I already know that this will be a really long post, so I’m splitting it into multiple posts. The Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon (STWM) is one of my favourite races. The 2013 STWM was my first full marathon. Since then, I’ve run the half in 2014 and the full two more times in 2015 (my PB) and 2016 (my suffer-fest). Since I decided to take a year off of running full marathons, I signed up for the half in 2017. As luck would have it, it was also going to be my 20th half marathon.
Thursday – STWM Torch Relay and after party
STWM has a tradition of opening race weekend with a torch relay. The torch relay takes place in Greektown (on the Danforth) to celebrate the marathon’s history. Pheidippides is said to have run from Marathon to Athens to announce news of the Greek victory at the Battle of Marathon. I’ve heard that he dropped dead after running it (though in fairness, he ran over 200kms before running the marathon distance and didn’t have the benefit of aid stations, people crewing him, etc.). All of the local running clubs are invited to attend the STWM torch relay and, as the name implies, an Olympic torch is lit and then passed from run club to run club. I’ve always wanted to attend and was excited to be able to go this year.
I ran to the start area and met up with other members of the Toronto Beaches Runners Club (BRC). As the sun set, more and more runners gathered. We were standing next to Run To Beer (who I’m also a member of) so I got to chat with Lynne as we waited to start. A group did a Greek dance and Race Director Alan Brookes opened the evening by saying a few words. After that, the city councillor for the area, MPP, and Scotiabank branch manager all took turns saying a few words. After the singing of O Canada, the torch was lit and given to Tribe Fitness to carry for the first few metres. New this year, all of the run clubs ran together during the torch relay. In past years, run clubs were all stationed along the route and waited until a representative from the previous run club ran up with the torch and passed it to them.
We “ran” along the Danforth. I was impressed that such a busy road was closed for this. Some cars were really nice about it and honked and cheered when they saw us. We all “ran” together (and by run I mean a very light exaggerated walk/run because we had to move very slowly with the torch). It was a very windy evening so the torch kept getting blown out and somebody from Canada Running Series had to keep running up to it and lighting it.
The torch was passed to Suzanne from BRC and we all gathered around her and ran together with it. Dave was calling for us to pass the torch around, so some BRC kids got to hold it too. I teared up watching the kids running with the torch with their parents beside them. Then Nanlee got to hold the torch and then Dave said that I should get a turn too, so she passed it to me. It was so cool! I was in awe that I was holding it and even though the flame was hot, the actual torch felt cold. After a while I passed it to someone else and then the BRC passed it to Pace and Mind, who were behind us.
After the torch relay, Run To Beer led a group of runners to Eastbound Brewing Co. for the after party. Since we were a smaller group, we ran at a faster pace than usual (for Run To Beer), but I felt pretty good. Also, most of it was downhill. At Eastbound Brewing Co. I had a quick beer with Lynne before heading home, since I had an early morning the next day.
Friday – #6intheSIX begins
On Friday morning I was up at 3 a.m. in anticipation of the start of Jean-Paul Bedard’s 6 in the Six. In 2015, he ran STWM three times in a row and in 2016 he ran it four times in a row. This year he tackled the 6 in the six, meaning two marathons per day (beginning Friday) with the last marathon taking place at STWM. He runs to raise awareness and funds for survivors of sexual violence. Dan and I are members of JP’s Team and we can easily get to parts of the STWM race route. We decided to try to run with JP for part of all six of his marathons. Having run STWM three times, I know where all of the worst places are on the route. One of them is an out and back section on Bayview Avenue. This part sucks because there is nothing there. There’s nothing to look at (no buildings/landmarks), no spectators, and no cheer stations. It’s basically a place where you’re stuck with just you and your thoughts, trying to grind out a few kilometres before heading to the east end. I hate it every time I run it, so we decided to run this stretch each time to give some added support. Also last year we had run this stretch with JP during his quad marathon as well and it was terrifying when the road wasn’t closed. The road is a single lane in each direction with no sidewalks, so we thought there would be strength in numbers.
We stood on a corner in the dark between the 22k and 23k points. JP and a friend who was running with him came running by so quietly and quickly that we almost missed them. Dan said “I think that’s them!” and we joined them. I wore my light up tutu. I’d previously worn it for my night run at Ragnar Trail Cottage Country, so I figured now was a good time to bring it back out. Before hitting Bayview we said hi to Mary-Anne (JP’s wife and trusty sherpa) and Rosie (his childhood friend and #shotgunSherpa) who were in the support van. They were going to accompany him in the van for the first marathon of every day. Then Mary-Anne would be accompanying him on the bike for marathons 2, 4 and 6.
We ran up and down Bayview at a faster pace than what I was expecting. JP had originally said that he was going to run his first marathon of each day at 6:20 min/km pace (which works really well for me since that’s my marathon pace) and 6:30 min/km pace for the second marathon. Instead, we were running closer to a 5:45 min/km pace. He was pushing the pace a little since he was going to do a live to air interview on CBC Metro Morning between his first and second marathons (as if he wasn’t busy enough to begin with). After we finished up on Bayview we sent him off to the Beaches where I knew the BRC was waiting for him. They had put a call out for members to meet at Starbucks at 5:45 a.m. and then “run until they found JP” so that they could show him support. After our run, we went home, showered, napped and got up again in time to catch JP’s interview on Metro Morning. Things seemed to be off to a good start!
