The Best Thing We Can Do For Our Canadian Marathoners

Having high quality training facilities here at home is critical for our Canadian athletes.

Without these places to train, our athletes can’t be expected to perform at the level we all hope they can achieve on the world stage. Over the years, it’s been demonstrated that hosting international events in our cities is a great way to get these facilities built.

Sporting Legacies

The legacy of the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto is a wonderful swimming and diving facility in Scarborough. Our track cyclists continue to benefit from a new velodrome in Milton. The 2010 Olympics in Vancouver brought the Whistler Sliding Centre where our bobsled, luge and skeleton competitors can train on a world-class track in Canada. The Olympic Oval in Calgary, built for the 1988 Olympics helped create a generation of exceptional Canadian speed skaters.

There aren’t really any specialized training facilities needed for marathoners outside the normal athletics facilities for the training and cross-training that these runners do. There’s no specific building or track required like there is for other sports.

2013 Scotiabank Toronto Marathon

Canadian Olympic marathoners at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 2013.

One of the biggest things we can do to help push our Canadian marathoners forward is to host high quality races right here in Canada.

Is it any surprise that our Canadian marathoners have grown in quality as races like the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon and other Canada Running Series events have done likewise?

Top Races are Training Facilities

For marathoners, the race itself is a key training facility. Running shoulder-to-shoulder with the best in the world is where they learn to run their best. It’s a race that involves tactics and knowing exactly what you are (and aren’t) capable of as you make your way through 42.195km.

Canada now has two marathons with an IAAF Gold Label designation. The Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon in May is one of them, and the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in October is the other. The Gold Label signals that a race is of the highest quality, meeting a long list of requirements. Both races attract a very high-quality field of world class marathoners and that affords our Canadian marathoners a chance to run with the very best in the world right here at home.

Almost as importantly, having these events in Canadian cities bring more spectators to the sport of marathoning. Having Canadians out supporting and cheering on our athletes elevates the sport and brings awareness and funding to our athletes.

When you watched Lanni Marchant and Krista Duchene bringing home a 24th and 35th place finish in Rio, and when you watch Ried Coolsaet and Eric Gillis next Sunday, look to the Canada Running Series and the Ottawa Race Weekend and tip your hat to them for opening up our sport and creating international quality running events in our own cities.

Your Training Schedule is Not the Gospel

The schedule is just a collection of dates, and suggestions for miles and paces to run. It’s not the gospel.

This week, the weather forecast in Toronto is calling for temperatures in the low 30ºC range with humidex values that will make it feel like 40. That’s not ideal running weather and, in fact, it’s probably dangerous.

Hills? Not this week

The schedule I’m running has me doing 6x600m hill repeats on Wednesday night for something like 12km total with a warm up and cool down.

But the schedule doesn’t know what the weather will be like; it’s just a suggestion for what to run. Given the expected conditions, I won’t be taking the marathon clinic at the Canary District Running Room out to run hills on Wednesday. Instead we’ll head out on about a 8-10km flat, shady route along the edge of the lake where hopefully things will be a bit more tolerable.

The schedule is adjustable

It’s really easy to look at your training schedule and think that you have to do exactly what it says or you’ll fail. But that’s not true at all. Yes, you need to run something similar to what the schedule suggests, but swapping a run around or cutting back on training when it gets too hot (or too cold) is the right thing to do.

Just like you should be adjusting your training for the conditions, you should also adjust the training for how you feel. If you are feeling some aches and pains, ease back on the pace or distance. Consider taking a rest day. If you feel great, then by all means, run a bit more, add in a hill or two or bump up the pace a bit.

Use the schedule to guide you through your training as you build towards your marathon. But don’t treat it as infalible!

Time for Hill Training

Oh boy! Hill training is here! Said pretty much no runner, ever.

We’re ten weeks away from the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. That means you’re probably a couple of weeks into your hill repeat workouts if you are following the Running Room training program. This phase of the program runs for the next seven weeks and started with four hills a couple of weeks ago. Eventually you’ll hit double digit repeats and probably something like 15-17km on a Wednesday evening.

These hill repeats matter!

Hills are a key part of the training program, so even if you think you’ll hate them, it’s important to get out and do the work. I’ve grown to appreciate hill training over the years and while I wouldn’t say I enjoy running hill repeats, but there is a certain satisfaction that comes along with completing these workouts.


Logan Ave. is our hill.

Some tips to get the most out of your hill repeats:

  • Find a good hill – look for a hill that’s about a 5%-7% grade (or a little more) and about 500-600m long. It should be a good challenge, but not overwhelming. If there’s nothing suitable around, the treadmill can be a good alternative solution.
  • Do a good warm up and cool down – get two or three kilometres in to warm up before you run the hills. And plan to run a couple kilometres after your repeats too so you give yourself a chance to see what it’s like to run on tired legs. We’re lucky to have a good hill about 3km from the Canary District Running Room, so we get our warm up and cooldown just running over and back.
  • Don’t over do the hills – the goal here is to build strength and cardio, not to wear yourself out. You should be running at a pace that puts some stress on your body, but you shouldn’t be huffing and puffing to the point of exhaustion. Remember that you should be able to run a consistent pace up the hill for each repeat, and maintain that pace for all the repeats. Consider wearing a heart rate monitor (if you have one) and make sure you don’t blow over your max heart rate, which is a sign you are pushing the pace too much.
  • Focus on your form – resist the temptation to lean into the hill. Instead, stay upright, get your legs turning over quickly and run like you’re riding a bike. At the top of the hill, run through the crest of the hill and ease up the pace to bring your heart rate down after the exertion phase.

You might be surprised at how quickly time passes when you are doing repeats. Think about how the work put in on the hills now will make a big difference on race day. While the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon course is known for being flat, fast and festive, there are a couple of decent inclines to deal throughout the race.

Good luck and enjoy your repeats!