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Event Reviews

The Boxing Day Run 10 and 4 Miler

Runs Posted on Sat, January 11, 2020 09:02PM

The Boxing Day Run had it’s 99th race this past December. The event takes place in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Jenn from our team took on the 4 miler. There was also a 10 mile option available. 2020 will bring their 100th event!

1. Pre-event info

In addition to the detailed information available on the event registration page, participants received a pre-race email with all of the pertinent race day details, including extra notes on getting thereby transit, car, carpooling and available parking.

2. Event Location (parking, facilities/washrooms)

This event partners with the Hamilton YMCA. $5,000 is donated annually from the run to the YMCA Strong Kids Campaign. This campaign helps local children participate in YMCA programs such as fitness, day care and camping.

Getting to the location was extremely easy; the GO station was right next to the YMCA, and if you drove, the area offers ample free parking nearby and a pay lot across the street from the event. The race event info also offered information for those who wanted to arrange carpooling.

The event location also offers a gymnasium for waiting around pre-race, and indoor washrooms with lockers and showers, which is a lovely perk for a December run. This year the weather was very mild, but that’s certainly not always the case for the time of year.

Bib or soup?

3. Aid Stations (snacks and water/fuel)

GU gels were available in the bib pickup area, and water was readily available throughout the YMCA.

Hanging out at the 10 am opening time before the crowds arrived

4. General Atmosphere of the Event HQ (event staff, volunteers, other runners, what’s there for spectators)

This event had a leisurely start time of noon, with the bib pick up and pre-race area opening at 10am. The pre-race area was full of good spirit and people visiting while we waited. Volunteers were readily available to assist with getting participants their bibs and swag, and the YMCA staff were very helpful in pointing participants to the change rooms.

5. Course (length, technicality, scenery)

The race course was very well marked. It was made up of mostly city streets around downtown Hamilton and park pathways in and around Bayfront and Harvey Parks. Both distances offered nice views along the waterfront area and of course the holiday decorations made for a little extra scenic fun.

Shoe choice: I wore my road Hokas and found them perfect for this course.

Start area
Seasonal decor at the park near the finish area

6. Race Kit, Medals and Awards

Participants in Boxing Day Run received a ball cap, and finishers earned a race medal with the event logo, the seasonally appropriate and fun Running Snowman. Category winners won cash awards (the race information noted $3,000 in awards for overall winners) and age group winners were awarded snowman belt buckles.

Our bibs and caps

7. Post Race

The post race area was lively. Participants were enjoying being back inside in the gym, for some warmth after the cool weather during the race. The awards were being presented and there was the standard race fare; assorted fruit, water and buns plus the added bonus of hot soup. Additionally participants could present their race bib at one of two local pubs for a post race pint.

The 100th running of this historic event takes place in 2020.

If you’d like to discover more about the Boxing Day Run, or enter for 2020, check out their website –

The Sticks n’ Stones Happy Trails Event

Runs Posted on Wed, October 23, 2019 04:47PM

(Unless stated, all photos featuring the race logo are by Sue Sitki –

The Sticks n’ Stones trail race took place at Christie Lake Conservation Area near Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Jenn from our team took on the 10km event; there were also 5km, 25km, 50km and 50km relay options.

1 Pre-event info

In addition to the detailed information available on the event registration page, participants received a pre-race email with all of the pertinent race day details.

On race morning, the race director Jeff gathered us all for the standard (Happy Trails Racing standard!) pre-race meeting to reiterate the more important details, right down to the puddles and hazards we might encounter on course, and address any questions. We then gathered for a lovely rendition of our national anthem before heading off to the start.

2 Event location (parking, facilities/washrooms)

This is my third time participating in this race and Christie Lake Conservation area is one of my favourite locations; it’s roughly one hour from Toronto city centre, is easy to locate and has ample parking. It’s just a short walk from the parking lot to the main race area where there was plenty of space to setup a rest spot for the day, or you could just set your supplies in the designated bag drop area or under the pavilion. This location also offers indoor washrooms with change rooms, which is a nice bonus as it has rained before or during the last 2 out of 3 years. Having a dry shelter for changing after the race is much appreciated.

3 Aid Stations (snacks and water/fuel)

There were 2 aid stations available for each loop, one located at the start/finish (Tanker’s Canteen Aid Station) and the other one at the 2.5k mark (Russell’s Roost Aid Station). The aid stations had generous amounts of the standard options; water, electrolyte drinks, coke, gingerale, fruit, and lots of sweet & salty snacks. The start/finish aid station also offered pizza from a Hamilton locale that makes a classic “bread pizza”, and the flavourful sauce and dough is certainly a welcome offering after a couple of loops.

The drinks were served in reusable EcoCups, which we think is a brilliant idea. They can be washed, sterilized, and re-used over 100 times and then recycled.

4 General atmosphere of the Event HQ (event staff, volunteers, other runners, what’s there for spectators)

I completed 10km at this event which started at a leisurely time of 10 o’clock whereas the 25 and 50km events started at 9. With the later start I had some extra time to hang out before my race at the event headquarters to visit the vendors, volunteers and just take in the fall scenery. As a bonus, there was the Kids 1km happening just before 9 which was certainly a fun start to kick off the event. As usual the area was full of good spirit and cheers of encouragements as the 25 and 50km runners were finishing one loop and starting the next. True to the standard set at previous events, the volunteers were always at the ready to offer up fuel, help with questions or provide the runners and spectators any assistance needed.

