While signing up for the Toronto Marathon was a late decision, I felt it was just about the right place in my training program. I had started ramping up marathon training in January so by the time I decided to sign up in April, more than three months of training were booked in.
Ottawa I felt would be non aggressive marathon given the quality of my training has been lacking and whether would always be the wildcard.
And who could avoid the temptation to continue a running streak, since I've run Toronto Goodlife from 2009-2011. This year's race route also seemed to be a little interesting, with changes throughout, including a new finish line that was flat (compared with the 'uphill' finish to Queen's Park). The earlier start time of 7:30 and, heck, the fact that a marathon is run in my hometown made it a no brainer.
We started before the half marathoners, so it was not a busy start area, which was a nice change for a chill warmup for the start. Boston Bill Rogders was a guest emcee and was giving us tips on how to run marathons, which I thought was both cool and funny, cause hey, who wouldn't love a tip from one of the great marathoners but who would really need it if they've trained up the to distance. The weather, as he said, was near perfect. Slight wind, cool, compared to the hot Boston. In fact, a few Boston runners were doing Toronto as their make-up run.
The start I seeded myself near the 3:40 pace group, and we took a bit of work to separate ourselves. We were running faster than goal pace. The first bit leading up to Hogg's Hollow went by fast and I started to regret not putting on a singlet instead of my T-shirt, it was cool, but warm enough to go summer wear.
The big uphill, Hogg's Hollow, is not a fun sight in what is a net downhill course. I ran slightly ahead of the pace group because I wanted to get a potty break done at the top of the hill, just as I'd done in previous years. After I caught back up to them after the break, feeling, well, relieved, we went to work on what is my favourite part of the course, which starts on the turnoff near Davisville station.
As a guy who has paced a few half marathons, I have tremendous respect for anyone pulling off the job. I started to tail the group that had thinned a bit. The makeup of this group was very relaxed, and I'm assuming there were Ironman folks doing training, and others just going. The pacer looked at my pace band and said 'where'd you get that!' after I told him what splits I'd be looking for a 3:40. He was using his Nike Plus app, which I thought a little awkward to be proper pacing. A few minutes later, his phone rang (yes, he was wearing headphones) and took a call. Later found out he was a 3 hour marathoner who wasn't used to the pace. :)
Anyhow, I ran with the group right until the bottom of Casa Loma, when for some reason, the banter of one particually loud marthoner (who seemed to be doing a 'training run') got to me and I was feeling pretty good anways, so I paced a little faster.
Saw my buddy Peter who was going for a sub 3:40, but largely went out on my own, down to Rosedale Valley Road. Every year i've run down it, I feel like I hit a nice zone-out period in my race. It's one of the few totally shaded parts and the sheer vastness of the tree canopy makes it a highlight of the course.
Finishing it, and coming back toward downtown, we were again back on streets and in the sun. Ran into Peter and we paced together for a bit until he dropped back (and ended later a tough marathon).
From the half mark to the end, Goodlife becomes a little surreal to me, as it's my daily training route, and pretty much exactly on the same path. It's so comfortable that I can almost close my eyes for portions and anticipate rolls in the hills or curves to navigate. We also passed the finish line on the way out -- not a pretty sight but we did see the leading half marathoners come in.
Meanwhile, I was maintaining pretty consistent and strong splits. Because I wasn't pacing with a group, per se, I just went by feel and looking back at the splits I was maintaing a 5-10 second variance between kilometres. My fueling was happening at the right intervals, every 8K or so, and my extra water I brought with me proved useful for taking gels and occasional sips.
In my mind, I was seeing this as a 35K training run with the option to continue to race till the end. In my heart, when have I really resisted the urge to go with a good running pace. In reality, I took a pace that was probably well within my fitness (I'd assume I'm somewhere around 3:35 fitness these days). Reality and races collide and I found myself still going. At the most westerly point of the course, again still on home turf, I saw the turnaround and was so happy that it came earlier than I'd anticipated. As I turned, and started my way back, I could see all the runners behind me, including in the distance the 3:40 group.
I think at the moment, I though of them, the chatter and the fact that I had a few minutes on them. Screw it, I thought, lets just keep going.
Onn the way to the final 5K, I passed blogger Felix, who recognized me from this blog. He was telling me how his day wasn't unfolding the way he'd thought, and commented to me that I'm usually faster. I smiled as we parted, knowing that yes, I'm not really much faster these days, or at least training up to potential. He reminded me of what I can do in marathons and that helped spur me on.
But the breaks did come -- A little bit of tired leg syndome and also the 'holy crap, this is a marathon'. I took a few prescribed walk breaks to get my legs good and my cardio in a good place.
Still, by the time we reached the final kilometres, I had banked more than enough time to come in under 3:40, even enough time to savour the finish and get my legs ready for the next marathon.
As with all local races, I did bump into several friends, including Sam, who rocked the course after her bad Boston experience, and Lee and Julie, who were cheering on the runners. Lee and I were at the sidelines, watching the marathoners come in. My favourite thing to do is to stand in that final 500 metres and give a little bit of love back. My favourite cheer, 'lets go marathoners,' with the emphasis on MARATHONER. Love this sport, next one's coming up pronto.
Final time: 3:37:25
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