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Mad dogs and Leasiders – Leaside’s own quirky trail race, the Mad Dog Scramble

Members of Leaside’s XSNRG running club before a recent workout in Sunnybrook Park.

Members of Leaside’s XSNRG running club before a recent workout in Sunnybrook Park. Photo by Allan Williams.

Long before the rise in popularity of the “Tough Mudder” and similar off-road running events, Leaside had its own trail race, the “Mad Dog Scramble,” which marks its 25th annual running on Saturday, October 30th at 11 a.m.

Unlike other races that take place in the Serena Gundy and Sunnybrook Park area and stick to the pavement, Mad Dog takes the road less travelled. In fact, runners won’t spend much time on any of the familiar pathways at all. Instead, the 8K route winds through the forests and streams of the Don Valley, sometimes following one of the many single-track mountain bike trails, sometimes not.

“We change the route every year to make it more interesting,” says Course Director Nick Roberts, of Donlea Drive in North Leaside. “No one knows in advance what the route will be and runners have to follow the pink markers to stay on course. Ropes and water crossings are part of the race and participants can expect to get wet and dirty – there’s a prize for the dirtiest runner – and to have a lot of fun.”

And anyone can win.

“Runners are sent out in waves based on their 5K or 10K race time,” says Roberts, “which means that everyone who runs Mad Dog has a chance to win. And we have awards for first, second and fourth place. No prize for third….Why? Because we like our race to be a little different from the rest.”

The race is sponsored and managed by the Leaside-based XSNRG [Excess Energy] Running Club that meets every Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m. inside the main doors at the east end of Leaside High School before heading out onto the neighbouring streets or nearby parks to run intervals.

Mad Dog Scramble participants Breana Sclingmann and Colum O'sullivan cross the Don River in Serena Gundy Park. Photo by Eric Goddard.

Mad Dog Scramble participants Breana Schlingmann and Colum O’Sullivan cross the Don River in Serena Gundy Park. Photo by Eric Goddard.

“Intervals involve a warm-up run followed by a short, intense workout, then a cool-down run,” explains Roberts, who is also the club’s primary coach. “Alternating between hills one week and a flat workout the next, it means running hard for, say, two minutes, then resting for one, continuing for 20-25 minutes. These kinds of workouts are the best way to improve your running in a short period of time.”

Club executive member Andrew Lin, of Fairland Road in North Leaside, says, “XSNRG was founded by Leasiders 28 years ago and welcomes runners of all ages and abilities.”

For more information on XSNRG and the Mad Dog Scramble visit www.XSNRG.org.