winter running events 2014 toronto

The top 10 winter running events in Toronto for 2014

Winter running events in Toronto encompass what is finest about runners in our fair city - we have a complete lack of respect for the seasonal discomforts associated with the low temperatures, and we look pretty darn spiffy in a pair of thermal leggings. While some of these runs will preclude the use of thermal anything (ahem, Santa Speedo run) others encourage multiple layers, and invite festive attire, too.

If signing up for a proper race is too daunting of a task, then get a leg up on spring training by joining one of Toronto's running groups. MEC and Black Toe Running offer some central locations, as does the new Nike+ Run club.

Here are my picks for the top running events in Toronto this winter.

Santa Shuffle Fun Run and Elf Walk (Saturday December 6)
If sweating through a red woolen cap as you impersonate your favourite holiday hero is your idea of a good time, then this fun run, held across North America to benefit the Salvation Army, is for you. The Toronto race kicks off at Sunnybrook/Wilket Creek Park near Eglinton and Leslie for 5K or 1K runs through some lovely scenery in a ravine like setting. Raise $50 or more to get a free Running Room shirt, and all finishers score a sweet Santa medal.

Toronto Beaches Runners Club Tannenbaum 10K (Sunday December 7)
This yuletide-themed, chip-timed fun run around the Martin Goodman Trail is led by Santa himself, so if he screwed you over repeatedly as a child, now's your chance for sweet, sweet vengeance. $50 gets you entry, a swag bag and a shiny medal for finishing. Funds raised go straight to Centre 55, a community centre located in the Beach(es).

Toronto Annual Santa Speedo Run (Saturday December 13)
This run is one of Toronto's finest, featuring a rag tag team of half-naked yet extremely festive runners dashing through Yorkville for a swift 3K in support of Sick Kids. All participants must wear a bathing suit and if you register early enough, you'll score a free Speedo to go with those goosebumps. Don't fret if red isn't your thing, white or green Speedos are also acceptable wardrobe options. A post-run hangout will happen back at Hemingway's (for you gawkers).

Brita Resolution Run (Sunday, December 28)
In support of GTA YMCAs, this event is a few days early to count it as your actual resolution but it's a firm step in the right direction. Runners will start off at the Exhibition grounds and set out for a 5K walk/run organized by the Running Room. In its 30th year this event is coast to coast and all runners score a shiny Brooks jacket for showing up.

Midnite New Year's Eve Run (Wednesday December 31)
This 5K run is in its fourth year and is a great event for anyone looking to avoid the shame spiral of another New Year's wasted in clubland. Start the year off with a bang, with a generous swag bag, fireworks, and a champagne cocktail and glitzy medal at the finish. With a party-like atmosphere, runners can buy tickets for friends to come cheer them on (they get bubbly, too). All proceeds (tickets for run and party go for $85) benefit the Fort York Food Bank.

Balmy Beach Canoe Club - Hair of the Dog Fun Run (Thursday, January 1)
The 35th annual aptly named Hair of the Dog fun run is just the ticket to distract you from that hurl worthy hangover that you are probably nursing. Beginning at the Balmy Beach Club at the foot of Beech Avenue at a pretty doable 10:30am, runners meander around the club for a 9K or 3K or course, and enjoy a hot lunch after. Money raised goes to support the club's roster of programming.

Run4RKids (Saturday, January 3)
If the elements prove too much for you this winter, consider an indoor marathon, like this one, hosted at York University. Run4RKids supports Addiction Free Youth, a noble and timely cause. With varying distances from full marathon down to just 5K there's a little something for everyone, minus the snow.

Robbie Burns 8K Road Race (Sunday, January 25)
If you've been hibernating this year watching old Highlander movies on AMC then channel that inner Scot and give the Robbie Burns 8K run a whirl. In its 36th year and as a qualifier for the OMA Road Race Series, this run through Burlington will no doubt be challenging with a belly full of scotch, or for the true competitors, don you best kilt for the best costume award. Just remember, windburn and frostbite are not a good look with a kilt. Cash prizes are available for top contenders, and all money raised goes to Jumpstart.

MEC Race Series #1 (Sunday, January 25)
The first of three Mountain Equipment Co-op led runs, this chip-timed 5 or 10K trek will take you around the Martin Goodman Trail for a cheap $15, and score you 10% off at MEC after. The other races take place in spring and summer, so this will definitely secure you bragging rights amongst the fair weather fans.

Around the Bay 30K Road Race (Sunday, March 29)
Dubbed the 'Oldest Race in North America', this 30K Road Race, 5K, or relay run will have you whipping around Hamilton's Harbour. This popular event sells out every year and raises money for St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton. If you have a need for speed, this event is for you, with mega cash prizes for top finishers and medals for everyone.

What did I miss? Add additional running events to the comments.

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Photo of Santa Speedo Run 2013 by Jesse Milns.

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