Running The Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon Media Challenge For Charity

Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon

The start of the Toronto Waterfront Marathon (Photo: Canada Running Series)

The countdown is on. In just four days, I’ll be at the starting line of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.

But I’m not just running the race. I’m also taking part in the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon Media Challenge, a race-within-a-race where reporters, editors, producers, photographers and assorted media folk face off against each other for charity. I’m running on behalf of the Sarcoma Cancer Foundation of Canada in memory of my cousin, Laura, who died last year from a sarcoma cancer.

Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon

The Hamza family won Best Dressed Costume in the 5K. (Photo: Canada Running Series)

It’s all part of the Scotiabank Charity Challenge, an initiative that raised $4.3 million for 181 charities in 2012.

The Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon hosts 25,000 runners from over 60 countries for the event’s three race distances: the marathon, half-marathon and 5K.

The marathon course is known as a flat and fast, but sometimes windy, run around Canada’s largest city, with 150,000 spectators cheering runners on.

Whatsmore, more than one-quarter of the race’s runners register to support one of the event’s 180 official charities partners.

Toronto Waterfront Marathon

Stephane Hetherington won Best DressedCostume in the marathon and a Guinness World Record for fastest marathon in a superhero costume. (Photo: Canada Running Series)

Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon Charity Challenge

The Scotiabank Charity Challenge has lots of competitions to encourage people to raise money.

Charities can earn bonus money for placing in the top three in each of these categories: most participants, most money raised, most money per participant raised. It’s an extra incentive Scotiabank gives charities to get as many runners as they can out on the course.

But that’s just the beginning of the challenge.

Costume Challenge

Perhaps the most fun is the Best Dressed Costume contest. Runners can win extra money for their charity of choice by taking home the best-dressed prize. Scotiabank donates $5,000 to the costume winners’ charity picks.

Every year, three celebrity judges choose the costume winners at the finish line from each race distance—marathon, half-marathon and 5K.

Last year, Stephane Hetherington won dressed as The Flash, along with nabbing the Guinness World Record for fastest marathon in a superhero costume in a time of 2:33:58.

You know, I love a good running costume. But that is fast.

Neighbourhood Challenge
Toronto Waterfron Marathon

Liberty Village/King West entertainers. (Photo: Canada Running Series)

The Charity Challenge also puts spectators to the test, too.

The Neighbourhood Challenge (yes, neighbourhood with a u; this is Canada, after all) has 12 Neighbourhood Cheering & Entertainment Centres (yes, centres) along the course that partake in a friendly competition for a local neighborhood charity or group.

The neighborhood with the most people, most noise, best costumes and best entertainment, as decided by those three celebrity judges, takes home $6,000 from Scotiabank for their local community group. Second place gets $3,000, third gets $2,000 and two honorable mentions get $1,000 each.

Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon

Greek Town won the Neighbourhood Challenge at the 2012 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. (Photo: Canada Running Series)

It’s genius way to get people out not just to cheer on runners, but also to do some good for their own communities. And it’s a way for the marathon to give back to the communities it runs through.

In 2012, Toronto’s Greek Town took home the prize on behalf of the Greek Community of Toronto.

Media Challenge

Then there’s the Media Challenge that I’m taking part in. Here’s how it works: Each member of the media chooses a charity as their beneficiary. Come race day, Scotiabank makes a donation to the chosen charity of the first place winners—male and female—in each category. Media can complete in the 5K, half-marathon and marathon. Each winner gets $1,000 for their charity in the marathon, $500 in the half-marathon and $250 in the 5K.

Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon

Laura holds me on her lap when we were kids in the early 1980s. She left behind two kids of her own.

I’ll be gunning for the top prize in the women’s marathon on behalf of the Sarcoma Cancer Foundation of Canada. I chose this charity because its cause is near and dear to my heart.

In June 2012, after a hard-fought yearlong battle, my cousin Laura succumbed to clear cell sarcoma, a rare and bleakly lethal form of cancer that attacks the body’s soft tissue including fat, muscle, tendons and ligaments.

I was in the middle of a $10,000 fundraising campaign to help pay for her treatments, when the cancer took her life.

Laura’s sister asked me to speak at her memorial service. I joked about the time she fed me a chocolate covered cherry while I was sleeping and told me it was a cockroach, much to my horror. And how she’d take me horseback riding and into her mom’s closet to play dress-up.

Most of the people there knew that I’d been running for Laura, even though they didn’t know me personally. I told them that I would keep running for her.

Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon

Terry Fox runs through Toronto during his “Marathon of Hope” in 1980. (Photo: Jeremy Gilbert)

And I did.

I completed the Long Island Gold Coast Triathlon in her honor just 11 days after her death, and ran Philadelphia Marathon later that year. I broke down crying at the finish, overcome with grief.

This year, I’m going to dedicate my run at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon not only to her, but also to everyone who has been affected by a sarcoma cancer.

Every runner knows Terry Fox, the iconic amputee who ran across his native Canada on a “Marathon of Hope” to raise money and awareness for cancer research. He’s probably one of the most famous runners in the history of our sport. What most people don’t know is that it was a sarcoma cancer that took Fox’s leg and his life.

The Sarcoma Cancer Foundation of Canada focuses on patient support and education while working with Canadian researchers to eradicate sarcoma cancer. It’s important to patients not just because they support research, but because they help patients find the best information and resources for the disease.

Little more than 300 cases of clear cell sarcoma, the cancer that killed Laura, have been diagnosed in the last 40 years, and 10-year survival rates hover below 25 percent. Most doctors and cancer centers have no experience treating it, and conventional cancer treatments often don’t work. So groups like the SCFC can be critical to getting patients the help they need.

Long Island Gold Coast Triathlon, triathlon

Running for Laura and Stand Up 2 Cancer in 2012 (Photo: Capstone Photography)

As far as the race goes, I’ve got my work cut out for me. Last year, 18 media outlets took part in the challenge. The women’s marathon Media Challenge winner finished in 3:43:37.

I don’t have it in me to beat that, but who wins all depends on who shows up on race day. I’m hoping for a 4:15 finish, which would be a personal best for me.

Even if I don’t win the challenge, I’m glad it gives me a chance to bring some more attention to this cancer that has not only devastated my own family, but families all over the U.S. and Canada, inspiring Fox’s Marathon of Hope along the way.

Fox left an indelible legacy in Canada and the sport of running, creating a charitable movement that lives today. The Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon Charity Challenge and Media Challenge is part of that legacy. I’m honored to be just a small part of it.

“Even if I don’t finish, we need others to continue,” Terry Fox said. “It’s got to keep going without me.”

Right on, Terry. Right on.

For more information about the Sarcoma Cancer Foundation of Canada or to make a donation, visit

Karla Bruning


Karla Bruning is a regular contributor to, the host of NYRR's On The Run web + TV show, and a race announcer at events like the TCS New York City Marathon. She used to report for Newsweek but spent her free time squeezing in workouts. Now she freelances as a running reporter. She's run 7 marathons, 20 halves, 6 triathlons, sings in an '80s cover band, spoils her dog + travels compulsively.

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10 2013

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