When I messaged my friend Trudy (who lives in Malta) way back in January saying she should come run the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in October, it really seemed like a great idea. I had just started running again and had met some other runners thanks to JP’s Team. I was feeling excited about running again and wisely based my decision to run a marathon on pure emotion as opposed to, you know, actual training!
After I took 9 minutes off my half marathon time in Mississauga in May I was pumped! I was excited to keep training and build on my base, but then later on in the summer, life happened. I developed a terrible attitude about the marathon and decided I did not want to do it. My training had taken a back seat to work, the kids and everything else in between, and plain and simple–I didn’t want to run a marathon if I wasn’t going to be good at it.
I ran tons of short runs, a bunch of 21km runs, a 25km and a 28km as my longest run. A lot of weeks during the last two months, I only ran once or twice a week. DO NOT FOLLOW THIS TRAINING PLAN! Then I ran the Ajax Half Marathon on September 25 and something switched in my brain. I enjoyed that race! I struggled, I cramped up, yet somehow I still enjoyed it and had no regrets about how the day went. After that race I suddenly felt okay with doing the marathon–not because I thought I would do well, but because somehow, my mind told me that it was okay to do something I might potentially fail at.
RACE KIT PICKUP
My friends, Trudy & Dani, arrived the week before the race and we made a plan to head to the expo as early as we could on Friday. We arrived around noon, easily grabbed our bibs and ran into Cathy (aka the kindest person and best cheerleader ever) who snapped a picture for us!
We spent a lot of time at the expo chatting to Dave at the Running Room booth, Tovah at New Balance, Jodie & Jon at Nuun (where J drank his weight in Nuun samples–he is a massive fan!), the guys at the Xact Nutrition booth and, of course, Michelle with Mizuno! We purchased some Nuun and also some Fruit2 bars from Xact Nutrition for the race on Sunday. We had to make a quick exit after J had an accident (too much Nuun!) and his not so smart mother brought two extra shirts but no extra pants (oops!!).
As we headed home I examined the race shirt declaring it my favourite race shirt ever! My only complaint is surprisingly that it is a tech shirt. I actually wish it was a regular t-shirt because I would wear it with jeans or shorts for sure. Can someone make this happen for me?!
THE NIGHT BEFORE
On Saturday night, Trudy made us chicken and mushroom risotto for dinner and it was perfect! We laid out our race kits, I snapped a pic and then we packed our bags and headed to bed.
Our neighbour decided to come home at 2:30 AM and talk at the literal top of her lungs to her friend outside for awhile. I shut our window but it didn’t matter–it was incredibly loud! I got a limited amount of sleep, but I wasn’t worried. I knew adrenaline would kick in during the race anyhow!
I got up at 6AM on Sunday and immediately made myself a coffee and some instant oatmeal because I like the sugary stuff and absolutely do not care that it’s not good for me. I changed, ate my food and around 6:35 we headed out the door. Traffic was fantastic and we easily parked under Nathan Phillips Square. As we pulled into our spot I saw Andrea and her husband, Petja, who was running with the Justice League Runners dressed as Thor. I almost had Andrea convinced to run the marathon, but she is wise beyond her years and signed up for just the half! It was nice to chat with them before heading up to the bathroom!
The line for the bathroom was pretty long but we had plenty of time. I got to say hi to Gillian and Karen while in line and I also reconfirmed my theory that I talk A LOT when I’m nervous. If you want to be distracted before a race just hang out with me. I will chat constantly about anything that pops into my head and I don’t even need you to respond.
We headed to the start line and it started to rain. It was really crowded and we were moving slowly, but we made it to our corral just as I realized I needed to go to the bathroom again. I saw Cathy, Melly and some others for a quick hello before I dashed to the bathroom as quickly as possible. A couple minutes after we got into our corral, we started inching to the start.
It was raining still, but was humid and I was definitely glad that I had settled on my shorts. I added my Buff headband at the last second to help keep some of the rain off my face. I had my TomTom watch on, my phone in a ziplock in my armband, a bag of Honey Stingers, two Xact Nutrition fruit bars and my body glide. The glide and stingers went in my Lululemon shorts pocket and I put the bars in my arm band with my phone. It worked amazingly well and I never felt annoyed by what I was carrying. I am not a fan of wearing anything extra around my race so I was glad that I managed to fit all my stuff into my limited space!
