Marathon Clinic News and Fall Racing Plans

Starting Tuesday, I’ll be leading the marathon clinic at the new Canary District Running Room in Toronto.

It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a few years now, but the timing never seemed right. Probably the biggest change is that the kids are more independent now, meaning I can afford a weeknight to run without as much family impact.

I’ve always enjoyed helping runners get into the marathon. I’ve done enough now that I feel confident that my experiences are worth sharing. My time as a member of Team Awesome for the Ottawa Marathon has helped me get more comfortable with that role.

Taking on the challenge of clinic instructor gives me a nice push to go for it in the fall and get on board with another 42.2km in October.

Fall marathon plans

Assuming all goes well, I’ll be running the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon on October 16, 2016. I’ve run two full marathons in my home city–the Goodlife once, and the STWM once. I’m super excited to run this one again as it was a great race for me a few years back.

As one of two IAAF Gold Label marathons in Canada (Ottawa being the other), I know it’ll be a well-run event with a great course and lots of people out to cheer.

I’ve been considering running a fall marathon after the disappointment of the hot Ottawa Marathon day when I didn’t get the payoff for all the training I did over the winter and spring. I’ve also been thinking about switching over to fall marathons to take advantage of the cooler weather on race day.

I like the winter training, and generally dislike running in the heat of summer so this will present a bit of a challenge for me. I’m hoping that training in the heat and racing in cooler weather will be an advantage.

Follow along!

I’ll be keeping up with the blogging over the summer and into the fall, sharing some of the Clinic learnings and generally motivating runners training for a mid-October marathon. Do follow along if that’s your plan!

Of course, if you are in the Toronto area (either downtown or the south-east end) and are looking for a marathon training clinic or running group, come down to the Canary District Running Room. Clinic night is Tuesday (6pm start) and we’ll also have the usual free group runs on Wednesday evening and Sunday mornings.

Why a IAAF Gold Label Matters to All Runners

You may have heard that the Ottawa Marathon is an International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Gold Label race in 2016, joining the Ottawa 10km which was first awarded a Gold Label in 2015. But maybe you thought that didn’t really mean anything to the average, non-elite runner like you.

The IAAF Gold Label signifies to elite runners who may be considering participating that an event is of the highest calibre. That said, all runners whether elite or not, see real tangible benefits when they choose to run these high quality events.

What it means to be Gold

Elites at the 2015 Ottawa Marathon.

Here’s a few of the IAAF Gold Label standards, with an eye to why the average runner should care:

  • International field – Gold Label events need to have elite runners from five or more different countries. This international aspect brings more excitement to the race and draws media coverage and fans out to cheer both elite and non-elite runners. If you love the fans cheering you on around the course, it’s the elites that bring many of them to the side of the road to watch the race.
  • Elites – speaking of elites, a Gold Label race needs to have a top quality field of elite runners. That means the race needs to feature runners who have gone under 2:10:30 (for men) and 2:28:00 (for women). Again, this brings excitement to the event and brings fans out to cheer.
  • Medical services – the quality and amount of medical services must be appropriate for the number of runners and conditions. While we all hope that nobody has to use medical services during the race, the truth is that for some runners who run into trouble, quality medical services on course can be a matter of life and death. IAAF Gold Label races are well staffed with fully trained medical personnel.
  • A measured and certified course – The last thing you want to find our after your race is that the course wasn’t exactly 42.2km. IAAF Gold Label races are measured and certified. There’s no chance you’ll be running a short or long course.
  • A good quality road surface, and a high quality route – IAAF Gold Label races are run on roads that are in good condition. There won’t be any potholes, cracks or other dangers that could trip you up or cause an ankle turn or a fall. And the course must be of a high quality with fewer twists and turns, and a reasonable amount of challenge.
  • All roads closed to traffic – to qualify for an IAAF Label, the entire course must be free of traffic. Unlike some races where you find yourself running next to a lane of traffic, or worse yet, being held to allow traffic to cross, IAAF Gold Label races have a fully closed course. That’s safer for runners and allows for a far better racing experience for all.
  • Aid stations – there must be an appropriate number of stations, adequately staffed by competent personnel. Gold Label races feature aid stations with high quality volunteers who are well-trained and ready to provide water, electrolyte drinks, gels and sponges to all athletes.
  • Video screen – your friends and spectators can enjoy TV coverage on a large screen while you run your race. A big screen must be provided for those watching the race around the finish.
  • Full video coverage in five countries – speaking of video coverage, IAAF Gold Label races must have live TV or Internet streamed coverage of the full race. That includes making it available in at least five countries. This means your friends and family can tune in and see that you are part of a world-class event. And you can watch the elites who out-ran you to the finish after you run your own marathon.

