Scotiabank Waterfront Half-Marathon Race Recap

18 Nov

On, Sunday, October 20th I ran one of the best road races of my life. I ran the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half-Marathon, and I crushed my personal best by 8 minutes.

I have never felt so good during a race, and certainly never felt so good during a half-marathon. This was only my 4th half, the most recent being 3 and a half years ago, and I must admit that I loved everything about this race.


I enjoyed it so much that I think I ran almost the entire race with a smile on my face!

Let ‘s backup a bit and start from the beginning…..the entire week before the race I was doing my best to taper but the pre-race nerves got me early. I worried about the race and tried to maintain my confidence in my training, but the nerves still did manage to creep in.


By Friday, all my colleagues knew about my upcoming half-marathon and I felt the added stress of having to perform (knowing everyone on Monday would ask how it went!) As this was a “destination race”, my husband and I took Friday afternoon off to give us enough time to drive down to Toronto so that I could get a good night’s sleep Friday night. We stayed with friends and woke up Saturday morning ready for Race Expo Day!



The Expo of any major race is always a highlight for me. I love the atmosphere, the sales and the special events they have throughout the weekend. Sure enough, we managed to spend several hours there, checked out all the booths, did some shopping and heard some great speakers, including some women who’s blogs/twitter I follow (Miranda from Thoughts and Pavement and Christa on Twitter @christadavidson).


My husband and I decided to spend Saturday night in downtown Toronto so that we’d be close to the start line and wouldn’t have to stress about making it on time or finding parking. We decided to splurge a little and got the race participant rate at the Fairmont Royal York. It was an amazing hotel and I took full advantage of it by spending most of Saturday afternoon lounging in the room.

Race Day – Pre-Race

Race day I woke up nice and early, feeling ready to run but equally as nervous. Β I found my way to the start line and my yellow corral for the 1:46- 1:59 folks.


I was happy to have my husband there for support (and for someone to carry all of my layers before I stripped down to my race attire!)

As I didn’t want to be stuck in the back of my corral, I decided it was time to join my fellow yellow corral runners and get this thing started. It was chilly at the start line (I was happy to be wearing my newly acquired arm warmers), but once the race got started I realized the conditions were perfect.



I had determined a strategy for this race, but wasn’t sure where my half marathon fitness level truly was, so I thought I would use my strategy to start and see how things felt.

In my past races this year, I have somehow thrived on negative splits. I have been most successful when I can start moderately (not going out too fast), and then pick up the pace as I go along. My 10km PR in May was done using Β this strategy and it was one of the best races I have run, so I decided to test it out again for the half-marathon.


For at least the first 6kms, I was passed by what felt like everyone running that day. I had to repeatedly remind myself that I wasn’t racing against anyone else out there that day but myself. It was a little defeating, but I knew I had to stick to my plan and not go out too fast the first half of the race.


There I am in the white cap and all black

I had never raced in Toronto, so I enjoyed starting the race running through several of the downtown city blocks. There were lots of spectators and it was exciting to be a part of such a large event.

I was feeling so good and was so happy to be running that I was grinning without even realizing it.

Once I reached the 8-9km mark, the steady stream of runners passing me had finally leveled off, and I started passing people without even realizing it. As defeating as being passed was early in the race, being able to pass others for the entire second half was probably doubly as motivating!

My plan to start the first few kilometers around a 5:25 pace and then maintain a 5:10 pace until about Β the 9km or 10km mark worked out well according to my splits thus far:


10km Mark

I reached the 10km mark at 52:24 which was roughly what I had thought I could do. I felt fantastic, which I took as a good sign and pushed on with my race plan to pick it up a little each kilometer.


Somewhere around kilometer 14, I could finally see the 1:50 pace bunny. When I started the race I didn’t want to focus on keeping up with any pace bunnies as my plan was to start slow and pick up the pace as I went. I knew that if I started with the 1:50 pace bunny I might have gone out too fast, and potentially wouldn’t have been able to stick to my plan.

I quickly zipped by the 1:50 pace bunny somewhere between kilometer 14-16 and was still feeling great. I smiled again knowing that a personal best was within my grasp at that point and reaching my goal of a sub-1:50 half marathon was entirely possibly if I could maintain my pace.

The crowds started to get more dense the closer we got to the end of the race, and the cheers certainly helped propel me faster.

