In May 2019 I took on the Toronto Marathon, finishing in 3 hours 23 minutes which is an excellent time considering my age, the fact that I have a full time job (plus long commute) and that I am quite new to running which I started in 2017. So why I never mentioned it?
One of the reasons is that once I’ve got onto the marathons bandwagon (read my blog post about my first marathon) it didn’t feel that thrilling anymore though again, my time was pretty good and I was very happy with my accomplishment.
Initially I thought to give it some time then write something useful for wannabe marathon runners. But I felt like everything has already been said somewhere on the web. I still kept thinking about an article which eventually never came to fruition till now. Call it busy life, neglect, lack of interest into writing. The time went by.
There was also some frustration I had with the race. I don’t want to talk too much about it so I will only mention it down below. But I was really pissed off at that time so I would have had talk for too long about bad stuff had I had written an article right after. So I took my time. Maybe too much of it.
In the picture is me with my handsome son, which now is almost as tall as me, at the finish line of the Toronto Marathon 2019.
Why am I writing now, after almost one year? Because there are a couple of things worth mentioning. I also want to compare a bit Scotiabank marathon and the Toronto marathon and why you might want to do one over the other. That is if you have to choose. Ideally you will signup for both, not necessarily in the same year but at some time in your running journey.
So what was great about the Toronto Marathon?
Firstly the weather was absolutely gorgeous. Sunny, around 10C. I mean, seriously what could you ask for more?
Secondarily the course has a lot of downhill, not that much to damage your knees (yes, in fact running downhill could be more damaging to your knees than uphill) but enough to help you get a good time, no matter what target you have in mind.
Another reason I liked it is again related to the course. I loved it. I used to live in the area and being able to see it again over a competition was one of the pinnacles. The race started north of Finch on Yonge. We went a bit up from there, then south on Yonge to Davisville then into the beautiful (multi-million houses) neighborhood of Forest Hill for a bit then south towards the lake, west towards High Park and then finally ending at City Hall where the finish line was.
The medal was one of the reasons I signed up. You see, I knew it you will laugh. But that piece of metal is for some of us at least, all it matters. That shinny metal to hang on the wall is what we are running 42.2 km. Why I liked it? Because it’s HUGE!
What was wrong about it?
The race organization was a disaster. The majority of the hydration stations carried water and not Gatorade though funny enough the cups were Gatorade. You would stop for a Gatorade and instead you would end up chugging on water. I stopped at probably 75% of them and I only got Gatorade 3-4 times. That is really bad. You need everything you could get to be able to run 42.2 km. Sugary drinks, snacks, gels. Whatever you can get. Well, enough said I haven’t gotten much from the hydration stations. I almost run the entire time on my GU energy gels and water. Gatorade was a high commodity. I would have expected something better from a $150 race. Oh by the way, I heard the European races are easily half price, e.g. the Barcelona marathon I heard is around 60 bucks. I bet is also better organized.
The second thing that bothered me was the (almost) complete absence of toilets. After my first 2-3 GUs I ran into some GI trouble and I thought for a while to stop at a washroom. Well I didn’t see any and luckily I started feeling better and I end up finishing with a nice time though missing the Boston Qualifier Time by around 3 minutes. Had I knew I will be so close to it I would have had forced a bit more. But my target time was a more modest one, 3 hours and 30 minutes so everything better was just a surprise for me. I finished my first marathon in 3 hours and 53 minutes so I calculated that 3 hours and a half could be a really amazing time for my second. Instead I ended up shaving 30 minutes. Crazy.
The third thing and the last that went bad at the Toronto marathon was the lack of people on the side along with not much guiding signs. And I’m not talking necessarily about fans but organizers / volunteers. There are some areas, especially down by the lake on the last legs of the race where hadn’t I had someone in front of me so I can guide myself (God bless I’m not that fast to be the first haha), I wouldn’t have known where the course is.
One of the reasons for all this failure I think it was because the Mississauga Marathon happened in the exact day with the Toronto Marathon. Hence the low participation and the lack of people taking a proper care of the event.
What contributed to my marathon success?
David Lung (me and him in the picture), my friend from the Rockies running group came by and gave me a great pace over the last kilometers of the race and that contributed greatly to my time. Having someone to motivate you before finish is very encouraging. I hope I will pay him back one day. That was an awesome act of friendship! Thanks David!
Also running for years with the Rockies Road Runners group as well as with the Warriors (especially the hills program they do from January til March) were other two factors contributing to my success. Running with a group is essential for multiple reasons and I will talk about them in more detail in a future article but if I had to pick one reason alone it will be the feeling it gives you when running with others, the friendship, the common goals and motivation. The feeling of being part of something great. And that is running.
Scotiabank Marathon v. Toronto Marathon, what should you choose?
Obviously I haven’t gotten the chance yet to participate in other marathons but I just wanted to say right of the get go that Scotiabank Marathon is an excellent race to start with. It’s very well organized, the course is amazingly taking you from east to west along the lake (this race is also called Toronto Waterfront Marathon, get it?) so if the weather is hot the lake effect will cool the air for you. Scotiabank Marathon is a much bigger race in terms of participants and volunteers. It also gave me the feeling there was much more police. I remember at some point over the Toronto marathon, the police asked us to stop so cars can go through. That never happened with Scotiabank Marathon – the police would stop any car and would always let us go first – well, we were the ones against the clock, remember it was a race!
The terrain is more favorable in the Toronto Marathon because a big chunk of the course is downhill which helps a bit.
Both races are Boston qualifiers so if your interest is into running the Boston marathon, you won’t go wrong with any of them. Just watch your time and make sure what’s the qualifying time for your age and gender.
You really cannot go wrong with any of these races but if I would had the chance to chose I would go with Scotiabank.
This was my little late update on the race, more like a rant but believe me I’m being more civilized now than I would have been should I had written the article right after the race. I hope I shed some light over the Toronto Marathon and that it helps you decide if it’s something for you or not.
Cheers, see you on the road!