This is the third part of my very long recap of Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront half Marathon (STWM) race weekend. You can read part one here (torch relay, JP’s marathons one and two, and the race expo) and part two here (JP’s marathons three and four). This post will cover race day (yay!) and the final two marathons for JP’s #6intheSix.
Since I was running the half and had no time goals, I was able to join JP for a few kilometres of his fifth marathon. It took place in the early morning of race day. Dan and I got up at around 3:30 a.m. and ate the last of our wedding cake. It was delicious (chocolate banana)! Then we got dressed and waited on our usual corner.
While we waited, we saw a police officer setting up the barricades for race day. Dan decided to help her out, and as he did, Mary-Anne and Rosie drove by in their van. They called out the window, asking what type of trouble he’d gotten into. Then Rosie got out and took a picture of me, Dan and the police officer.
Soon enough, we saw JP running, along with Peter, Laurie and another army of bike sherpas. We joined them and I was impressed to hear that Laurie was running the entire fifth marathon with them. I had already known that Peter was joining JP for marathons five and six and would be completing his first double marathon. That was pretty amazing to think about.
Once again, we ran up and down Bayview Avenue. This time there was no sign of the skunk from the last two nights. We all noted that it was a lot cooler this morning and Peter even said “I can see my breathe!” After we finished this section we hugged everybody goodbye and then headed back home to get ready for the race.
Marathon #6 (STWM!)
Dan and I walked to the start line and arrived just in time to see JP and Peter finish marathon #5 (and Peter’s first of two marathons for the day). We also got to cheer Laurie on as she finished her marathon. There was a group of JP’s Team waiting in the finish area and we were all hugging and taking pictures. Gillian arrived and I gave her a big hug and wished her good luck on her marathon. I was so excited for her.
After this, we checked our bags, took some pictures, met up with more people and then lined up to use the washrooms.
Jennifer and Rebecca planned to run together while Melly, Cathy, Cliff and I planned on running with JP. He had told us that he would be starting at the front of the yellow corral, so we waited there but didn’t see him. We saw Lynne and took more pictures.
The race countdown started and we started running. I’ve never been at the front of a corral before and it was really cool! Miraculously we also weren’t trampled by the faster runners behind us (we tried to run to the side to give them space to pass). As we crossed the timing mat at the start, I glanced to my left and saw Mary-Anne walking in the area for spectators along with JP and Peter who were still in their warm-up gear! Peter gave me a high five as I ran by and I quickly told the others (who didn’t see them). We weren’t sure what we were going to do so decided to just keep running and see what would happen.
Cathy and I chatted about Ontario Masters Athletics and her experiences with them this year. I’m interested in signing up and trying it out next year. Melly did a Facebook live video and Cliff also took pictures and videos. Despite our small hiccup, we were having lots of fun. I saw Emma from my half clinic as we made our way past Queen’s Park (I had missed the half marathon clinic get together and photo earlier that day). It was her first half and she looked good.
As we ran down Bathurst we high fived Lynne, who was cheering for us. As we were running I heard someone call my name. Nanlee had started behind us and somehow managed to spot us even though we were all wearing black singlets (maybe it was the #JustShowUp hashtag on the backs of our shirts). She had just run a half the week before and had no goals for this race either, so she decided to join us.
Then we saw Leanne (she had run the 5k earlier that morning and was cheering) and we pulled to the side to talk to her. She was tracking all of us and let us know that JP and Peter weren’t that far behind us. So we decided to wait.
Leanne described this moment perfectly so I’m just going to repeat it here:
“I loved this moment on Sunday. I was at 5.5KM cheering when this crew rolled through. They all came over for hugs. I was tracking Jean-Paul Bédard who was a couple minutes behind them. So, we all just hung out on the side of the road and waited for him so we could all run together. No one gave a shit about their race time. This year was all about community, support and love. I feel incredibly blessed to be a part of it.”
As we waited, we spotted Kate who also stopped and waited with us. Our little group kept getting bigger and bigger. Finally we saw Peter and JP with Mary-Anne accompanying them on a bike (she had permission to do this from Canada Running Series and her bike had a sign on it indicating that she was an Official Race Escort). As they approached us, Mary-Anne said “Let’s do this!” and everybody jumped in and started running.
