Race Report: Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon 5K

Today I woke up at 6:30 AM with a smile on my face. Not only was I in my own comfy bed at home, but it was Race Day! The day for my very first 5K race (or second, if you count the Castaway Cay 5K on Disney’s private island).

Greg and I stumbled around getting dressed, making coffee, toast, changing our plans for what to wear… it was a chilly morning, and my cute lululemon Run: Swiftly tank and Urban Running Girl shrug weren’t quite going to cut it. Jacket, please.

We let our Garmins get in touch with their satellite (they needed reminding that we were no longer in Alaska) attached our bibs to our SPI belts, and headed out on foot to the start of the race. We were lucky, since it essentially started in our back yard – the corrals were set up in a parking lot at the Canadian National Exhibition grounds – so it was only about a 15 minute walk. We ran a few short, easy intervals to warm up.

We found the start easily enough, and since it was in such a big area, it didn’t seem crowded. There was a lot of water, a reasonable amount of portopotties and plenty of on-site support (bag check, first aid, runner help). I didn’t see anyone checking bibs on the way into the corrals, but it also didn’t seem like there were any corral jumpers. Very polite and orderly. Very Canadian.

After a quick pit stop for Greg, we popped into our corral. In a fit of confidence, I had registered with an estimated finish time of 30 minutes. I figured that’d put me in corral 2 or 3.

Nope. The red corral. Corral #1. You know, where the fast people are.

Gulp. Ok. I kept myself at the back of the corral where I figured I belonged, and waited. The announcer kept us posted on the time every 2 – 3 minutes, reminded people not to litter, and introduced the national anthem. Before we knew it, we were off. Before we started, Greg and I wished each other luck.

“Have fun, don’t wait for me”.

I crossed the timing mat, clicked on my Garmin and settled in to what I hoped would be a comfortable pace.  Remember how I said I tried to be in the back of my corral? Well, somehow there were still loads of people behind me. Until they were in front of me. Yeah, I got passed a lot. I tried not to get swept up in the ‘racing’ headspace, but I kept glancing at my Garmin and couldn’t help but notice I was running faster than I’d planned.

“Plan”, of course, is a loose term for what I had for the day.

My plan for the day was to run at a ‘comfortable pace’ and to take walk breaks when I felt I needed them. My hope was to run the 5K in less than 35 minutes. Why 35? Well, my sister’s most recent 5K was 35:17, so… faster than that. Cause I’m a jerk.

We started out of the parking lot, and did a double-back on the Lakeshore. I ordinarily do a 2/1 run/walk interval, but it didn’t occur to me to look at my watch until I’d been running almost 5 minutes. For a hot second, I thought I would run the whole 5K without stopping, but I wanted to finish strong, not peter out, so I opted to try and take 30 to 45 second walk breaks at each kilometre marker instead.

We chugged along Lakeshore, passing familiar sights that I’d seen on many a training run last fall/winter when I was home training for the WDW 1/2 marathon, only this time I was running in the middle of the street rather than on the sidewalk. That was fun. As I continued along, I relished the experience of running a race in my home town – seeing where I lived (occasionally) in a new light was wonderful.

As I continued along, past the water station at the 2 KM mark, up over the mini-hill that went over Spadina Ave, I realized that I was passing people now. I knew that I’d set a good pace for myself, because here I was, half-way done and I was speeding up.

We approached a couple of inflatable route markers around York Street, which, based on the dead sprint some people put on when they saw them, some folks seemed to think they were the finish line. They were in fact markers to direct half marathon and 5K runners to the left – towards the finish line, as opposed to farther east, and the rest of the marathon course. I knew we were a good 1.5 KM or so from the finish, so I just coasted.

Before I knew it, the 4 KM sign was in front of me. I’d somehow skipped my walk break at 3 KM, so I took one a little early for 4 KM and used the time to focus up. I was on pace to meet my goal of breaking 35 minutes, handily. By how much was the new question.

Shortly after we got out from under the Garmin-screwing CN Rail overpass, I saw a sign indicating 500m to go! There were more people lining the course now, so I pulled out my earphones. In my head 500m seemed really far. Until I came upon the 400m sign shortly after.

I’ve got this!

I put everything I had in those last 300m, and crossed the finish line with an official time of 33:29. Considering how little I’ve run in the last 6 weeks, I’ll take that, happily.

Greg was waiting for me just past the medals (bottle-neck central) and after being admonished with a “the mylar blankets are only for marathon runners” (we were sweaty and cold!) we joined the shuffle of people heading into the bagel/banana/cookie/yogurt line. We snapped a couple unofficial photos and made our way to Nathan Phillip Square to see the post race set-up.

My day, in a nutshell
My day, in a nutshell

Greg made another pit stop while I checked out the Brooks Running tent and discovered they had a lot of STWM logo gear on sale for half price! New jacket, please! I swapped out my sweaty one for a fresh, dry jacket, and Greg picked up a new hoodie.


We were still cold, so we skipped any further festivities, grabbed a juice box from Oasis (love them) and made our way along Queen Street until we found a Tim Hortons for COFFEE!!

We walked all the way back home, making it pretty much a 10K round trip day, but we didn’t even notice the distance, since we were excitedly comparing notes about our races. Greg PRed his race at a speedy 25:55!

It seemed to be a perfect day for running, because course records were shattered all over the place.

I’m left with tight calves, and the usual heel pain as a result. It seems like this heel pain is here to stay, After a miserable 10 miler last Sunday, I’ll take this small 5K as a win and continue to manage the pain until I can see my physiotherapist.

Niagara awaits!

Race Reports Running

tabethawells View All →

I am an actor/writer/director based in Chicago, IL.

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