness. I didn’t care how slow I ran or how much my legs ached, I was not going to walk. I shortened my stride and started to make my way up, passing all of the runners who were walking. Sure, they’d probably all pass me at some point after the hill, but I didn’t care. I had a mission and that’s what I was focused on. All of a sudden, I was at the top and I felt great. I felt as if I had gone up that hill at the speed of mud, but it turned out to be one of my fastest kilometres.

All of that hill training and strength training that my friend and coach Phaedra made me do has clearly been paying off.

That hill took a lot of out me, and the going was rough after that. But with just a couple of kilometres to go, I was almost done.  Sometime during the eighth kilometre, what did I see in front of me? The 1:05 pace bunny! As far as I could tell, he was about thirty seconds ahead of me. If I could put on a burst of speed, I had a chance of catching him.

It was tempting, but I had to be careful. We were going into the ninth kilometre, and I wanted to leave enough for my finishing kick. I decided that catching the bunny would have to wait.

I turned onto a trail along the waterfront, rounded the corner, and saw…

… Monster Hill #2.

Seriously? When race directors map a route with a giant hill in the last couple of kilometres, are they just being sadistic?

I tried, people. I tried to approach Monster Hill #2 as I had approached Monster Hill #1. But I felt as if I had nothing left. I walked halfway up the hill and then ran up the rest of the way, and by time I got to the top, I was well and truly done. Ahead of me, like an oasis in the desert, I saw the final aid station. I walked through the aid station to get my heart rate down a little, and then picked up my pace again.

I had a little more than a kilometre to go. Ten minutes of running at the most. I could do it. I was hurting, but I kind of switched my mind off and just ran. I didn’t think I had anything left for a finish line kick, but at this point, if I made it across at a crawl I would be happy.

But right after the 10K marker, I started to hear finish line noises: cheering, and the sound of a voice through a loudspeaker. I turned a corner, and there ahead of me was the finish line. Without any conscious effort on my part, I felt my legs turning over faster, and I felt my stride lengthening.

I still had the finish line kick! I never managed to catch the pace bunny, but I only crossed the finish line about 30 seconds after him, finishing with a gun time of 1:05:45. My actual time was closer to 1:05:25.

My goal pace had been 6:15 min/km. My actual pace was 6:13 min/km. This race had definitely been a success. If I continue sticking to my training program, my goal of 2:15 for the half-marathon in October is achievable.

Shortly after crossing the finish line, some sexy firefighters doused me with their fire hose, and I sat on the grass eating my post-race banana, in a drenched but contented state, trying not to think of the fact that if it weren’t for Monster Hill #2, I would have caught that bunny.

(Photo credit: Kirsten Doyle)