The Toronto Wa­ter­front Half Marathon is big, fun, flat and friendly, finds RW’S Ge­or­gia Scarr

Runner's World (UK) - - In This Issue -

RW runs the Toronto Wa­ter­front Half Marathon

TORONTO, Canada’s largest city, home of the CN Tower, rap­per Drake and – it turns out – a gem of an in­ter­na­tional race week­end. The full pro­gramme com­prises a full marathon, a half and a 5K. The half starts on Univer­sity Av­enue and heads to­wards the Univer­sity of Toronto cam­pus. Hav­ing scouted out the area I knew the course would lead to Queen’s Park, a man­i­cured stretch of green where the trees glowed with au­tum­nal hues and scores of black squirrels scram­bled about like tiny id­iot nin­jas.

I pow­ered through the first mile only to have my race-day squir­rel-spot­ting scup­pered by a down­pour. Noth­ing a run­ner used to train­ing in the UK can’t han­dle, but I’d made the mis­take of run­ning in a vest and flimsy shorts. (I know it was Oc­to­ber but the shorter the shorts, the faster your time. Or so my help­ful col­leagues at RW US told me.)

Still, at the two-mile point the course took a turn down Bathurst Street, one of the city’s main thor­ough­fares and punc­tu­ated by strik­ing street-art mu­rals, vividly coloured car­toon­ish faces stretch­ing over shop fronts – and it was at this point that the crowd sup­port sud­denly blew up. Among the shop work­ers in store door­ways and fam­i­lies out in their wa­ter­proofs, a chap in full Su­per­man cos­tume held a sign read­ing ‘High Five For Su­per­pow­ers’ and of­fered his palm to pass­ing run­ners. I slapped his hand and silently con­grat­u­lated my­self on my midrun co­or­di­na­tion. If you ever worry about miss­ing a high five in these sit­u­a­tions, the trick is to look at the el­bow.

I pow­ered down to­wards the Toronto wa­ter­front – the point where the city meets Lake On­tario is home to ur­ban beaches and preened bay­side parks – when I spot­ted some­one with a plac­ard that read, ‘You think your legs hurt? My arms are killing me!’ I didn’t see the glo­ri­ous soul who held this, but I chuck­led for a solid minute and can only thank them for their ex­cel­lent sign-writ­ing skills, which car­ried me with re­newed vigour onto the free­way. Yep, the free­way.

De­spite the many land­marks along the shore­side, the course (dis­ap­point­ingly, in my view) leads run­ners slightly fur­ther in­land onto an out-and-back along Lake Shore Boule­vard free­way, rather than along the board­walk it­self. The hefty stretch from mile 4.5 to 11 is a men­tal chal­lenge, with en­ter­tain­ing spec­ta­cles no­tably scarce. That said, it’s joy­fully flat and the straight, wide free­way makes it a Pb-hunter’s dream, with six miles of over­tak­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties.

One of the things I’ve al­ways loved about out-and-backs is be­ing able to catch sight of run­ners pow­er­ing ahead, and us­ing them as a source of in­spi­ra­tion when things get tough. I caught sight of Calum Neff, who pushed his four-yearold daugh­ter in a run­ning buggy to land a new Guin­ness world record for the fastest marathon by a male push­ing a pram. His time? A stag­ger­ing 2:31:21. Also tak­ing part was 86-year-old Ed Whitlock, who set the men’s 85-89 age-group world record that day, com­plet­ing the marathon in an ut­terly mind­bog­gling 3:56:33. Sadly, Ed passed away in March, but his legacy is an as­ton­ish­ing one.

Run­ning for fun rather than a time, I took full ad­van­tage by eas­ing back to a gen­tler pace once I started to tire, paus­ing at the side of the road to snap the iconic CN Tower – the world’s third­tallest, stretch­ing more than 550 me­tres into the sky. It’s used as a tele­vi­sion and ra­dio broad­cast tower, and

houses a rooftop restau­rant (this one re­volves, of­fer­ing 360-de­gree views of the city).

Turning to­wards the fi­nan­cial district for the fi­nal mile, the crowds grew again. Hav­ing never run a big city half or marathon be­fore, the ex­plo­sion of cheer­ing over­whelmed me. Though the city is home to more than 2.6 mil­lion peo­ple, I found the streets peace­ful in the days lead­ing up to the race, with no more than a hand­ful of peo­ple roam­ing even on week­end evenings. Now, these streets were packed with crowds five-deep along the fi­nal stretch, and twice that as we neared the fin­ish.

I sailed over the line, then, spent, stag­gered into Nathan Phillips Square (home to City Hall and, for the day, the race vil­lage), where I joined the ranks of fin­ish­ers pos­ing for pho­tos on the square’s gi­ant 3D Toronto sign, be­fore tak­ing ad­van­tage of the open-air stretch­ing and foam-rolling zone.

When you take the free­way sec­tion in the mid­dle of this event into ac­count, Toronto is never go­ing to win any awards for Most Beau­ti­ful Course, but there are other rea­sons why this event now at­tracts nearly 20,000 en­trants across the three dis­tances.

Its flat, fast course – with many straight stretches – is ideal for hold­ing speed, but more than that, it’s a race with plenty of soul. Even at the re­motest points of the route, sup­port­ers were there with signs, jelly babies, en­ergy and con­stant en­cour­age­ment – and whether you’re look­ing to smash a record or sim­ply fin­ish with a smile, that sup­port is some­thing ev­ery run­ner will en­joy.

O, CANADA (clock­wise from left) Bunny ha- ha or bunny pe­cu­liar?; run­ning past the CN Tower; Toronto street art: the race vil­lage, over­looked by City Hall

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.