Yesterday was the Toronto Marathon and what an exciting day it was! This time I had the pleasure of spectating as opposed to running and while it was tempting to lace up and join the hoards of runners, I had just as much fun (and less pain!) from the other side.
It was dark and cold (close to freezing) when we departed for downtown at 6AM. The route started at the north end of the city at Mel Lastman Square and we arrived with plenty of time to spare at 6:30. At that time, you would hardly know a race was starting in 90 minutes! There were no signs, the starting area was not set up (timing mats were not even down) and very few people were milling around. It was quite a change from our experience at Scotia.
Thankfully there was a building (library?) open for the runners to seek some warmth, so we hung out there until closer to race time. Hubby took off for his final washroom break and warm-up, and a little before 8:30 (30 minutes to gun) we headed toward the starting line. But wait a second, where IS the starting line? The banner was facing the wrong way! Some runners had started lining up facing the sign, so they would be running south, but hubby was sure they should be heading north. Sure enough, the announcer eventually informed everyone that they should be lining up to run north. And so the chaos began!
We have never seen such an unorganized and chaotic start for several reasons – no corrals (for 5000+ runners, you need corrals!), no barricades controlling the entrace to the starting lineup (i.e. runners entering from all directions, displacing those who had lined up early).
The race ended up starting late by about 5 minutes due to runners showing up at the last minute (when the race is scheduled to start at 9:00AM, why do people show up at 8:55?!). Anyone who has run the Toronto Half before, is it always like this?
They eventually got started but I later found out from my hubby that he was fighting crowds and dodging slower runners for the first few kilometres.
As soon as the race started I got in the car and drove to find parking near the finish area at Queen’s Park. I arrived in plenty of time to see the lead half marathoners finish. I nervously watched the clock, eagerly awaiting my hubby’s finish. He came in right on target at 1:40:38.
His ultimate goal for the year is <1:40, but this was technically a "training run" and the real deal is Hamilton on November 2nd. Considering the crowded start, a few significant hills on course and some glitches with his watch (he thought he was running target pace for the first 5K when he was actually much slower), I’m sure he’ll reach his goal in two weeks on a nice flat course with significantly fewer runners.
Once he had finished, we headed down to the lakeshore to watch for our friends running the full (started 1 hour later). We found a good spot around the 23K mark and took in this amazing view, all the while cheering like fools.
I absolutely love cheering at races. While some runners seem to be totally in the zone and don’t appear to notice, the occasional nod, smile, wave and even thank you makes it feel like I could actually be making a difference. I know the crowd support during my first marathon got me through some of the tougher kilometres. I actually believed people when they said I was “Looking strong!” or “Almost there!” Sometimes it helps to have just a little distraction from the pain and fatigue. I am always grateful to the spectators and try to thank everyone who goes the extra mile to offer some support.
My friend Patricia (my partner for the City Chase in June) was right on target for a 3:30 finish when she passed. Her hubby followed soon after, keeping an excellent pace for his first marathon.
After giving them both high fives and waving our signs, we headed back to the finish line to wait for them to come in. We were lucky enough to see Mel at this point who kept us company while we waited for the big finish. We waited on the final bend toward the finish, with only 100 metres or so the go. It was amazing seeing everyone come in, some looking strong, most looking absolutely exhausted, ALL looking 100% relieved. There is nothing like running the finishing chute of a marathon…brought me back to a few weeks ago when I was one of those people!
Before long we saw Patricia in the distance and knew she was going to achieve her goal of a Boston qualifier. For her second marathon, she clocked an amazing 3:36:51. So awesome! Her hubby finished soon after with a solid time of 4:02:28 for his first 42.2.
It was such an exciting day and I was thrilled to be a part of it. All the runners raved that it was a beautiful course, one I definitely hope to run in the future.