For a sixth marathon JP was running pretty fast! Though to be fair, we were also running downhill at this point. After the downhill portion I realized that we had become separated from Melly and Cathy. I knew that they would stick together and be ok. We started running the out and back section on Lakeshore Avenue and I remember thinking again “How is he still running this fast?” I checked my watch, realized this was closer to my 5k race pace and decided to never check my watch again for the rest of the race. Out of sight, out of mind. I concentrated on keeping up with the group and sometimes ended up a little further back.
Sometimes when I was near Mary-Anne I heard her calling to runners “To your left!” Most of them moved but there were a few who had their music playing so loudly that they couldn’t hear her. On more than one occasion I had to tap the runner on the shoulder and ask them to move. When this kept happening, Mary-Anne commented “Runners and their iPods!” A runner who was close by took out her earbuds and said “Now is not the time to be criticizing runners!” and ran off. I think it’s unfortunate that she thought we were criticizing runners. I used to run with music all the time and I still occasionally run with headphones. The comment wasn’t directed at people wearing headphones. It was about runner safety. If your music is so loud that you can’t hear race officials, then it’s not safe. When I run with headphones, I typically only run with one earbud in so I can hear what’s going on around me. Personally I think that’s a good habit to get into (or keep the volume low). It’s important to know what’s going on around you, even in a race.
At around the 8k mark, Sam found us (again I think this is remarkable) and decided to join us. We all ran together and cheered on the elite runners as they sprinted past us from the other direction. Sometimes I would lose the group in the crowd, but I always somehow managed to find everybody again. The race seemed more crowded than the other times that I’ve run it. Sometimes we would all lose JP at an aid station (if he was walking through it and the crowd got to be too much) so we would all stand to the side until we found him again.
Since we were all wearing black I kept an eye out for the following whenever I got separated from the others:
- Mary-Anne’s balloons on her bike
- Kate’s socks
- Nanlee’s shorts
- Cliff’s arm sleeves
Peter commented that “next time” we should get fluorescent shirts made so we would be easier to spot. Mary-Anne said “There isn’t going to be a next time!”
It was really cool to run in a group, all wearing the same shirt in support of JP. Spectators would see us and see JP and cheer. People loved the #JustShowUp hashtag and I just felt completely energized by the entire experience.
Cliff kept checking in with me to make sure I was ok, since he knew that I don’t usually run at this pace. He also managed to somehow take amazing selfies and videos while we were running!
It was getting hot and when we started running back across Lakeshore we welcomed the cool breeze coming off of the lake. A woman (Johanna) saw JP and wished him well. She looked familiar and we realized at the same time that we follow each other Instagram so we waved as well. That was pretty cool. Leslie from my half clinic also ran past, looking strong.
We got to the underpass where Allison from Tribe Fitness was waiting with a bag of homemade cookies to feed JP. Apparently this is a tradition. We stopped at their cheer station and JP devoured the cookies (He loves cookies and gave them up for several months leading up to the #6inthesix as part of his fundraising efforts for The Gatehouse and Little Warriors – two not-for-profit organizations that provide resources and services for survivors of sexual abuse). He handed us a bag of cookie crumbs, which were also gobbled up.
Shane, who was running his first half, also ran by. We all screamed at him but he was so focused that he didn’t hear us. Cliff and Leanne sprinted after him so they could cheer and take pictures. We also ran next to Dr. Richard Rayman, a local legend. He has run more than 360 marathons. JP asked him what number he was on and he told us (I can’t remember. I just remember thinking it was incredible). This entire experience was amazing and as we ran, Sam and I put our arms around each other. I was thinking about how hard we had trained last year and how difficult STWM had been last year. Now here we were a year later and it was so special to be experiencing this with Sam and so many friends.
I thought “If only I could see Gillian then this experience would be perfect” and all of a sudden she was there. I started screaming. Cliff and I ran with her for a bit and put our arms around her. I kept saying “You’re doing it! You’re running your first marathon! You look awesome!”