Run with the world’s best

As you can see, there’s lots of benefit to choosing an IAAF Gold Label race like the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon. While there are non-label marathons in many cities, you won’t find a better, safer, more enjoyable experience than one provided by an IAAF Gold Label race.

Running a truly world-class event is special. You’ll be running on the same course, on the same day as some of the best marathon runners in the world. How many other sports let you do that?

Photo by Pierre Lachaîne (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The Marquis de Sade Half Marathon

It’s a “fun” run, they say.

The annual Marquis de Sade goes tomorrow (Sunday, November 29, 2015) starting from the High Park Running Room at 8:30 A.M.

This unofficial half marathon takes on some of the biggest and baddest hills that Toronto has to offer. We’re talking 18 significant hills over the 21.1km of the route.

Runners who complete this monster get a little red button as their reward. No medal. No chiptime or Sportstats listing. Just a small red pin-on button that says you finished whipped the Marquis de Sade.

And you get the personal satisfaction of knowing that you took on one of the toughest half marathons around.

Bring a map!

It’s a bit of an orienteering exercise in addition to being a race. The course isn’t really marked, and you can be sure that none of it is closed to traffic. Did I mention there are no aid stations along the route? You are on your own, armed only with a map, and whatever else you bring along to sustain you.

I’ll be running my second Marquis de Sade tomorrow and I’m gunning for a respectable time well under two hours. We’ll see what happens.

Join the fun

If you want to get in on the fun, be at the High Park Running Room before the start at 8:30 A.M. to sign in. Study the route, make a few maps and bring them along with you so you don’t get lost. There aren’t any bibs, and the race is not chip-timed. It’s up to you to sign in when you start and finish to record your time. Most of the run is on sidewalks and paved trail, but there is an off-road, trail section in High Park near the start.

While the course looks a bit ridiculous, don’t let that scare you off. It’s a fun, festive event that provides a late season test of what you’re made of.

Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon Awarded IAAF Gold Label for 2016

Canada can now lay claim to having two of five International Associations of Athetics Federations (IAAF) Gold Label Marathons in North America.

The Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon was awarded Gold Label status today by the IAAF and joins the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon as IAAF Gold Label races. The Toronto race earned IAAF Gold Label status last year.

RO_OM_16_Website_Golden_Homepage_250_ENThe Gold Label is awarded when a race meets a long list of criteria set out by the IAAF. Those criteria include things like the having a high quality course, live international TV or livestreamed video coverage of the race and also the quality of the elite field.

The Ottawa 10km was awarded IAAF Gold Label status starting with the 2015 race. The addition of an IAAF Gold Label for the 2016 Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon this spring means that the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend will have two Gold Label events. Only one other city in the world, Lisbon, has two IAAF Gold Label races on the same weekend.

Race Weekend is an Economic Boon for Ontario and Ottawa

Run Ottawa also revealed the the 2015 Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend generated $34.4 million in economic activity for the Province of Ontario. That figure includes $23.1 in economic activity for the City of Ottawa, including 198 jobs.

It’s expected that nearly 50,000 runners will participate in the 2016 Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend May 28-29, 2016.

Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon Excites

What a great day at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, Half Marathon and 5km.

On the elite side, Canadian Eric Gillis ran a strong 2:11:31, easily qualifying for the Rio Olympics in 2016. He needed a 2:12:50 to secure a spot and will join marathoner Reid Coolsaet, who booked a ticket to Rio earlier this year.

