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Wow these last 6 months passed by quickly! When I found out on May 11th that I was being selected as a Digital Champion for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon I thought “6 months? tons of time!” What I didn’t take into account was the fact that my kids would be out of school for about 3 of those months and as such I would be doing a lot family things like going to the EX, Canada’s Wonderland, the Science Center etc. That meant I was not left with a lot of time to get my runs in during July & August; especially the long ones. So in the end we did not train as much as we wanted to or should have but October 18 was coming regardless. I kept telling myself and Karen that “This was our first marathon and, really, our goal was to get the distance in to see how we could handle it.
I would first like to talk about the Digital Champion program. I cannot say enough how amazing this program is. It really is a mutually beneficial program between the Canada Running Series and the members. Without this program, that I have now been a part of for 2 of their races, I would not have met and learned from so many amazing runners. I have gained so much from the Toronto running community that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I feel so much more connected now as a runner in my 2 short years of running. In return I worked very hard to promote the race on all my channels, share my training ups & downs, and connect with runners participating in the 3 races of #STWM. The hard work of Jenna Pettinato really is the backbone of this program and all its success. She worked her ass off organizing special runs and meet-ups for us, provided us all the info and tools we needed to promote the race and kept us all connected in ways we never could’ve imagined! She is extremely talented in what she does as well in her own running and I want to send a huge thank you to her here!
The weekend started early Saturday morning with the Running Room International Friendship Run that was lead by Running Room founder John Stanton & Canadian elite runner Krista Duchene. We had left the house a lot later than I had planned to but it actually worked out fine! I got the car parked for the weekend left the luggage and we jogged out to meet the shuttle that would take us to the Enercare center. The free shuttle system was such a great thing to have over the course of the weekend and I saw many runners taking advantage of it. I even had to use it twice!!. Anyways, we got to the Enercare center with more than enough time to spare so we got a chance to speak to the race director Alan Brooks. If you ever get a chance to speak with this man seize it! He has such a wealth of knowledge that I always find myself learning something new from him every time we meet! This time his great advice was for us to make sure we had gloves to wear for the race because it was going to be a cold morning and you want blood going to you legs and not to your hands! And man did that come in handy during the marathon!. We then met up with my brother-in-law Dan who I roped into running with us 🙂
The 3k Friendship run was kicked off by some brief words from Alan, John and Krista.
We then went outside and posed for a very large group photo!
From here we all quickly got up and started running! John and Krista lead the pack and they were gone in a flash! This was fine since I really wanted to run/catch up with Dan! Very early into the run I hear “it’s a good thing we have a paramedic on this run!” I turn around and there is Joy Kramarich and Walter Faion!! I had previously met Walter at my local Running Room when he was promoting the Toronto Yonge Street 10k and Joy I had been interacting with on FB and IG for sometime but hadn’t met till now! Shoulda got a selfie! #Fail It was a nice easy 3k running around the CNE grounds with a couple of stops for traffic lights and up & down some steps to get over and across Lakeshore BLVD. The weather was ideal being sunny and about 3 degrees.
This is probably my favorite picture from the whole weekend!
You guys will have to consider this as part of your next #STWM weekend plans. It was such a great way to connect and shake out your legs before your big day! It’s also a great way to start your expo day! Like we did! 😉
The expo overall was good! They had packet pickup right at he beginning which was good to get that over with right away. We were initially a little confused after pick up and at the entrance to the rest of the expo since it appeared that only runners were allowed to proceed. It turned out, though, that they were just scanning bib chips to have them for the race so non-runners could just proceed through. We proceeded through the maze of booths and tried to make our way to the back where the shift and kit pick up was. I found the aisles to be quite narrow and widening would definitely help with the flow and the ease of people to browse the booths that aren’t very big. There was a very large selection of organizations represented there but there were a few that I personally would’ve liked to have seen as well. Oh well not the race’s fault :). We did get to the see the Vega Toronto booth and spoke with their Experiential Marketing Specialist Kelsey Reidl. I highly recommenced tapping into her wealth of knowledge if you get the chance to meet her! We also stopped by the New Balance Toronto booth, or should I say, mobile store since it was so big!! Mike is their Instagram guy and he is