Running the #STWM Half-Marathon = Full Happy

Took part in my first race today—the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half-Marathon!

I took up running in May to stay fit as I no longer had easy access to a gym (or Intramural sports) since leaving Waterloo. With the help of the fantastic adidas miCoach mobile app and training plans, I set a goal to finish a 5K by the fall—but I quickly set my goals higher—and boy am I glad I did.

Though I had never run the full 21.1km prior to the race, I felt ready after running 18.6km in 2:00 late in September. Unfortunately, it was already sold out by then. I sent out a desperate plea for a bib on Twitter—and it worked. Social media is amazing (thanks Homa and Dave)! Given that previous long run time and that it was my first race, I told myself I’d be happy if I beat 2:30.

Despite barely getting any quality sleep, I geared up bright and early (Adidas top, Nike shorts, New Balance compression shorts, Brooks socks, Asics shoes and no-name sunglasses—no brand loyalty!) and hit the road.

Course map

I ran the purple route!

Notable moments from the course:

  • Going from training alone to running with 20,000+ like-minded people was amazing—the energy was insane!
  • Though the forecast was unnerving the weather was actually quite good—a long-sleeved shirt was great to turn those strong winds into nice breezes
  • Waiting in the looong port-a-potty line five minutes before the race start until two ladies behind me pointed to people using the bushes—I joined them—and the ladies joined two minutes later hah!
  • Having my hands hurt more than my feet from high fives
  • Not having to worry about getting run over while running in the streets (though I did get hit after the race…)
  • Watching the marathon leaders finish a third of their race just as I was about a quarter done (including the two Canadian Olympic qualifiers—Go Canada)!
  • Seeing Fauja with his support crew and cheering him on (record-holding 100 year-old marathon finisher)!
  • My parents calling me to figure out where I was so they could snap a shot and cheer me on
  • Favourite signs: “U R All Nuts” and “Worst Parade Ever”
  • Witnessing a low-flying goose squadron almost hit someone with projectile poop and laughing about it with the other runners
  • Starting from the back (2:16+ corral) and finishing with 2:04:38 (chip time)
  • Finishing strong and sprinting to the finish!
  • Chocolate chip cookies, yogurt and Gatorade were nice tasty noms at the finish (I failed to slop any substantial amount of Gatorade into my mouth while running, and didn’t eat/drink the Clif Gel during the race, never had one before)
  • Super-enthusiastic cheering volunteers! The baggage-check was very poorly organized—you know it’s bad when some people are waiting in line longer than they were running. Luckily my bright-orange backpack stood out and I was able to walk away from the fiasco unscathed in 20 minutes. Everything else was fantastic!
  • Having my medal put on—haven’t had that feeling in a while :)
  • All of this happened with ‘the girl in the pink shirt’—a new friend that I made during the race and hope to keep for a lifetime.

My first race was a blast! When I started training I thought that this was going to be a one-time thing to cross off my bucket list and that I wasn’t going to keep it up, but today was just way too much fun. I was hoping to put running aside for the snowboarding season as training in the winter sounds terrible, but I think I might just be up to it!

If you’re thinking about taking up running, I say just go for it. Lace up your shoes and go out and run. Training for the race has been a rewarding, confidence-boosting, stress-relieving experience.


Here’s some advice from a newbie:

  • Take it slow. The first week is the worst but don’t let it discourage you—it gets easier and it’s all uphill (or in running terms, downhill) from there.
  • Having a training plan helped me progress at a tough but feasible pace to achieve my goals. If you have an iPhone, BlackBerry or Android phone, I highly recommend the adidas miCoach app. If you don’t, this is a great excuse to get one :) miCoach tracks your runs and even has a social network of like-minded people to support you (or compete with). If you’re on there, add me! (I’m on there as rjhol)
  • Invest in a pair of running shoes—keeping in mind that the most expensive does not mean best in this category. Try out all the shoes you can, run with them in the store and get what is most comfortable. What experts recommend may not always be the best for you.
  • Some days you won’t want to train. The hardest part is often getting out the door. Read RunningQuotes for inspiration!
  • Forget the treadmill! I love running outside, exploring parts of the city I’ve never seen before. Who knew that you could almost get run over by a family of deer on trails in Mississauga?
  • There are no age limits either. I have to say I felt like one of the youngest people on the course. If a centenarian can do it, so can you!

In short, running makes me happy. If you’re still wondering what the big deal is, just wait till you get your first running high. Then you’ll know.

*My heart goes out to the family of the runner who passed away during the race.


  1. rjholganza posted this