Castle Runners is a free weekly outdoor endurance fitness group that was started in the dead of winter in 2014 by co-captains Katie Hudson and Brendan Soucie.
It all started one cold February morning…
I had heard through the running community grapevine about a few people who would run the stairs at Casta Loma very early in the morning. Wanting to change up my gym routine and try something new, I somehow convinced one of my best friends (and coworker at the time), Brendan, to join me. To this day, I still don’t know why he agreed to come, but I’m so glad he did.
That morning we had our first taste of the brutality of the Baldwin Steps. We were gassed, we felt like we got our asses kicked and Brendan thought he was going to puke, yet we were hooked. We both discovered something that got us out of our normal workout environment. We were outside, enjoying the very fresh (a.k.a. freezing) air, using our surroundings to move our bodies in a whole new way.
We continued to go to Casa Loma every week. Eventually, the people we climbed the stairs with dwindled and we were the only ones going religiously each Thursday morning. Then, we did the next logical thing. We began to convince our friends to wake up super-early to join us. We were able to get a couple people out, and soon we fell into a rhythm that became our signature workout style: sprint the stairs, complete three body weight exercises at the top, then sprint back down the stairs and repeat five to eight times (or as many rounds as possible within 30 minutes).
One day it dawned on me that we should give our group a name, promote it on social media and create a community around it—helping others to change up their workout routines, get outside and discover a new way to have fun while kicking their training up a notch. After one Thursday morning workout, I was in the shower (where all good ideas come from) when I thought of the name Castle Runners. I asked Brendan what his thoughts were, he said he loved the name and then I asked him if he wanted to be the co-founder. He said yes, we shook hands and that was that—co-captains right from the beginning.
Castle Runners meets every Thursday at 6:30 a.m. at the bottom of the Baldwin Steps at Casa Loma (Davenport and Spadina).
We begin with introductions, then go over the morning’s workout. Each week, we select a new round of exercises for the top of the stairs. We try to diversify our movements and body weight exercises, meaning we have one for arms, one for legs and one for core. This ensures you’re getting a complete head-to-toe workout each and every week.
We workout through all of the elements that Mother Nature throws at us. Since Casa Loma is a tourist attraction within the city of Toronto, it’s incredibly well-maintained, which means we can climb the stairs year round—even in the dead of winter (yes, we are that kind of crew). We’ve worked out in everything from +35 C weather to even -30 C. From rain, snow, hail, humidity, sunshine and darkness, we face it all. It’s a true test of endurance and mental strength.
We find that, usually, the hardest part of our workout is just waking up.
Once you’re at the Castle surrounded by an incredible group of motivated people, it doesn’t matter what the weather is doing or how challenging the exercises may be that day. We’re always there to support each other and crush a 30-minute workout.
When Brendan and I started the group, we never imaged growing a community like we have. We’ve met so many new people from across the city, and have even made great friendships along the way. We’ve watched our runners become stronger with every passing week. We’ve seen them set and then crush their goals. We’ve supported each other through good times and bad.
We are a safe place to come and be yourself, to leave it all on the stairs, to work hard, to believe in each other and know you’re backed by one hell of a supportive community.
I’m usually the one calling out our runners’ names as they sprint up the stairs or as they’re working hard through their body weight exercises, but what really makes me proud is when they start encouraging each other—especially through those moments when you think you can’t push yourself. That is my favourite part of our community, the sense of togetherness and believing in one another.
Advice for newcomers
- Start where you are.
I’ve had several people contact me saying the they will join us when they are more “fit.” But in all honesty, there’s no need for that. We welcome all fitness levels to Castle Runners and ensure we have options for everyone to get a great workout in, no matter where they might be on their fitness journey.
- We are a (strong) crew
There are no egos, or membership fees, within Castle Runners. We are just one strong group of individuals who are focused on improving our fitness, changing up our workout routine and connecting with like-minded individuals within the city. We support each other and celebrate our wins.
- You’re allowed to have fun when you workout
People rarely succeed if they’re not enjoying what they’re doing. Working hard and having fun do not need to be mutually exclusive. Come and see for yourself.
See you at the Castle.
Check out the Castle Runners page on Svveat for the club’s social links and more details about upcoming sessions.