Mary-Anne and Rosie posted regular updates on social media throughout all six marathons. Anybody who posted updates tagged JP in them, so everybody was able to follow his progress. His second marathon seemed to be off to a strong start, but reports later came in that he was running about 45 minutes behind. My shoe twin Gillian was also going to run with JP so she told me that she was going to go find him and run him to us. As we were waiting on the corner for him, Gillian texted me to let me know that she had found him and they were walking. Shortly after that, JP went onto Facebook live to talk about how he was finding the second marathon challenging and going to “embrace the suck” one of JP’s Team mottos (borrowed from the military) for the last few months. A few minutes later we saw him running, with Gillian beside him and an army of sherpas on bikes!
We joined them and Gillian and I caught up as Dan ran with JP. He was having a rough time, but kept moving forward. After we finished the out and back, we found Suzy from Run To Beer waiting at the end of Bayview. She told me she was going to run him to the end. We said goodbye to him and the rest of the sherpa army. I also sent a text to Nanlee to alert her so she’d be ready to run with him when he got to the Beaches. After he left the Beaches, Nan let me know so I let Leanne know, so she’d get an idea of when to meet him at the finish. After our stretch was done, we drove Gillian to her car and gave her a final hug. I wouldn’t see her again until STWM where she was running her first marathon! I was so excited for her and told her that when she got the sucky part, to remember running with me (when it felt like no big deal to run there) to help get through it.
Later that afternoon, I met Melly at the shuttle pick up point to get to the race expo. We met Jennifer at the expo, which was located at the Enercare Centre. I had joked that last year I got a PB in shopping when I went to the expo with Karen. I was looking forward to finding more deals this year. I like going to the expo on Friday since it seems to be less busy. Picking up our bibs, shirts and race kits was quick and easy as usual. We took a quick look at the official race merchandise, but nothing really caught my eye. I saw John Stanton, founder of the Running Room, standing nearby and asked Melly if she wanted to say hi to him. We went over and talked to him for a good 20 minutes. I’ve talked to John Stanton at a few expos now and he is such a nice man. This time, he told us about all of his favourite running routes in Canada and his favourite marathons (both in Canada and internationally). He always describes everything with such passion, it makes me excited to go for a run. We told him that we were part of JP’s Team and then Melly got him to film a little video of encouragement. He said he knew JP and when we told John Stanton that JP had given up cookies for six months, John Stanton said “That’s sacrilegious!” he then said that he should bring cookies with him to give to JP when he finishes his last marathon. At this point Melly said “Or bring him kale. He also likes kale.” John Stanton said “You don’t feed someone kale after they run a marathon!” I couldn’t stop laughing. We took a picture together and the woman taking the picture said “Everybody get in!” A woman who was standing nearby said “Ok!” and got into our picture with us. Then she said “Wait…are you the founder of the Running Room? What’s your name?” It was so cute. I couldn’t stop laughing at the randomness of it. John Stanton also posted our picture to Facebook before we said goodbye to him. I also thought that was neat. I’m sure he has a social media team or communications team that helps him with his Facebook page, but it’s neat that he also posts things himself. Nanlee had also found us at this point.
Next I had a quick chat with Glynis, the manager of the Beaches Running Room (and my half marathon clinic instructor). Then we wandered around for a bit. I didn’t really see anything that I wanted to buy. We saw the Run Barbados and dropped by to talk to them, since six of the Crazy Eights are going to Barbados in December (two are running their first ever marathon, Rebecca is accompanying them. Melly and I are running the half). Devon and Joy-Ann were a pleasure to talk to and they gave us Barbados towels. We took our picture with them as well.
After this, we chatted with Jodie at the Diva Run booth (she’s an ambassador for the race). Melly also talked to Kelly at the Chilly Half booth. Then we went to the Mizuno booth and talked to Michelle for a bit. Eventually, we ran into Leanne, Kate, Shane and Cliff. Basically it became the expo where you run into everybody you know (I also ran into one of my coworkers earlier).
Before leaving, we made sure to visit the Inspiration Wall. This year, it was dedicated to Ed Whitlock, who passed away earlier this year. He had set a few world records at STWM and last year set the record for fastest marathon in the 80+ category (he was 85 and finished in 3:56:38). He was a legend but also very nice and humble in person. I loved what STWM did to honour his memory. They also had displays with Ed Whitlock’s race bibs, trophies, photos etc. for us to look at.
I had originally hoped to do yoga with Tribe Fitness at the expo, but at this point I was exhausted from my early morning. Dan met me at the expo and we went home. He was pleased that this year was turning out to be less expensive than last year!
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I LOVE the picture of you running with the torch Mei! Money saved for your Barbados trip is a great thing, that’s going to be so much fun. Great post