Yesterday at approximately 7:35am, I crossed the start line at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon. And, 2 hours, 42 minutes and 39.2 seconds later, I crossed the finish line, upright and smiling.
I placed 3776 out of the 4533 women running. While some might consider this acceptable but not great, I am extremely thrilled. I hoped to finish between 2:40 and 2:50. My goal going in was a target pace of 8km / minute. And that’s exactly what I ran. With the first 10km done in 1:17, and the second 11km in 1:25, I actually ran the first and second halves at equivalent paces too; another personal goal.
As many of you know, this is my second race, and the one I’ve been training for since mid-summer. Actually running it was a different type of journey than I’d ever have expected. The first few kilometers, I was swept up in a sea of runners. As far as I could see ahead, and behind, runners kept pace in the crowd. The sight was breath-taking. Or maybe it was just that I found myself going about 2 minutes a kilometer faster than my usual pace.
Once we hit the 3km markers, I had resumed my normal pace and the crowd was noticeably thinner. The marathoners had gone further ahead, the run/walkers behind. I was able to see the crowds standing on the side, cheering for friends, families and strangers. We passed the first break station. I stopped for what turned into a 7 minute ‘potty break’.
At 5km, the elite runners started passing us in the opposite direction. I saw Kenneth Mungara and Amane Gobena on their way to set new records for both the Men and Women Marathon times. While I’ve seen these kind of runners on television, usually during the Olympic broadcasts, it’s a whole new level of respect to see them fly past you, already at the 18 or 19km marker a mere 40 minutes after the starting gun. Of course, we mortals all cheered as they passed. We were just beginning, and they were almost half way to their finish.
Around 7km, we started running in my usual ‘hood; from the exhibition grounds to just before the Humber footbridge near Sir Casmir Gzowoski. So strange to see the same sights from the road instead of the waterfront trail. So strange to be part of 20,000 other runners going the same direction. I started passing – and being passed by – the same runners over and over again. I developed nicknames for them in my head. Blue Shirt Tall Girl. Old Dude. Ponytail Lady. Crazy Speed Walker. And the two girls who stopped for stretch breaks every 2km. My comfy run distance trends for 7 – 9km these days, so at this point, I was feeling pretty great and enjoying the slightly chilly and overcast morning.
We ran through the first Champion Chip tracker at 10km. (I swear there was another one at the halfway point? Am I crazy, or was there?) It’s a big pad on the ground that gets a signal from the plastic chip strapped to my shoe and marks my time. At 10km, I still felt pretty good, but kind of wondered how I’d do more than another 10km before being through.
10 – 16km is a blur in my mind. I seem to remember a big hill, and trying to run up it. I remember taking more walk breaks than usual. Psyching myself up to run to the next light pole, the next flag, the next kilometer marker. I remember slowing my running pace from just under 6min/km to 6:10/km and then 6:20/km. At times, it felt like I was crawling.
At 17km, my body started complaining a little.
“Wait!” It cried. “What are you doing?”
“Don’t you know there’s a lovely pub just over there? It’s only a few blocks. We can sit, have a beer. It’ll be grand!”
I decided to ignore it. I wasn’t in pain, not really. I just felt a little sore, a little tired. My water belt felt heavy. My arches were a little tight. I read somewhere online that it gets progressively harder to do math while running long distances. It’s true. I couldn’t keep straight which markers I’d passed, or even where I was. I just knew to keep moving, and that I’d be done soon enough.
When the marathoners split to head out to Queen East and the Beaches, I felt such respect for those who still had more than half to go. Really, I can’t imagine it.
At 18km, I started to really, truly believe that I could finish. And when I saw the time marker of 2 hours and 20 minutes, I knew I’d finish better than expected. Much much much better.
When I turned up Bay Street for the final slog, I noticed more and more spectators cheering our names. Even those who didn’t know us. It was a great feeling, even taking frequent walk breaks. As I approached the “500m to go” sign, I broke into a slow run again and crossed the finish line, still running, listening to the Indigo Girls’ “Chickenman”.
So. Half Marathon accomplished. And yeah, I’m pretty sore today. But I did it, and I will do it again someday.
I’ve reposted the code, images, and instructions, with a few updates here. Please, if you do decide to use this on your site, change your links to get the images from your own server. The updated code no longer is written to pull them from my site. Thanks!Keep Reading >