Trek and Run were supported during this event by;
First, here’s a short film showing the route from a runners perspective.
This marathon is a Boston Qualifier and takes place just to the south-west of Toronto, starting inland and finishing at the shores of Lake Ontario. Here’s a couple of screenshots of my Tom Tom watch data that show the route of the event and also the elevation; as you can see, there’s a little bit of up and down but as long as you attack the downhills it’s a very fast course (both of our team members beat the Personal Best Record at this race).
Here’s a few thoughts about the event from the Trek and Run team; Dave and Tim did the Full Marathon whilst Paul did the Half Marathon.
Tell us about the pre-race experience.
Dave – The pre race emails were comprehensive and we didn’t have any doubts as to where we had to be, at what time and when to pick up our race pack, which was at the expo in the days leading up to the race. The pack pickup was relaxed – which I liked – and we could change Paul’s entry from Full Marathon to Half Marathon in just 5 minutes at the table next to where we got our personalized bib numbers.
On the day there was plenty of parking and somewhere warm to wait for the shuttle bus that took us to the start line. Once at the start line, however, there wasn’t anywhere warm to be so we all went into Walmart, which opened at 7am (that was quite a funny sight, a few hundred people dressed in bright running clothes wandering the aisles of an otherwise empty supermarket). There were loads of portable toilets and the start line was easily seen and reached, although because I didn’t walk to it until 5 minutes before the race start at 7.30am I couldn’t reach my pacer bunny. It didn’t matter that much anyhow as the fastest pacer was 3:20 and I wanted to go faster than that by about 5 minutes in order to beat my personal best and qualify for Boston.
Tim - Being a point to point race, it did take some planning to know where to park (start or finish) and how the shuttle buses worked. It did seem like the last shuttle bus from the parking lot near the finish line left fairly early (an hour before the race). And maybe I didn’t spend enough time on the website, but it seemed like parking at the start line (the massive Square One mall) was discouraged for some reason. But the large city bus got us to the start line, where we hung out inside the Walmart to stay warm before loosening up outside. There where plenty of outdoor washroom facilities, so the wait was minimal. I particularly liked that the speakers blared “Shipping Out To Boston” by the Dropkick Murphy’s as the race was about to start. A song every Boston Qualifying race should play in my opinion. I figured it would bode well for Dave, who was out for his own BQ time.
It wasn’t overly crowded in the start corral, and while I couldn’t find many of the full marathon pace bunnies, I was able to find the corresponding half marathon pacer to know I was in the right area.
How was the race itself?
Dave – I thought it a good course to run fast on. There were a few ups – in particular just after the 10km mark where one long hill slowed me right down – but I hit the downhills hard and made up for what little time I did lose on the ups.
It was a scenic course, I thought, mainly leafy and green residential but also some beautiful Lake Ontario views in the final few kms. It was exposed in many places so subject to winds, but dealing with a headwind is part of racing and I just tucked in behind other runners if they were around and let them take the full force of it.
Aid stations were plentiful and offering a choice of water and Gatorade, with stations at the 24km and 32km mark also offering Cliff Bar gels and blocks, which suited me as they’re vegan and also because they go down nicely without water.
The route was well marked, I didn’t have any issues at all. At about the 15km mark the route for the full and half marathons splits but it was well marked with a huge sign over the road and also a guy was standing there shouting ‘full this way turn right, half carry on!’ so if you missed all that you probably weren’t paying attention (it’s not as if you’d be too tired to notice things at that stage, it was only 15km into the race).
I was surprised by the crowd support, it was a very cold and rainy day yet there were regular pockets of cheering crowds, even in very quiet out-of-town areas, as the video I shot shows. It really helps having people cheer you on, so thanks to everybody who came out to make this race a good one!
I ran well so was happy; my aim was to beat my previous best time of 3:13:36 and also qualify for Boston. I managed a 3:09:22!
Obviously fitness has a large part to play in this but also, I must say that last year I tried to beat my best 3 times and never managed it so it’s fair to assume that the Mississauga course had something to do with my success this time around. A route with not many turns, very good flat surfaces, a net downhill gain of 76 metres and an easy to follow route made for a very fast, satisfying race!
Paul - I set a goal to complete the Half Marathon in 2:10. There wasn’t any point where I wasn’t sure where to go which allowed me to simply focus on the run. We ran through some very nice residential areas. All along the way there were volunteers and people cheering us on.
