The Mississauga Pandora Square One Half Marathon – 6th May, 2018

The Trek and Run Team were supported during this event by;

Kusaga Athletic

Salba Chia

Here’s a short film that Dave made to give you an idea of the event.

DaveI didn’t think I’d be in shape to run the full Mississauga Marathon. Although I love it and have run it for the past few years I’d only just come back from the 7 day Marathon des Sables a few weeks earlier and felt that perhaps having just run 250k through the Sahara Desert I’d better stick to the half distance this time around. It would be a new experience, I’d never run the half route before, and I wouldn’t be sacrificing much in the way of fun by doing it. I’d still get the great organisation, the atmospheric start line (the half and full Mississauga Marathons start at the same time) and the pretty finish area down at Port Credit, all I’d miss out on was running out of gas at about the 30km stage and moving so slow I’d have trouble staying awake…

Virgil and I arrived at the community centre (which acts as the main car park) at 6am, used the washrooms and caught the last shuttle bus to Square One and the start line.

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The sun was just starting to peep over the condos and we enjoyed the sight of it as we woke up with a free coffee supplied by a Tim Horton’s van that the organisers had arranged to be there.

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There was a brief warm up on the grass in front of a stage, I ran a little more to loosen up a tight hamstring, went to the washroom (the lines in front of the porta loos were long but there were also washrooms near the city hall complex), grabbed another coffee to help shift me into race mode and started to walk along with the crowds to the start line.

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The sun was shining now, the music was loud, I was in the zone and all thoughts of being tired left my mind. I felt great and was going to give the race my best. The siren went off, we surged forward into a blizzard of confetti and soon I was moving past the 1:30 pacer, hoping that I was not going to see him again today.

The route has a net downhill but there are a couple of grinding uphills during the first 10k or so and I determined to use these times, when I couldn’t go fast, to eat the dates that I’d brought along instead of gels. 3 of them would give me about 200 calories and I reckoned that would be enough to get me to the finish line.

At about the 7km mark a Kenyan moved up alongside me. My first thought was, what on earth was he doing this far back in the field? I was chugging along at about a 40 minute 10km pace which is fine for me, but for him? He was obviously a well trained athlete, just by looking at him I could see that his power to weight ratio was world class, he didn’t have an ounce of fat on him and he was moving well, just slower than I’m used to seeing Kenyans run, that’s all. I wasn’t complaining, it was great to run behind him for the next 7km, to see how he dealt with the uphills by making his footsteps shallower, and how he increased his speed to shake off anybody who tried to overtake him without any sign that he was working harder than before. He didn’t swing his arms more, didn’t lean forward, didn’t increase his footfall, he simply surged forward seemingly without effort. It was great to watch.

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I had half a fantasy that I could stay with him until the end of the event and maybe even race him for the finish line, but when we got to the part of the course where the full distance veers right and the half carries on, he veered right and I was left carrying on forward on my own. The field had strung out now, I was happy that I only had a few kms left, I felt strong and able to increase my pace. The course dropped downhill, under a bridge, up a small rise and then down again, heading towards the lake. It invited runners to pick up speed, to give everything in these final stages. I saw a couple of guys in front and made an effort to catch them, doing so after another km as we kept to the shoreline. The lake was shining to our right, the sun was warm, there was a lively cheer point where all the girls were dressed in white and shouting wildly and then we were into the final km. I was winding down into easy mode so as to enjoy the finish shute which was packed with spectators but then in front of me I could see the timing clock over the finish line reading 1:26:30 and I thought, oh, if I get a move on I may get a personal best here! So I gave it one last push and crossed the line in 1:26:50, just 5 seconds under my best, which I was happy about, especially as the PA guy said I had made the 50+ podium, which was an added bonus.

