Every Saturday morning, in temperatures hovering around the minus-10 mark, members of the East York Runners Club gather for their weekly run.
Not many people think about going on a run during the cold Toronto winters, but for these runners of various ages, it’s more about the preparation than the weather.
“(Definitely) dress in layers, but not too many,” club organizer Jim Clayton advises. “Usually what we do is dress for 10 degrees warmer. It may start off cold, but it gets warmer,”
The club has been running through the streets of East York since 2009 — rain, snow, sleet or shine. Clayton, who took over the organizing duties a few years ago, explains that instead of a drop in attendance during the winter months, the number of runners joining the club rises.
“We actually see an increase in January, a surge of people,” he said, “and we have a core group of about 20 runners that come when they can.”
Running stores in East York are also seeing an increase in customers looking for winter running gear. Keshia Ally, an employee at the New Balance store located at Danforth and Pape avenues, says she has been approached by customers looking for recommendations for apparel that keeps them warm and flexible while they run.
“A lot of people in this area are interested in winter running,” Ally said. “We sell wind protectors, like jackets and tights to prevent wind burn.”
What seems to attract people to the running club is the camaraderie among the members. Running in general, especially during the winter, can get lonely sometimes, and being in a group may help keep people going. The East York runners come together every Monday, Thursday, and Saturday, building off of their prior goals together.
For runner Cheryl Vergut, the club is a way for her to stay motivated and active.
“For me it’s exercise, like a cardio day, so I come for the exercise value. It’s nice to be in a group, it’s hard to run alone, so the group is a motivation for sure,” Vergut said.
When asked what advice the group would give to other runners looking to brave the winter weather, the consensus was to take the first step and get out there. For co-organizer Lap Fong Wong, running is like a therapy, where she just goes out and runs through whatever challenges are out there.
“The day before the run, I pray that the winter is warm,” she said. “Then the next day comes, and I just go out there and run.”