Tommy Thompson Park Urban Wilderness - Toronto, Canada
On a business trip to Toronto last year I knew I’d have a small window of time to get in a training run, so figured I wouldn’t get much beyond city streets. As I researched the city, I found there is a trail that runs along the Lake Erie waterfront and goes through a park at the southern end of the city. This trail looked like it could be a decent run, especially if I took an Uber out north and made it a point-to-point. However, as I was zooming in on Gaia GPS, I saw there were several more trails that went out on an irregularly shaped piece of land jutting into the lake. I decided that instead of Ubering out I’d take the Waterfront Trail north and then explore the additional trails I’d found to make a 14 mile (23k) out-and-back run.
Little did I know what a cool run I’d found until l got there. I researched the location after the run and found that Tommy Thompson Park is located on the Leslie Street Spit. 50 years ago the city of Toronto thought a deep water port would be necessary for cargo arriving by ship. However, over time rail and other means of cargo transport became dominant so the need for a port area was diminished. Lucky for us, it’s now become a wild habitat just minutes away from the center of the city. This area is also only open after 4pm during the week since it is an active zone for hauling construction debris during the day, so works out perfectly for an evening run.
On the way out from my hotel in downtown Toronto, I enjoyed the nicely paved waterfront path but as I got out to the spit, the entrance looked ominous. Especially not knowing the purpose of the land at that time, I wondered if this was an old customs terminal that had been shutdown and abandoned. After entering the area, the road just went straight out, and I didn’t see a single building. Only trees, scrub grass and lakefront. There were single track trails that went off from the main road that were fun to follow along the coastline. While following one trail at the outermost point by the lighthouse I came across a beach that looked to be from a post apocalyptic movie set. People created sculptures from the construction debris and located them on a shore made up of bricks, concrete pieces and other construction debris.
On the way back I found out that a bridge to connect part of the trail was closed, so had to run back the way I came. I’m assuming that in the summer there are many more people out enjoying this area, but tonight, I just saw a few people the entire time. This was OK by me since it gave more time to take in the views of the city from the south side of the land.
I haven’t explored the rest of Canada and its many ultrarunning destination spots, yet! However, if you are on a trip to Toronto, be sure to take a couple hours and explore their urban wilderness at the Tommy Thompson Park for your training run. It is one of the best places I’ve run in a city because of the unique trails, coastlines of debris and being so deserted yet so close to a city with a population of nearly 3 million people. An ideal place to stay in shape for my next ultrarunning destination.
Distance : 14 miles / 23k
Elevation Gain : 120 feet / 36m