Race Date: March 24, 2013
This race has a lot of history. Celebrating its 119th anniversary this year, it’s the oldest road race in North America, older than the Boston Marathon. I went last year as a spectator and from the moment I arrived I knew I wanted to, some day, participate as a runner. I never imagined that I would be running it so soon, but thanks to some good old fashioned peer pressure, plans were changed.
Our training went pretty much as planned. Since this was a new distance for me, I just wanted to finish the race. So, I focused on getting in the miles and running longer runs that got me closer to the 30k race distance. I trained up to 28k. The weekend before the big day, my training buddies and I decided for the first time ever, that we would stick together for this race – a support system.
This year, the race had a 4.5 hour time limit and anyone who was not at 15k by 2 hours and 15 minutes would be pulled from the course and not allowed to finish. The added pressure of this, even though we knew from our training runs that it wouldn’t be a problem for us, had started to play on our minds and our nerves. Our goal (out loud anyway) was to complete the race in 4 hours. I had a secret “pie in the sky” goal of 3 hours 45 minutes.
The days leading up to the race, Mike was wonderful. Patience a-plenty putting up with the neurotic pre-race me. We arrived at Copps Colliseum early to prep ourselves and meet up with friends including my training buddies Ginny, Nalini and Tricia. After a group photo with a large contingency from our run community, we headed out to the start line and pretty much as soon as we were tucked into the corral we were off!
The first 10k went pretty much as planned. It was flat and we kept a fairly steady pace of just under 7:00 per km. Within 15 minutes we had shed our throw away sweaters and soon after that our arm warmers came off too. It was about 2c and the sun was shining. Perfect! The course ran through residential and industrial areas. People were out cheering on the streets, their porches, and one of the local churches even had a sign up offering their restrooms to runners in need. When we hit the 10k mat the time read 1:19:34 (gun time). Whew! I relaxed a little because I knew we would have no problem making the 2 hour 15 minute cut off at 15k. I was also keeping my eye on a pace band I had put on my wrist and tucked under my sleeve just as an extra check to make sure we were on track for that 4 hour finish.
The second 10k of this amazing course took us along the waterfront, over a lift bridge where we wondered how the barefoot runners managed the steel surface when we were having trouble with it in our shoes, over a highway (the first hill on the course at about 15k) and into the start of 10k of rolling hills. Spectators continued to line the roads and some even made their own water and orange slice stations. We were still running at about the same pace and all four of us seemed to be going strong. Random checks of the time and pace band told me that we were on target to actually beat that 4 hour goal of ours!
The third 10k is the hardest part of the course. The rolling hills weren’t as bad as I imagined them to be. Prior to race day, we had decided that we were not going to wear ourselves out by trying to run them all. We weren’t going to lose much time walking when we had to, compared to being totally wiped out if we ran them. Ginny had been getting a little nervous anticipating her family would be coming up soon. Somewhere just after 21k Ginny spotted someone she knew along the route. Friends who had come out to cheer her on and support her own very special goal with their sign that read “30 B4 40 Go Ginny!” She went over to high five her friends and then saw her family just ahead. I walked along the course watching as she ran over to them. I was so excited for her. All the support she was receiving was so great. And then one of her daughters saw me and waved “Hi Linda!” I waved back. I was so touched.
When we passed the water station around 25k Tricia and I got separated from Ginny and Nalini in the crowd. They were a bit behind us, but together and still in sight, so we carried on. Down the last rolling hill we could hear the boom box playing We Will Rock You, over a bridge and then we were faced with the course nemesis. A hill about 1k long with a steep incline. Keeping to the plan, we walked up the hill keeping a pretty good pace. We topped the hill, took a second to regroup and headed out for the final 3k – one of the longest 3ks I’ve ever run. The sun had gone behind the clouds and the wind was right in our faces. Taking another check at the time, I was more than happy to see that what I thought was a “pie in the sky” goal of 3:45:00 wasn’t so out of reach after all. It was at this point that my legs started to feel a little tired. We pushed against the wind, sneaking by the Grim Reaper, taking an unscheduled walk break before picking it up again for the final 1.5k. As we approached 200m I was super happy to see Mike waving and smiling with his camera out ready to snap some pictures. We waved as we went by and continued along the last stretch of road, down the ramp into Copps Colliseum and turned the final corner into the finish chute.
When we hit the chute one of us said “let’s go!” (or maybe that was just in my head) and we both started sprinting to the finish. I heard cheering in the stands as we both crossed the finish line together.
Filled with emotion, we exchanged high fives and big congratulatory hugs, collected our medals and waited a minute or two for Ginny and Nalini to come through. I was so excited to see them as they were handed their medals. Together, the four of us celebrated our biggest running accomplishment yet. After five months of focused training, commitment to the challenge and unwavering support for each other, we had run our first 30k race!
I will definitely run this race again. The route is awesome and the community support is fantastic! This was easily my favourite race to date!
I was surprised at how good I felt, physically, at the end of the race. I had plenty of cardio and my legs were just starting to get tired. This tells me that with the right training, and barring any major injuries, my ultimate end goal of the full marathon is well within reach.
Official Time: 3:46:26.7