Last June, the newest big race on Toronto’s running calendar—the Toronto Yonge Street 10K, put on by Canada Running Series—became the Toronto Waterfront 10K, in a smart move to distinguish itself from the city’s other 10K race down Yonge Street that happens just a month prior. I ran the race last year and had a great time. This year, when it took over Lakeshore Boulevard on June 17, it became a standout. Here’s why.
In April, after registration had already opened without much buzz, a huge announcement was made: Lululemon was now the title sponsor of the race. The mission, it seemed, was to use everyone’s favourite Canadian-born fitness brand to raise the profile of the event, build the hype and turn it into Eastern Canada’s version of Lululemon’s ultra-popular Vancouver race SeaWheeze, which sells out annually in mere minutes.
Well, let me just say, the plan worked. The race did sell out (though maybe not as quickly as they’d hoped) and Lululemon’s support proved to be just the thing to take this race from good to exceptional. I certainly hope the partnership continues for years to come.
Here are 10 reasons why this year’s Toronto Waterfront 10K is topping our list of local races:
1. Race-specific run groups
After the sponsorship announcement, Lululemon Toronto quickly released a 10K training program that was complemented by two free weekly run groups—one out of the Queen Street West store on Mondays and the other out of the Yorkville store on Wednesdays. Due to training conflicts, I was only able to attend the group’s first official training run and their last. Lucky for me, though, at the last one all the runners were surprised with a free pair of shorts! Timing, as they say, is everything.
Day: Fifty. 8 weeks ago, you chose to become an even better version of yourself. You made a commitment to do something to elevate your body, and your mind. Take a moment to think back to why you started—what did your first run feel like? Look how far you've come. Here's to the start of an incredible race week Toronto—soak in every moment of these pre-race vibes, and ride them all the way to the finish line. #thesweatlifeTO #thetesttruck
2. Race shirts that aren’t embarrassing to wear in real life
Every race organizer out there tries to make their shirts cool, but 99% of the time they fail miserably. Even if the shirts look OK, most runners choose not to incorporate them into their regular rotation. It could be due to low-quality fabric or an eyesore of a race logo, but whatever the case, these shirts are typically the first to go when you’re cleaning out the closet, amirite? The design-conscious folks at Lululemon either recognize this fact, or they just wouldn’t dare degrade their product by slapping a giant logo on top of it, and for that I say thank you. These shirts are so nice, in fact, that not only will they be worn for running, but they might even be worn for other, non-sweaty activities.
Packet pickup #Lululemon style. Stoked with the subdued #Waterfront10K race shirts that double nicely as athleisure wear. The sleeved logo is a classy, stylish touch – nicely done @lululemonTO and @runCRS! Whaddaya think? ~ #MoreThanMiles #TheSweatLifeTO #runTO #instarunners #irunnation #runchat #worlderunners #runnerscommunity #runnersofinstagram #runfie #gorun #runitfast #beatyesterday #xtremerunnerslife #runningadventure #runshots #runnersglobe #runplanet #mybetter
3. Major discount on gear at race kit pickup
At most race expos, you pick up your bib, grab a few protein bar samples and maybe walk out with some overpriced gear if you’re desperate, because hey, convenience is king. The 2017 Toronto Waterfront 10K race kit pickup was held at Lululemon’s Queen Street West megastore, and runners were informed upon arrival that they could show their bib at checkout to receive 25% off everything. Lululemon never has store-wide sales, so this was definitely something to get excited about.
4. Surprises aplenty
Beyond the event’s obvious selling points that I’m covering here, there were also some smaller, more personal touches that really made the event stand out. The free shorts at the final run group meet-up is one example. Another is something I came across on social media: a couple runners were selected at random and surprised with special care packages in their race kits, including a foam roller, socks and a pre-race bath soak from Saje to help them prepare for the big day.
Today I went to pick up my bib for the #toronto #waterfront10k and was surprised and delighted to find out that my registration had been selected to receive a care package, and a free registration to the #stwm #marathon in October! Thank you so much to @lululemonto for this. I really appreciate. See you Saturday! #running #torontowaterfront #summerrunning #marathontraining #instarunners #runnersofinstagram #lululemon #saje #thesweatlifeto #thesweatlife
5. The Test Truck
In the weeks leading up to the race, Lululemon’s More Than Miles Tour rolled into town with The Test Truck. Complete with transparent walls, a cubby full of sneakers and a treadmill in tow, it was the perfect contraption to allow runners all over the city to take some Speed Shorts and Swiftly Tech Tees for a spin. I got in on the action when it was parked outside Bond Running on the Sunday before the race, and I was sent home with an awesome T-shirt just for showing up. Thanks, guys!
There's something about that west end hospitality—this week the More than Miles Tour continued with a trip to visit @parkdaleroadrunners, for the best Tuesday night vibes we could have asked for. Curious where to catch us next? We're taking a few days to rest our wheels—before we shift gears to the front of the pack. (Hint: Catch us if you can—we'll see you at the finish line) #thetesttruck #thesweatlifeTO
6. Free yoga and mobility classes all race week long
A couple weeks before the race, Lululemon Toronto announced it would be offering complimentary classes in its studio, The Attic, the week before the race. Not only that, but they rearranged the schedule to include a variety of yoga, strength training and mobility sessions that would set us up for race day success.
From us to you—Toronto, we want to inspire you to continue to be your best self. In celebration of the Toronto Waterfront 10k, consider all of your sweaty pursuits next week on us. Starting next Monday June 12 leading up to race day, all classes in the Attic will be completely complimentary. Spaces are available on a first come first serve basis—reserve yours now at 318queen.com (link in bio) #thesweatlifeTO
7. Next-level cheer stations
Confetti canons, costumes, dancers, cheerleaders and clever signage might be par for the course on the Toronto road race scene, but an entire spin studio relocating its stationary bikes to the middle of the highway for an hours-long ride in solidarity with the runners? That deserves a shout-out.
8. Doughnuts at the finish line
Who doesn’t love a nice dry bagel and a perfectly green banana to cap off a race well run? I know I sure do. *eye roll* At this race, there was not a dry bagel to be found. Instead, greeting us as we crossed the finish line was a—wait for it—WALL. OF. DOUGHNUTS! And I know this is probably old news to you because those tasty devils pretty much broke the Internet. But, I mean, deservedly so. Let’s make this the new norm, shall we?
9. Post-race yoga
Usually when I finish a race, I have only one thing on my mind and it is not stretching—it’s brunch, obviously. But post-race stretching is actually really important, and I think more races should incorporate a group-style stretch sesh into their plans. At the Toronto Waterfront 10K, they did just that. An hour or so after the finishers started streaming into Bandshell Park at Exhibition Place, yoga instructor Tara Good took the stage to lead a 30-minute guided meditation and gentle yoga flow to help stretch out our tired muscles. It was just what I needed (but I can’t promise I wasn’t thinking about eggs benny the whole time). A second session commenced shortly after.
10. Free race photos
No one feels good about spending $20 on one mediocre race photo, so us runners often end up with no photographic evidence of our greatest running moments. Lululemon remedied this by kindly providing us with complimentary race photos, with the small catch being that you have to put up with the oversized watermark that is most likely cutting you off at the knees. If you’re anything like me, this won’t be a big problem because you look like you’re sleeping in all your pictures anyway, so how much worse could it get?
*All photos courtesy Lululemon Toronto