The Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon – Oct 2015

Trek and Run were supported during this event by;

Salba Chia 

Columbia Sportswear

The Steam Whistle Brewery

&

Helly Hansen

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Words by Trevor Murphy and Dave Wise

First up, here’s a short video we shot during the event, to give you an idea of the course and atmosphere.

Trevor: October 18th 2014 I was probably sitting on my couch, sneaking outside every hour or two to puff on a cigarette. October 18th 2015 I accomplished the biggest physical goal by far that I’d ever set for myself.

Running marathons is hard work. Really hard work. They rightfully say getting to the start line is 95% of the battle and I agree with that statement completely. Many many times you will have to force yourself to put the shoes on and get out there and train. Train hard, train harder than you ever have before. You will want to cut training runs short when you’re tired. Slow down and walk when you really need to keep running. You’ll hear your inner voice complaining, pleading, doing anything it can to prevent you from continuing and you must be stronger than that voice.

When the countdown to the start was starting I thought back to all those training runs I had done. All the proper nutrition I forced myself to cook and eat. The weight I’d lost (25lbs), countless books and articles I read on body mechanics, muscle function, proper running form, recovery and many other technical tidbits that helped me understand the challenge I was facing. It takes a lot of discipline, perseverence, and sheer guts to do this. I whishpered to myself “do something special today” and immediately burst into tears right there and then in the start corral surrounded by 25,000 other fellow runners.

This is meaningful stuff, I thought, and I’m really doing something I never thought myself capable of. The sheer pride and relief experienced in that moment just overwhelmed me completely and I just burst. I’m a tough guy huh? Sobbing there as I am about to do the hardest thing physically that I’ve ever attempted. I’d run the distance in 30c at the peak of a summer’s day and survived, but this would be the real test. No more pacing yourself to a nice easy comfortable long training run pace. This was war! All out, hold nothing back, leave it all out on the course and do my absolute very best and see what happens. Game face back on, wipe those eyes and show the world just how tough you really are. Lets do this! Game on!

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So, what did the Trek and Run team think of the whole event?

What did you think of the pre-event information (i.e. emails, website info)?

Trevor; The Scotiabank people seem to run a pretty tight operation. I always felt ‘in the loop’ and found their website info to be very easy to follow. This was a relief to a first time marathon runner like myself as I already had a lot going on in my mind and appreciated not having to go digging for the information I needed to make me feel ready for the event.

Dave: Good, all I needed. No surplus emails or events; you can tell the organisers are experienced. There were a few free warm up runs in the preceding months which, if you’re living in the city or can get here easily, are meant to offer you a chance to gauge your fitness and meet other runners taking part in the event, which I thought was a good idea. The registration was easy and I got an email a few days before the event with my race number on it, and details of how to pick it up at the Expo.

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What did you think of the race village/venue when you arrived on the day?

Trevor: The start finish facilities were good. The race day weather was quite cold and I think one change that would have been nice was to have city hall open and available to the participants to stay warm, use washrooms and have a place to wait for the race to start. This was more likely due to the city itself rather than the organizers. The Sheraton Center Hotel across the street was very accomodating and it was really nice to be able to warm up and change into our race gear there. Many thanks to them for be gracious enough to accomodate the many runners who did use the hotel for these purposes.

Dave: It was cold! But I’ll get onto that point later. Nathan Philips square is large and easily accommodated the race HQ experience. There were lots of volunteers around from a couple of hours before the race wearing ‘Ask Me’ shirts so there was never any issue with knowing where to go.

How was the start line experience? Was it easy to get into the corrals, to find pacers, to move about and get going?

Trevor: The start line experience was a bit of a mess. I suspect because I choose to aim for a 4 hour marathon that I ended up in the most crowded corral of the day. The half marathoners aiming for two hours were with us and you could barely move. The organizers even chastised us for taking so long to clear the corral. I think this is something they could address and maybe double the size of that corral to allow for the sheer volume of people choosing that as their target time.

Dave: The race starts on a very wide avenue so moving about was very easy for me, I walked to the red corral, which is the place for those thinking they’ll go 3:30 or under, about 5 minutes before the race was due to start and there was lots of room to walk about both outside the corral and once I got in. The pacers were a little mixed up, with the 3:05 guy well behind the 3:15 guy, so it took a while to get to where I wanted to be. Once the hooter went to start the race, my coral was the first across the line so I was off within a minute.

Tell us about the course; should people expect a fast, well supported or scenic run?

Trevor: The course was fantastic. Starting off in the core of the city and then progressing on to the beautiful lakeshore. The only long sustained climb came quite early in the race when legs were fresh and it was quite gentle and easily managed with a slight drop in pace to even out the effort. This course is very flat overall and therefore quite fast. This is where you are going to set your PB, so take advantage and enjoy. The volunteers were exceptional and really provided everything we could of asked for on the run. One thing they could have done is added many more portable toilets in the first part of the course. There were lineups at the toilets and seeing as this was a timed event, I saw a few people taking advantage of some bushes along the lakeshore instead of waiting.

