The day was cold and drizzly and very windy – but that did not stop me from enjoying this race to the fullest. It was a packed weekend. We left for Jacksonville very early in the morning and arrived in Toronto around noon, took a shuttle to our hotel (the Marriott Downtown Eaton Centre – an excellent choice), and, after quickly checking in, we walked several blocks to the shuttle stop to take us to the Expo at the Direct Energy Centre. No problem with buses this time – there were plenty of them lined up and they made a continual circuit from the downtown area to the Expo and back again.
Packet pickup was very organized. We had been sent our bib numbers in an earlier email, so I went directly to the volunteer handing out my number and picked up my souvenir chip and packet. I guess the only disappointment I had during this entire weekend (other than it being far too short) was that I was given the wrong size tee shirt. I had requested a medium but the one in my bag was a small (too small to even fit over my head) and I didn’t check the size until I was already back in my hotel room. Since it was a slippery feeling tech tee shirt (white with a red design on one shoulder), it really wasn’t much of a problem. The bib was colorful, with a band of yellow for marathoners and orange for half marathoners, and our name emblazoned in big letters across the front. Our corals were color (or should I say colour?) coded as well, with the slower folks designated as purple. That was me. There were many booths advertising Canadian races as well as some in Europe so I went a little crazy gathering a lot of literature. My husband just shook his head and sighed (but I think he found a few places he would like to visit).
After the jaunt to the Expo, my husband and I decided to try one of the restaurants he had chosen for this trip. We walked a few blocks to the Three Brewers Restaurant and had lunch. I would give it mixed reviews. The beer was rather ordinary, the food fairly good and substantial, but the music way too loud. We made our way back to the hotel so I could get my gear ready for the race and we could both relax after our day of traveling. If the weather had been a bit warmer and less windy, we probably would have opted to do some sightseeing, but the 35 mph winds and temps in the 40’s were a real deterrent.
The race did not begin until 9 am the next morning, rather late I thought, but it turned out to be an advantage. I meant I did not have to get up at 3 in the morning to eat (since I like to eat my breakfast a good 2-3 hours before a race) and the later start time allowed for the sun to rise and the temps to warm up a bit. Rain had been predicted for the weekend but fortunately it had stopped by Sunday morning. We had periods of drizzle during the race, especially towards the end, but it was tolerable. The winds had died down too, although for several miles in the beginning and for the last 10k at the end, we were facing a strong headwind.
This course is advertised as flat and fast and it certainly was. There were only a few small inclines over some bridges and just a few short hills, but mostly it was flat. There were bands and plenty of aid stations with water and Gatorade. We passed along the shore of Lake Ontario and by some parks and city buildings and some business areas. Plenty of spectators lined the course despite the cold and wind. Every k was marked but I found it too hard to translate into miles, so I just adapted to thinking in terms of kilometres. The important thing was to remember that 21 k was the halfway point, 30 k was about 18 ½ miles, 35 k was about 21.7 miles, and 42 k was the finish line. The 30 k and 35 k points were important because runners had to reach those stages at certain times or move to the sidewalk.
This race had a 6 hour time limit, although the finish line would remain open for 7 hours. In fact, this year the finish line stayed open longer because Fauja Singh, a 100 year old British sikh affectionately known as the “Turbaned Tornado,” was trying to complete this race to become the oldest person ever to finish a marathon. I saw him several times on the course (there are at least 3 out-and-backs), surrounded by an entourage of people. My goal was to try to finish in under 6 hours, but I knew as long as I stayed in front of Fauja Singh, I would be doing okay! It was really impressive to see this vibrant older person humming along with such energy.
I crossed the finish line in 5:43, received my medal, large and heavy, on a beautiful lanyard. Post-race food included plenty of bagels, bananas, apples, and bottled water. Back to the hotel for a shower and nap before a good hearty dinner and sleep. We had a very early flight back to the states. My impressions of Toronto were primarily positive. It is a very cosmopolitan and diverse city, bustling and busy, with some neat old buildings and plenty of skyscrapers, construction, traffic, and shops.
One of the reasons I decided to do this race, despite the tight time frame, was because the race website specifically welcomed power walkers. Since so many races in the US have time limits of 6 or 6 ½ hours but emphatically state that walkers are NOT welcome, I was pleased that this race was open to walkers as long as they could finish within the allotted time. It was a good choice and I am very glad I did this, my second Canadian province.