I did it.
I still can’t believe it. On Sunday, I ran the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 2:59:17, a personal best, almost 6 minutes faster than I ran the Ottawa Marathon this past May. I finished 24th in my category out of 235, and 129th overall out of 3972 marathoners.
This was a huge accomplishment for me. Not only was this time a personal best, but I managed to finish in under 3 hours which was my goal going in. But honestly, the best part of this race is that my time will more than likely qualify me for the Boston Marathon 2016.
My Quest for Boston
Since I began running competitively just over 2 years ago, Boston has been my ultimate running goal. For the past 10 months, I’ve been training tirelessly in an effort to qualify for Boston. I’ve spent hundreds of hours running over 1500km in everything from pouring rain to blizzards to the sweltering summer heat.
After narrowly missing my Boston qualifying time in Ottawa this past May, I promptly registered for the Toronto Waterfront Marathon to get a second crack at it. I took some time to reflect on my race, and the training that preceded it. What could I have done better? How can I achieve my goal?
Training for Toronto
Over the summer I took my training up a notch. I hit steeper, longer hills. I cranked up my speed workouts. I improved my eating habits. I diversified my training by adding in strength workouts and cycling 80 km a week.
After running a personal best half marathon of 1:27 in Ottawa in September, I knew I was on the right track. As Toronto approached, I felt strong and confident. A few days before the race, I reached out to my buddy, Rob Watson, looking for some pacing advice, and a general confidence boost. As always, Rob took the time to share his wisdom with me, helping me build out my strategy. Thanks man - it really helped.
Race day was amazing. It was a chilly morning, about 2 degrees celsius when we started. I was lucky enough to have several friends and family members in attendance, cheering me on throughout the race. The first half flew by with no issues. I crossed the halfway mark in just over 1 hour and 29 minutes - right on pace.
As I entered the second half of the race, the crowds thinned out. It got quiet, cold, and windy. Around km 24, I began to struggle a bit. The race started to get tougher than it should have. I started to get a bit worried. All of a sudden, I hear a familiar voice “Hey Jason, how’s the race going?” It was fellow marathoner and Ottawa-based runner, Andrew Vincent, running right beside me. We began to chat. The negative thoughts and vibes immediately left my mind. Andrew was also gunning for a sub 3 hour run, so we ran side by side and chatted for the next 8 km, until he slowly peeled away from me. (Congrats to Andrew on his incredible race - the guy is a machine!)
As I reached the far east end of the course in the Beaches area of Toronto, I turned around and headed west back towards the city for the final 9 km stretch. Each and every kilometre at this point was tough. I had held a 4:12 pace for the first 33km of my run, but at this point I started to slow down, bit by bit. I knew this was going to happen. Prior to the race, Rob had advised me to build a little bit of a buffer in my time to account for this eventual slow down. As I reached km 36 and the inevitable slow down, Rob’s advice was to “hold the ___ on!”
Great advice, I must say.
By km 38, I was really feeling it. At this point, I was back near the core of the city which meant that the sidewalks were starting to fill up with spectators again. Thinking of my friends and family that I knew I was about to see helped me hang on.
First, I passed my friends Darren and Shelley who cheered me on from the left side of the road. You guys rock.
Then, I passed my parents and family on the right. Another encouragement that kept me going strong.
As I crossed the 40km mark, I glanced at my watch. The time read 2:50:something. I did some quick math in my head, I knew I had it. “Just don’t fall, don’t get hurt” I remember saying to myself.
The final kilometre was gruelling. My legs felt like they were going to fall off. Tears from the cold were running off the side of my face. With about 500m to go, I saw Katie on the right, surrounded by a group of family and friends. They screamed and cheered me on furiously as I pushed to the finish. I gave everything I had those final few hundred metres and crossed the finish line in 2:59:17.
What a feeling. It’s something that I just can’t describe. I was absolutely overcome with elation, screaming with joy and dishing out high fives and hugs to complete strangers. I finally felt satisfied. I had done it. Under 3 hours, and good enough to qualify for Boston.
I chugged back some water, got my medal, and went straight to the recovery area to celebrate with Katie, my family, and friends.
Huge congrats are due to my good friend Chelsea, the most competitive person I know. Chels is an incredible athlete and an absolute machine. She ran Boston this year and was an absolute inspiration and one of my biggest supporters. Chelsea also ran a personal best 3:15 in Toronto. Way to go, and thanks for everything Chels!
Too many people to name. Just thinking about the number of people who have supported me over the past year makes me feel so grateful. Love you all.
Katie. What can I say. You’ve stuck by my side through it all. From my early saturday morning 2 hour runs, to my late night speed work outs - you never complained. You always supported and pushed me to help me reach my goal. You’re my best friend, my rock and my number one fan. I love you.
Family & Friends. You all supported me in so many ways. From asking me how my training was going, to giving me pep talks when I needed it, to always coming out to support me and cheer me on - thanks. You guys have no idea how much it means to me. Thank you, a million times, thank you!
Huge thanks to the Asthma Society of Canada who invited me to join their fundraising team, and sponsored my entry into this race. These guys are working their butts off for a great cause - go check them out.
Final thanks to the good folks at Merrell Canada and Drip Drop, two companies who graciously supported me as an amateur marathon runner, providing me with their amazing products along the way. You guys are awesome.
Now that I’ve reached my goals, it’s time to rest. Time to spend a few less hours running, and few more spending my spare time with Katie, Chandos, family, and friends. It’s time to rest and relax.
Cheers, guys. I’ll see you in Boston 2016.