Well, I had a very interesting day to say the least at Wanderlust 108 in Toronto.
Wanderlust 108 was an event that I was immediately interesting in attending. I’d been looking forward to it for months; same goes for my sister who attended with me. The whole concept behind Wanderlust 108 is that you’re participating in a mindful triathlon. It’s very different from a regular triathlon. The event combines a non-competitive 5km run, yoga sessions, and a guided meditation. I love yoga, and I want to learn more about meditating. As for the 5km run, I’m not an avid jogger by any stretch of the imagination. I am the type of person who adores walking and could walk for days and days. Running really isn’t my thing. However, I’ve been interested in challenging myself to completing a 5k and this seemed like the perfect place to do it. The race wouldn’t be timed, unless you wanted to time it out yourself. And you could choose to walk, jog, run, or whatever.
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Unlike most triathlons, we place community above competition, inner peace above power, and self-awareness above strength. We prefer slow food to fast run times. For us, winning is measured in laughs shared and new friends made.
For the last few days, the forecast looked rather grim. There were heavy rainfalls predicted with little chance for any sunshine. Furthermore, it was going to be very cold for a summer day – a high of only 15 degrees Celsius. We planned for the weather as much as we could. I packed a towel, an umbrella, and hoped for the best.
Wanderlust 108 Toronto was held on Toronto Island, which was an ideal location for an event like this. We bought our ferry tickets ahead of time through the Wanderlust website. The weather was overcast and a little chilly, but not raining, thankfully. We received our bibs and proceeded to leave our bags, yoga mats, and valuables at the bag check. After a quick guided stretch, we lined up for the race – erm, non-competitive thoughtful walk or run.
The 5k run was very scenic. We jogged over small bridges, on paved paths beside parks, and along the waterfront. We could see the waves crashing against the shore and small, sandy beaches. The temperature was pretty perfect during the run as I never felt too hot and there was a nice breeze. I set my Fitbit timer as I was curious to see how long it would take me to run my first ever 5k, other than those that I’ve attempted by myself at the gym.
My sister, Robyn runs on a regular basis. My goal was to keep up with her as much as possible. For most of the 5k, I did keep up with her! While I’ve never managed to run for more than 5-10 minutes at a time, I mostly ran straight through. I realized that we had finished our 5k run partway through the race.
Yes, partway through the race.
The event organizers obviously didn’t realize how far 5k was as the run just seemed to keep going…and going. I jogged along with a pack of participants for a good while, walking for only short periods of time before running again. There weren’t very many volunteers along the way to tell us how we were doing or cheer us on, which was a bit strange. I was overjoyed that I did manage to complete my 5k run in a time of 33 minutes, and I seemed to keep running on that extra bit of adrenaline.
All of a sudden, it started to pour rain.
This wasn’t any typical rain shower or light sprinkling. It was a torrential downpour. All I could do was keep running. One of my contact lenses was nearly washed away from my eye!
The race seemed to keep going forever. I was completely soaked from head to toe. My shoes and socks were filled with water. It wouldn’t have been quite as bad if it weren’t so cold outside. I just kept running.
At last, the finish line was in sight. I jogged through it and glanced down at my Fitbit. The race ended up being 8.5km in total! I felt extra accomplished, though similarly felt awful for those who were not used to walking or running that far, especially in such a strong rain storm.
As the rain was not letting up and the ground was covered with very deep puddles, we realized quickly that we weren’t going to be doing any yoga or meditating. The rain was too strong, there weren’t any tents to stand beneath, and it was way too cold. By the time that I finished running, I started to shiver. We went to the bag check to pick up our belongings and it was very chaotic. The belongings for 2000 people were thrown on the ground and piled on tables. There was no shelter covering the bags and everyone’s possessions were soaking wet. One volunteer managed to find Robyn’s bag within the pile, and another volunteer directed me to another line where they were letting people into the roped off area to find their own bags. Yes, anyone could have just walked back there and grabbed any bag they wanted.
I went into the area and after some searching, I found my bag and yoga mat. My bag was soaked right through. I am so glad that I packed that towel. The towel soaked up all of the water and kept my phone, my wallet, and a few other things from getting wet. Thank goodness.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
The good: I really enjoyed the run. Even though it was pouring rain, nothing could have been done to prevent that. I made the best of it, and I completed my first 5k run! I also proved to myself that doing a 10k run wouldn’t be too out of the question as I ended up completing 8.5km in total. I was happy to push myself beyond my limits and it was incredibly motivating. The views on Toronto Island were also wonderful. I loved seeing the CN Tower off in the distance, the green spaces, and the beaches.
