Cape Breton runner hangs up sneakers after 20 years of Cabot Trail relays

Chris Shannon
Published on May 26, 2014

Hailee Campbell, a member of team Can’t Touch This, sprays a bottle of champagne over Kaye Toms and her fellow teammates after Toms completed the final leg of the Cabot Trail Relay Race in Baddeck on Sunday. After two decades of competing in the relay, Toms is moving on to new adventures.

©Chris Shannon - TC MEDIA


A dozen red roses. The pop, fizzle and spray from an uncorked champagne bottle. Giddy screams.

You’d be excused for thinking it was a very belated gesture in honour of Saint Valentine, or better yet, the marking of an important milestone or accomplishment.

In the case of Kaye Toms, it was the latter.

At 60, after running in the Cabot Trail Relay Race for two decades, the Baddeck resident has decided to hang up her relay running shoes for the last time.

When she started running, she had her reasons.

“I had three children. I just got fed up doing housework. My husband would come home from work and I’d put on my sneakers, and I’d run 2K,” Toms said, wiping off some of the freshly sprayed bubbly from her face.

She started to run back in 1984. But it was a call from someone looking to put together a team to run the Cabot Trail relay in 1989, which first got her involved in the race.

Her recollection was: “Are you out of your mind?”

Her team was called the Highland Hopefuls back then and they competed against six other teams.

There are now 70 teams entered in the race, with a waiting list set up in case any entries decide to bow out.

She also raced along with her husband, Shane Toms, on the team, Gut, Sweat and Tears, for so many years she lost count.

After a six-year hiatus, Toms returned with the all-female running team, Can’t Touch This — giving their proper due to early 1990s performer MC Hammer.

“I haven’t done all (17) of the legs, but I’ve done enough,” she said.

“I did Smokey (leg) twice, but I don’t know, North Mountain is pretty tough. They’re all tough. There’s no easy leg.”

Her husband, Shane, isn’t so sure she’ll be able to say “no” to running the relay again, if asked.

“She could go out there tomorrow and run again,” he said.

“I think she’ll be back next year. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised. She loves it and I think it would be really, really hard for her not to come back next year.”

On Sunday, the race was Toms to enjoy.

She finished the 19.3-km final leg in a time of one hour, 50 minutes and 31 seconds. She was the 67th person to cross the finish line.

Distance running is “brutal,” Toms said, adding it takes a harder toll on her body now than the short recovery period needed back when she was a 30-something.

A 10-km run suits her style much better, she added.

Despite leaving the team as the stateswoman of the group, Toms knows it's in good hands.

“You’d have to spend a day with us. They’re just a great group of girls,” she said.

“It’s an experience. There’s a couple of girls just starting to run and I hope that they’ll enjoy it as much as I have.”