On Sunday 19th October, I completed my Second Half Marathon, as part of the 25th Anniversary of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon weekend (STWM)! You could call it a destination race, as I had to travel 4.5 hours on the train. Admittedly, I was not leaving the province, as I was “only” going from Ottawa to Toronto! But if it takes over 4 hours to get there, it must be, mustn’t it?! 🙂 Anyway, I ventured out to Toronto on the Friday before the race. I got to my hotel and was happy to be presented with this view from my rooms’ window, on the 23rd Floor. I used to live in Toronto, many moons ago, and the CN Tower was “my beacon”.
It was a long day, the train ride was around 4.5 hours long, a little longer as we had to stop twice along the way, for passing trains. I always manage to get on the train that has to stop to allow others to go ahead. I don’t know how I manage that! So by the time I arrived at the hotel it was very close to 9pm. I decided to venture out to get some food, I first went to the local Loblaws, which has a great cooked food section, but as I was so late, they had finished serving. I got a huge bottle of water, to last me the weekend, then went to the closest Chinese and got myself a take away – and back to my hotel room it was. I ate, watched a little TV, and then fell asleep.
The next morning after breakfast (left over Chinese – yes I know!) I set off to pick up my race kit and peruse the Expo. There was a whole list of speakers for the day, which I wanted to go and see too. The expo was held at Toronto Direct Energy Centre. They had laid on a shuttle service (Yellow school buses) from downtown to the centre, I just had to get to the pick up location. I didn’t want to be on my feet too much that day, so I got the subway.
Surprisingly, given the 12000 odd racers for the half marathon, it was not overly crowded. There seemed to be a slight delay on initial entry to the exhibition hall, but this was just a slight bottle neck of people stopping for Oasis sample drinks. Once past they’re stall, the race-kit pick up area was virtually empty. It was a swift approach – the bib, along with safety pins, baggage check label were in an envelope on one side of the room. Then you picked up your bag of goodies and tech t-shirt from the next table. With no one there, it was very straightforward – I can’t imagine what it would be like with a full room. The bag of goodies also came as a re-usable drawstring bag (kit bag) – which was handy! The rest of the expo was pretty standard, with vendors selling they’re race special items, and giving out samples. There were also quite a few organisers from other races – such as the Race around the bay and the Jamaican marathon. I am not sure if they were giving special discounts for registration though!
There was also a huge wall with elite runners where you could write a personal message! I wrote a little message, then afterward (looking at the picture) noticed out of all the places I could have written it was alongside a fellow Brit!
I wasn’t really interested in buying anything, although I did have a look round for some wireless earphones (still not found any yet). So I went along to watch the guest speakers. It started off with a Q&A about Social Media in Running. They had 4 people who are Digital Champions for the marathon, and utilise Social Media, mainly twitter, to interact with each other, and other runners, about they training leading up to the Marathon. It was interesting to hear how they have utilised social media to open up their access to other runners, and made friendships along the way.
The next set of speakers were Virginia Lee and Rick Rayman who have both run every full marathon the Toronto Waterfront Marathon has put on. I understand that the inital races were half marathons and they only started to hold the full marathons after 10 years, and these two have run every single one so far. So they talked about their experience, and how its changed over the years and how it compares with other races.
The next speaker was the one and only John Stanton, the Founder and Owner of the Running Rooms. He gave advice on running a marathon, and any race really! How to prepare, what to expect before during and after race, and gave his own experiences.
The last set of speakers I saw were some runners who were going to embark on their first full marathons at this event. This was great to see. I could relate to them all. I know my first full is along way in the future, but it is good to see how they were handling it. They were also part of the digital champions group and they all seemed to have taken part in the Around the Bay race, and this is where they first met each other. It’s a 30 Km race, and seems like a good stepping stone race between the half and the full marathons. I decided to follow suit, and have gone ahead and signed myself up for that one too. It’s at the end of March next year, and just a couple of weeks before my training plan wants me to do that distance, so fairly well timed too!
