First, I want to thank everyone who shared my 100 Branches challenge and donated. It’s been extremely encouraging and motivating!
Before diving into my recap of my first library run, I wanted to reiterate the scale of the Toronto Public Library. The TPL is HUGE.
There are 39 kilometers/24 miles between the westernmost and easternmost branches. I had the idea for the challenge for at least a month before deciding to commit to it. (Which happened to be 100 days before the marathon!) Why did it take so long to commit? Honestly, I wasn’t and I’m still not sure I’ll be able to do it. But that’s why it’s called a challenge, right?
For planning, I made a Google map of the 100 branches, and tried to divide them into clusters that might make sense for individual runs.
My current strategy is to try to visit the branches furthest from the downtown core first, since they require a bit more effort to get to, and the branches are spread out more. They’ll likely take place on my long run days. The red cluster is not a single run route, but rather branches that I could run to from home or work without much planning, and could incorporate into shorter weekday runs.
For my first library run, I took the subway as far north as I could, then took a bus to visit 6 branches in North York: Hillcrest, Pleasant View, Fairview, Bayview, North York, and Centennial. It took me about an hour to arrive at Hillcrest. In that hour, I tried to calm my anxious mind. It’s just another long run! I took the same precautions I normally do for long runs by myself:
- Make sure I have plenty of water, especially in the summer! I took my Gregory Pace 3, which has a 2L hydration pack and lots of pockets for storing energy chews, protein bars, sunscreen, etc.
- Pack enough cash for an emergency cab ride if I need to bail
- Bring my cell phone for wayfinding and staying in touch
- I also try to tell someone when and where I’m going (usually this is Tim, and I just give a general gist – “I’m heading north on the trail” or “I’m going to the Leslie St. Spit”)
It makes me feel safer to be prepared (even if it might be overkill) and remind myself that I always have the option to stop and get home if needed.
When I got to Hillcrest, I felt a bit more relaxed. Here I am, this is happening!
Hillcrest is a cute little brick building that originally opened in 1975. I loved the bright colourful flowers surrounding the sign. (You can also see from the picture that Toronto’s been experiencing a drought.)
I headed south on Leslie, then east to Pleasant View. I passed the Pleasant View Community Centre and enviously watched people making their way to the pool. I had started sweating about 3 minutes into my run.
The Pleasant View branch is so cute! It also opened in 1975. The ivy covering the sign gives it a real secret garden vibe.
Next I backtracked west, then headed south through Don Valley Village to Fairview. Fairview’s permanent building was completed in 1976, and includes a community theatre space. It’s also one of the TPL branches with a Reading Garden.
I continued west, including a brief jaunt on the Don River Trail.
In my planning, I knew Bayview was located within a mall. I figured it’d be a good opportunity to catch a little A/C and use a washroom. I had no idea that Bayview Mall was so fancy. All of the sliding doors had signs saying, “Hello, gorgeous!” Umm, hi? I’ll admit, I got totally lost and ended up walking all the way around the mall. “Excuse me, gorgeous, can you direct me to the library?” I did make use of the washroom, which was by far the fanciest mall bathroom I’ve ever used. Individual rooms with a sink and hands-free air dryer. It wasn’t your standard Dyson or XLERATOR. It had… multiple spots with air streams, instead of a single vent where you raise your hands up and down. I’m getting off-topic here, so basically – fancy. Fancy mall, gorgeous.
Finally, I found the library, which you can only access from the outside. Bayview found its home at the mall in 2003.
Bayview was approximately my halfway mark in the run, and I was starting to feel a bit worn out. I slowly made my way west to head to North York Central Library.
I had remembered that North York has Sunday hours, but I didn’t actually look at what those hours were. I arrived over an hour before opening time. Fail! I was especially bummed because North York is the busiest branch in the TPL with over 1.5 million visits last year, and has lots of great features. I had to settle for a few lobby shots.
I had 5km left in my planned route, and I was seriously considering quitting early. I texted Tim to whine a little.
I gave myself a little extra time, then continued west to Bathurst. On the map, it looked like there was a nice trail I could take to get north to Finch. When I arrived, it wasn’t very well marked, and the trail was fairly overgrown. After getting turned around and feeling doubtful, I decided to get back to the streets. Note to self: do some trail research beyond looking at a Google map!
I trudged north on Bathurst, and turned on Finch. I saw a Starbucks, and imagined the ice cold latte I would inhale shortly.
At last – Centennial! I really liked this branch’s architecture. It originally opened in 1966, and was renovated in 1997.
Time to check out of the run!
I happily walked to the Starbucks, inhaled that ice cold latte, and then hopped on transit to make my way home. It was tough and I was exhausted, but I was proud of myself for sticking it out. I can do this, or at the very least, give this challenge my best shot!
Distance: 18.71 km
Branches visited: 6
Total branches visited: 6/100