Brantford runner J.S. Esposito put his running skills to the test on Saturday during the Run for the Toad.
“The 25 km race is a good length for me to prepare for the Toronto Marathon coming up in a couple weeks,” the Brantford runner said. “I’ve been doing a few different races over the spring and summer this year.
“This is a beautiful park and a lot of people come a long way to test their running skills here.”
Pinehurst Lake Conservation Area north of Paris was taken over by runners and walkers as about 1,300 participants laced up their running shoes to compete in the 11th annual race.
Race co-organizer George Sarson said the event, which included a 25 km run and walk and a 50 km relay run, has become the largest trail race event in Canada over the past four years.
The Run For The Toad helps raise funds for the upkeep of the park.
Recent improvements made to the park’s trails has helped increase the event’s popularity, Sarson said.
“There have been a lot of upgrades to the trail system over the last four years,” Sarson said. “It has become much more friendly for running races.
“We started 11 years ago with about 130 people and it has grown exponentially.”
Help from more than 100 volunteers made it possible to produce this year’s race, Sarson said.
“We have more than 100 on site today and about 30 of them have supported us for at least the last month,” Sarson said. “You have to get a lot of people to trust you.”
The race’s name was born after Sarson and his wife created a children’s animated series called Toad Patrol.
“My wife said ‘let’s call it the Run For The Toad.’” Sarson said. “It was one of those uncontrived moments. It just stuck and we never looked back. The name just brands well.”
Mike Tickner of Kitchener said he enjoys pushing himself while running through the park.
“I like the great competition here,” Tickner said. “I love to run fast.”