Get Thee to Toronto Pronto!
An early, fast, qualifying marathon in a cool city close by. A great combination of course and destination that makes the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon a great early fall event for you to consider.
Posted Monday, 20 June, 2005
I’m considering the Toronto Waterfront Marathon Sept. 25th 2005 as one of my fall marathons and you should too. Why? Let’s ask some questions.
You’ll find Toronto has all the answers!
Q: Why run Toronto Waterfront?
A: Here’s why in a nutshell…
- Very flat, but scenic, course right on the shore of Lake Ontario.
- Great early qualifying opportunity for Boston.
- Dynamic international destination right in your back yard.
- Well organized, runner friendly and well supported event.
Q: Can I qualify at this race?
A: I speak from experience when I say, “No marathon is easy!”, but this one is as close as it gets. If you’re looking for a personal record or a qualifying time, look no further. Take a gander at the elevation chart below. If this was sheet music for a symphony it would have one long 26.2 mile note. You won’t be wasting any energy climbing hills here. The race course is uniquely situated along the shore of Lake Ontario and there are only a few feet (metres for you Canadians) of elevation change in the whole course.
Q: But, is it pretty?
A: The course is essentially a long skinny loop course that runs east and west along the lake shore. The shore scenery of Lake Ontario keeps things interesting. You’ll be treated to parks and marinas to keep your head bemused as you slide along towards punching your qualifying ticket.
Q: Do you have any proof?
A: What? You don’t trust me? Anecdotal evidence indicates that the locals already know this event is an easy qualifier. When I ran Boston this year there were lots of maple leaf singlets with me in the midpack. Being the annoying ‘nervous talker’, I of course chatted them up, (with incredibly insightful opening lines like, “Hey, are you from Canada?”) Some did reveal that they had qualified at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. There you have it; a local secret revealed! My informal polling also revealed that southerners qualify at Disney and Houston, the Midwesterners go to Chicago and the Canadians punch their tickets in Toronto. How can you argue with one man’s anecdotal sampling of 20,000 runners!
More proof that this is a fast race is that there were two world records set here in the past couple years. The first was by the amazing Ed Whitlock who at 73 years young ran a 2:54:49! I’m going to pause to let that sink in…a 73 year old ran a sub 3 hour marathon! The second is by equally amazing, 92 year old Adidas poster boy Fauja Singh with a 5:40:04! If you were hoping, like me, to stick with it long enough to some day place in a age group through attrition, give it up!
Q:Isn’t September 25th a little early for a fall marathon?
A: The early bird gets the worm...or in this case the qualifying time. The timing of the event is in your favor. This race comes early in the fall racing season; September 25th. You still get two Boston’s out of the qualifying time if you need to and it’s early enough that you could run it as a warm-up or a safety-run. You can punch your ticket early, get the qualifying race out of the way and then ‘enjoy’ some more difficult races later in the season. If, by the random vagaries of fate and the marathon gods, you blow this one, you still have time for a couple more swings at it.
You might think that September is too early because of the heat factor. Not so. Remember we are talking about the Great White North here and the proximity of a fairly significant body of water. Typical temperature at the starting gun is around 50 degrees Fahrenheit and, unless there is an aberration in the weather, the finish time should be around 65 deg F. That’s racing weather. Moreover the timing is such that the famous North East fall foliage display is just descending on Ontario for your viewing pleasure. (A few weeks before continuing south to New England).
"This was my first race, and based on my experience in Toronto, it definitely won't be my last. What a positive and fun experience! The route was good, the music along the course was great, and the support from the volunteers and other attendees was phenomenal! Very encouraging!" – L.L, MB
Q: Is it hard to get there?
A: Do you know where Toronto is? It’s in the province of Ontario right across Lake Ontario from Buffalo N.Y. There it sits, this sparkling metropolis, the commercial center of English speaking Canada, right next to Niagara Falls. Toronto is the largest city in Canada with 3 million souls. This is not some hard-to-get-to, far-flung foreign city like Budapest or Katmandu. Toronto is close by, easy to get to and they speak a similar language to what we speak here in the ‘States’. You can drive through New York or fly into Pearson International Airport.
Q: Is there anything to do or see in Toronto while I’m there for the race?
A: This is not the parodied realm of Mounties, maple sugar and moose that you’ve been sold by Hollywood. Toronto has come to be known as “the world within a city” because of its multicultural nature. Similar to cities in the U.S., there has been European immigration over the years. The Irish, Scottish, Greeks, Italians and other European immigrants make up the old guard, but more recently there has been a welcoming of Asian and African influences. Running down Yonge Street, your nose is as likely to be treated to the aroma of Somali or Nigerian cooking as it is to detect Italian Cuisine. The city has a vibrancy and youthful quality to it. There is an air of expectation of great things to come.
Toronto is clean, safe and easy to get around in. Then there is the exchange rate. Name a city in the U.S. that you can get a decent hotel room in downtown for $140.00? You can’t. That same room in Boston is going to cost you $400.00! The exchange rate is favorable for U.S. visitors. You basically get a 20% discount on everything.
