We can do better and I can do better

Hi Everyone

Below the photos of the deer is the post I wrote a couple nights ago (in bold). I wanted to add this paragraph. I went back to the trails yesterday planning to take some photos for this post and do a repeat cleanup of the area I clean just two weeks ago. I was feeling somewhat discouraged. More than a few people have asked me why bother. The trash is never ending. I respond with the “ we can throw the one starfish back in the ocean” type of reasoning or that I believe a little bit of change brings more change answer. So I trudged into the woods reminding myself that this can be done with a scowl or a smile. I bucked up and smiled. I walked along the trail from Thorncliffe expecting to see the hills covered in garbage but a huge section was spotless. Something had happened or someone(s) had happened. My smile became  a look of bemusement. Not far along the trail I encountered 3 people with gloves and bags. I asked them if they had cleaned this up and they said they had. I thanked them for what must have been at least 6 hours or more work, judging on my past experience. I thanked them again and again. I must have sounded a little silly. They told me they lived in the apartments which seemed doubly wonderful to me. It felt like the battle had been joined. I moved on, deeper into the trails where I had been a couple weeks before and seen the worst of the trash. I began cleaning and filling bags of recycling. An hour or so in a runner called out, I came up and we chatted. After a bit, Stephen/Steven was heading onward but offered to carry two bags of recycling out to the parking lot. Awesome. Another runner, Peder, paused on his way, yelling out from the trail he was grabbing two more bags to carry out and then on his way back grabbed two more. Amazing. I grabbed 4 more garbage bags that been blown into the valley and filled those. I worked an hour past what I had planned, envigorated by the help. In all, 7 bags of garbage and 5 bags of recycling. As I was cleaning I had one more surprise:



The single track trails of Crothers Woods and the whole Don Valley are more than a secret space I hold dear to my heart. They are a refuge, a place to be whole, a place that is safe. I often worry about the trails, the spread of invasive plants like the dog choking vine is a real threat as well as the scary thought that someday soon ticks may be an unwelcomed visitor to these precious woods. I have spent hours pulling the vine from different spots and freeing tree and bushes choked to near death. Over the many years I have run the trails I have believed firmly in giving back to the forest. Regular trail clean ups and brush removal, like after Wednesday’s wicked winds are a part of being a steward. Spring is a challenge for garbage in the city and particularly so in the Don. The trees and plants are unfortunate collectors of blown discarded trash. Gravity sends crud from the surrounding neighbourhoods tumbling  into to our watershed.

Pointing fingers and doing nothing is just complaining and doesn’t move anything forward. I have done five large clean ups this year already. My wife, Nancy and I spent a lot of time cleaning the top of Pottery Road where the road crests near the apartments and the DQ. We are happy to give back. I know many others who do the same.

The woods are failing. The trash is becoming insurmountable. The vast garbage shadows created by the apartments that back on to the part known as “ the Ridge”, between the Millwood bridge and the Thorncliffe access road are obscene. Beyond Thorncliffe heading towards the Overlea Bridge is equally disgusting. I have emailed the TRCA and am awaiting an answer. The owners and managers of these apartments have to be held accountable for this pollution as well as the residents who are throwing their trash without thought or care to the effect it has. Of course this can not be every resident or perhaps even most but the number of plastic bags, plastic water bottles, plastic containers, plastic plastics and more plastics is not the careless product of just a few hands. The effort to collect and then carry out by hand is quite hard. I have carried out 14 bags over the past 2 weeks. We can do so much better. We owe this to our city and ourselves. I am not writing this to whine, I will continue to collect and clean. I am not writing to this raise awareness, we know the effects of litter and the damage we do to our ecosystems. We can do better by doing better. P.S. whoever picks up their dog poop and then throws the bag on the trails is a complete knucklehead, just saying.

So, yes my post above is somewhat pessimistic and angry. I now add many thanks to a whole bunch of people and I realize I should be more hopeful. Here are a couple more photos of the work ahead.



Two love stories – stories of two trails

A couple years ago a friend of mine asked me to participate in a FKT for a section of the Bruce trail. I was to run 2 sections. I went early to the first section to scout out the terrain and not having run the Bruce trail in a while, familiarize myself with the blazes again. As I jogged the first bit wondering if I was in the right place and also wondering if I should go grab some food before the run, I passed a young couple sitting by an old stone foundation. A beautiful  setting, stones and foliage still glistening from the earlier rain. I nodded and passed by. I scouted out the first 2 K or so and thought that it would be a breeze to complete the distance in the time allotted for this section. I made my way back and the young couple were still there. As I approached they were both beaming with a freshness. The young man, perhaps 28 or so, approached me and asked if I could take their picture. Of course I said. The couple responded by saying that in the few minutes since I had first passed by, the young man had surprised the young lady with a proposal, ” Will you marry me ?”. She had accepted and I was the first to know. The light in their eyes and the absolute joy they exuded was so present. I told them I would be honoured and took several photos of their special moment in the woods.