always great to get info on their latest products! We made it to the back of the hall picked up our kit bag with out shirts and moved on. When you circle back again you make you way to the stage. Kinda wish I was able to go to the expo on the Friday since that was when all the people I wanted to see were doing their presentations. Shoulda looked at the schedule better before, although I couldn’t have made it on Friday anyways. One thing for them to consider is asking all the speakers to talk on both days since I would think that most people would be going to the expo on the Saturday vs the Friday. The main reason I wanted to head up to the stage, though, was because it was where they were keeping the food and coffee for the 3k Friendship runners!. While there I got another opportunity to speak with Joy and Walt! These are two more people that if you get the chance to speak with them take it and absorb as much as you can!! These two have extensive running resumes and experience. I could listen to them for hours and Walt gave me a lot of great advice for race day! We walked around some more, I bought the gloves that Alan said I should then we bumped into Dawn from Shrinking Inkdgirl another one of the Digital champions. She is so awesome! She is currently injured 😦 and drove probably more than an hour just to try to connect with other DC’s and wish them well at the expo. From there it was time to hop on the shuttle and check into our super amazing hotel the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel. Now before I get into that I need to mention my annoyance for the day. When we got up into our hotel room and opened our Kit bags we discovered that Karen didn’t receive a shirt and mine was too big! 😥 This meant that I had to walk back out to the shuttle area take it all the way back (in traffic) to get Karen’s shirt! I made it back to the kit area and got Karen’s shirt but found out they would not switch my shirt at the expo I had to do it tomorrow at the Finish line area. So not only did I lose more than an hour of time with my wife in our hotel for our anniversary travelling back and forth to the expo now I find out that after I run a full marathon I have to go back to my hotel get my shirt and bring it back to the finish line to get my size! UGH…
So back to the hotel… About 3 weeks prior to us arriving I had contacted our hotel to let them know that Karen and I were celebrating our 9th wedding anniversary along with our first marathon. I had got a reply back from them saying that they would be giving us access to their club lounge on the 43rd floor. COOL! What they didn’t say was that it meant our room was being up graded as well!! It was gigantic!!
Our room was on the 19th floor over looking the finish line and Nathan Philips square. We loved staying in this hotel cause it meant we could walk right off the finish line and right into our room!
We had only been in our room for a couple of hours when was a knock at the door! I was a delivery from the front desk manager!
They had sent us up a bottle of wine along with some cheese and crackers! How amazing is that!!!
The next big task before our impending doom in the morning was to lay our our clothes and and decide what to wear since it was going to be a very cold morning then warm up. We scanned through posts on Instagram to see what others had chosen and to get some advice. We started going through our suitcases picking our running gear.
“um Mike where is my long sleeve Lulu shirt?”
“Which Lulu shirt I packed everything you asked me to!”
“Well its not here!”
“What do you mean it’s not there???”
“Well its not!!”
Well that went on for a few moments until Karen’s suitcase was completely emptied and various items of clothing thrown in different directions. Meanwhile I’m thinking how the heck did I not pack this thing??? How am I going to fix this!! Hey we’re right down the street from the Eaton’s Center. After a quick google of Lululemon Eaton Center hours and phone call we were walking down the street to the mall! I was not going to let her run without a proper shirt and freeze because I’m a knob and forgot something! “Man I hope our marathon does not have this many hiccups!” Well we got her a new shirt and I laid out my gear for obligatory #FlatRunner photo:
I thought I had selected all the right items for the run. Turns out I did pretty well. The only thing I will eliminate for the future will be the belt and water bottle. Those just turned out to be a big waste of weight and annoying. There was more than enough water/gatoraide stations along the way that we didn’t even drink any of the water I thought I would need! I did pack a whole bunch of “gu” in the belt but I could’ve easily put those into the 4 pockets I had in my outfit. The jacket and gloves proved useful esp at the beginning and as time went on I found myself adding and taking away layers as the clouds rolled in and out or we went through a shaded area.
Having club lounge access meant we would have access to the runners breakfast before the race!! Man oh man was this ever a great perk!! The Sheraton really went out of their way to make sure they had some food for everyone! They even had grab bags with extra food to take to you room for after your race!!
After breakfast I was off to meet my running friends for a few pics before the race!
After all the picture shenanigans with my friends from the Justice League Runners it was time for Karen and I to take our place with the 26 000 other runners participating that day!
