Just a few months late, I’m finally getting around to posting on my final race of the season last year, the Toronto Scotiabank Half Marathon, which took place on a rainy Sunday, October 14th. The middle of October in Toronto is just about that time when it’s also starting to get a bit cool, and the weather was less than inspiring as I set out to walk down to the start line at 7:00 a.m. I’d gone into Toronto the night before to stay with friends and left them (and their four cats) sleeping as I stepped out into the rain.
I didn’t sleep that well before the race – my friends are big baseball fans, Detroit Tiger fans specifically, and a Detroit playoff game went into extra-innings on Saturday night – this was fun to watch, but I think that I finally fell asleep at 1:00 and was then up again at 6:00 to make sure that I ate far enough in advance of the start. That said, I didn’t feel particularly tired, and after a good breakfast I was feeling ready to go. Although the rainy weather made for a miserable walk down to the race, I was actually pleased that it was pretty cool – I seem to run a lot better in cold weather and I don’t think sun would have been very helpful in the end.
The Scotiabank Marathon/Half Marathon is a huge event, but I got myself into the corral early enough that I had time to warm-up and wasn’t too far back in the pack. This was my first half-marathon, so I wasn’t entirely sure how my body would react as the race went on, but I’d put in some good training before the race (focusing more on running after the last triathlon of the season a month before) and was aiming to go sub 1hour 3ominutes. The Toronto course is a relatively fast one, so I at least wanted to give it my best shot and not have regrets after the race.
I was feeling pretty psyched to go with about two minutes to go, when something remarkable happened: the pre-race announcer informed everyone that Doug Ford (Toronto councilor and brother of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford: both less than supportive of active transportation) had come to watch the beginning of the race, at which point boos resounded throughout the start corrals. With that, and a laugh, we were off.
Even though I had my watch and could follow my pacing all alone, I decided at first to follow the 1:30 pace-bunny. This was a mistake in some respects: the pace-bunny, while a nice person, was a bit annoying and I got pretty tired of his commentary after two or three kilometres. He also wasn’t pacing very well, as we ran the first 6-10kms well below 1:30 pace – after a bit of an incline, a gradual decline down to the waterfront facilitated 4:00 kilometres for a little bit. This was actually fine with me, but I do think pacers should stay as close to schedule as possible (I imagine that some people following him really felt that pace increase at about km 15!).
The advantage to following him was that I got in with a group of runners, who helped me to block the wind. There was in the end a pretty strong wind on the day (which slowed down everyone, including the pros: the winning marathon time was, dare I say it, a mere 2:10!), and I was able to conserve energy by running within a group through to km 12. After that, I was feeling strong and so decided to move ahead of the 1:30 pace group to try and aim a bit higher. I made this move at the same time as a very solid marathoner running at the pace I wanted to keep (she also agreed that the pacer’s banter was a bit annoying!) – having someone to run with helped me pace and my legs were feeling strong.
At km 20, with an incline, I started to notice that my legs weren’t as fresh as they once were, but I still felt pretty good and was on pace for 1:27. I only felt really tired when I turned the corner to head up an incline for the last kilometre: when I did so, I hit a wall of wind and felt like I was standing still for a few seconds. I therefore dropped my pace a bit in the final km and had to let 1:27 slip, but I nonetheless crossed the finish line in 1:28:28 (net time). That was well under my goal of 1:30 and I was pretty pleased with it for my first half-marathon race. That put me in place 151 out of 9690 entrants.
After the race I went for brunch with my friends hosting me and an old friend from high school, which was great. I ate a lot and then hopped on the bus home. The race was really a lot of fun, and it was a great way to end the racing season for me. I’m already looking forward to next season!