Speaking from Experience, I’m from south o’ the border, but I’ve spent a lot of time in Toronto on business, and I’ve run all over the city. (Including getting gloriously lost a few times) I’ve found that it’s an easy place to like as well as a great place to run. The people I’ve met have all been open, sincere, fun loving and engaging. I‘ve always felt very much at home in Toronto. They know how to make you feel welcome and how to have a good time.
All this makes the Toronto Waterfront Marathon a great deal for a destination race. A world class event, an interesting city, nice people and cheap sundries…How can you go wrong?
Q: Hey, I’m asking the questions. Now then; what else goes on during race weekend?
A: The event spans the weekend. There is a two day 65,000 sq ft expo in the Metro Convention Centre and a pasta dinner in the SkyDome Hotel with John ‘The Penguin’ Bingham as the inspirational keynote speaker.
There will be three events; the full marathon, a half marathon and a 5k. The marathon field is small for a big city, but growing, with 3,000 participants. Last year about 20% were from outside Canada and organizers are working to increase that number, by doing everything they can think of to make you feel welcome.
In their entirety the events will have about 10,000 runners combined. The races start and finish at Metro Hall, right downtown, a block north of the lake, next to the CN Tower, the SkyDome and the Hockey Hall of Fame. Chances are you are familiar with these Toronto landmarks. If you’ve seen a Toronto Blue Jays baseball game, you’ve seen the SkyDome and that tall pointy building with the rotating restaurant on the top is the CN tower. A skywalk connects Union Station to the Expo location. It’s an easy city to explore and all the activities for the race are right there in the same place.
"Worth the trip from Bermuda - my 10th marathon - and one of the best - organization, weather, a PB... What's not to like? Thanks for the memories!" - R.S. Bermuda
Q: Will I be entertained? I like to be entertained…
A: Of course you will be treated to some excellent homegrown entertainment along the course. The organizers have fanned neighborhood rivalries just to entertain you! The marathon starts at 7:30 AM. The course runs through 12 neighborhoods, known as ‘wards’. Each ward has an ‘entertainment committee”. The organizers have a contest that pits the wards against each other to see who can offer up the best sustained entertainment for the runners. The winner gets $5,000 contributed to the charity of their choice.
Q: How’s the course support?
A: Being a world class event, there is all the on-course tactical support that you would expect. There are plenty of aid stations, toilet facilities, the course is closed to traffic and thoroughly marshaled. There is competent chip timing, reporting and photography.
The organizers also provide pacing groups via “pace bunnies” if you want to meter your pace with an expert. Pace bunnies will be available for the Marathon and Half Marathon. Some will run non-stop, others will do the "Run/walk" (Run for 10 min/Walk for 1 min). There is also an early start for those of you who plan on spending a long time on the course! Not me; I can’t imagine running for 6 hours straight; I’d drop.
Q: Do I get any cool free stuff?
A: Well that depends on what you think is cool and your definition of free. The first 2000 entrants will get an Adidas technical racing shirt. That’s pretty cool. All finishers get a cool medal. The race has also cut a deal with John ‘The Penguin’ Bingham to run a coaching program for entrants that you can join online gratis.
If you’re fast and plan on earning your free stuff they have upped the prize package to $70,000 this year. If you’re in the midpack with me then that isn’t likely to happen, but the fast course is cool, the scenery is free and the memories will be priceless!
“The event was very well organized, the music on the course was great, the volunteers cheered everyone - even the slow runners like me. Scenic, perfect time of year for weather - a great run and great course.” Z.R. ON
Another interesting innovation is that they will let you change your entry. If you pull up lame during training you can either defer your entry to 2006 or ‘give’ your number to some other victim (done on-line). That’s fairly progressive!
Q: What about the charities?
A: No problem there for you exalted philanthropic folks. All the major race charity programs will be in evidence. The race supports many different charities and last year over $400,000 was raised for 45+ charities. If you visit the web site www.torontowaterfrontmarathon.com/en/charity.htm you can use automated tools to collect support by setting up your personal pledge page for the charity of your choice.
Q: What’s the deal on sponsors?
A: The event has a number of top shelf sponsors including Scotiabank and Adidas who will dig into their deep pockets to make the event rewarding for you, the runner.
Q: If we go, can we stay with you?
A: No. Get your own room. Check out the event website for lots of great hotel and travel deals. This is an interesting difference with this event in that they seem to be truly making an effort to help you get there and stay there without breaking your bank.
Q: Do you have any fun facts to share?
A: As a matter of fact…Did you know that in one of the first years of the Boston Marathon Canadians from an Ontario-based running club took the top three places?
Q: Do you have any inspirational closing comments that you can end this article with?
A: Yes I do. All kidding aside, the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon has a lot going for it. The timing and the course are a good fit for your qualifying aspirations this year. I can personally attest to the city’s attractions, having spent some time pounding its pavement over the years. All things considered you should grab your shoes and your passport and head north the last weekend in September to experience their welcoming embrace. No question about it, you will receive an excellent return on your investment!