THE FIRST 10 KMS
As we crossed the line I saw Peter standing in the crowd and shouted his name like a crazy person. Apparently he figured out it was me, so that was cool!
Because my training was less than stellar we had decided to try to stick to around a 6:30/km pace for as long as possible. That is typically an easy pace for me so as we ran those first kilometres it felt comfortable and like I could do it all day long.
In previous races, I have tended to skip water stations which hasn’t always ended up being smart, so I decided to take water at every station but not guzzle the entire cup (also something I often do!). I’m not sure if this was the right thing to do, but my stomach didn’t cramp the entire race.
I don’t remember tons about the beginning of the race because I was mostly chatting or pointing out people that I knew from afar! “Look, there’s Krista [Duchene]! I love her!” “Oh, that’s Alistair, the guy from the Xact Nutrition booth.” “That’s the guy who designed the race shirts! He just ran by!”
We hit 5k in 32 minutes and then 10k in 1:04. I ate one of my bars around 9k and took my time eating. It went down easily and didn’t make my mouth dry at all. I tried these bars only once before on a long run so I knew I was taking a risk, but I have no regrets. They worked perfectly (and are completely delicious)!
We had some problems at 15k and ended up losing one of our runners, but Trudy and I continued on. I saw Cathy ahead and wanted to see her, so as we got closer I went to the other side of the road to give her a hug. She wasn’t having a good race and I so hated to see her like that. Cathy trains like I wish I had the discipline to; she never complains and cheers for her friends no matter how her own race goes. We chatted for a couple minutes before she told me to go on ahead and finish my race.
Shortly after I saw Karen on the other side of the road and hollered and waved! I saw her twice during the race and her crazy outfit made me smile every time! I love her story and reading all about her crazy adventures!
There is a slight hill around 16k but it really isn’t a big deal. As we got to 18k, I saw Courtney cheering with Tribe Fitness. She yelled my name and I ran and gave her a giant hug before continuing under that slightly creepy overpass. (I started eating the rest of my Honey Stingers at this point)
I could see the giant red inflatables ahead where the race divides sending the half marathoners to the left and the full marathoners to the right. Trudy couldn’t stop pointing at the marathon sign and grinning at me and my brain was freaking out. I was actually doing this. It somehow still didn’t seem real!
As we headed onto Queen’s Quay a man joined us and asked us if he could run with us for a bit. I said, “yes, please talk and distract me!” He was from LA and had come out to run. He chatted for awhile and we hit the halfway point in 2:18:54 before he ran ahead.
We headed into the weird little loop that reminded me too much of the Goodlife Half I ran in 2015. That half was not a good one for me and this loop was where my race fell apart that day. As we hit this loop I started to get the chills and felt cold then hot, and I knew I needed some electrolytes. (I’ve been down this road before and let myself get dehydrated so I’m hyper paranoid when I start getting chilled and cold and hot at the same time! It was probably more weather related but better safe than sorry) I really don’t like Gatorade, but I took a glass and walked through the station so I could drink it properly.
It was at this point my lower back really started bothering me. It had been bugging me the entire race, but wasn’t painful until now. I was starting to struggle and slump over, but we kept moving–although we were getting slower and I kept begging to walk.
The first bathroom stop happened before 25k and I also quickly reapplied some more Body Glide. I didn’t really feel like I needed it, but I had it in my pocket so why not, right?!
On this loop we passed Mei on the other side and we cheered each other on as best as we could in the moment.
As we headed back to Eastern Ave and toward the Beaches I started freaking out a little. I honestly don’t know why. I never thought I couldn’t do it. Not finishing wasn’t an option in my mind, so I really don’t know what my deal was! I kept saying that I just wanted to see Anson & the kids over and over. Trudy forced me to do some deep breathing; we took another bathroom break (not sure if I needed it or if I was just panicking!), and she forced me to eat more. We also stopped for her to push on my back for the first time (of many) because it was hurting so bad. I felt like I had back labour again and I wasn’t impressed at all.
I expected to see Anson & the kids around 32 km, but as we kept running through the Beaches I didn’t see them. We passed 35k and we still hadn’t seen them. I knew it wouldn’t be easy for poor Anson to get three kids to the course in the rain and then make it to the finish line, so I just assumed that they didn’t make it.
Just as I resigned myself to not seeing them, I spotted Chloe in her white tutu in the distance! I pointed them out to Trudy and she shouted at them. They had started to walk away because the tracker was off and kept sending me all over so they thought they had missed me. They came back to the road and I stopped and hugged every one of them for a really long time.