Fellow Canadian Lanni Marchand also qualified for Rio 2016 with her 2:28:09. That was just nine seconds off her Canadian record time set at last year’s event. Krista Duchene, who co-hosted the STWM Livestream also qualified earlier this year for Canada.

Personal Bests

It was a great day for the Koole family too.

I paced our daughter Lindsey in the 5km to an impressive 30:15 today. That’s a new personal best for her in the 5km by 34 seconds. She also raised over $1,455 for the Fragile X Research Foundation of Canada, a cause very near and dear to our hearts.

Ginny bringing it home on Bay St.

In the half marathon, wife Ginny ran a great race, finishing with a personal best of 2:20:42 after a tough year of running through a heel injury she first picked up training for the 2014 Chicago Marathon.

Toronto Embraces its Gold Medal Race

It was also great to see the city further embracing its marathon. This was the first year the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon achieved IAAF Gold Label status, indicating that it is a world-class event in every regard.

Crowds were strong, and it seemed the usual complaints about traffic and other inconvenience was less noticable. The Toronto Star and CP24 still focused too much on a pair of medical indicents rather than the story of the two Canadians who qualified for Rio, but that might change next year when more Torontonians are introduced to some of our amazing Canadian marathoners during the Summer Olympics.

On the bright side, the 6pm evening newscasts devoted plenty of time to the many stories of the day, including the millions of dollars raised for various charities and the personal stories of some of the tens of thousands of runners who took part in the events today.

All in all, a fantastic day for running in Toronto. Congratulations to everyone who was out on course today!

Pints to Pasta Half Marathon

I’m heading to Portland, Oregon next weekend for a work thing, and as luck would have it, I discovered that the Pints to Pasta Half Marathon is on Sunday, September 13th.

Once I checked the festival schedule, it became clear that I could squeeze in a Sunday morning half marathon and miss nothing! So I signed up.

Out and back route

The race, part of the Hood to Coast Race Series, starts down in the south end of Portland, then runs up and over a big hill (should have looked at the course, I guess), and then up through downtown before crossing the river and hitting the turnaround point in the north end of the city. From there, it’s back the way we came (including the hill). The half marathon is new this year and shares the course with the 10km race which starts at the half turnaround at the top, and finishes back at the start of the half.

Pints to Pasta refers to the fact that the 10km begins near the Widmer Brothers Gasthaus and Brewery, and finishes at the Old Spaghetti Factory. It looks like a really fun run with free after-race pasta and beer. Route map (PDF).

I’m looking forward to an unexpected and super fun half marathon. Given the course elevation, I don’t think I can better my 1:38:25 PB, but I’m planning to run a sub-1:40.

Here’s the official promo video:

[vimeo 110120673 w=500 h=281]

Pints to Pasta 10k Run & Walk from Hood to Coast Race Series on Vimeo.

Last Minute Ottawa Race Weekend Tips for Marathoners

This will be a short and sweet list, mostly because there’s all sorts of good stuff to do today in Ottawa. Here’s my last minute tips for all you marathon runners:

  • Stay off your feet (as much as possible) – tough, I know. Try to keep the walking to a minimum today. Avoid things like the Parliament Buildings tour, or wandering the Byward Market (been there, done that, paid for it in the 2010 Ottawa Marathon). Your legs and feet will thank you tomorrow.
  • Eat all the carbs – plan out your meals and snacks to be carb-heavy. You don’t have to have pasta for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but don’t shy away from grabbing an extra slice of toast, or that yummy fudge brownie. It’s all good today.
  • Get your race-day stuff together early – do this in the daytime instead of waiting until just before bed. The reason? You might discover you forgot something and it’s far easier to pick up a pair of socks, or you favourite energy drink while the expo is still open.
  • Don’t wear the race shirt in the race – I mean, you can if you want (who am I to judge?). But you never know with a new shirt whether it’ll cause some chafing or other issues. Stick with what you know.
  • Go get some sunscreen – you have some right? If not, go get some because the forecast suggests you’ll need it tomorrow.
  • Study the route some more – grab the course map and memorize some key points (my virtual sightseeing tour might help) to help you break up the marathon into mentally manageable chunks. It could be a museum, or specific intersection, or whatever. Also plan out where your family and friends will be cheering you on so you can be on the right side of the road so as not to miss them.
  • Get out and cheer – the 2k, 5km and 10k races this evening are super exciting and worth checking out. Some of the best runners in the world will be featured in the Ottawa 10k which starts at 6:30pm tonight. Come down to the start and finish and cheer them on.