After this, I did one last walk round of the expo, and then made my way back to my hotel. Later, I met up with an old friend for a pasta meal and a nice glass of wine! Just the one! It was an early night for me, although it was not a very early start, I thought it would be a good idea to try and rest a little.
It was set to be a dry, but chilly morning! My phone weather app said 4 deg C! Not actually that bad for running, but the waiting around would be cold! I got up showered and changed into my race wear. I wore my race day tee underneath my army run long sleeve shirt. This was just in case I got too warm, then I could take off the long sleeve, and tie around my waist. I didn’t need to do that at all.
My hotel was not too far from the start of the race, so I walked. Besides, the subway doesn’t start before 9am on a Sunday! The walking kept me warm, so that was good. I walked along in the general direction of where I thought it was going to be, and soon enough other runners were going my way so I knew I was OK. But on reaching the Start I soon realised I came up from the wrong side! The corrals were enclosed – see blue railings in pic below – and they had openings at each corral. I was in the Purple corral, which was way way way down, and there was no way to get in and walk through! I started to panic a little. I had read somewhere that you needed to arrive at least 10 minutes before the race start (not your corral start). I had got to the start line on time, but with all the crowds siphoning in, there was a huge bottleneck and by the time I got to my corral it was dead on 8:45, and there did not seem to be room to get in. Panic over though, I managed to slowly creep my way in the gaps, and also as each corral started and moved up, it was an easier fit.
The race started. The Half marathon and Full marathon started at the same time, and shared the corrals. You could see the pace bunnies for both of them too! My corral started 20 minutes after the initial start. I didn’t really have any “goals” other than finish and beat my last time. I saw the run/walk pace bunny for 02:45 and I decided that this time I will make sure I stick with this guy! I would rather be ahead – but I would allow it in this case. I was a little worried before running this race. I had not prepped as well as I should have. Because of that, I decided to do the 10:1 run/walk method. It worked out really well for me. I actually felt pretty good throughout the race. I took the same nutrition with me as the last race. I ended up only needing to use 1 GU! I drank Gatorade at each of the aid stations, and water at the last couple. Around the course was great crowd support. Whether in groups, on their own or at cheer stations – everyone was cheering, high five-ing and shouting your name and words of encouragement. Although this was great, I did find the Army run was much better in this respect. But I was enjoying myself all the same. At 20 KM the course split, turn left for the half, or continue on for the full. You could not really go wrong – just before someone was shouting “Half Marathon on the left, Full Marathon on the right” but the actual turn off there were two inflated arches and cones along the middle of the split… so lets hope nobody got it wrong.
The last 1.1 km felt like the longest! It felt like it would never end. But the closer you got to the finish line, the more the crowds became. They filled out the finish line, as if it were a packed stadium. The screams and cheers of good will helped so much to will you to the finish. That was a huge difference for the better, to the Army run where there was hardly any one at the finish line – apart from the announcer , a few spectators dotted around and the soldiers handing out the medals.
So the medal was put over my head, I finished it! I did it in a time of 2:43:04 with a pace of 7:33 min/km. That was 5 minutes better than my last one! I was so pleased. The walk through to the finish area, seemed really long. I don’t think my legs could take anymore. I got one of those foil blankets – which really helped keep me warm. The food was not just handed to you, or there for you to pick. You had to handover a food slip – which was at the bottom of the bib. There was yogurt and a fruit flat bread, and some wheat thins, and bottle of water. They were doing the presentations for the elite runners and then a band was due to be on.
I couldn’t hang around though, as I had to go back and checkout of my hotel. I managed to extend my checkout a couple of hours though, thankfully! I definately got the subway back, as I would not have been able to walk at that stage. And going down or up stairs was complete agony! But bed was calling me so I had no choice. I took a nap for an hour, then got up changed packed my bags and checked out. I did a little sight seeing before catching my train home. I wore compression calf sleeves for the journey home.
My medal is the best yet! Very classy, and quite heavy too! I really enjoyed this race. It was lovely seeing Toronto again – and the views from the waterfront were lovely.
Two Half Marathons down, One to go! Disney hear I come!