Monday, 21 October 2013

Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon

Three weeks ago I completed the Berlin Marathon with mixed emotions. While my finish time was disappointing, I was able to look on the bright side in overcoming immense physical pain and being in an incredible environment. Upon my return to Toronto, I began to contemplate my participation in the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. I had run the Goodlife Toronto Marathon five times previously since the start line is by my house, but the Scotiabank Marathon I had reservations about running in. These two marathons used to be separated by only three weeks, which is pretty ridiculous, so they moved the Goodlife Marathon to the spring a few years back. The Goodlife Marathon covers many neighborhoods and went through Rosedale Valley, where the fall colors made that part of the course particularly beautiful. With the Scotiabank Marathon, about half the run is near the waterfront, including the Gardiner Expressway and the industrial parts, which is not exactly my favorite part of the city. I mean, the waterfront is nice for a few kms, but not 20. This year however, I found out that this race allowed for bib transfers and found someone who was injured selling their bib for $50, more than half the price of what it would cost me to register. This would be a great opportunity to get in one last marathon this year and redeem myself after Berlin.
Going in, I had little to no expectations. I had concerns that my previous injury would flare up again, but was feeling good physically. Wanting to avoid the same issues that arose in Berlin, I left my house super early to ensure I could get into my corral a good 20 minutes before the starting gun being fired. The Scotiabank Marathon and Half-Marathon start at the same time, so there were about 14,000 near city hall getting ready to run. Luckily my corral was spacious and had no problem finding the 3:05 pace rabbit and getting close to the starting line. We were soon introduced to the several elite marathoners participating, looking to win the minimum prize of $20,000 (If the men's winner was Canadian and ran the course in under 2:06, they would win $105,000). The national anthem was then sung and Councilor Doug Ford was introduced as the race ambassador to a chorus of boos. The gun was then fired and we were off.
The start of the run went pretty well and was quite scenic. We passed Queen's Park and the ROM in the first few kms. Running west along Bloor Street, crowd support was fairly strong and appreciated seeing it was about 5 degrees and 9 in the morning. Turning south on Bathurst, the crowd support waned but picked back up once we reached King Street and again at Exhibition Place. As I was approaching the waterfront, I felt good and was keeping up with the pace rabbit. Not bad. Along the way I saw a guy in a foam rubber beer bottle costume with a sign that read "You know you want me", which made me chuckle.
At the 12 km mark, we were handed energy gels, which is a high sugar syrup that serves as a quick digesting fuel. I took one, hoping to not "hit the wall" later on (hitting the wall is when you have exhausted your glycogen reserves and have to burn fat for energy, which is not an efficient method of fueling the body when running). However, at the 15 km mark I hit the dreaded Goo Punch, which is when a gel gives you a massive stomach cramp. Sometimes I get it, sometimes I don't. I started slowing down, but my pace rabbit was only a 100m or so ahead of me. Maybe I could recover and catch up.
Unfortunately, between the 17th and 18th km my foot pain started to act up again. It wasn't the same pain as before as this time my ankle started to flare up, which was more concerning than before. Slowly but surely, the pace rabbit starting fading in the distance. Disappointing, but I can't give up.
As I passed the half marathon mark, I could hear the spectators laughing and shouting "Cookie Monster!" and knew exactly what was happening. Before the race there was a guy in a giant Cookie Monster headgear, with a carrot on a stick attached to it, except instead of a carrot it was a box of cookies. This dude was fast! He was wearing a costume not conducive for running yet he was motoring past myself and the runners ahead of me. I wonder how fast he would be if he wasn't wearing the costume!
Even though the pain in my ankle persisted, I was finally able to shake the goo punch. I also had no need to take walk breaks like I did in Berlin. The crowds became very sparse between kms 22 and 27 as we entered Polson Pier and the industrial areas, but there were still some cools sights and sounds, like a large Chinese dragon costume with Chinese drums being played and a great steel drum band. Soon we reached the Beaches where the crowd support picked up again. A few kms later, I could see the Toronto skyline in the distance. Not much further to go!
At the 40km mark, I reached the St. Lawrence Market and the crowds from here on out were going to be their strongest making it incredibly encouraging. Once I turned north on Bay Street, the finish line was only 500m away. Time to dig deep and finish strong. Crowds were getting thicker and louder. Signs were telling me 400m to go, 300m, 200m, 100m. The finish line is now in sight. I finally cross with a final time of 3:15:52. Only a couple minutes off my personal best time and I'm pretty happy with that.
I found out soon after that at this marathon the Canadian women's record was set by Lanni Marchant and the men's course record was set by Deressa Chimsa of Ethiopia. For setting the course record, he took home $55,000. Also, and most amazingly, Canadian Ed Whitlock ran his marathon in 3:41 at the age of 82! (exclamation, not factorial)
I'm very glad that I participated in this marathon. It was a well organized event and the volunteers were helpful and top notch. Their efforts as well as the crowds were highly appreciated. Not sure whether or not this marathon or the Goodlife marathon is the better event, but it's safe to say that my perception of this run has changed for the better.