On July 24th, I was in Toronto to run another half marathon. When I registered, I was purely attracted to the fact that the race took place close to the beach and through the Beaches neighborhood of Toronto, hence the name of the race: the Toronto Beaches Jazz Run Half Marathon. The idea of running this course was neat to me. Summer running conjured up this image of running on the beach, barefoot in the sand! In reality, it wasn’t quite like what I expected.
My husband and I arrived early Saturday morning, the day before the race. Our flight was delayed for hours and I was extremely tired from this flight into Toronto. Coupled with the extreme heat when we arrived, it was not a great idea to run outside. Period. The humidex for Saturday was close to record-breaking, something like 40 degrees Celsius, or 108-110 degrees Fahrenheit.
When we went to pick up my bib that afternoon, the heat was so intense that we were sweating buckets. Heat warnings were issued all around the city. I didn’t even want to step out of the car, knowing that I would be sacrificing the AC that was blasting inside our vehicle. However, when I finally forced myself to, the walk across the street to the bib pick up location seemed like an impossible task. It was truly that kind of unbearably hot afternoon.
Where the running store was located was in Greektown, a neighborhood just east of downtown Toronto. After picking up the race package, we walked by this little courtyard, and guess what I saw: the “Marathon Flame”, established as a “symbol of world peace, and to spread the ideals of the Marathon around world – the spirit of fair competition and the promotion of participation in sports as way of life”. The original Marathon Flame, maintained in the Marathon Run Museum in Marathon, Greece, is lit once every year in the fall, on the eve of the Athens Classic Marathon. There is a Marathon Flame exchange program, involving other cities that organize major international marathons. Toronto is one of the designated partner cities of the exchange program (as the city hosts the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon usually every October), and as such, a flame burns permanently, proudly advocating the spirit of the marathon. See the picture below. It was very meaningful to me.
We grabbed lunch at this popular Greek restaurant. It was late afternoon, and yet it was still packed with patrons. We all ordered souvlaki pitas (chicken, lamb). The portions were huge, and the pitas were completely stuffed. Normally I don’t eat heavy for my lunch and dinner before a race. Somehow though, I couldn’t pass on the chance to try some authentic Greek food, which didn’t disappoint.
Leaving the restaurant and walking back to the car was like walking into a huge oven. We were baking from the heat. We just wanted some ice cold drinks. So we stopped at the Starbucks, and walked out with ice lattes to keep us cool. Seems to be just my luck because every time I have come back to run in Toronto, it has somehow always been extremely hot. Without a doubt though, this race was the worst.
The morning of, before the sun came up, it was a pleasant morning. At 7:30 am, the race started. There was a 10KM and a 5KM as well, but they started after the half marathoners. The course started on the beach, which is lined with a boardwalk that spans for quite a few miles. Once the gun went off, right away I felt my footing was off. I could barely run on the boardwalks. They were so uneven, I had a rough time getting into a rhythm.
I thought I could stay with the 2:10 pace bunny, but within minutes, he and his group were gone. Then the 2:15 pacer caught up to me around 5KM, at which point I knew that this was not going to be my day. Every step felt like taking 2 steps. I tried my best to at least run in a pack, and soon even that seemed impossible. From that point on, I just decided to run whatever pace my body could handle. Guess what, by 15KM mark, even the 2:20 pacer passed me. On most normal racing days, I would have felt devastated. But that day, I was fine. I was simply accepting that the weather was doing strange things to my body.
I ran along, however each step got harder and heavier. I was definitely fatigued from the flight the day before and 100% blamed it on the extreme humidex. I was just not acclimatized to the heat. Nevertheless, I did my best to finish the race in the best form I could. The last 2KM was back on the boardwalk, which I found slowed me down a lot. But, as the saying goes, when life throws you lemons…make lemonade. Adversity is what builds us. We learn to believe in ourselves. Especially in situations like these, I always try to remind myself that the most important thing is to try my best and never give up.
A nice surprise for me was when my husband, who was volunteering for the race in the morning, personally handed me my finisher’s medal! Below are a few pictures of me before and after the race. Sometimes, the tougher it is to earn something, the more it is treasured. So I will definitely be treasuring this medal.
Run happy my friends! And believe in yourselves, even on the toughest days 🙂