I went into Toronto on Friday after work and spent Friday evening and Saturday hanging out with my friends Laura and Douglas. On race morning I woke up at 6:45 am, ate breakfast and got myself organized. The forecast was calling for clear conditions with a low around 0C and a high of about 10C. I had made the decision to wear shorts with a long sleeved technical t-shirt, gloves and a baseball hat. I was slightly concerned that I was going to be too cold at the start of the race but decided to risk it because being too hot later in the race would be worse.
At about 7:40am four of us racing the marathon climbed into a cab for the drive to the start line at Mel Lastman Square. We heard the 8am half marathon start and then ducked in to a municipal building that was open to runners. It was certainly nice to get to wait for the start indoors since it was chilly out. After some nervous chatter and a pre race gel we made out way out to the corrals about 15 minutes before the start and lined up between the “sub 4:00” and “4:00+” signs.
The gun went off and the race was underway!
Part 1: Down and Up Yonge Street, 0-10km in 57:46 (average 5:47 min/km)
There were only about 2200 marathoners so the start wasn’t too crowded and I was able to settle into my pace fairly quickly without wasting energy weaving around people. At some point during the second kilometer Douglas pulled up next to me and we started running together. We hadn’t planned to run the race together but we were both happy to have the company so we stuck together. I really didn’t want to go out too fast so I was monitoring our pace trying to keep our splits somewhere around 5:45-5:50. There were a few rolling hills in this first section including a fairly long uphill during the fifth kilometer which lead to the slowest km of the day at 6:08. It actually wasn’t that bad of a hill but it was daunting because we could see it coming from a ways off.
We kept rolling down (an occasionally up) Yonge street checking off subway stops until south of Eglington when we turned off into a lovely neighbourhood with tree lined streets and big houses. I took a gel somewhere in the ninth kilometer. I carried four gels with me (all of which I would take) and a plastic water bottle that I threw away after the first water station. After that I just went with what they had on course and it worked out fine.
Part 2: Rosedale and into Downtown, 10-21.1km in1:03:09 (average 5:41 min/km)
We continued moving along at a comfortable pace running past Upper Canada College and Casa Loma. This was exciting for me because I used to run past Casa Loma during the summer of 2000 when I lived in downtown Toronto. This section had a lot of downhills including one during our fastest kilometer of the day: 5:23 for kilometer 12. We did a lovely set of about four kilometers on Rosedale Valley Road. This was my favourite section of the course. The trees were in full autumn colours and it was quiet and peaceful. In other words there were no angry motorists honking because the marathon was blocking traffic!
We came out of the valley onto Bayview Ave and then onto Front St. This was probably my least favourite section of the course. The road was a little uneven and mixed with asphalt, concrete and street car tracks. We were passing half marathon walkers at this point so I had to be a bit more aware of my surrondings. Also the CN tower was looming in the distance and I knew that not only did I have to run to it but I also had to go way past it and then back again!
Douglas and I were holding a strong pace. We went through the half in 2:00:55 (chip time). I was very happy that we weren’t sub 2:00. We made our target pace 5:41 min/km and figured that with a few occasional faster kilometers a sub 4:00 finish was possible.
Part 3: Queen’s Quay and the Lakeshore Pathway, 21.1-30km in 50:35 (average 5:41 min/km)
As we were running out of downtown we saw the marathon leader go by us heading towards the finish line. We were still a long way away from finishing so I just focused on making it to the turn around at the Humber Bay Arch Bridge. We maintained a strong pace but it was definitely getting harder to sustain. My legs were making their presence known and the wind picked up making things a bit more difficult. Somewhere around 25 km I finally took off my throw away gloves and made the joke that I was taking off the gloves and getting serious.
Part 3: Lakeshore to Queen’s Park, 30-42.2km in1:10:51 (average 5:48 min/km)
As Douglas and I headed back towards downtown we were consistently picking off runners ahead of us. In the end we would pass 203 runners in this section while only being passed by six. Yes, we were that awesome.
I should mention that there was a marathon relay being run concurrently with the marathon. There were eight legs so each relay runner ran about 5km. Needless to say they went flying by us. Fortunately most of them had a bib on their back that read RELAY so you could at least justify their speed as they bounded past you.
Douglas was definitely pulling me along in this section. He seemed to have just a tiny bit more in his legs than I did. At first he was a step ahead of me, then it was 5 meters and by the time we hit the turn up York street it was about 20 meters. We’d already had the discussion that when we got close to the end we each had to run our own races so I was happy to see him pushing the pace. The funny thing was that we were both passing everyone on the course but the distance between us was staying fairly consistent.
The last three km up York and University Ave were very very hard. For about the last two km I could see Queen’s Park in the distance and I just knew I needed to make it there. I took a few very short walk breaks but I kept pushing whatever pace I could squeeze out of my legs. Just after the 41 km mark I caught up to Douglas and told him that we were going to finish this thing together. We saw Laura cheering us on along the bend behind Queen’s Park and then matched each other stride for stride as we sprinted for the finish.
Finish: 4:02:21 (average 5:45 min/km)
My chip finish time was 4:02:21 which is a 7:58 improvement over my previous personal best from 2008 in Seattle. I didn’t break 4 hours but I left everything I had out on the course so there’s no way I can be disappointed with my result. I’m also thrilled that my half marathon splits of 2:00:55 and 2:01:26 were so close. A 31 second positive split is some very consistent pacing and I firmly believe that this is the most efficient way for me to run a marathon.
- Consistent pacing is the way to go
- On a cool day I do not need to carry my own water/Gatorade.
- Next time around I think I should include more marathon pace sections into my long runs.
- It’s really nice to have a running partner. Thanks for racing with me Douglas!
- After a marathon it helps to have someone around who can think straight. Thanks for taking care of us Laura
Finally here is the “Achievement Statistics” report generated by the marathon for me (you can click to get a bigger view).