One, two, princes kneel before you

The Second Battle of the Races.

Once upon a time in the 1970s there started a big spring 10K race in the city. Over the years the race went by different names, with different sponsors, different dates and different routes. Since 1998 this race has been called the Sporting Life 10K and has been held the first Sunday in May. In recent years the race benefitted Camp Oochigeas and runners happily ran a fast downhill 10K and felt good about sending kids with cancer to camp. Win win.

Once upon last year the city decided that two fall marathons was one too many and a very public battle broke out between the September Toronto Waterfront Marathon (directed by Alan Brookes and the Canada Running Series) and the October Toronto Marathon (directed by Jay Glassman). CRS/Brookes won the war: they then moved their September race to the October date and Glassman moved his race to the first Sunday in May.  Does that May date sound familiar?

So the first Sunday in May 10K gets bumped. According to the title sponsor, Sporting Life, CRS made the marathon deal with Glassman and the city without their knowledge. As the title sponsor, not the race owner, SL would not have been part of the negotiation*. Once the changes were publicized, SL says they expressed concerns over the new 10K race date and competition for runners given the marathon’s move to May and an agreement signed by CRS to not hold races within 2 weeks of the Toronto Marathon date. SL also claims that around that same time they were trying to renegotiate the compensation package with CRS to ensure more funds went to Oochigeas. [Reportedly, “in the past, only $1 from each race registration and funds raised through the event’s baggage check benefited our charitable partner. That means that last year only $18,467 … came from the event organizers or your entry fees.”.] SL wanted more of the money for charity. SL asserts that CRS did not reply to repeated requests to renegotiate the contract terms. 

Perhaps not surprisingly, CRS and SL parted ways. Some reports suggest it was over the contract, others the date, vision, or both. It kind of depends on who’s doing the reporting. Both SL and CRS started vying for spring race permits. Although just months ago the city seemed to be cracking down on race permits, two 10K race were approved for spring.  

Oh boy. The race directors are head to head once again organizing 10K races a three weeks apart. The running community is taking sides here and there). The runners, who maybe don’t even care about what seems to many to be a – to be indelicate – pissing contest between feuding race directors, are the ones who may lose. A lot of runners are confused. Some aren’t even aware there are now two different races. Those who are aware wonder how this situation is better than the old two fall marathons set-up. Strangely, we are going from two marathons in the fall, which was vetoed by the city because of the impact on traffic, to two 10ks in the spring with both are using the central artery through the city. Oh, yeah, plus that spring marathon, using the same central road.

For those keeping track, we now have 3 races in 22 days even through one year ago 2 races in 35 days was too deemed problematic. No wonder people are confused. Sure, on one hand, choice – yay!  On the other hand, if the past is any indication three road shutdowns for races may lead to weeks of complaints in the media about entitled runners blocking traffic followed by pressure to cancel all road races, so ultimately less choice – boo! Time will tell which race/director “wins” and who loses.

I won an entry to one of the 10Ks in another race, but I can’t remember which one and I’m too lazy to check. But I’m running that one. How about you? Which race are you running … vote below (the option order is randomized for everyone, so if the ordering looks weird, that’s why):

*The race sponsor, i.e. SL, does not own the race, CRS owns the race and has since Brookes took over organizing the race in 1986. SL has sponsored the race for 14 years, but it isn’t their race. It is not uncommon for sponsorship and charities to change over time. That said, the last 14 years captures the most recent running boom and many people in the city view this race as SL’s race for Camp Ooch, not specifically as a CRS race. This is one event for which the title sponsor has been really linked to the race. For many new runners the “Sporting Life 10K” is their first big race and their introduction into endurance running. They may not know or care about the technicalities of race owner vs director vs sponsor.

Title: Spin Doctors – Two Princes. 1991.


16 responses to “One, two, princes kneel before you

  1. Running the Sporting Life since (1) still didn’t get over poor bags check at the STWM (2) more money going to camps and (3) Sporting Life $50 gift card I got plus possibly fee waiver if I decide to fundraise. Clearly, it’s about personal vendetta and $.

  2. I was just asked to vote on something a couple weeks ago and I’m pretty sure I got it wrong and may have destroyed western civilization. I’ll take a pass.

  3. Great piece. I’m running Sporting Life…they were smart to advertise Nike race shirts and the $50 SL giftcard before Jan 15th. The promo made my decision for me!

  4. Sporting Life, mainly because the CRS Toronto 10k is only 6 days after Boston. The gift card to SL was a nice touch though. As far as preferences, I have none. I support ALL races ANY day ANY weekend, ANY road closures.


    • I’m with you – I think we actually need more officially measured 10ks, I’m just worried about the public response to three races so close in time. Maybe one can move to the fall ;).

  5. An entertaining and accurate summary! I’m running Sporting Life even though it’s just a week after I run the Toronto Marathon: Camp Ooch is a great charity and I am shocked at how little it benefitted in prior years.

    • The camp actually received much more, but according to the SL “only $18,467 of the over $1.3 million raised came from the event organizers or your entry fees – the rest was from the personal fundraising campaigns of 1,700 individuals and corporations”.

      • It’s true – thanks to the generosity of individual fundraisers Camp Ooch raised over $1.3 million last year despite the fact that only $18,467 came from the event organizers and entry fees. This year, our friends at Sporting Life are giving 100% of net proceeds to Ooch! Thanks to everyone who is running and making a difference in the lives of children with cancer. We couldn’t do it without you!

  6. I’m running SL because I believe in the charity. The gift card was an added bonus. Also it was cheaper (in December) don’t know about now. Hopefully we can raise more funds this year for a great cause!

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