The news out of city hall that 2011 may see Toronto lose one of its fall marathons is sure to make some interesting debate in the running community. They are run three weeks apart and there seems to be no love lost between the two camps. Runners I believe are split -- build a bigger marathon or kill one major road race.
Toronto Marathon (Goodlife).
Toronto Waterfront Marathon (Scotiabank)
I don't think I need to rehash the old debate about which one is better. In the end, they are both 26.2 mile- or 13.1 mile-races run on city road. In fact, I'm totally happy to stay out of the debate: I know that a single marathon could result in building a megamarathon in this city and country, I also love the choice I get to do two major races in Toronto. On a side note, for all of us who complain about the state of our health and obesity rates, REALLY, you really have to go after the running community. What's next, ticketing jaywalkers after a bunch of pedestrian deaths?
I've done both marathons and can talk positively about both of them. One is on my home running course while the other delivered my Boston qualifier.
Why not for a moment forget about Toronto Goodlife vs. Toronto Scotia. Why not actually think about what kind of race we want to build. There are two major factors that you can't control through organization (the expo, water stops, entertainment, swag, pacers) of a larger marathon, but for a runner looking for the best experience (and time), I would propose we look at when in the fall it is held, and what is the route like?
Timing: I have run enough races in Toronto to know that late September often risks us having a freak humid day. I like to call the Scotiabank Marathon, often done in the last week of September, the Humid Marathon. I think mid October is a perfect date, it gives a better chance at a cooler day which equals faster times, and Toronto is known for those perfect crisp fall days. I'd do it the second Sunday in October. In terms of timing against other races, it puts it on some years on the same weekend as the Chicago Marathon, but who are we kidding, we're not competing for those numbers. Chicago fills up to the max anyways. Also note that Marine Corps Marathon, which has 25000 or more participants, will in 2011 be run in the same weekend as New York. Why not try to build a second North American mid-October marathon.
Routes: The waterfront marathon is misnamed by the fact that you don't actually see the water much or at least run alongside it. Toronto Goodlife has an awesome start until the half marathon mark (it is net downhill and runs through really nice and interesting neighbourhoods) while the Scotiabank has a kinda boring out-and-back course. If we had one marathon, maybe doing the first half of Goodlife, then run it up University, around Queen's Park, then veer into some of the more interesting Toronto neighbourhoods -- maybe across on Bloor (or College), then down High Parkish area (Ronces), ending at City Hall or some other landmark like the Princess Gates at the CNE. Toronto is known for its diverse neighbourhoods - and not known for the waterfront highway - and it would a shame not to rethink the route.
If Toronto wants to build a megamarathon, then just like the Marine Corps runs through the National Mall, or New York runs up Fifth Avenue, and how Chicago winds through Grant Park to Wrigley and Chinatown, then we should similarly show off the best of the city. And if we halt traffic for one day, and not two, then lets take it to the max. Block all em roads.
Just something to think about.
Toronto Marathon route (last October)
Toronto Waterfront Marathon route (2008 version)