The corals were moved very quickly to the start line. Something I was very happy about since I have been to other races where it can take a very long time to get to the front if you’re in one of the corals near the back. We had a plan of running this race on intervals of 3:15run/1walk and keeping our pace of aprox 10:30-11 min/mile. This can be very difficult at the beginning. One thing I noticed with the marathon distance is that you really have to be disciplined in keep your target pace at the beginning so as to make sure you have enough left in your legs to carry you through the last 3rd of the race. I basically became a slave to my Garmin and that seemed to work. It has a great run/walk timer and I just kept checking our pace to keep us on track. We moved along pretty well passed some of Toronto’s iconic buildings. I didn’t take too many selfies since I wanted to make sure my battery lasted the full 5 hours but I did snap a few 🙂
From here we ran down Bathurst Street and over one of the bridges that was part of the Toronto Yonge Street 10k. This brought back quite a few amazing memories for me from the time when I ran that race with the Justice League Runners; thank you Canada Running Series! From there we made our way west along Lakeshore Blvd. Somewhere before the turn around I was stopped by Joey-Lynn Day who happened to recognize me and wanted to say hi 🙂 (thanks! Hope you had a great race!) Unfortunately after that we had to make one porta potty stop which kinda sucked since the line was really long and stiffened us up a little. We carried on around the turnaround and started to make our way back along Lakeshore BLVD. It was somewhere along this section that we caught our first glimpse of the Justice League Runners! What an up lifting sight! I recognized JP aka Batman right away and ran across the boulevard to give him a high five. I’m sure I got a few looks as I ran off course yelling JP!!! ( have you seen the movie Elf? Picture the scene where Elf says (SANTA, SANTA!!!!!! I know him!!) Things were still going very well we were still able to talk while we ran; we were kinda in the zone almost bored. Then we heard this very loud cheering section! I look to my left and I see Allison Miceli holding this huge sign and yelling at us! I will forever remember her pointing at Karen and say multiple times “You are AWESOME!’. No Allison YOU are awesome!!! Thank you for lifting our spirits!
From here is was the home stretch for the half marathoners and only half way for us. Remarkably I was still feeling really well at this point. Time for another selfie:
It was sometime after the half marathon mark maybe after km30 or so that we both started to loose steam and pain began to step in. For me it was in both my Achilles; my legs felt fine but my man my Achilles started to burn and did so for the rest of the race. For the next two days as well for that matter! It was at this point as well where Karen said she needed to put her headphones on and start her tunes. This meant that I should stop talking to her and let her concentrate. I then also started my music and kept telling myself “it’s all downhill from here” and started to mentally break the rest of the race down into more manageable chunks. There is only 12k to go; that’s only two 6k segments. Then at 32k it was “ok now 10k/ 2 5k segments you can do this”. It’s amazing the mind games you play with yourself in this situation. A time where during any other circumstance you would just say “wow this hurts like crazy, I should stop this what am I doing!” But during a marathon something in you changes your mindset from “I can’t do this” to “how can I make this happen”. For me it was breaking down the distance into manageable chunks, looking at signs, waving at people, forcing myself to smile for the photographers so I had good pics, anything to distract myself. It’s amazing how life will throw you its own distractions as well. I was pretty zoned in just before going up Bayview Ave when all of a sudden I see Melly Ciffo and Christa Davidson running together. What a great change of mindset to see them, ask them how their race was going and finally meet Christa IRL if only briefly. From then on it was the 2nd biggest segment; this time going east along Queen Street. This was an absolutely beautiful street to run down! I have never been down that section of Queen St. before and all the locals were out cheering the runners on. There was even a young girl standing on the sidewalk with a bowl of bananas thirds to give out. That certainly fel much better than the Gu that I had been consuming aprox every 10k! We hit the last turn around point of the course and began to double back through the Queen East village again. Very happy with all the store fronts, signs and people to provide a visual distraction from the pain in my tendons. Somewhere around the 23rdmi I saw some runners coming in the opposite direction. A sight that I will forever remember and associate with this run. It was Jean-Paul Bedard running with the Justice league runners! Jean-Paul was on the final 30k of his 3 #STWM marathon journey that day to raise awareness about child sexual abuse and child rape. To me, he is a symbol of courage and strength and seeing him really made me feel silly about the pain I was feeling in my tendons and carry on!
After some hugs and some words we were back at it again and in the home stretch! The last 6k or so were kind of a blur I think because of the pain and me really concentrating on my footing ( street car tracks and potholes can be treacherous with tired marathon legs). The last 2k were the great! We ran through the Parkdale road runners cheer section then made our way up Bay street. Going up Bay street was a sea of cheers and spectators. We again saw Allison and the Tribe Fitness cheer station as well as Cathy V and Heather Gardner from Tribe; Thank you all again for the cheers during the last 200m. From then on I grabbed Karen’s hand and we crossed the finish line!
- Training for a marathon in the fall is not easy when you have kids (summer long runs are hard to fit in)
- Discipline during the race is key to finishing strong
- We can run at a faster pace and a longer run interval if we can train more frequently
- I don’t need to run with water & I can carry less GU
- Staying at the Sheraton was a great decision
- If Karen and I can complete a marathon together then anything is possible
- A marathon will change how you think about what you can and cannot accomplish
- Running with your spouse is an incredible bonding experience
- Jean-Paul Bedard is a true hero!!
- The Justice League Runners are changing the lives of sick kids
- I now have the most amazing and supportive running family
- Being a Digital Champion has opened a lot of doors for me and I will be forever thankful for it
- The Canada Running Series puts on world class events
- Advil is your friend after a marathon
- Check and recheck the list of items your wife gives you to pack for her
Big thank you to everyone that supported, us believed in us and cheered us on!