04 July 2017, 7am
GoodLife Fitness Toronto Marathon
Sun 7 May 2017
The Toronto Marathon team includes a wide-range of people. There’s the 40-strong group of volunteer psychologists forming the famous Psyching Team. They help runners not only with the physical challenge of racing a 5km, 10km, half marathon, marathon or relay event, but also with the mental preparation demanded on race day. There are over 1000 volunteers at aid stations and doing duty as course marshals. There is a 50-person medical team and 200 massage therapists who support runners getting to the finish line safely and with a smile on their face.
“It’s our job to provide runners with a great event experience,” says race director Jay Glassman. This includes the Expo — which attracts 20,000 runners and their families, the preparedness of on-course volunteers, and the cooperation of the Toronto police and the city’s departments. “Our first care for our participants to have a safe, successful race, and we try to be friendly, professional and let runners know that they will be in good hands.”
Apart from the 600 US citizens who ventured north across the border for last year’s race, those who have run the “GoodLife” include running legend Kathrine Switzer and her running historian husband Roger Robinson. Robinson brought 70-year old runner Dennis Moore to Toronto in a successful quest to qualify for Boston 2018.
“The Goodlife Fitness Toronto Marathon is as close to a reliably ‘fast’ marathon, in course and weather, as you will get.” says Robinson, whose appearance at the Toronto Marathon expo, along with Kathrine Switzer, brought in big crowds.
It was Robinson’s twelfth visit to the race: “Want a fast marathon? The first week of May is still early spring for Toronto. The tulips came out the day after but I wore hat, gloves and several layers to watch the race and help at the awards. It’s friendly, well-organised, nicely-sized (1400), competitively classy through the age-groups, charity-focused and with understated Canadian crowd support. In short a perfect BQ course: some net elevation drop; only one significant hill which comes early; plenty of long straights; a beautiful mid-race swoop down the gradual slope of the Don Valley; and the last ten miles on flat lake-front. It’s almost always cool early-spring weather, sometimes with light rain. That’s why I chose it for Dennis.”
The weather makes for a great race day environment. So does the course, the crowd support and the enthusiasm of the loyal race volunteers and runners. Runners arrived at the finish area in Mel Lastman Square in North Toronto to be met by 81,594 Gatorade servings, 8500 bananas, 16,000 Clif bars, 4000 apples and 7500 pitas and free beer served to all participants of age in the Moosehead recovery area.
It’s a friendly event that’s increasingly leaning female — 54% of half marathon finishers in 2016 were women. More than 77% of participants have run this event at least once before.
Running the race with his sister Lisa who was visiting from Austin, Texas, iRun GM Ben Kaplan ran the half marathon and witnessed first-hand the course’s energy and highly-touted net downhill route to the finish line at Ontario Place on the shores of Lake Ontario with Toronto’s beautiful skyline as a backdrop. Lisa had been nervous about racing in Canada, much cooler than back home in Texas but said: “The weather was perfect and the race was fun — I came to enjoy something I had feared. I really was a treadmill runner and didn’t even consider racing, but I think this experience will change that. It was fun. I always felt taken care of out there on the course.” There is a 40-person volunteer team dedicated to helping runners in the final 10km of the course who assist participants with encouragement and motivation so they can reach their goals.
The Goodlife Fitness Toronto Marathon continues to evolve, improving with age. The goal is to tweak, change and improve to keep runners coming back for more, year after year, and help them reach their personal bests or Boston qualifying times. And also to give participants an extraordinary day at the races.
Runners love the bling too. Toronto Goodlife awards one of the biggest marathon medals out there… a whopping 13cm, 0.9kg plate-sized reminder of your achievement. There’s a reason why over 130 people have the event’s famous “running man” logo tattooed on their body.