That fall, I was married to my lovely bride, Nancy. We were determined to do our own decorations and I said I had a vision of what we could do with the Lion’s Club hall at Ashbridges Bay. I saw unbleached  linen cascading from the ceiling backed by tiny white lights. I saw pumpkins and gourds from my cottage as center pieces. Most of all I saw leaves of bright orange, fiery red and brilliant yellow covering the hanging linen in a beautiful mosaic. The day before the big day, everyone came together to gather the leaves. I knew exactly where we needed to go. We headed to the single track trails of the Don where I run every day. Two families coming together to join, share and find fallen beauty in the most beautiful place I know. The forest was spectacular, awash in deep crimson, burnt orange and yellows of amber and gold. Carefully applying them to our wedding canopy we created my “vision”. To this day, I am teased about my “vision” and I laugh right along but on that day, just over two years ago, we brought together two people in love, two families, and the trails I love were right there, overhead and sheltering me as always. The autumn is the most beautiful time to run the trails and as I did so yesterday my mind wandered to thoughts of falling in love in the woods, remarkable moments and how truly lucky I am.

Footnote:  I was born in Toronto, grew up here and lived here all my life. I was raised in the old railway housing in Summerhill. The city is a big part of who I am and why I run. You can see this is in another story. 


Toronto TRUE Runners speak out

Hi Everyone

What this season’s trail group said about this fall sessions- unedited and for no purpose other then making the groups better next time around. Also a few photos. I want to thank everyone for everything during the fall clinics. I really love doing the clinics and it is so nice to have such great people with me. Your enthusiasm and willingness to try new things make doing the sessions so enjoyable. Thanks again for everything – Sean, Shakil, Martin, Irene, Ashley, Annahid, Jarmila, Janice, Bipasha amd Mike.





“Regarding the clinic,
I love it. Learning the technical aspect of hill running and reading the terrain changed the game of running for me.now, I’m actually happy to see hills ha.
So, I wish I could give you more constructive criticism but I can’t
Is a clinic not s running club and therefore I follow you to learn and improve my running. Well, I feel 110% more confident and stronger.
Thank you I truly love trail running”

“I think they were great all around and I learned a lot. You have opened my eyes to the best sides/sites of Toronto! extra bonus is the stories you tell about the Don ravines’ history and your experiences, that make it even more fun.”

“The only thing that would be a nice plus is if we can see the route we ran in hindsight online somewhere, like how Sean shared his video. Because I would love to redo some of the trails but am not too familiar with the way.”

“In terms of communicating with the group, knowing where to meet and let people know if you are late, maybe we could use Whatsapp instead of email? what do you think? A whatsapp group for our running class might be nice but I would ask others if they agree.”


“Was good session this year only feed back is it would be good to get more distance we had some pretty short ones this year. Also have more of the video running analysis from different angles I’ve found helpful in past.”

“I have always enjoyed our sessions & am sad to see them come to an end. So many positives…

You being so patient and generous with your time & rich knowledge of running, the trails, flora & fauna, local history, and so many other things.

I enjoyed the trails & learning new techniques to improve my running on & in different conditions (e.g., mud, wet, down/uphill), posture etc.

Would be great to get more individualized feedback where possible…and try some new trails/places. Loved the hidden gems you’ve shown us.

I especially appreciated your willingness to be so accommodating of my crazy working Mom/sometimes single parenting schedule by finding points where I could catch up with the group for a run rather than feel like I need to drop out of the group entirely.

I look forward to our next session together & hopefully getting to participate in the inaugural kayaking session next year. ;)”

“Lawrence is the best trail running guide ever because he loves running, teaching and the Don valley trails in what seems like equal measure! He sets the pace that participants can handle, and successively takes you through a program that covers running technique, race strategy, trail safety and different routes while keeping it fun, easy and light. I am always wary of sports programs as they can often be non-inclusive and competitive (and who needs that?!). This is exactly the opposite- if you want to learn or improve your running on trails and in trees, with heart and precision, this is your guy!”


“I really enjoyed the trail running sessions as always. I honestly can’t think of anything to improve. The groups are a great size, I like the trails we run on, and you strike a nice balance between instruction and running. Every session I think I learn something new- my favourite takeaway from this one is about how to try and run the downhills without pounding.

Thank you for a wonderful fall season trail running. It was really great! I looked forward to it every week as it was always my favourite run of the week. Your teaching and tips are invaluable!! You’re kind and patient and always super positive. Your love for running and trails and teaching is always so obvious and makes the sessions very enjoyable. I really like the challenge of trying to keep up with everyone as well.
Many thanks again for a great fall season and I look forward to spring when we can start again.”

“I really enjoyed the focus on stride technique this session. Suggestions would be to let us know the distance in advance and to add in longer runs with less stopping.”

So, next spring I will add in all these great ideas and we will be better because of them. Year 3 is done and year 4 coming up. Wow, I have learned so much, again thanks to everyone this fall and to all who have participated, some in every group since we started.