It is a moment I will never forget and I will never regret stopping for as long as I did to see them. Anson told me he was so proud of me; I hugged them all one more time and off we went past the 36km sign.
Not too far after the 36k mark, we saw JP on the other side of the road. He had 12k left of his quadruple marathon yet seriously looked happy (and coherent!). He was kind enough to stop for some hugs and a picture before we headed toward the end.
If he could do this four times, then surely I could do it once.
The next four kms involved me trying to not cry because my back hurt so much, a nice runner from the Dominican Republic giving me a maple syrup candy to suck on, Trudy chatting to someone from Newfoundland and making it onto Front Street.
We stopped right at 41k for one last push on my back because I really wanted to try to finish strong and I just needed some relief. A couple hundred metres later I saw a lady (not a race volunteer) with a few water bottles and I begged her via hand gestures if I could please have one. She started walking quickly beside us, unscrewed the cap and passed me the bottle. Whoever you were–thank you! You were an angel in that moment!
As we rounded the corner onto Bay Street I couldn’t stop smiling. I really couldn’t believe I was doing this and that I was actually going to finish. Trudy and I started counting off how far we had to go with the signs and then she saw a guy standing to the left watching with his arms crossed looking sincerely unimpressed. Trudy started waving her arms and hollering at him that he should be cheering. He started smiling, then started clapping and cheering while we dissolved into laughter. A few seconds later I looked to my right and saw Cathy and then a whole bunch of other familiar faces behind her. I spotted Melly who had told me that the marathon was going to hurt, I was going to swear I would never do it again and then later on I would change my mind and sign up for another marathon. As soon as I saw her I shouted, “Never again!” as loud as I could.
With 100 metres to go we saw Anson & the kids to the right and we sprinted to the finish. I saw sprint because those last 500 metres I felt like I was flying, but in reality I was probably going super slow. We crossed in 5:12:12 and on Sunday, that was the best I had in me!
Trudy & I crossed the finish line and immediately turned and hugged each other. She kept saying, “You did it! You did it!” We got our medals, took a picture and headed for the exit.
She stopped to stretch and I walked out of the finish to my sister standing there crying her eyes out. I came to this race when it was her first half marathon and stood by the exit waiting for her, so there was really no one that I wanted to see standing there more than Cab as I finished my first marathon. We hugged then searched for Anson and the kids.
POST MARATHON THOUGHTS
I still almost can’t believe I did that. It doesn’t seem real somehow. It was 60% amazing and 40% painful, but 100% worth it. My stomach never cramped, I had exactly zero chafing anywhere on my body, my feet never hurt during or after the race (props to Mizuno for their amazing shoes), and my legs have recovered surprisingly fast. My back is still sore, but not painful so that is a relief!
The biggest thing I took away from this race was how wonderful the running community is. From the strangers we talked to during the race; the volunteers passing out water, cheering & encouraging us; the organizers; the singers on the course; to every single person who worked the expo–they each played a role in my race. My friends who cheered me on during the race and my friends & family in the States who were tracking me and texting me during the race were amazing. (I never touched my phone during the race, but I loved reading the messages after the finish!)
My sister came to cheer me on, but more importantly she cheers me on every single day. She isn’t someone I ever worry about disappointing because I know it’s not possible. I love you, Cab!
Anson & the kids–I almost have no words. Anson doesn’t love running but he never discourages me from pursuing it. Anytime I saw I don’t know if I can do it, he assures me that he knows I can. He told me countless times after the race how proud he was of me and he probably doesn’t realize what that means to me! The kids are amazing–they love that I run and they want to run too. Hearing them talk about signing up for races or wanting to get healthier by running is worth every struggle I’ve ever faced during a race.
Trudy got me through this race. This was her fifth marathon and first in North America. We haven’t run together in over 3 years and we had no idea what was going to happen on race day. She pushed me when I wanted to just keep walking (“we will walk to that pole and then you have to run again!”), she encouraged me, and she truly shared every moment with me. Running 42.2km together bonded us in a special way that I really can’t describe.
Will I run another marathon? Probably. Will it be soon? Definitely not. My core and back strength need to improve drastically before I ever attempt that again. Sure, I could struggle through 42.2k again, but what’s the point of that?!
So it may be years and years before I sign up for a marathon again, but in the meantime I have my eye on a faster 5k time in 2017 and maybe, in the future, a sub 2 hour half!