I wake up shortly after 6am EST, beating my alarm by a few minutes. I head down to the kitchen to make coffee and breakfast, peanut butter toast and a banana. Eating is hard because my stomach feels nervous and I struggle through it while I re-count out my fuel and make a bottle of Nuun. I get dressed and then it’s time to drive downtown to the start-line. I get out a block away and follow the crowd to the start-line while doing my warm-up. It is loud and there is an undeniable excitement in the air, the 5km runners are crossing the finish as we wait in our corrals. I note how warm it feels, I am sweating just standing here surrounded by other warm bodies. I take a gel while Alan, the race director hypes everyone up, sharing a quote from Ed Whitlock.
The gun goes off and so do we, the pack is thick and it is difficult to find space. We head up towards Bloor St. I notice there are a surprising number of people running in full-on costumes. There is a cowboy running alongside me wearing denim jeans and a denim shirt, as well as accessories, I can’t imagine how uncomfortable he must be. I hear two guys behind me commenting on another costumed runner, guy 1: “Hey there goes a clown! He’s probably going for The Guinness World Record for fastest half in a clown costume”, guy 2: “His mom must be so proud.” This was funny, and also mean, but the best part is that guy in the full, polyester clown outfit, and wig ran the half in about 90 minutes, who’s laughing now?
I was feeling pretty good during this time, getting into the groove and enjoying running in Toronto. My first 5km were: 4:48, 4:56, 4:47, 4:45, 4:48. I was supposed to be closer to 5:00/km but hey. I took my first gel 20 minutes in, and looked forward to the Saucony/Black Toe cheer-station on Bathurst, about 7km in. What an epic cheer-station it was, music, a bunch of happy people and confetti canons! Km’s 6-10 were: 4:43, 4:47, 4:53, 4:53, 4:54. I was still feeling good. As we turned onto Lakeshore, the heat became more apparent. It was shady at first, but the further west we went, the hotter the sun became. I kept up with my gels, about every 20 minutes, and taking water at each station. I started taking 2 cups and pouring one on my head, it felt so hot, I didn’t know what else to do. I noticed lines outside all port-o-lets on the course which I found surprising, seems like there should have been more. If stopping for the washroom isn’t bad enough, waiting for one makes it that much worse!
Shortly after we rounded the turn to head east, I remember two women commenting on another runners’ outfit, “Hey look that lady is running in barefoot”, funny, they focused on his bare feet when he also wore an 80’s exercise outfit, totally rocking a patterned crop top and matching high waisted shorts. I kept up double-fisting waters, as much as I could, though on many times when I reached for the water the hand moved further away, making it very difficult to retrieve. The next 5km went as follows: 4:53, 4:55, 4:58, 4:52, 5:02. My stomach was feeling full and I had started to feel sick. I knew I would need to stop to pee, so I decided to wait until I found vacant port-o-lets and accept the lost time.
The next 2 kms #16-17, were fine: 4:54, 5:03, but after 17 is when I knew my race was not going to go as planned. I felt like all the sudden my energy was gone, and I also was incredibly nauseous. Being only 17km in and feeling this bad was a pretty awful feeling, if it were twice as far in, it would have been understandable. Km 18 is when things started to slow down it was a 5:12, and then during km 19 I stopped to pee which made it a 5:50km. I thought that after that I might feel a bit better, but no such luck. We passed the PDRR/Lululemon cheer station which was amazing, we were under the Gardiner Expressway and it sounded like what I imagine to Wellesley Scream Tunnel to be like, so loud, so hype, but with confetti cannons. It was so much fun, but I would have enjoyed it more if I felt better. When I saw the inflatable archway separating the half and full-marathoners, I seriously considered taking the half-route and bailing out early. I did not know how I could possibly finish the race, that is how bad I felt. 20-21 were: 5:12, and 4:15 (Garmin fail). My split for the first half was: 1:45:20.
We headed towards the Distillery and all I could think about was DNF’ing. This is where things really began to fall apart, it was so hot and this is a strange out and back loop where you can see the turn-around point the entire time, but it feels like forever before you arrive. Km 22-25 were: 5:26, 5:53, 6:06, 5:57. I knew that the next 5km would bring me to the Beach where I could count on family and friends cheering. I also thought that would be another great time to bail out. I could wave to them, they would see me run, and then I would defer from the course, run up the street and DNF.
Once we got onto Eastern Ave towards the beach, the heat subsided a bit. I was still energy-less and wondered if maybe someone would be waiting to pick me up and say, “let’s go, this isn’t your day, you can try again another time”. I really did think this might happen, because those who were tracking me would have already determined something had gone very wrong. Just shortly before we left Eastern, I saw a figure on the side of the road with a camera, my dad. As I approached him, I was excited, he HAS come to pick me up I thought, no more of this misery. However, when I told him, “I do not want to finish”, he simply said, “now it’s just a training run”, no luck, no bail-out, continue on it was. Run or die.
Km 26-30 were 7:17, 6:48, 6:47, 5:52, 7:43. I actually started walking during this stretch and then I would pick a point at which I had to try running again. I think km 29 must have been where my cheering angel, Shelley found me. She had biked down from the beach, and carried a sign, she ran along the grass beside me and pumped me up. I was really struggling at this point. We continued on along Lakeshore towards Woodbine, which was incredibly hot, the sun was relentless. There were large cheer-stations with music and lots of people though.
Once we turned from Woodbine onto Queen St the crowd support increased even more, the street was full of people on both sides of the course. Once we got to the middle of the Beach, I spotted Shelley, my cheer angel again. On the other side of the street was my mom and neighbours waving frantically. I waved back and somehow smiled, and continue trekking along to the turn-around point further east. The crowd support was incredibly strong for this whole part of the race, people were calling out your name and screaming for you. It felt like everyone knew you, again if I had felt better, I would have enjoyed this even more. As I reached my mom again she passed me the gels I had asked, but I only accepted 1. I had taken a long break from gels because I felt too sick to take them, and still had some left.
When we turned from Queen st onto Woodbine, I overheard a girl on the side say to her mom, “I hope I never have to do one of these”. It made me laugh a little and then remember I used to think the same way. Shortly after that, and even younger girl said to her mom, “does cheering make them keep going?” as they stopped cheering and walked home. The mom looked at me apologetically as I was the first runner to pass since they had stopped cheering and said “good job”. Kms 31-35 were: 5:33, 5:45, 6:10, 5:59, 6:35. At this point, Shelley resurfaced for a third time and cheered me on as I turned off the Lakeshore for the last time. “You are so strong”, she said, I didn’t feel strong, but with only 7 km to go I knew I wasn’t weak even to DNF.
We got to the Corktown area and the streets became full again. There were just 3 more kms to go. Km 36-40 were 6:46, 6:30, 5:59, 7:33, 6:29. I just wanted to be finished with this and move on. The crowds grew, the closer we got to the finish line. Once we turned onto Bay, I noticed the sheer amount of people, blurred faces, bodies, so many people. It was dizzying, but amazing at the same time. The crowd support for this event was incredible. Km 41 was 5:41. During the final km I started to feel super weak, there were signs counting down every 100m for the last half km. I honestly didn’t know if I would cross the finish line, I felt like I was going to pass out. I didn’t and km 42 was 5:30. Official time 3:58:47. My 3rd marathon in a 1 year and 2 weeks. My slowest marathon by about 24 minutes.