Dave: Here are the stats from my watch; as you can see the course has lots of long, straight sections where you can get into a rhythm, and a total elevation of 278m so with this in mind it’s possible to get a PB on it (although maybe not if you’ve raced extensively on very flat courses like, for instance, Manchester Marathon in the UK, which has a total elevation of just 50m).

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There’s good pockets of crowd support but also sections where there is none. However, on one of these empty sections you did get good views of the CN Tower and Lake Ontario to keep you focused. After the CN Tower, when you moved into the second half of the course, you have to gut it out for the next 10km until you get to the Beaches as, with the exception of a small Greek party area, there’s little support and the scenery is often dull.

So overall I’d say it was an interesting course, scenery wise, with decent crowd support and it’s flat and straight enough to warrant thoughts of a PB race.

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What were your best memories from the entire event?

Trevor: My best memories were of the positive attitude expressed by my fellow runners. I was really enjoying the experience in the first half and high fiving the great spectators, exchanging fun banter with my competitors and the feeling was one of celebration of our shared passion for running.

Dave: Getting to meet the elite athletes at the Expo, that was a thrill, as was seeing them run, which I did twice when they passed me on sections of the course. Seeing them run in person is like going into a well curated art gallery, its natural poetry.

Running the flyover just near the CN Tower (the tower is a fine sight). I loved the little pocket of Greek supporters – so genuine and uplifting – and also the section of crowd in the Beaches between km 32 and 34, loads of noise there and great feeling. The crowds from St Lawrence Market to the final turning were superb too.

I was impressed by how much of a community event the marathon is, there are so many volunteers involved! Every water station was so well staffed, there were loads of marshals and all of them were cheery, which isn’t easy I imagine, when it’s so cold and you’re in one place for hours. So bravo to the volunteers, and also to the organiser’s for recruiting them and training them so well.

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And any low points or parts of the day you didn’t enjoy?

Trevor: My personal low point was the realization at around the 28km mark that I was about to have my hamstrings cramp and therefore my goal of a sub 4 hour marathon would not be realized. I even thought that I may not be able to finish, which would have been crushing considering that I’ve run the full marathon distance is training twice already. I managed to stretch things out, drink as much as I could get and stopped many times to stretch my hamstrings. And, I finished proudly in 4:11.

Dave: The fact that the bag drop closed at 8am and the race didn’t start until 8.45, that was poor. Especially since it was Sunday morning and the Toronto transport system is so unreliable on a Sunday (there’re aren’t many buses and those that do run are often full so the driver’s won’t even stop for you, that’s my own personal experience anyway), so you have to set out much earlier than you really need to just to make sure that if you miss one bus, you have the chance of getting the next. So if the bus actually does arrive on time, as it did on Sunday, you get to where you want to be much earlier than needed. Add all this up and you have hundreds of runners standing around in the cold from 7am onwards (it was zero degrees with snowflakes in the air and the Town Hall security wouldn’t let runners in, as they had in previous years) and then there was a terrible time from 8am onwards when we all had to strip down to our race gear and stay warm as best we could (THANKS TO SHERATON HOTEL FOR LETTING US SHELTER IN THEIR LOBBY, YOU PROBABLY SAVED A FEW PEOPLE FROM HYPOTHERMIA!!!).

So that’s my only complaint; the bag drop closing so early. There’s no way that should happen. Regardless of logistical reasons, this is Toronto, it’s October and there’s a good chance it’ll be very cold at 8am. Runners should be allowed to keep their warm clothes on until 10 minutes before the race if they want to. And yes, it was said that you should wear old clothes to the event and then toss them away once you start running but all my sports gear is good stuff, expensive too, there’s no way I want to toss it away, even if it is old.

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How is the medal/t-shirt/goodie bag and in general the post-race experience?

Trevor: The medal, t shirt and goodie bag were a bit disappointing to be honest. Having said that, I wouldn’t have cared if I didn’t recieve any of them, as that was not part of my motivation in doing this. Hopefully next years swag will be a bit better. The post race bench racing, this time at the Steam Whistle Brewery, is always a very pleasant experience. You get to celebrate your accomplishment with friends, tip a few beers and revel in the glow of a job well done.

Dave: The T-Shirt isn’t a classic. It’s a dull grey colour and the design is on the front only. It’s also American sizing, which means a medium comes up as if it were large (bear this in mind, Europeans).

The Expo was good for testing out samples of running nutrition and they had some fantastic deals on tech shirts there.

The goodie bag was ok, a couple of samples and a very good Canadian running magazine.

The medal is pretty good. Classy yet substantial. Just big enough, but not so big so as to make you think the race has some inferiority complex. I do feel that the organiser’s let themselves down a little with the T-Shirt but their extensive experience really shows in the medal design.

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How would you sum up the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 5 words?

Trevor: Toughest thing I’ve ever done… to sneak in 3 more words… I loved it!

Dave: A friendly, pretty fast race offering a good look around the city’s iconic scenery, sprinkled with pockets of support that you’ll remember for a while. Is that more than 5 words? Oh…

 To learn more about the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, please see http://www.torontowaterfrontmarathon.com/en/index.htm

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