The Parkdale Roadrunners Ladies Ragnar Relay team are running 304km from Cobourg to Niagara Falls, Ontario, from May 19-20 and raising funds in support of West Neighbourhood House in Toronto. Read their story below and support their fundraising efforts at pdrrladiesxragnar.com.
A neuroscientist, an engineer, a registered massage therapist, an osteopathy student, an AcroYoga coach, a project manager, an occupational therapist, solar consultant, a beauty industry professional, a government relations specialist, and a couple of marketing professionals. All passionate runners and all ready for a new adventure.
That’s the makeup of the Parkdale Roadrunners Ladies (PDRR Ladies) Ragnar Relay team, 12 women diverse in age, experience and ability as runners, and professional background.
According to teammate Melanie Boatswain-Watson, “We meet week in and week out to run together, learn from one another, escape the daily grind, and connect with like minded women.”
Melanie proudly says that the group has developed a bond beyond their status as a run crew, adding, “We are truly friends who share a common passion, have a deep respect for one another and sport, and support each other through life’s challenges.”
Those friendships will either be tested, deepened or perhaps both in May when the Parkdale Ladies tackle the 304 km relay from Cobourg to Niagara Falls, each runner taking on three legs ranging from 16 to 32 kilometres in total.
The idea began to take shape when Melanie and fellow PDRR ladies Anya Taraboulsy and Morgan Henderson learned that Ragnar was returning to Ontario in 2017 and welcomed it as a challenge to tick off the bucket list. When they found no luck in their search for a team, Melanie says, “…we decided to bite the bullet and form our own team.” Friends quickly came on board and PDRR’s founders gave their blessing for the team to run under the crew’s banner.
PDRR is one of Toronto’s biggest and fastest growing run crews in one of the city’s most rapidly changing neighbourhoods. Parkdale’s boom, however, has not necessarily benefitted all its residents and many are in danger of being left behind.
The PDRR Ladies are taking action to give back to the community that’s given them the space to grow and form the rich bonds that run through the team. “Everyone in the group agreed that we wanted to align ourselves with an organization that was either local, empowers young women, or promotes physical activity and a healthy lifestyle,” Melanie says.
A little research led to West Neighbourhood House (WNH), which has been serving the Parkdale community since 1912 through a wide range of services including after school programs and settlement services. WNH hit all the criteria Melanie described so it seemed an obvious choice for the PDRR Ladies to fundraise on behalf of the organization through their Ragnar adventure.
When the team connected with WNH, they saw a further opportunity to take the partnership beyond fundraising and work together through WNH’s Newcomer Youth Girls’ Leadership Program, which supports young women in developing leadership skills by engaging in media arts, fitness, dance, and conversation circles. Soon, running will be added to that list when the PDRR Ladies lead a “my first race” clinic at WNH.
According to Anya, “The training program, led entirely by volunteers from the Parkdale Roadrunners, will consist of weekly group runs, mobility, yoga, strength training, nutrition and recovery work.” The ultimate goal is to get the young women of WNH to either the 5K or half marathon at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon on October 22nd.
Beyond encouraging a love of fitness among the group, Anya adds, “For many of us, it’s been nothing short of life changing to run with such an inspirational and supportive group of women. There would be nothing greater than helping others find that same passion, not just for running, but for being part of a family, a community, a sisterhood.”
In doing so, Anya hopes to pass on the spirit of empowerment and encouragement that defines the PDRR Ladies. “Strong women empower other women,” Anya says, “and that’s what we want this group to do; become the next generation of women who know they’re strong enough to come together and overcome anything life might throw at them.”
It’s a commitment welcomed by WNH. Kaleigh Wisman, Community Relations Coordinator at WNH, says, “Having the PDRR Ladies partner with the Newcomer Youth Girls’ Leadership Group is exactly the kind of barrier breaking and community building that we encourage!”
In the meantime, the PDRR Ladies are adapting their training to the unique experience of Ragnar, working in early morning and late night runs as well as two runs on some days as they work toward, in Melanie’s words,” …sharing this awesome, crazy, out-of-the-ordinary experience with a group of rad friends.”
- Ravi Singh