On May 16th, I ran in the 7th annual Mississauga Marathon. This was my fourth marathon, and I’d decided to run it sometime back in March, after being unhappy with my result in the Toronto Good Life Marathon in October of last year. (Which I had run only two months after the Edmonton Marathon)
Though I had qualified for Boston during the Edmonton Marathon with a time of 3:02:50, I decided not to register for Boston after my poor performance in the Toronto Good Life race. I wasn’t sure I’d be ready again for another marathon in mid-April, and the timing with my schedule wasn’t ideal either.
However, by the start of February I was feeling better and started getting back into training mode. I had a May marathon in mind, which would give me a solid three months of training – more than enough considering the base level of training I’d maintained over the winter. However, I didn’t want to push myself and commit to something I couldn’t do – so I did not register until the end of March, when my condition was more certain.
And so when May 16th came, I was feeling pretty confident. I’d run the Sporting Life 10K two weeks before, finishing in 39:38, within my target time of a sub-40 minute run. I had a target time for this marathon of anything under 3:20, not enough to qualify for Boston since I didn’t want to push myself, since this was partly the result of why I’d done poorly at the Good Life Marathon last year.
The first three-quarters of the race went well, and I was able to maintain a fairly even pace, passing the halfway point at 1:33:55. While things went smoothly for the first 30 km, at about the 35 km mark I started feeling some slight leg cramps and had to slow things down. I lost quite a bit of time in the last 7 km, and managed to finish in 3:13:06, less than three minutes away from qualifying for Boston again.
While I was disappointed at coming so close to a qualifying time, overall I was happy with the result, having met my original target and improved substantially from my previous marathon. Despite this being my fourth marathon, I still feel that I’m very much a beginner at this, as I need to work on my overall race strategy, pacing and training if I want get more consistent results. I’ve thought about doing another marathon in the fall, perhaps the Toronto Waterfront Marathon (thus completing the GTA marathon three-pack), but I don’t want to push myself. I’ll see how the summer plays out.
Review of the Mississauga Marathon
While the above is more of a personal anecdote, I’d like to point out some of the pros and cons of this race in case you’re interested in it. I decided to run this race because of its close location to me. The other obvious choice for a May marathon would’ve been the Ottawa Marathon, but I didn’t want to deal with the extra headaches of travel and staying overnight. Driving to the race took me only about 40-45 minutes, and would’ve been faster if the Gardiner Expressway wasn’t closed that weekend for repairs. (What timing!)
The course itself was a point-to-point race, with a net elevation loss of 80 m from start to finish, resulting in a gentle slope along the way. I’d say most of that drop came in the first half, with the last part mostly flat. There’s a few rolling hills along the way, but nothing steep and unexpected. Overall, the elevation profile was quite forgiving. In my experience, large elevation gains or drops aren’t ideal for marathons; running downhill for long periods of time will kill your quads, and running uphill is hard for obvious reasons. My ideal course would be flat – but the gentle downhill route of the Mississauga Marathon was still quite runnable.
The course starts at the Square One shopping mall, which ought to mean a lot of parking – after all, suburbs are the land of the automobile – but unfortunately only certain sections were available since the mall was open for business that day. Considering that around 7,000 people were running the marathon or half-marathon that day, that adds up to a lot of cars since that was the only real way to get to the race. As expected, parking was a nightmare – I got there about 30 minutes before the race start at 7:30 AM, and that was just enough time to find a parking spot and get ready for the run. My advice is to arrive early – earlier than you think necessary – to avoid rushing.
I had to park some distance away, probably around 500 m, but this wasn’t a problem – I used the travel distance as a warm-up for the race. However, by then the lineups for the porta-potties were too long and I didn’t get a chance to go before the race start. This wasn’t really a problem for me either as I just went at the first opportunity at around the 4 km mark.
The course scenery was pretty relaxing and the atmosphere nice. Spectators were out in full force even in the first half, adding a nice touch to the calm suburban setting of the race. The nice thing about the suburban course is that the roads were generally in better shape than the road races I’ve run in cities. However, there were some drawbacks.
Firstly, some parts of the course were on single-lane roads, with only one side available for runners and the other open to traffic. Only a sparse line of pylons marked this, and some confused drivers didn’t seem to understand their meaning. Traffic control along these stretches could have been better. This isn’t to say that police and volunteers didn’t do a good job – I just think there could have been more of them along these sections.
Secondly, some of the sections went along the trails at the waterfront. While these gave a nice few of the downtown Toronto skyline, (made better by the sunny and clear weather that day), the trails limited the width available for runners and really required people to obey proper etiquette. This didn’t really bother me, but it’s something to be aware of.
Lastly, since it’s a point-to-point course, the marathon organizers had to recruit some public transit buses to get people back to the start from the finish. With over 7,000 participants, you can immediately see the problems with this. The wait times were quite long and made worse by the understandably bad traffic in getting back to the start. Being cramped into a bus full of sweaty runners (myself included in that group) could not have been nice either. Make sure you have water or are hydrated before lining up to get on the bus, as it took about 45mins-1hr to get back.
The weather was great that day, with a starting temperature of about 9C, rising to 16-17C by the time I finished. It was sunny, fairly clear and the wind was not bad. I couldn’t have asked for better conditions, considering that the weather in May had been a rollercoaster ride – two weeks ago during the Sporting Life 10K, the temperature had been near 20C with high humidity, while the week before the marathon the temperature hovered just above freezing and I had to wear winter running gear for my last long run!
Considering that the following week temperatures pushed into record highs, I think we were quite lucky with the weather timing of the Mississauga Marathon.
In general, this is a problem with spring marathon, in that the weather can be unpredictable. If it’s hot, things are made worse by the fact that you’ve done most your training during the colder preceding months, limiting your exposure and tolerance for hot weather running.
Overall, I was pleased with the Mississauga Marathon. The aid stations were well-organized, and the crowd support was great, with one nice lady even setting up her own lemonade aid station outside her house! I’d very much consider doing this again and think it makes a great choice for a first marathon or half-marathon.