Downsview Half Marathon Race Report

A Run to Remember

I wasn’t even interested in running this race, Dan had originally intended to run the 5km but then he saw the medal for the half and jumped to that.  Then he signed me up for the half because I was grumpy, at the time he believed he was helping me, by the time race day rolled around I felt like I was being punished.  I haven’t been running much lately (for me at least), so as we ran to the race kit pick up (the day before) I was a little worried, it was only 7km and it killed me, I was panting, my legs were so heavy and I just didn’t feel like running.
Race morning I pulled myself together and we headed out.  We thankfully I arrived early as the bathroom situation at the start wasn’t great, for some reason even with reports about how female runners are the fastest growing field of runner, race directors fail to bring in enough porta potties, yup we take a long time in there, get over it and get more bathrooms.
I had decided I wanted to start near the front so we made our way to start line and I’m glad we did.  The sun came out and it was getting warm as we were serenaded by a 2nd Lieutenant, it’s the first time I’ve ever teared up at pre race anthem, the moment of silence and the bag piper didn’t help that either.  It was beautiful, and here we were on a military base on Remembrance Day, it really brought home how petty and needlessly grumpy I’d been these last few weeks.

Best anthem ever.

Race start was delayed a few minutes due to all the runners still standing in line at the bathroom, and then there was a klaxon horn and we were off (I have to admit I was sort of hoping for a shot gun or something since we were at a military base, but then again we are still in Toronto and it’s probably not as simple as shooting off a gun).  I was pretty pleased with how well I seeded myself, a few times before the start I kept looking behind me and thinking that some of those runners should be ahead of me, but I held firm, if they wanted to be ahead of me they could be.  And incredibly there were still people who started right at the front who really shouldn’t have, although my Dad gave me a new perspective when I was whining about it over lunch, his take “The race is already 21.1km, it would be even longer if you started right at the back”  Sometimes it takes a non-runner to point out the obvious.

At the start.

So race plan…oh yeah, didn’t have one.  Dan took off like a flash and well, so did I or so I thought but then I caught up to Geoff (we all started together), Geoff’s race plan was to listen to Top Gun on his iPod and finish when it did (about 1:50).  I ran kilometre one in 4:33, silly, too fast but man was it fun to take off and be running with fast people, however I was very aware that I would not last another 20km at the pace and settled down (a little).  The first 4km are around the new and improved public park, the path was newly paved and wound around a little hill, I was sort of surprised at the elevation (it wasn’t much) but I had wrongly assumed that this would be a pancake flat course, so had many fellow runners who were grumbling at the little climbs.  I caught up to Dan about 4km (he had settled down too) and he asked what my game plan was.  I still didn’t know, “just run”, and we decided we’d finish this race together.
After leaving the park, we ran along a road and then did a strange out and back in the parking lot beside the TFC (MLS football club) training facility, then it was back along a road, that was having some construction done, so there was some pot hole jumping, and then we got to enter the base properly.  Here they had parked all the different trucks to create a path for us to the airstrip, Dan and I were in awe, we love this kind of stuff, of course we were told at the beginning of the race we were not to touch anything while on the base, why does that make you want to touch it even more?  Anyway we kept our sweaty hands to ourselves and hit the runway, yup we got to run the full length of (an old) runway, with a cool old plane parked along it.  There was a bit of a head wind but I welcomed it, it was hot out.  It was well over 10 degrees (Celsius), I was thankful that I had ditched my arm sleeves after the long bathroom wait.  I felt bad for the people who were dressed for middle of the winter running.

No touching!

The plane (not the plane that was made at Downsview, but a plane none the less).

After we passed the plane we followed the airstrip out through a fence toward, well, a mall, I really wished I had reviewed the race course better, but luckily we turned and run along side the mall before turning down a dead-end road, where you run all the way to the end, turn around and follow the exact same route back.  With so much out and backing we had fun cheering on the lead runners and waving to people we knew and high-fiving Geoff.  It occurred to Dan as we re-entered the airstrip that maybe we were having a little too much fun as no one else around us were chatting or cheering or high-fiving, so we tried to take things more seriously.  But we couldn’t and ended up discussing at length what we thought would happen if we did touch one of the trucks on the base (both too chicken respectful to find out).  After we left the base and were doing the loop in the parking lot, my legs started to ache, runways are hard, they have huge heavy planes landing on them, the don’t have much give for little runners legs.  So with 5km left I was just going to have to suck it up, Dan was also sucking it up as he managed to get a stone in his shoe, I told him we could stop to get it out, but he thought the distraction of the stone would stop him thinking of his aching feet (all this trail running has made us soft!).  With 4km left to go we passed the start/finish (again) where my parents were cheering us on, Dan even went out of his way to high-five them, we re-entered the park and I was happy to be back on the new, soft pavement, not so happy with the hill.  I pulled away from Dan for a bit but he always has a kick at the end so I knew he’d catch back up.  In fact I welcomed him back around the last bend, only to discover I was talking to a stranger, oops.  Of course Dan saw this interaction and thought it was hilarious giving him the boost he needed to catch back up, and we crossed the finish line hand in hand.

It was a decent size stone in Dan’s shoe.

The Gang.

I haven’t run a half marathon in a couple of years, and so my PB going into this race was 2:11:32, and although I didn’t have a “plan” for this race, I really wanted to set a new PB, and I really wanted it be sub 2 hours, but I really wasn’t trained for this, I wasn’t sure what would actually happen.  There is a lot to be said for being well-trained, there is also a lot to be said about being well-rested, we finished in 1:49:31, shattering my PB by 22 minutes!  Best of all we got a shiny new medal to add to the collection.

The Bling


6 comments on “Downsview Half Marathon Race Report

  1. Mom says:

    Glad to see you are back! Nothing like a run on a beautiful day. Here’s to many more. Love us xoxo

  2. Gary McGugan says:

    Looks like you had a nice run. Well done with your PB! Remember, if it becomes too cold for you to run in Toronto, and you would like to join an event here in Southwest Florida, you and Dan are always most welcome to stay with us for a few days!

  3. Ann & Gaz says:

    What a brilliant race to run, the ceremony beforehand, all the military vehicles to tempt you and a fantastic medal – glad to see you are up and running again in great style ! x x x

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