I've neglected to write about the marathon I was in last month! Alex oniugnip and I headed to Toronto in early May to spend time with friends and run the Toronto Marathon -- my first time on the Toronto course.
As marathons go, Toronto is supposed to be an easy course -- essentially downhill for the first half of the race -- so I started out feeling pretty confident in my ability to PR. My plan was to start with the 4:15 pace group and see how that went. I was able to hang with them for the first 11 km or so (for comparison, the total marathon distance is 42.2 km), but started dropping behind soon after. I didn't mind too much, since I hadn't expected to manage a 4:15 pace for the whole race anyway. More troubling was the, uh, gastrointestinal distress that I started experiencing right around the 12 km mark. A toilet turned up at an aid station around 17 km, and I felt much better after availing myself of it. I hit the 21 km mark, which is roughly the halfway point, at 02:07:52. That number makes it sound like I was doing well, but since the first half of the course was downhill, I probably should've been going faster and saving up minutes for the second half.
Things took a turn for the worse a little after the halfway point, when I started desperately needing a toilet again. When I finally got to another toilet around 25 km, there was a line for it. It was pretty disheartening to stand in line, watching waves of runners go by, not able to do anything except wait. And, worse still, it eventually turned out that we were all waiting in line for an empty stall! When I finally did get out of the toilet, the 4:30 pace group had blown by, and I spent the next couple of kilometers catching them. I caught the 4:30ers around 30k or so, and I even carried the 4:30 sign for a little while, but I wasn't having an easy time of it, and the group leader eventually took the sign back because I was starting to lag.
After all that, the last 10k of the race had every right to be miserable, but in fact, it wasn't. After I dropped behind the 4:30ers, it was clear to me that I wasn't going to PR, so I just decided to relax and enjoy the beautiful, sunny morning and the fact that I was out for a run. A guy came up alongside me and complimented me on how even my pace was, and we got to talking: his name was Ali, he was in his 50s, and he'd run over a hundred marathons in his life. We spent an enjoyable twenty minutes or so trading race stories, and it was a welcome distraction from how my legs felt. Eventually, Ali needed to slow down a bit, so I wished him well, went on ahead, and finished in 4:34:13, missing my Barcelona PR by just about exactly five minutes.
In conclusion: I want a do-over, dammit! Toronto is a lovely, scenic city, and a course like this seems like the kind of course I should be able to PR on. The toilet stops (not to mention the time spent in line) should have been avoidable -- I usually don't have to stop during marathons at all, and I've never before had to stop twice. My only guess as to what might have caused it is that just before the race, I ate some apparently-gelatin-containing candy that might have disagreed with my digestive system. I had sort of blindly trusted this candy to be okay to eat before running, since it came in the race kit provided by the marathon organizers. Oops.