How fast can 100 women run a 1-mile relay? Faster than ever, these 100 women say | CBC News – Daily Frontline

How fast can 100 women run a 1-mile relay? Faster than ever, these 100 women say | CBC News
– Daily Frontline

In 1999, Paula Schnurr and Patti Moore were part of a group in Toronto that ran to set a Guinness World Record for the fastest time in which 100 women ran a one-mile relay.

That record stood for 24 years until an American team beat it by five minutes last year. On Sunday, 100 women in Hamilton won in back, the two Canadian coaches said.

Holding a world record was “kind of a cool thing,” and great for the “stupid icebreaker” games people play at work, said Moore.

In June 2023, Guinness World Records certified a San Francisco team as having beaten their record by about five minutes with a time of 9 hours 18 minutes 32 seconds.

Hamilton running coaches Paula Schnurr and Patti Moore brought over 100 people together to win back a world record they held for 24 years. (Maxine Gravina)

Moore heard about this at a track meet last year and didn’t waste any time.

“I looked around and I counted heads and I looked at the girls that we have here in Ontario,” the Hamilton Olympic Club distance coach said. “I knew that we could get this, but the only thing I needed was to get Paula on board.”

‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way’

Schnurr is the head of track and cross country at McMaster University in Hamilton. She has the connections to elite runners from around Ontario and access to a track that Moore said they needed.

Schnurr admits she wasn’t as keen as Moore at first but came around. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way. And Patti definitely had the will,” she told CBC Hamilton.

It took a year of preparation, but on Sunday, 100 women ran a one-mile relay of 8:57:26.9, or about 23 minutes faster than the Americans, Moore and Schnurr said. They’re submitting evidence to Guinness and said they expect to wait a few months before making the record official.

The starting pistol went off at 9:02 a.m. and the last runner finished shortly before 6 p.m. Each participant ran laps around the track individually, passing off the same baton Schnurr and Moore used 25 years ago.

A runner passes another a baton on a track.
Runners at McMaster University used the same baton the team in Toronto did in 1999 when competing for the record. (Maxine Gravina)

To find their 100 runners, the coaches took the time they wanted to beat and divided it by 100, getting around 5:32 per runner per mile. They issued a call out for people who could run that time and started checking in with coaches. In the end about 145 people applied, some of whom were alternates on Sunday.

Runners ranged in ages, from 12 to 50

Chloe Thomas, a runner from Dundas, Ont., who’s starting her fourth year at the University of Connecticut on a sports scholarship, was an early applicant.

“Running is a sport that’s brought a lot of joy into my life personally. I think any big event where you can gather a bunch of like-minded people who have found that same passion and community is just an amazing thing,” said Thomas, who is also a Hamilton Olympic Club alumnus and teaches at a camp at McMaster in the summer.

And, “maybe I wanted a new fun fact like Patti,” she added.

Five people run side-by-side on a track.
100 women ranging in age from 12 to 50 each ran a mile to break a record at McMaster University in Hamilton on July 7. (Maxine Gravina)

The runners on Sunday had to race individually without someone pacing them.

“That is a challenge to run your fastest for a mile,” Moore said.

To keep up the energy, they had music, announcers and an excited audience. It got hot on Sunday but Moore, who’s trained in issue management, said she had a contingency plan for everything but lightning. Fortunately for them, the skies were clear.

The 100 runners were mostly from southern Ontario, between Windsor and Ottawa. They ranged in age from 12 to 50. Tokyo 2020 Olympian Maddy Kelly ran the last leg.

A runner on a track approaches a finish line while people watch and cheer.
The organizers of the world record attempt said they wanted a party atmosphere with people cheering one another on. (Maxine Gravina)

Thomas, who ran right before Kelly, had the fastest leg of the day, running a mile in 4:36.

“I saw my family there, my friends, coworkers, competitors, role models and younger kids who really look up to you,” she said. “Having an amazing atmosphere got me really fired up.”

Having so many people come together made for “an emotional event,” Schnurr said, noting that she and Moore had a lot of help to pull the event off.

Other athletes volunteered time and individuals and businesses donated to make the event free for the runners. Moore and Schnurr also worked with McMaster, the Niagara Olympic Club, the Harbour Track Club, timers and a videographer.

In the end, the key to the group’s success was simple, Moore said: teamwork. On Sunday morning, they had 100 runners from over 30 clubs. “By the time we got to 6 p.m. we had one team.”

A group of people in running outfits pose for a group photo on a field holding a Canada Flag.
Runners pose after breaking the world record. (Maxine Gravina)

“Our hope is that we’re moving ahead with more women in our sport and I think an event like this certainly motivates and inspires,” Schnurr said.

As for the record?

“The hope is that we broke it well enough that it will take some time to be broken again,” Moore said.

“We were competitive enough that we wanted the record back,” Moore said.

“But it’s also an opportunity to showcase the strong women that we have here in Ontario and to literally hand the baton to the next generation because we have both agreed we’re not doing this again. Someone from amongst those 100 girls is going to step up.”

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