On a very mild but wet morning on October 16th, about 10,000 half marathoners and nearly 3,900 marathoners lined the streets of downtown Toronto’s University Avenue for the annual Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront half marathon and marathon (and 5K). I was running the half marathon, which I had done once before, along with the marathon, having done it once a few years ago.
Since there were so many participants, we were assigned a corral based on expected finish time. So I assigned myself to the second last corral – which included the 4:25 marathon pacer and the 2:15 half pacer (the half marathoners and marathoners started at the same time). Waiting for the start of the race reminded me of the Vancouver Sun Run (with 45,000 runners annually), given the amount of people crammed into the corrals.
The route went north along University Avenue, then past Yorkville and Bloor to Bathurst towards Lakeshore Blvd. At that point, which was about the 8k mark, I saw a couple of super-fast marathoners run by the other way. Everyone clapped and cheered. As each km we passed, more and more marathoners passed me by. They all looked so focused & strong. As I approached the half-way mark, the drizzly rain finally stopped. But the roads were still crowded with runners.
But at about the 20 km mark, which was near the foot of Lakeshore Blvd and Bay Street (the downtown financial district), the full & half marathon runners split, and suddenly the roads emptied out. Then I was headed towards an under-pass which led to Bay Street (the financial district of Toronto). This was a slight uphill, and along the route there were signs saying 500 metres to go, 400 metres to go, 300, 200, then 100. When I arrived at the finish line, the first female Canadian marathoner just came in. All the cameras were on the elites.
For elite Canadian runners, this has got to be the biggest running event in Canada. In case you missed the news, an 85 year old (young) runner by the name of Ed Whitlock broke the 85+ age group marathon record by more than half an hour. He has over 22 world records under his belt. He ran an awesome sub-four hour marathon. So amazing!!! This marathon also holds the record for the fastest Canadian marathoner, whose record wasn’t broken this year. So many accomplished Elite Canadian Olympians have all come very close to breaking the old record, which is still standing.
For myself, this was my 119th lifetime half marathon. To have run it in a city I once called home was very special. Between my gun time and chip time must be a good 20 minutes, but as I was chatting with my girlfriend who happened to be from Vancouver, time went by so fast while waiting for the corrals to go. While waiting, I met this half fanatic who was qualifying for the Half Fanatic asylum that day.
The neat thing about this event was the tribute paid to the origins of the marathon, whose roots date back to ancient Greece. From the race website it states that Toronto is one of the designated partner cities of the “Marathon Flame”, which was “established in 2007 to burn as a symbol of world peace and to spread the ideals of the Marathon around the world”. As such, there is an official flame lighting three days prior to the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon and during the remainder of the year, the flame rests in Greektown at Alexander the King Parkette. Before the race started, the national anthem of Greece was sung, followed by the Canadian anthem in English and then in French. I really liked the idea of paying respect to the history of marathon running.
Thank you Toronto for putting on a world-class event. Loved the day, loved the race, and mainly loved my medal!