Event: 2014 Toronto Goodlife Marathon
Date: May 4, 2014
Location: Toronto, ON
I like trying new races and since I had never run any event in the Toronto Marathon I decided to sign up for the 42.2K. After signing up I proceeded to read a few reviews of the 2013 race, which made me read a few more reviews because they weren’t very promising. The most prominent complaints of the 2013 race were that the path along lakeshore was open to the public and crowded, the later marathon water stations ran out of cups so no water was available and the 5K medals weren’t given out. I was a little worried about the negativity, but hoped these concerns would be sorted out.
On May 2nd, I headed into Toronto to the Direct Energy Centre (Exhibition Place) to pick up my race Kit. There is race kit pickup available on the morning of the race for out of town runners only. Since I am from Orangeville and work in Brampton I didn’t think this applied to me and I like to have everything in hand at least the day before as it is one less thing to worry about.
Unfortunately, with the work on the Gardiner, my drive in was not a lot of fun. Traffic was horrendous, which should be expected when driving in Toronto. I arrived at the Direct Energy Centre, paid my $10 for parking and headed up to the expo. I thought the Expo was a little small for it being a Toronto Marathon and didn’t really spend much time at the booths. The race kit included your bib (with timing chip), a shirt and nothing else. Shirt was nice though if anyone lets that determine the race they sign up for. It should also be noted that they don’t provide bags with the kit and unless you fill out a survey with Goodlife at the door to the expo, bring your own. Also, should mention there is a restriction on the number of kits you can pick up. To ensure the expo is represented by runners they decided that you can only pick up your kit plus 2 others.
On race morning I headed to Toronto very early in hope that I didn’t hit any congestion. I was one of the first people to arrive at the Direct Energy Center, which is a short walk to Ontario Place where the finish line is. Bus shuttles run from various locations to the start line and I thought it would be easiest to park where I would end up. The shuttle requires a ticket which is stamped onto your bib and these shuttle tickets cost $8 and need to be purchased fairly early (not available at the expo). It seems for next year’s race (2015) they are raising the prices of the shuttle to $12-$15 (wow). The shuttles leave between 6:00-7:15am and the drive to the start line takes about 40 minutes. It should be noted that the parking at the finish line was $14. So a summary of cost to get to the start line would be $10 expo parking, $14 finish line parking and $8 for shuttle ticket ($32). A little steep but transit is not running that early in the morning.
The marathon begins at 7:30am at Mel Lastman Square and I arrived around 6:40am giving me plenty of time to relax and prepare. It was a colder morning, so most of the runners were in a building close to the drop off point and start line. The line-up for the bathrooms were amazingly long inside and I would advise continuing through this building to the next as I was able to find a bathroom (after some searching) with 0 people using it. There are also port a potties outside near the start line that seemed to not have much of a wait.
There is a very wide open corral system and I placed myself right at the front of the 3:10-3:35 area. Unfortunately, when we started I looked up to see the 3:50 pace bunny in front of me. I love it when no one follows corrals and I ended up weaving through slower runners for the first KM.
As for the race itself the first half of the run has a large net downhill, but I want you to know that there is a large hill at 5K (Hoggs Hollow). Luckily it is early in the race and you can push up it knowing that you have a large decline to follow. It was a very windy day and I would occasionally get hit with a gust as we ran past the larger buildings. The crowd support at the start is nice, but I remember it being larger when I ran the Scotia half a few years ago. In general there is not a lot of crowd support throughout the race and I was surprised that there were no bands or entertainers along the course (none that I can remember). I don’t run a race for the entertainment, but it is nice to get a boost when running past a band rocking out eye of the tiger. I want to mention that somewhere in the first 6K a runner zoomed by me at an incredible pace. Later checking the results this individual ended up 2nd overall but had a 2 minute chip time win. Note to everyone that showing up on time is important. I was beating an elite for almost 6K. lol
After the large net decline for the first half we level out for the second half and most is an out and back along lakeshore on a public path. Unfortunately for us, the out portion was into a 35kmph wind and really drained anything we had between KMs 28-35. The path is open to the public and does have runners in both directions in some spots, so I could see how in larger groups this could become a problem, but I didn’t notice it being an issue for me. The finish line is interesting because you have the half marathoners coming from the West and the marathoners coming from the East. There is only a small portion where both events turn towards the finish together but it could affect the marathoners a bit as they are travelling a little faster. The half marathon starts 1hr after the full, so a 3:00hr marathoner would be finishing with a 2hr half marathoner. Not a huge concern unless you have the half runners lining up 6 across holding hands for a finish line photo.
After the finish line they do a good job of keeping everyone moving by giving you your medal a little farther in the chute. The medal for the marathon is HUGE, it is basically a dinner plate. The food and drink are available in a little fenced off area for the runners and the line was a little long for my liking. After the race the spectators can’t visit the runners until they have left the fenced off runners area, which makes for less crowding (would be packed otherwise). I only had a short limp to my car on the other side of lakeshore and home I went.
I thought the organization of this race was good and the concerns of 2013 weren’t an issue for me. I did think that for being a major city race that it was a little lacking in excitement and entertainment but I might have put my expectations a little high because it was TORONTO. I would do this run again as I think it is a very fast race with the possibility of a great time.