5 Course (length, technicality, scenery)

The race course was very thoroughly marked, with markers at each kilometer of the 5km loop. As the pre-race email accurately put it “It will be nearly impossible to get lost”. The majority of the course takes place on the Round-the-Lake Trail with a lot of very small rolling hills and a couple of medium hills. The terrain is mostly non-technical with very few roots and rocks to trip over and is mostly a wide, groomed trail with pleasant scenery. Here’s a photo I snapped as I ran to show you how it looks.

Shoe choice: I wore my cushy trail shoes and I’m glad I did. While you could definitely get away with road shoes on this course, it had rained earlier in the morning and there were a few slippery bits so the extra traction gave me the opportunity to charge down the hills with a better grip.

6 On course aid stations

The one aid station available along the 5km course (not at the start/finish) was Russell’s Roost Aid Station, located at the 2.5k mark. These volunteers were ready to get you whatever drink or salty/sweet snack you needed from their table, and were announcing their presence via upbeat shouts of “water” and the other offerings that you could hear while you were crossing the dam to let you know you were closing in.

7 Race kit, medals and awards

Participants in the 5k, 10k, 25k and 50k relay received a Stick n’ Stones Trail Race toque, which I was using immediately after the race. It’s a perfect race item for the fluctuating October weather. Racers in the 50k received a Sticks n’ Stones Trail Race Hoodie. The design of the swag changes every year and is a lot of fun. I am still using my toques from the last 2 years, and the hoodie I purchased from the inaugural race.

Race medals were nicely finished pieces of wood with the race logo burned onto them. Category winners were awarded a simple and elegant wooden plaque, also with the race logo and finishing place burned into place. Happy Trails puts so much thought into the awards and finishers items, each one unique to the specific race. It’s hard not to want to earn one or more of these trophies.

8 Post-event info (photography, films)

The photographer was once again the brilliant Sue Sitki ( and she was as good as ever. Sue is always very encouraging and fun, a perfect race photographer doubling as an enthusiastic supporter. All photos were free for runners to download and they were online a couple of days after the event.

The Secret Marathon 3k

Runs Posted on Sun, March 31, 2019 05:09PM

It was freezing outside, this evening of March 6th. The weather forecast said it felt like minus 18 degrees. Many of us were huddled inside The Running Room, keeping warm while catching up with running mates, waiting until we were called outside to the start while the volunteers were taking registrations and handing out bibs to participants. We may have had different motivations for registering for this frigid 3k, but we were all there to try and make a difference and run or walk for equality.

The Secret Marathon 3K run/walk, which was held on the week of International Women’s Day, celebrates everyone’s right to be free to run. We were just a few of the women and men in Toronto and across Canada joining at multiple locations, or participating virtually, to follow the example set by the brave runners in Afghanistan and unite for freedom, gender equality and safe spaces for all. According to the creators and organizers of the event, thanks to all who participated The Secret Marathon 3K will allow the story of Afghan girls and women running for freedom to be shared across Canada through the film which is scheduled to be released Fall 2019. You can read more about the film and the 3k here.

“The goal of The Secret Marathon 3K is to celebrate our right to be free to run and walk in our community. Many women both here in Canada and in Afghanistan don’t feel safe to run at night or alone and we want to change that by bringing our community together to celebrate everyone’s right to be free to run or walk in their community.” Kate McKenzie, Race Director

Regardless of the chilly temperature, the mood was light and everyone was happy to get started. We headed outside to the start where we listened to details of the event and the film from Kate McKenzie and Hirra Farooqi, the Toronto Co-Race Directors. Then we were off. Just like last year, the wonderful volunteers were on hand to make sure we followed the correct route and as an added touch for the weather, they warned us to slow down when we were coming up on some icy bits of trail. We followed a scenic out and back route through the park and along the boardwalk and although it was a cold evening, the sky was clear and the view along the boardwalk was fantastic. I thought about how fortunate I was. I often run alone and although I am cautious, alert and ready to change my path if needed, I have been lucky enough to feel safe in my community and comfortable with the paths I run. I know this is not often the case for many.

“By participating you are helping us to share the story through film and by making a donation you are helping to further the work of Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan. Together we can empower women and girls through education and sport.” Excerpt from the race registration information.

This event is wonderfully inclusive to runners and walkers of all speeds. Many of the participants were waiting at the finish to high-five all runners and walkers as we returned, including the race directors. Once everyone was back we were encouraged to head back in to The Running Room for refreshments and a prize draw. I personally made a beeline for the cinnamon chai tea that was being served, which really hit the spot after the frigid run.

Race Director Kate McKenzie and me, after the run

While I didn’t win a prize or set any new personal bests during the run, this event is one that I highly recommend and I know I will continue to return each year that it takes place. At the time I was writing this, The Secret Marathon 3k had reported to have had virtual runners in 17 countries across the world, and 16 host cities in Canada with 38 communities participating. The event raised an amazing $15,935 in donations. This is enough to sponsor 53 girls to pursue their education for a full year in Afghanistan, empowering women and girls through education. To me, that is definitely worth a little cold weather running.