It’s been almost a week, and memory is fading fast, so I thought I would jot down a few thoughts from the Toronto Waterfront Marathon that I ran last Sunday.
The good: I finished with a personal record time.
The bad: I missed my goal time, and was also still over four hours.
Sunday, October 16th was the date, and Toronto was the place. Eighteen weeks of training, and nearly 1000 miles of running culminated in one huge event. The Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, Half Marathon, and 5K was host to 22,000 runners. By far the biggest running event I’ve ever been a part of. The weather was cool, but not cold, about 12C. The wind, though, was 40 km/h, gusting to 60 km/h, from the west. I knew this was going to be a problem, because it’s an east-west course, so about half of the run was into the wind, and that included the final 7 km.
The start was nerve-wracking. I did all the things I need to do to get to my comfort zone, but the number of people was still amazing. The start corrals were a joke. I was mixed in with all the other colours, and it made for a very slow start. On the other hand, physically, I felt great. Really. I had been having problems with shin splints for about four weeks leading up to the marathon, and I had absolutely no trouble at all for the entire duration of the run. In fact, my shins were the only parts of my legs that weren’t sore by the end.
The first 5 km went by, and slowly the pace came up as the crowd thinned. Heading out on Lake Shore, I was still awed by the number of runners. About 9 km in, I saw the leaders heading back from the first out-and-back. That was really cool. Then, on my way back, I saw the 100-year-old Fauja Singh, who would later go on to become the oldest runner to complete a marathon, with a time just over eight hours.
During this part, my pace was too fast. I think the wind at my back may have boosted me, and mentally, I felt like I had time to make up after the slow start. This was a mistake. Around 20 km, as we went out on the lake, and the wind became a factor, I was starting to feel tired. My feet were sore; the left one had tendon pain where my laces were tied, and the right was getting a blister. Neither of these things had been problems since I got new shoes a month before. I pressed on.
Water stations were plentiful, and I had lots of water. Perhaps too much even. Anyways, I didn’t feel thirsty at all. Around 30 km, I was really feeling it, and time was starting to slow down. I knew I was in for trouble, because I still had 5 km till the turnaround, and then 7 km right into the wind. I started slowing my pace to conserve energy. There were a couple of hills, which I’m sure were no big deal, but seemed like mountains at that point. My hamstrings and calves certainly told me so.
At 35 km, we turned around, right into the wind, and sure enough, things weren’t feeling good. At this point, I actually caught sight of the 3:45 pace bunny, which was my target pace, but I could see there was no chance of me catching him, and certainly no chance of keeping his pace for the remainder. I kept dropping my pace at this point. I was slower than 6:00/km by now, and heading towards 6:20. For comparison, my first 20 km were around 5:15-5:20/km.
At this point, I didn’t even want GU anymore, and I started taking Gatorade at the aid stations. I wasn’t hungry, and I wasn’t thirsty, but things just weren’t working out. Somehow, I kept going. I told myself that if I stopped running, I wouldn’t make it to the finish.
I kept pushing and pushing, but at 39 km I just couldn’t win the mental battle anymore. Unfamiliarity with the territory didn’t help. I could see the Scotiabank tower, where the finish was, but it seemed a lot farther than 3 km away. I convinced myself that there was no way to get there. Throughout the run, there was lots of spectator support, and they really inspired me, but I had to walk at this point. I alternated running and walking for the next 2.5 km, but I ran that last 700 m down Wellington and Bay Streets. A slow run, but a run nonetheless. The finish was awesome, although a hard right turn 100 m from the end wasn’t very nice, and my hamstrings were so tight coming into the finish that I was basically limping over the line.
I made it. Chip time was 4:00:36. Thirty-six seconds was all that separated me from a sub-four-hour finish. But it was still a PR, so I’ll take it.
Nearly a week later, the pain has faded, and it seems that I avoided any permanent harm, so I’m looking forward to when I can do it again. Next time, I’ll try to be a bit more disciplined, and hope for less wind. It’s going to be a long winter.