Race Report: Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon

Keith McArthur in Midsummer Night's Run
Me in the 15-km Midsummer Night's Run on August 20

I’ve been running off and on for almost 15 years. I’ve run a bunch of 5km and 10km races over the years, and even ran a half marathon about eight years ago.

But with work and family responsibilities, my off-and-on running had become mostly off. My bathroom scale reminded me of this fact when I weighed in back in July.

So I decided to get serious about running again, and set a goal of running at least four times per week for a month. Within a few days I was hooked on running once more. My mind and body craved it on days I didn’t get out.

Before long, I registered for two runs: The Midsummer Night’s Run (15km) on August 20 and the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, which I ran yesterday.


Before this summer, I’d never really focused on speed. Two things changed that. First, I now use the Nike+ GPS app on my iPhone, which keeps track of my route and gives me updates on my pace at regular intervals. It also auto-publishes my time and distance to Facebook and Twitter at the end of each run.

This brings me to the other reason for my need for speed. I received the this tweet from one of my followers (I don’t know him) after the pace from one of my runs was auto-posted onTwitter:

“You should learn to run faster before your brag about it to the world. #advice #slowmotion

That comment made me angry that somebody could be so rude, but it also made me angry enough to want to get faster. So I started working on my pace. I improved from the awful 7:30/minute pace I started with earlier this summer — to the 6:20 pace I ran for the Midsummer Night’s Run — to the 5:30 pace I managed over 10km one week before race day.

The Race

My original goal was to finish in less than 2 hours, 15 minutes. But after my speedy 10km the week before, I started imagining I might actually be able to complete the marathon in under 2 hours.

My goal was to try to do the first 10km at a 5:40 pace, then assess whether I could keep it up for the last 11km. Unfortunately, the GPS on my Nike+ app failed for the first time and I had to do some math along the way to keep track of my pace.

I spent most of the early part of the race passing other runners. Whenever someone passed me, I imagined I was attached to them with an invisible tether and I ran behind them at their pace for as long as I could.

By the time I hit the 10km mark, I knew I was ahead of my goal and still had a chance to finish under 2hours.  By 15km, I was feeling strong and knew I could do it. Then at 17km, my legs felt like they had nothing left to give. But I pressed on. But at 18km I started feeling dizzy so I drank some Gatorade and slowed my pace. I still managed to cross the finish line at 1 hour, 56 minutes and 15 seconds. That’s a 5:30/km pace, which I was very happy about!

The Medical tent

Others have commented on this already, but the finish line was very poorly organized. Instead of being able to cool down and loosen up, runners were forced to stand still for up to an hour and a half while they waited to claim their race bags. Standing in line for more than half an hour, on top of my light-headedness, led me to pass out and fall down hard. When I came through, I was surrounded by runners offering me water or bananas or Gatorade. I said I was ok and stood back up. Then I passed out and fell down again. When I came through the second time, I heard someone screaming for a medic.

I was scooped off the ground, placed in a wheelchair and wheeled to the medical tent. I spent an hour and a half in there trying to keep warm while I lay on an incline so the blood could flow back to my head.

By the time I got home I felt much better. And today, my legs feel strong.

As I was driving into work on this morning in the glow of autumn sun, I was thinking how good it would feel to be out  running again. Not another 21.1 kilometres for a little while. But there will be more long runs in my future. Maybe next year I’ll even attempt the full marathon.

Published by Keith McArthur

I'm a dad, writer, husband, publisher, kidney transplant recipient, brother, friend, ex-journalist, ex-PR guy, ex-business executive, learning to become happier, healthier and more productive.

12 thoughts on “Race Report: Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon

  1. I can’t believe someone posted that comment about your speed needing to improve before you post about your runs. Sounds like it didn’t come from a runner; probably someone who thinks everyone can run like a Kenyan if only they’d put in a little more effort…

    A huge congrats on blowing away your goal time AND hitting a sub-2-hour half marathon right out of the gate!

  2. Well done! And I’m glad you’re now ok.

    I ran it yesterday as well. Over 11 years ago I had a heart attack and arrest playing hockey-I was very lucky and am fine. But I went through the cardiac program at Toronto Rehab (for whom I raised money yesterday, as in prior years) and one of the important things they taught us was the importance of warm up and cool downs. As I finished yesterday I came from a hard run to a full stop and was hemmed in for some time as those waiting for their bags made it difficult for others to exit. Nothing happened in my case but it could be quite catastrophic on another occasion to one of the thousands of people who do it, and is completely preventable. There was similar congestion in prior years with the Sporting Life 10K and they fixed that so I’m sure this won’t happen again, but it’s too bad it happened yesterday.

  3. Keith, you should be so proud of yourself. Nice job and a dramatic accomplishment! Sounds like you’re recovering nicely from both the race and the ridiculous bag check that didn’t contribute to a healthy finish. Keep it up over the winter. It’s really different and quite rewarding.

    Sorry you were subjected to one the rudest tweets I’ve ever read. I did a bit of Googling and learned about @sjug who’s found all over the internet, but strangely enough has never run a race. I’ll leave it at that.

  4. Really enjoyed this read. Working on my own article for a newsletter. There are so many things to say! Liked your honesty. Sorry you had such a bad time at the baggage check. Today, my legs are in agony, and yet, I too, find myself looking forward to the next event…probably the Half to raise funds for children’s programs at the Peterborough YMCA, in Feb. And yeah, revamping training and losing some weight are some of my thoughts. There’s a quote I like at this moment that talks about not thinking that I’ve already apprehended. I forget about what is behind me and press forward. Sally forth!

  5. Thanks for all the kind comments!

    I’m definitely planning to run over the winter – both outdoors and on the treadmill. I may even enter a race or two over late fall and winter. Let me know if you have any suggestions for the best Toronto-area races in the cold season.

  6. Egg Nog Jog (10.8K) in December in Georgetown, Robbie Burns 8K in January in Burlington, Re-Fridgee-Eighter 8K in february in Waterloo and Chilly Half Marathon in early March in Burlington as well as Around the Bay 30K in Hamilton at the end of March!

  7. Congrats and great race report (scary ending though with the fainting)! I ran the half for the first time on Sunday too, 1:56.28 so we were very similar in time. Once my knees recover (half marathon with runners knee was AWFUL) I hope to do some winter running too…. keep it up and good job!

  8. Congratulations on the race, Keith! Too bad to hear about the post-race experience – I’ve been there (I passed out and hit my head after my first marathon… no smarmy comments from you…) so I can relate. Don’t let it dissuade you, though.

    Maybe we can do a training run or two together some time soon?

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