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I got my official time, they said I had come third in my age group, but when I went to the prize giving table and asked for the 3rd place prize they looked at their list, claimed there’d been a mistake, handed me a Tim Horton’s gift card and told me that I had actually won 1st place. I wasn’t sure how that happened and when I looked later online I was still listed as 3rd place in my age group, but I took their word for it and hoped that the other 2 runners who were supposed to be above me weren’t too annoyed at being demoted. Sorry you guys if that is the case!

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Virgil finished soon after me. We’d both had a great time on the course and now we enjoyed the live band as we refuelled with the free bananas and variety of snacks that were given out to all runners in the event village.

For me Mississauga is the number 1 spring marathon in the Toronto area, and a must do if you are lucky enough to be in the area at the time. Fantastic course, very fast, well organised, super friendly, loads of drinks stations and plenty of goodies at the end. Fantastic!

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VirgilThe race prep for the Mississauga Half started off as a adventurous drive to pick up kits for my team. There was a high wind warning alert in GTA and there were multiple traffic delays due to debris on the road and non-functioning traffic lights. Scores of downed trees caused some local roads to detour around as city crew was doing cleanup. I would have waited till Saturday to do it, but I had a kayak rolling class to go to and it was along the way, so I pushed on. The Expo was nicely organized with many vendors offering food samples – I got a big bowl of chilli right when I walked in! I’m pretty much set when it comes to running gear but it never hurts to take a peek at the merchandise. The kit pickup was uncomplicated and contained some oats, crackers with protein spreads, protein drinks, and a nice blue race shirt with the 15th anniversary logo cleverly placed within the words “Mississauga”.

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The next day we headed to the community centre where the shuttle buses were picking up runners to take to the race start. I was having contact seating issues with both eyes since the early morning and it was quite irritating. I was glad that I was able to resolve it before we headed out to the buses. It was a beautiful cloudy race day for a half marathon, 13°C with sun peeking out at times, a complete contrast to the cold rainy conditions of the last two editions. 

There were no organized corrals but pacers were easy to spot and it was easy to slip inside the barriers. At the gun, a confetti machine blew a cloud of colourful flakes and I took a few more photos before deliberately running over the timing mats.

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The game plan was to pace up slowly to the 1:50 pacer. I did this at around the 5.5k mark, and introduced myself to the pacer, who was named Troy. At this point I had a 38s buffer. So far so good, now the plan was to run with his group and break free with 2-4k to go to chase my PR. I took a cup at each water station and ensured the pace group remained within 10s reach. I crossed the 10k together with the group but I started feeling calf twinges at 14k.

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Aching to catch up after bobbling a cup of electrolytes at a water station, I caught up to the group at 16k but now both my calves were cramping at 16.5k and Troy and co. slowly dropped me behind. As soon as I pushed the pace my calves would twinge with each step so I had to back off the effort. The run looped around the waterfront and back through a short forest section of the Lake Ontario Waterfront Trail before cutting into Lakefront Promenade Park. The announcer called out my name a few dozen metres before the finish line, which was a nice boost. I crossed the line in 1:51:33 (about 2.5 minutes behind my PR) and collected my medal and a generous helping of carbs and Stinger waffles.

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That was when I found out that David won his age group and PR’ed with a blazing 1:26:50, despite running a small race called Marathon Des Sables a month ago – winning a Tim Hortons gift card – CONGRATU-FREAKING-LATIONS! David was powered by delicious dates stuffed with ground coffee beans. I ate five of them during the run and they were delicious!

Next stop for Trek and Run is the Conquer the Canuck Marathon Ultra Trail Weekend, where I will be doing the 50k trail run, followed by Cambridge Tour de Grand 160k gran fondo; while David will be taking on the Ultimate Canuck challenge weekend, including the 50k (part of the Canadian Trail 50k Championships), followed by a trail marathon distance the next day.

Congratulations to the race crew for executing a well organized run, I always look forward to this event each year. For runners interested in PR races in cooler weather, this is high on the list with its net 80m drop and ranked only behind the Hamilton Marathon as the fastest course in Ontario.

If you’d like to discover more about the Mississauga Half and Full Marathons, check out www.mississaugamarathon.com

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