There was one major hill to climb but beyond that the course itself wasn’t difficult. Overall I was very pleased with the layout of the course. The rain was heavy at times and with the wind gusts by the lake it felt like a late November run. I think the cool conditions, particularly by the lake, were an aid in making me run faster. I completed the 21.1km distance in 2:05 surpassing my goal by five minutes, which I was really happy with!
Tim - For the most part it’s a well organised race. I did witness some runners in the full marathon almost miss the right turn at about the 15km mark (in the races defense there was a huge sign over the road) and stay with the half marathon crowd (a much larger cohort). Perhaps a few volunteers pointing the way at that point would have helped.
The course is fast and pretty scenic. Aid stations were well run with one exception. An aid station in the first half was run by school kids with no supervision at all, and they were having a hard time keeping up with runners needing water. In fact they had no cups filled at all, and runners were actually stopping to grab an empty paper cup and fill it at the table themselves. Definitely not a well oiled aid station. I just skipped that one and figured I’d drink twice as much at the next aid station in 4km. But generally the volunteers were plentiful and they had a tough day to stand outside for hours in the cold rain. I enjoyed the two lane portion of the full marathon course, when you could see the racers who were well ahead of your pace race by in the other direction.
Despite the requisite suffering that comes from me maybe going out a bit fast in the first half, I found the course and atmosphere quite enjoyable. And the finish line announcer didn’t seem to miss announcing anyone at the finish. Hearing your name as you cross the line almost makes you feel like a real athlete on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. I want to extend a special thank you to the nice little lady with the boom box who was handing out mini potatoes covered in tasty and much needed salt. She was not part of the race officially, so that helped give the feeling of the community coming out to support the race. All along the way the spectators were particularly noticeable and encouraging.
And how was the post-race experience?
Dave – The finisher’s shute was good, plenty of people there to hand out space blankets and medals, and there were portable toilets very near. However, after that I do feel that the following could be addressed. First, our bags were just put out on the ground, in the rain. There was nobody there to hand them out, or guard them as far as I could see, they had just been taken off the back of the trucks and laid out in piles on the concrete. I might have been there whilst the volunteers were called away, I don’t know, but it looked pretty bad to me and having just run hard I wasn’t in the best state to search through the bags and find my warm clothes.
Then there was the massage tent. It was good that it was there (free massages are always good after races, although I’m unsure if many runners would have enjoyed one here as there were only 2 people offering treatments and the wait list was very, very long) but it was the only place to shelter from the rain before we began the 15 minute walk up to the shuttle bus, that would take us back to the parking area. And since people who had done the half marathon were in there as well it was very, very crowded. I don’t mind sitting down on wet concrete as I did but perhaps setting up another tent where runners can relax in with a tarp over the floor, or something, might help? Of course, it was May and we should have been relaxing on the grass by the lake, but Canadian spring weather is so unpredictable, it can go either way and today it went the rainy, cold way! Other than that, the walk/hobble to the shuttle bus, 15 minutes in the rain, I was very cold and tired, it seemed a little bit far to handle without moaning about it, we had to walk along a road all the way to get to it, couldn’t the buses have parked nearer?
To end on a positive note, as overall the race was a very positive experience and it’s best to reflect that, it was good that the home straight was so long and well marked with barriers, it made for a great finish for runners and all supporters who wanted a good view of the finish were able to have one.
Paul - Once I completed the race I received my medal and made my way to get some much needed recovery fuel. The space blanket was definitely appreciated. The only concern I had was that it was a long walk from the finish line to the shuttle. Beyond that I felt the event was very well run and I’m looking forward to participating again next year!
Tim - There was a bit of a “you’re on your own” feeling to the finish area. Once you got your medal (a very nice one) and a photo with the medal, it was up to the runners to wander around and find bag check, and also figure out how to get back to the parking lot.
I did really appreciate the fresh and tasty blueberry bagels at the finish. By far the best bagels (I went back for more) I’ve ever had post race. There were also bananas and soft cranberry pitas, plus water.
After a fair walk I located the shuttle buses, the driver wasn’t sure if he was supposed to go to the start line, or just the finish line parking lot. He decided to make both stops, since some people were requesting to go back to the start. Despite an 8 minute PR, I was too slow for my ride to still be around so I had to look for a way back to Toronto on my own. An extremely nice pair of young ladies were kind enough to give me a lift back to the Toronto subway system (shout out to Vanessa and Simone, if my memory serves!), so the friendly atmosphere of the race carried over post race. Thanks Mississauga!
If you’d like to discover more about this event, please see http://mississaugamarathon.com/