It’s going to be a great weekend and your race is just one part of it. Getting out and checking out the expo, or hitting the evening races will help take your mind off your race tomorrow for a bit. Enjoy the day!

Scotiabank Ottawa Half Marathon Sightseeing Tour

Running the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon? Your tour is here!

The Scotiabank Ottawa Half Marathon course takes runners on a nice 21.1km tour of the Nation’s Capital including the Rideau Canal, Dow’s Lake, Lebreton Flats, Gatineau and the Alexandra Bridge. Here’s a few spots to look out for along the way.

Elgin Street (0.4km)

From the start, runners head south down Elgin Street and the Rideau Canal. Elgin features some nice shops and restaurants, and the crowds will be out early to cheer you on at the start.


Rideau Canal (2.5km)

Not long after the start, you’ll hit Queen Elizabeth Drive and the Rideau Canal. Enjoy the views to your left and imagine what it looks like in the winter when the canal is transformed into the world’s longest skating rink.


Dow’s Lake (5km)

Look to your left as you sweep around the edge of Dow’s Lake, a man-made lake that’s part of the Rideau Canal system. The big building next to the lake is Dow’s Lake Pavilion.


Wellington St. W. (7.5km)

This quaint village setting is lovely to run through with shops and restaurants lining the street here. Expect good spectator support!


Scott St. (9.8km)

Look left along Scott St. for the tower of the Ottawa Mosque. Shortly after you pass the mosque, you’ll turn left, crossing over the Transitway and towards Gatineau, Quebec.


Canadian War Museum (13km)

Look to your left as you pass this spectacular museum dedicated to Canada’s military history. Built in 2005, it’s drawn praise for it’s sustainable design including a green roof and architectural features that are meant to evoke a bunker.


Chaudière Bridge (13.8km)

Across the bridge into Quebec we go. The Ottawa Half Marathon is unique in that it takes place in two provinces! Make sure to look left over the bridge for a view of the Chaudière (Cauldron) Falls. It’s quite the sight!


Alexandra Bridge (16.5km)

Some of the most spectacular views of the entire race are here. To your right before you get on the bridge is the Canadian Museum of History. Then once you cross the bridge, look to your right and up the river bank for a stunning view of the Library of Parliament and the Peace Tower.


US Embassy and Major’s Hill Park (17.4km)

As you climb up from the Alexandra Bridge towards Wellington St., the US Embassy will be on your left, with Major’s Hill Park on your right. The park is home to events year round, including Canada Day festivities and was named for Major Daniel Bolton who was the Superintending Engineer of the Rideau Canal and lived on-site in a residence that was destroyed by fire in 1848.


Shaw Centre and Marathoners (18km)

On your left is the gleaming glass facade of the Shaw Centre which is the home to the Ottawa Race Weekend Expo where you picked up your race kit. This is also the point on the course where the marathon and half marathon routes come together so be sure to give some words of encourage to the marathoners that you’ll be running alongside.


Pretoria Bridge (19.9km)

The turn for home! Heading over the Rideau now and you make the u-turn over the Pretoria Bridge and the north towards the finish. Expect the crowd to start to swell here. Look to your right for views across the canal at all the runners on the other side that you are ahead of.


The Finish (21km)

The crowds here will be nuts, pushing you to the finish. It’s the greatest finish line anywhere in Canada. Draw energy from the crowd as you push through the last 200m to collect your half marathon medal!