Soon we were approaching the split between the half and the full marathons. The half marathoners would turn to the left and the full marathoners would continue on the right. I hugged Gillian as she headed into the marathoner side and everybody blew kisses at JP and Peter. I saw Dan cheering but he didn’t see me. He was cheering for Gillian, who was closer to him. Leanne yelled at Dan “Dan! Your wife’s over here!” I couldn’t stop laughing at the look on his face. It was priceless.
With a few kilometres to go in the race Kate said “We’re going to finish together right?” We all agreed. Then I said “I guess we don’t have to run so fast anymore” and we slowed to closer to my regular pace. We decided that as we crossed we’d all hold up six fingers to symbolize 6 in the Six. With a hundred metres to go I saw Lisa in the crowds (she had run the 5k earlier that day – her first race with her son in the stroller). Lisa yelled “I’m so proud of you!” Another great moment.
As we were approaching the finish line a woman in front of us went down. A man helped her up and she went down again. I paused for a moment but saw the medics running to her from the finish area. We were only a few metres from the finish and I knew that they would be able to help her. I hope she was ok. Knowing that this runner was taken care of, we turned our attention to finishing strong. We triumphantly crossed the finish line together and high fived and hugged. As we made our way through the chute, we checked the tracking app and found out that Melly and Cathy weren’t too far behind us. We hung around near the back of the finish area until they arrived. This was followed by more hugs.
After some pictures we went out to Nathan Phillips Square where Dan, Nicole, Ange, Ash, Lisa and Will, and Melly’s family all found us. Jennifer, Allison and Rebecca all joined us after finishing the race (you can read Allison’s account of what happened. I’m glad our friends are there for each other and that she was ok!). We spent the next few hours getting food, tracking other runners, getting our bags, and taking more pictures. Lisa, who was our team captain for Ragnar Trail, had custom cookies for my team (even though Ragnar Trail is over, we still chat every day and have so many other plans. She’s going to be our captain for life!).
Next, Lisa helped captain everybody (aka wrangle us, aka herd cats) into position for cheering JP in. We were tracking his progress and some people decided to join him for the last few hundred metres and run him in. After chasing him for the half marathon, and for 12k the day before, I decided that I’d rather stand to the side and cheer. Rebecca, Ash, Lisa and I found a spot to cheer him in and I got my cowbell ready. Meanwhile, Dan and Ange (who couldn’t put weight on her foot due to an injury) and Melly’s daughter K all sat on a nearby bench. Everybody else positioned themselves to run JP and Peter in.
While we waited, I waved my cowbell around. It’s a really big cowbell and my arms kept getting tired. Evidently I need to do more upper body workouts! Then we saw them and we cheered our hearts out. They played “We are the champions” as he crossed the finish line and confetti fell from him. It was really special.
Below is a video clip of everybody finishing (hopefully I embeded it properly):
Those of us who didn’t run him in waited in Nathan Phillips Square until JP and the rest of the team came out. There were more hugs and congratulations. Edison took some pictures and then we headed off for brunch.
It was such an amazing day. Later that night, a bunch of us also got to see the screening of Where Dreams Go To Die and meet filmmaker Ethan Newberry (The Ginger Runner) and ultramarathoner Gary Robbins. I’ll write more about that in a separate post. It was an awesome way to end STWM race weekend.
This STWM race weekend was really memorable and special. It wasn’t about PBs or breaking records. Instead it was about community, love and support. I am incredibly proud of my friends, whose accomplishments ranged from:
- raising funds and awareness for survivors of sexual violence (JP’s #6intheSix)
- double marathons (Peter)
- marathon in the middle of the night (Laurie)
- sherpa-ing (Mary-Anne and Rosie. Sherpa-ing takes a lot of work!)
- coming back from injury (Melly)
- running all over the city to cheer (Leanne)
- first race with her son (Lisa)
- achieving a personal best time (Maria)
- first half marathon (Shane, Bridget, Emma)
- first full marathon (Gillian)
I feel truly blessed when I think about all of this and all of the fun we had that day. What an amazing community. I also wanted to mention that I’m also proud of everybody I know who had a challenging race. With the rising temperatures, full out sun (no cloud cover) and lack of coverage on several parts of the route, it was a tough day to race. I know quite a few people who had to slog it out, and no matter what happened (ranging from slowest finishing times to DNF-ing), I’m proud of their efforts.