Toronto Marathon Start

I picked the Toronto Marathon as the first long race of the year. That’s the second time I run this race. The first time was before the pandemic. With my plantar fasciitis constantly bothering me, I couldn’t build any real expectations about the outcome. The plan was just to put into practice some lessons learned and run the whole course. To my surprise, I ended up getting a new personal best in a chaotic race!

This time I made some changes to my pre-race routine. Two weeks before, I drastically reduced volume, limiting running to three times a week and no more than 10 km each. The week before, I increased hydration with electrolytes and started carbo-loading. I slept as much as I could, so it wouldn’t be a problem if anxiety impacted my rest. The day before I had sushi, my favorite pre-race meal, full of carbohydrates and sodium, which are great for replenishing energy stores and water retention.

I woke up early in the morning and drove for one hour to Toronto. I parked the car close to the finish line and took a bus, offered by the organization, to the start line in North York. I arrived in time to pee before the race, however, there weren’t enough toilets to serve the crowd, so runners were also using the washrooms of a shopping mall across the street. The lines were so long that I felt sorry for the ladies, who had to wait twice as long for a chance to pee. That was one of a series of problems that embarrassed the organizers in the days that followed the race.

Bus to the start

The problems started the week before, when the organizers sent several confusing emails. Instead of being crystal clear about the race and checking the details before sending them out, they had to send corrections and clarifications later. I don’t remember the last time I had this kind of problem, which seems pretty trivial to prevent. One of the messages indicated that some runners didn’t receive the bib by mail in time for the race and were asked to go to the kit pickup location to get another bib. However, people paid for the mail option because they planned to arrive in Toronto on the race day. They had to make annoying arrangements to arrive the day before. At the start line, lucky enough for having no issues up to that point, I just hoped that everyone solved their issues in time to be there with me.

Bad communication

With some delay, the race started and I decided to go for a conservative pace for the first 10 km, where most of the hills are concentrated. If there is one positive thing about this race is the beauty of the course. It passes through the best of Toronto, especially a large portion of green areas, parks, and the charming waterfront of Lake Ontario. The cheering crowd was mostly concentrated in downtown, which is roughly the middle of the race. It was around that point that I met the pack following the 4:05 pacer. I thought that if I stick to that pacer I would, at least, get a personal best.

I was feeling good after the 25 km mark, which made me think the pack was slowing me down. So, I decided to move on only to face one more issue. Someone was holding a sign, indicating the course separation of the marathon and half-marathon, but this person was moving around, making the arrows confusing. So I accidentally took the wrong way and had volunteers chasing me for 200 meters to put me back on track. The pacer passed me for a large margin after this confusion and I had to catch them again, but this time I stuck to the pack.

I didn’t have any problems with hydration this time, but the water stations seemed to be struggling to keep up with the demand. In some stations, not enough people were handling the cups, making runners slow down to grab one from the table. In one occasion, I grabbed an empty cup, forcing me to skip that station. I think it didn’t affect my performance, but seeing everybody throwing away the cups on the road, without a chance to hit a garbage bin, made water stations big messy crossing points.

Around the 30 km mark, the segments were very narrow, making runners pass very close to each other in opposite directions. We were sharing the last section of the race with riders who couldn’t care less about the race. putting themselves in the middle of the runners. Police officers in charge of the course had to call their attention. If I was chasing a Boston Qualifying Time I would be very upset with that.

My strategy of sticking to the 4:05 pacer was going well. I may include pacers as another positive experience of this race. My own pacer, and the others I saw passing, looked very confident to deliver to their followers. I fell behind in the last 3 km but finished seconds shortly after the 4:05 time.

I crossed the finish line 2 minutes faster than my previous best time from 2 years ago. Happy with the result, I was not expecting that feeling to go away any time soon. But… “Where is my medal?!” - I asked myself in the area where they were supposed to handle them, since the 5 and 10km medals were still hanging there. Looking around, I saw some people already with their medals. I asked one of them where they got one and they pointed to some empty boxes spread on the floor. Panic!!! With that crowd around, did they leave boxes of medals unattended on the floor?! I checked. They were empty. More panic!!! I decided to follow the flow of people into a building nearby, where, to my relief, I received my medal from a young man after crossing a narrow passage. He asked me which race I finished to handle the right medal, despite my bib letting it explicitly obvious.

Toronto Marathon

Well, as the saying goes, “after the storm comes…” more storm?! My first impression of what was going on in that building was like a market raid. People moving fast, in all directions, with cardboard boxes full of goods, grabbing everything they could hold. I couldn’t judge those people after finishing a marathon. With my limited cognitive capabilities at that point, I guessed we were super lucky to have such a generous sponsor. So, all I wanted was my own cardboard box and fill it with all goods I could find on my way. Nobody can judge someone exhausted, thirsty, and hungry, but back to my sanity, I realized we have been selfish. I would suggest the organizers learn from Around The Bay’s crew how to organize a proper race. Around The Bay was flawless!

Toronto Marathon

Despite all these issues, the Toronto Marathon was still important to me. I got a new personal best, which serves now as a baseline for my goal of finishing the distance in under 4 hours.

Number: 8
Time: 04:05:19
Best Previous Time at this Race: 04:18:12
Best Marathon Time to Date: 04:07:11
Elevation: 193 m