The Running Rats, or ‘The Rats’ as the club members call themselves, started in 2002 when Jonathan Hughes, an avid runner who now lives in London, Ont., led a group of spirited runners in training for that spring’s Ottawa Marathon in the heart of Toronto’s financial district. After the marathon, the group kept on running together and formed the club, coming up with their name that summer, perhaps an ode to the rodents, running in parallel underground in Toronto’s downtown sewer system. By winter that year, ‘Rat Tuesdays’ were officially a thing, and the rest, as current Head Rat Mike Lin says, ‘is history.’ Seventeen years later, the Running Rats are still running strong, and when the weather’s nice, they can easily get 40 to 50 people running through the Financial District.
Comprised mostly of members who live and work downtown, the Rats attract runners from all walks of life. Lin says the club feels a strong connection with the city and the routes they run through Toronto’s urban jungle. “It’s great practice for navigating the crowds in large marathons,” Lin jokes. Some of the Rats’ favourite routes feature well-known Toronto landmarks and neighbourhoods, including the iconic Flatiron building on Wellington St., the University of Toronto, Queen’s Park and the Fashion District.
Each Tuesday evening the club meets for group runs at the Running Room at the TD Centre (as of October). The club’s runs range in distance from around 7K to 13K, with Lin working hard to ensure everyone sticks together while split into smaller groups, determined by each club member’s individual pace.
“At first I was scared of the club, I thought it was too fast for me, ” says female club member, Quin Ma. Now I’m running with the group and it’s obviously not scary. They make it easy to overcome your fears. It’s also one of the most diverse running clubs in the city not only in terms of various levels of runners, but the types of runners from various clubs who come to join. We have members from clubs like BlackToe and RunTOBeer runners who come join us.”
The club also hosts events on occasion, including this years’ Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon shirt reveal, as well as a course preview run of the marathon, held on October 20. Club member Vincent Lui agrees “I’m pretty sure I’ve run with almost all the bigger clubs in the city. And this is still my favourite scene… the best thing about this club is that you have crazy fast people, some of the fastest people in the city, along with people that are casual, but it all works out when we run, and everyone has fun.”
The Rats happily welcome new runners, starting with a friendly first-kilometre warmup, and to “talk to someone you don’t know,” Lin says, including a pacer who leads the pack at a moderate tempo to ensure everyone is relaxed and enjoying the run.
Membership in the Running Rats is free and only requires a commitment to run at least three times with the club.
For more information on the Running Rats, go to www.runningrats.com.