Those were the four winning times at this year’s Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon (STWM).
In its 30th edition, STWM did not disappoint. On all accounts, it provided drama, intrigue, surprise, and disappointment, and tears of joy.
Pre-race favourites slipped away. Athletes which I had written off rose to the forefront. Personal bests were set. Hearts were broken.
That is the marathon.
After running my own marathon that morning in Quebec (PB!), I watched the race on YouTube (if you haven’t seen it, you should watch it too). As soon as the gun went off I was surprised. Trevor Hofbauer had gone into the lead group for the Canadian men, and looked very comfortable. He was also running six to seven minutes inside his PB. As the race went on, he dropped Esselink, then Levins and eventually went out on his own to win the men’s title, hit the Olympic standard, AND run 2:09. I could simply not believe it.
The lead men’s race was amazing as well. Unlike the commentators, I did not write off Philemon Rono when Lemi Berhanu hit the front. For those who know the course, you will know that Berhanu surged just before the “hill” (which feels like a mountain) around 38K. This surge sapped his legs and Rono used the final uphill stretched heading towards Nathan Phillips Square to pass and break Berhanu. Rono ran a 2:05 flat to set a personal best and the Canadian all-comers record. Four men finished inside the previous course record. #Vapourflys
Masai-Robertson finished next, also running an all-comers record and four minute personal best. She ran a solid race and never put her nose into the wind until she was ready to break the field. She let the surges occur and calmly responded, unlike the robust changes in pace which sapped the other’s legs. Masai’s race was pure class.
Finally, Dayna Pidhoresky surprised everybody (except for me – more on this later) and ran a stellar, and aggressive race for a seven minute personal best and the Olympic standard. She punched her ticket to Japan for 2020. Pidhoresky, who is the 3rd Canadian women to achieve the standard, went out hard and faded – but her boldness paid off. She destroyed the field for her first national title over the marathon running 2:29. Emily Setlack finished 2nd in the women’s race – missing the Olympic standard by 18 seconds.
Here was a lot more to digest over the weekend, so here are my top 5 takeaways. As always, Run the North News has stellar coverage and can get you up to date on the Guinness World Records, reaction and more.
Here are my takeaways.
Toronto Waterfront is a world-class marathon.
If runners across the world didn’t know if on Saturday, they know it now: the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon is world class. For the first time in Canada, a runner went under 2:06 – four of them in fact, with Rono almost breaking that mark. It also is the home of some of the fastest Canadian times in history. Regardless of what Tigist Girma thinks, this course is fast – really fast.
As a fall marathon, Toronto has some competition. Berlin, Chicago, Amsterdam, and New York, but this year, STWM will certainly have a faster winning time than both New York and Chicago (and both races have stronger fields. It’s time this year was even within 50 seconds of Amsterdam. Although it is impossible to compete with Berlin, Toronto is not that much slower as there are only 3 turns on the course with minimal elevation gain – but Berlin will always have a faster field.
There is still some work to do on the women’s side of things, as the course record in Toronto still lags behind its colleagues in that department.
Major kudos to Alan Brookes and team for making Toronto a world class marathon.
Canadian marathoning has depth, but 2:12 is proving tough to crack.
Trevor Hofbauer, Tristian Woodfine, Cam Levins, Reid Coolsaet, Thomas Toth, Kevin Coffey, Rory Linkletter, Dylan Wykes, Aaron Cooper, Evan Esselink, Sami Jabril, Chris Balestrini, Calum Neff. And more. Canadian marathoning has a lot of depth (don’t forget Mason, Watson, Berhanu, Morgan and others who didn’t run this weekend)
However, over the last two seasons, only Canadians have dipped under 2:12 – Levins and Hofbauer. There seems to be this mental/physical wall which is stopping some Canadian men from really dropping those times. Is it sponsorship deals keeping them away from the carbon plated shoes? Is it lack of financial support? Is it the mental wall of 2:11/2:12?
I do not have the answers, but I do know that US marathoning has the same issues until recently so I am sure there will be more breakthroughs before May 2020 (deadline for Tokyo qualifying). Until then, Canadian men will have shots at dropping under the standard at Boston, Rotterdam, London, and Ottawa.
The Canadian women do not have the same issue – three have already achieved the Olympic standard (Pidhoresky, Tessier, Cliff).
Fortune favours the bold
Trevor Hofbauer and Dayna Pidhoresky went for it – and I mean went for it. If the commentators were correct, Pidhoresky went out a 2:22 pace and Hofbauer at 2:09 pace. Although this is a risky strategy, both succeeded. Those who went with Hofbauer struggled, but major kudos to Esselink in particular for going for it.
Often in Canadian running, we see runners go out timidly or conservatively – and I guess for the marathon, it is a sensible strategy. Outside of Pidhoresky and Hofbauer, this strategy has worked for other Canadian marathoners. In 2011, Reid Coolsaet went for it, ran with the East Africans and achieved the Olympic standard, and; had it not been for GI issues, would have probably broken the Canadian record.
Defending champions were in tough.
Both Kinsey Middleton and Cam Levins had a tough return to Toronto, but we do know, neither of them will give up on their Olympic dreams.
Middleton laid off the Pidhoresky pace and spent the majority of the race with Emily Setlack and Kate Bazeley. Although she struggled late, her tactics weren’t so different from last year, but if you are not on your best day, the marathon will punish you.
Levins appeared to be a bit strained from the start, and he showed it around 26 kilometres. He dropped very quickly away from the lead Canadian group and did well to finish the race. The picture on the broadcast of him falling into Alan Brooke’s arms says it all.
Expect Levins to return to the marathon in the spring and run Rotterdam, London or Boston. Middleton will likely choose an American race.
I am good at predicting races (mostly).
You can see in my race preview that I picked these winners: Rono (2:05); Masai (2:22); Pidhoresky (2:31), and Woodfine (2:11).
So I got three out of four. On times, I got two of three.
Pidhoresky ran far faster than I ever expected.
I should apologize to Trevor Hofbauer for counting him out. A mediocre season combined with a tough year in 2018, led me to believe he was in the athletics wilderness, but no more. The big man is going to Tokyo.
Thanks for reading – I hope you enjoyed my coverage of STWM.
Next up, the Canadian Cross Country Championships.