When I looked down at my watch at kilometer 19 and saw I was now running at a pace of 4:49, I smiled (again!), happy that I had made it that far with my race plan and knew I could push it with whatever I had left and would be getting a personal best once I made it to that finish line.


My husband was watching for me a few hundred meters from the finish and managed to snap a photo as I ran by.


I crossed the line in 1:46:29 and was giddy with excitement. I had crushed my personal best by 8 minutes and had never improved by so much in one race event.

When I calculate my 10km time for the second half of the race (kilometers 10-20), I realized that I had run it in my fourth fastest 10km time ever! 48:39!

I was thrilled!


Race Reflections

I decided two weeks prior my race that I would try something interesting during the race that several other bloggers had done. I would dedicat small portions of the entire race to important people in my life.

I spent the weekend before the race determining who these special people would be and how I would divide up the kilometers. I wanted to be able to remember who I was going to be thinking about each kilometer so I need to memorize the list.

I didn’t want to spend too much time reflecting on it before race day as I wanted to save any special thoughts for that moment during the race as I may have needed them to get me through tough portions on race day.

In the end, I loved this experience; I have many important friends or family in my life and I had 2 kilometers per person to reflect on why they were each important to me. It kept my mind occupied during most of the 1 hour and 46 minutes and may have been a contributing factor as to why I smiled during the majority of the race.

My list was broken down as follows:

Kilometer 1: No one – I wanted to wait a kilometer until I got into the groove of the race. The first km is usually very hectic and distracting so I didn’t think I would be able to dedicate the brain space to anyone at that point in the race.
Km 2-3: My parents
Km 4-5: My younger brother
Km 6-7: My older brother
Km 8-9: My older sister
Km 10-11: My niece and nephew
Km 12-13: One of my good friends who has becoming a great traveling companion
Km 14-15: A former classmate turned great friend and “neighbor”
Km 16-17: One of my oldest friends from my hometown near Montreal
Km 18-19: A close friend and confidant from Toronto who’s house I stayed at Friday night
Km 20-21: My husband
Km 0.1: Again, no one as it was the final sprint to the finish and I knew I wouldn’t even be able to hear my own thoughts by that point

And there it is, a race that probably was one of the highlights of my year (and not just in terms of running and races, but in life overall). I hope to return to Toronto to race the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half-Marathon again….or dare I say it, maybe even the Marathon….only time will tell.



13 Responses to “Scotiabank Waterfront Half-Marathon Race Recap”

  1. MaybeMarathoner November 18, 2013 at 9:29 am #

    What an incredible race…can’t believe you took so much time off your PR! Congrats!

    • Mary November 19, 2013 at 7:40 am #

      Thanks!! I had an amazing time!

  2. Rebecca November 18, 2013 at 10:35 am #

    Well done!!

    I think the SWTM will be one of the races I will sign up for in 2015 as many people have written great things about the race!

    huge PB!! I’m going for a pretty big PB for my half in May – we will see if I can do it πŸ™‚

    • Mary November 19, 2013 at 7:41 am #


      You can totally PB your half – you seem to be getting faster and faster so will totally get there!

      You should sign up for STWM 2015…maybe I’ll be considering the full marathon by then!

  3. Theresa November 18, 2013 at 11:51 am #

    WOW Congrats on that awesome PR!!!!!

    • Mary November 19, 2013 at 7:42 am #

      Thanks Theresa! It felt really good to accomplish πŸ™‚

  4. thewindykitchen November 18, 2013 at 12:12 pm #

    congratulations! this is inspiring me to find another half and try to improve after my first…a race that’s 13.1 vs 13.4 mi should alone help shave a few minutes πŸ˜‰

    • Mary November 19, 2013 at 7:43 am #

      Thank you!

  5. Trails and Ultras November 18, 2013 at 3:02 pm #

    Wow what a huge improvement since your last half! That’s phenomenal πŸ™‚

    • Mary November 19, 2013 at 7:43 am #

      Thanks so much! I couldn’t quite believe my improvement either!

  6. afastpacedlife November 19, 2013 at 7:41 am #

    Awesome job! CONGRATS!!!

    • Mary November 19, 2013 at 7:44 am #

      Thank you!! πŸ™‚
      It was an awesome race!

  7. TheExpatRunner December 4, 2013 at 10:16 pm #

    Congratulations – sounds like a dream race! I like the mental strategy of dedicating portions of the race to special people. I definitely need to work on my mental state for racing as I run faster in training than in races out of fear of crashing. Thanks for the inspiration πŸ™‚

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