In my progression of distances, I ran the Toronto Women's 8K in the fall of 2013, and then signed up for the Toronto Yonge Street 10K in the spring of 2014. As I trained over the harsh winter, I couldn't help but wonder what other goals would be realistic for the rest of 2014. Was I progressing too fast? Would I lose interest if I completed all the distances I could do so soon? I was loving running so much, I think my biggest fear was falling out of love with running. The half-marathon loomed in my mind over that winter and spring--although I didn't mention it to many people. It was hard to fathom running more than double what I could even run at the time! I didn't want to be embarrassed if I said I was going to do it and then couldn't.
Training went well into the spring of 2014 and I developed a good base of mileage each week. In researching different race events and distances that made sense between 10K and the half-marathon, I came across the Midsummer's Night Run 15K , Toronto 10 Miler and the Beaches Jazz 20K Tune-up Run. The progressive path to the half-marathon was suddenly paved! Feeling a bit indulgent and daring, I signed up for these three stepping-stone races/runs and created a training schedule. As I upped my distance that summer, I became more confident that I could run further. This confidence led me to officially sign up for the race I had been secretly thinking about--the Scotia Toronto Waterfront Half-Marathon. And to even tell people about it!
In emails sent by Canada Running Series (CRS) providing information about the race, I kept hearing about a group of runners called Digital Champions. CRS selected these runners to become online ambassadors for the race. They were motivators, cheerleaders, answer providers and story tellers. Being relatively new to Twitter I started following a few of the ambassadors. Well. Little did I know that this decision would be almost as life changing as running itself! These individuals along with their running friends and connections became my go-to source for running advice, cheers, motivation and chatter. The running community is a ridiculously accepting and motivating group of inspiring and friendly individuals, from those just new to running to record-breaking icons like Krista DuChene and Lanni Marchant (but more about that later!) I highly recommend anyone who has started running to use social media (Twitter especially) to connect to the community and be inspired!
A few days before the race CRS held a torch relay in Toronto's Greektown. Several of the running clubs were invited to participate along with the digital champions and community leaders. Given the proximity, I decided to attend. I had only been there a few minutes when I started recognizing some of the familiar faces I had chatted with on Twitter. And just as they had been online--these people we just as amazing in person. I'd been a little nervous just walking up to them and introducing myself, but as I would quickly discover, this was the norm and runners always have something to talk about! Despite the rain, the event was fun to watch and I felt great about meeting some people that would be running that weekend.
What I didn't expect was to turn a corner and come face to face with my running idols--Krista DuChene, Lanni Marchant and awesome newcomer (who comes from my husband's hometown) Kim Doerksen. Feeling like a starstruck teenager, I asked them to sign my bib for me. Kim's mother who was there taking photos remarked, "Your first autograph!" I snapped a photo, chatted with Krista for awhile about her injury and Kim about her hometown. I quickly forgot that these three are pretty much the fastest women in Canada they truly are so nice. It was an incredibly inspiring moment for me. I continued on to roam the expo only to turn another corner and meet John Stanton, the founder of the Running Room who chatted with me about my goal. I told him I had run the distance a couple times in training but wasn't quite sure about the race goal. He said that the average women finishes the half at around 2:15. I went home feeling completely inspired. Another newbie runner tip: spend time at the expo, you never know who you will meet or what you will learn!
The night before the race I set out all my gear, ate my favourite pre-race dinner (salmon, rice and green beans) and headed to bed on time.
The next morning my husband kindly drove me to the start. As we walked from the parking area, his phone kept beeping away from text messages, but he didn't really say anything about it. We wandered into Tim Hortons so he could get a tea. When we walked out, I came face to face with my sister and niece! They had traveled all the way from Oshawa by GO train to surprise and support me. Given it was my sister who inspired me to start running, it really meant a lot to have them there. It was such an amazing treat, and a welcomed distraction from my pre-race nerves. We chatted near the corral entrance and took some photos as I tried to stay warm and psyche myself up for the challenge ahead.
The corrals ahead started and we slowly started moving ahead. The image in my brain as I headed toward the start was of my husband, sister and niece on the other side of the fence smiling and cheering.
Before I knew it, our corral was taking off!
I proudly accepted my medal, a foil blanket (Ooo, my first foil blanket!) and followed the bottle-necked line up to get food. The crowd of people was insane! I texted my husband and managed to figure out where they were. It turned out that they had watched me finish from the upper level of the Square, right above the finish line. I gladly accepted their hugs as it continued to sink in that I had set out to finish a half marathon--and I had done it!