The bad: We didn’t get to do yoga or a guided meditation. I was most looking forward to the yoga, and we didn’t get to do any yoga at all. The journey back home wasn’t exactly fun – I was shaking violently as I was soaking wet and freezing cold. My feet were numb from being so wet and cold. The ferry ride was very windy and cold. From there, we had to walk back to Union Station and take a Go train back home. I was so happy to be back at home and soak in a hot bathtub.
The ugly: The pricing for this event worked on a tiered basis, where those who purchased the tickets more in advance had a lower priced ticket. Once a certain amount of tickets sold, the price increased. Our tickets cost about $50 per person, and some people paid as much as $70 a ticket. It was advertised as a rain or shine event. If you decide to operate your event rain or shine, you need to make the event safe and as comfortable as possible for the participants. There were no tents at all for any attendees to practice yoga or meditation beneath, let alone stand beneath. When we finished the run, there was actually nowhere to go to seek shelter. Once we grabbed our bags, we were able to find our umbrellas; until then, we kept on getting more and more soaked. The bag check was a disaster. Everyone’s bags got drenched and it was not very organized.
I realize that the event organizers can’t control the weather, but it was no surprise that it was most likely going to rain. I feel like those who practice yoga can be an understanding and compassionate group of people. I’m sure that many of the participants were looking for some inner peace and self-reflection through participating. The ending result was a bunch of angry or upset yogis who had to leave early.
When I returned home, I went to the Facebook event page and witnessed the fallout. It was ugly. Even a friend of mine sent me a message and said that he had read complaints about Wanderlust 108 on an entirely different Toronto Facebook group. Yikes.
Let’s take a look at some of the comments…
This one sums everything up pretty much:
And then there’s this one, which made me chuckle a little bit:
Lastly, this attendee started a new hashtag:
This has turned into quite the PR nightmare for Wanderlust. After numerous complaints on social media and through email, one of the co-founders released an official statement.
To the weather warriors of Wanderlust 108 Toronto: now that your feet are dry and you’ve got a hot cup of tea in your hands, I wanted to personally thank you for coming out and toughing through the challenges mother nature threw at us at our first Wanderlust 108 in Toronto. I was right there with you (cold and very wet). I am grateful for the positivity of our amazing community, but it’s also pretty clear that no amount of hugs or smiles could remove the impact of those cold rain droplets. There are very few things more disappointing than planning a beautiful event for months and having rain & cold weather throw a wet blanket on it — and I know that it’s equally disappointing for you to anticipate an event (one that you bought a ticket for) and have that happen.Unfortunately, hosting an event for more than 2,000 yogis means we cannot provide enough tenting to keep people dry in case of a downpour. Though the event is rain or shine, we should have offered clearer information about the site and facilities so that you knew exactly what to expect in case of rain. I also want to apologize for the lack of tenting on the bag check. This was a definite oversight, and I’m sorry we missed it. If you’re going to tough out a yoga class in the rain, you definitely deserve a dry pair of clothes at the end.As many of you know, Wanderlust 108 is a new event series for us. Clearly we still have some things to learn. We welcome that challenge and welcome your feedback. With your support, we will continue to improve.In practice,Sean Hoess,Co-founder
Dear Wanderlust 108 Toronto Attendees:
Wanderlust’s mission, the reason why we’re excited to go to work every day, is to help people find their true north – to cultivate their best selves. Every person on the Wanderlust team takes personal joy and pride in that.
With our intentions set that high, and with so many dedicated people working to bring that mission to life, it can be particularly hard to admit mistakes when they happen. But after a day of introspection, we at Wanderlust have a simple message: Toronto, we screwed up. And we’re sorry.
We agree that the path to living an inspired life shouldn’t include misdirected run courses, wet bags, unavailable amenities, or incomplete information. While the rain might have made you wet, it was our mistakes that actually dampened your spirits. We care deeply about you, and since we have some experience bringing world-class events to life, we understand and share in your frustration. We know we can do better because we’ve done better many times. Until now.
While we can’t undo your disappointment, we can undo the money you spent on your tickets. You will receive a full refund for all tickets to Wanderlust 108 Toronto purchased through Eventbrite within the next 5 business days. The other thing we can — and will — do is to throw an unbelievably kick-ass Wanderlust 108 Toronto in 2016.
Even with a day’s reflection, we are confident that our mistakes on Olympic Island will help Wanderlust to find its own true north. We would be grateful if the yoga community in the Canadian True North will continue to support us as we do so.
We hope to see you in Whistler, Tremblant, or Edmonton.
Sean and Jeff