Start line
All photos courtesy Lululemon Toronto

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.

2017 Toronto Waterfront 10K

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

Ride Cycle Club cheer station

oronto Waterfront 10K cheer stations

PDRR cheer station

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?

Doughnut Wall

Doughnut Wall 2

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.

Post-race yoga

Toronto Waterfront 10K yoga

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?

Me at the Waterfront 10K 2
Just taking a quick nap mid-race, as one does

*All photos courtesy Lululemon Toronto

Lindsay MacAdam is managing editor of the Svveat Stories blog. If you like running and running-related things, you may want to follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

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