Today, I ran the Toronto Marathon and completed the half marathon. I was originally scheduled to the full, but a nagging back injury and my lack of winter training caused me to scale back to the half instead. Spring had finally sprung in a beautiful way in Toronto and temperatures were fast forwarding us towards summer-like temperatures for what ended up being a warm race.
Boston, We Run With You
A couple of weeks in advance of the race, I saw a twitter feed promoting a Boston-themed tech shirt that was being produced to raise funds for the Boston Children’s Hospital in memory of the Boston Marathon tragedy. I was happy to participate in this grass-roots campaign and was glad to have my race day shirt chosen for me.
The pre-race expo was efficient and simple – perhaps a bit too simple as you were handed your bib and t-shirt without a bag to carry them. This year’s race shirt is a nice red and white colour and will look great on Canada Day – a vast improvement over the turquoise colour faux pas from last year (apologies for those who actually liked it). The fit of the shirt, however, is a bit tight at the collar – I’m already well aware that I have a big head, but this shirt really reminds me of that fact.
The Pre-Race Preamble
Getting to the race was not a problem; I was able to park on a side street and make my way towards the start at North York Centre. The centre provided a nice warm environment to stretch and use the washrooms (tip: the lower levels have shorter line ups). The baggage drop off was just outside the centre and it was one big pile of bags inside a truck which wasn’t the most reassuring feeling. I did notice that some runners weren’t aware of the bag dropoff cutoff as I saw them running with their gear (note for future reference: cutoff for half marathon bag dropoff is 7:45am).
An Awesome Paceband and Pacebunny
At the expo I picked up a personalized paceband from Marathon Dynamics who provide customized training plans and coaching for runners. The band had my name, my exact target race time and, wait for it, even splits that were adjusted to the course elevation – how cool is that? The band was very useful in the early parts of the race in tracking that I had the right splits at the right time (tip: use the thumb from your opposite hand to point to make it easier to read your next split as your running).
At race start, however, I also opted to follow the 1:35 pace rabbit and he was absolutely great! I usually run with music and headphones, but the pace rabbit was providing such great coaching and encouragement that I opted to listen to him throughout the race. He would talk to all the runners, coach us up the hills with shorter steps and reminded us to take advantage of the downhills. He warned us that the sun would shine on us at Rosedale valley and reassured us that we were “looking good.” If any of you know who the 1:35 pace rabbit was, please extend my thanks to him!
A Satisfying Finish
I tried hanging onto the 1:35 pace rabbit for as long as I could and I basically lost some steam at the 15K mark. My 4:30s were dropping down to 4:57s and I was just trying to hang on. I ended up with a 1:37:17 and I was happy to be under 1:40 again for a half. The post-race was what you would expect with bananas, oranges, bagels, Gatorade and Powerbars. The bag pickup was really well organized with well-marked baggage numbers and many volunteers to retrieve your bag. I took advantage of the free massage tent and was fortunate to have two therapists work on me at once (anybody who is willing to massage sweaty post-race runners deserve a medal in my books).
In Search of Shuttles
The one frustration at the end, however, was in terms of waiting for the shuttle to take us out of Ontario Place. I waited at the designated area and waited, and waited, got sunburned, and waited. Frustrated, I walked over to the TTC stop, and waited, and waited, only to have the wrong bus come by multiple times. Transportation out of the finish area was frustrating – I just wanted to head home. Aside from this quibble, it was still a beautiful spring day, and I decided that it was still a great day for a race.
Trying to keep the pace,