Tag Archives: Training

Last Chance marathon, Bellingham, 31st Dec 2016: Race review

Hello and happy new year.  I hope your 2017 is off to a good start 🙂

So, I managed to find a race to run on the very last day of 2016. I can’t think of a better way of finishing off a year than with a race – a lovely trail marathon at that. The race was The Last Chance Marathon in Bellingham, Washinton. That’s just a hop, skip and a jump over the border to the USA from home-sweet-home in BC, Canada.

There were two events, a marathon and half-marathon. For the marathon, we ran two out-and-back sections on the interurban trail, starting at Fairhaven Park Pavilion with the turn around at Clayton Beach. You can probably guess that the half-marathon was one out-and-back section. There was an early start if you wanted it, an hour before the main start at 9 am.

It was a lovely route on undulating soft trails, under a canopy of trees and peering through the trees in some places you could see the ocean. The day was damp and chilly, and towards the end, we got to run under falling snow which didn’t come to much but, hey, it was lovely to run with the snowflakes floating down in front of you.

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Happy Runner at the Last Chance Marathon. Thanks to Takao Suzuki for photo

I really enjoyed this marathon. The last one I’d done, I started too fast and finished with a painful hobble for the never-ending second-half. This one, I paced sensibly and finished strong. Always a good feeling 🙂 I finished mid-pack which I’m always overjoyed with when doing any marathon or ultra.

This was a great event: a lovely course; great aid stations; great organisation; great post-race food (vegan option of yummy spicy soup)

I used this race as my final long training run for my next ultra. Hmm….that’s going to be the Coldwater 100 miler on 21st January. I can’t believe that I’m trying another 100, that I’m heading into that great unknown again…yikes!! As well, it’s in the desert. Hope it’s not too hot as it’s freezing here. I’m thinking about going to the sauna for heat training 🙂

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Hoping to finish strong! Takao Suzuki photo

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Everybody got a nice ‘buff’ and finisher’s medal. Billy’s showing mine off.

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Trail running, encounters of a fun kind, and my next race – Glencoe Skyline…

Good afternoon!!

I’m back in Scotland 😀 … visiting my brother and sister … but also, my next exciting race is on the horizon. It’s this weekend! More later…(it’s in the mountains 😀)

But first, a wee training story.

A couple of days ago I went on my first run since getting here. I parked at Lomond Shores on the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond. The start of my route was up a steep rickety country road. I was heading for the hills 😀.

As I was puffing up the tree-lined road feeling hot and sweaty – it was a muggy afternoon – I saw ahead of me a funny sight. An elderly man with a very large blue suitcase on wheels was perched at the top of the road looking down at me.

“Do you think I’m lost?” he shouted to me.

I laughed to myself. Have you seen the movie “The 100 year old man who climbed out the window and disappeared”? I’d seen it recently and also read the book of the same name. That story came to mind when I saw the gent and his very big suitcase ahead of me.

“I think you are” I shouted up.

I ran up to him smiling. He said he had just got off the bus from Skye. Now, the bus stop was on the main trunk road and, as he had discovered, it was a bit of a hike from the bus stop into Balloch, to where he said he was headed. As he was speaking I couldn’t help but notice a badge on his jacket. It had the words Yukon Legion printed under the Canadian maple leaf. I asked him if he was from Canada and he was. He’d lived in Ontario for more than 60 years (in Wayne Gretzky’s home town he proudly told me)

But here’s the thing, 84 years ago he was born in Alexandria, a mile or two from where we were now standing. Well!! That was that! My mum was born in Alexandria too. So, this man and I were both Scottish and Canadian and we both had roots in the same Scottish town a stones throw away. How amazing!!

His name was James “Jimmy” Taylor and he was on a trip in his birth country, travelling by bus, finding hotels or B&Bs on spec. He had gone to Skye to buy some Harris tweed and had been astonished at the cost of his hotel in Portree (£125). (I guess it’s more expensive if you arrive on spec instead of using hotels.com!) He told me he had a brother in Balloch, close to where we were standing. I asked him if I could phone his brother so that he could come and pick him up. “Oh no I can’t do that” he said. Love it! That reply is so Scottish, we don’t like to bother others even kinsfolk.

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James Taylor. Nice to meet you!

We chatted about shared things Scottish and Canadian. I’ve mentioned in other posts how I often meet runners with Scottish connections while doing races on Canadian trails. This leads to long conversations about Scotland and Canada and their connections. Today was no different!

Anyway, I wheeled his heavy suitcase down the steep country road retracing my steps (he said it was too steep for him to take the suitcase himself) and pointed him in the direction of the nearest hotel.

I waved bye and headed back up the road to the hills.

I ran up onto Stoneymollan Muir on the John Muir Way and Three Lochs Way. Loch Lomond and its surrounding mountains were partly hidden by clouds but still, it was so beautiful to be out there breathing the pristine air. My high point was Ben Bowie and from there I headed back to the car and thought about Jimmy hoping he had found a room for the night.

Here’s some pictures of my run!

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Follow the waymarks!

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John Muir Way signposts

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View to Loch Lomond

The race I’m down to do this weekend is The Glencoe Skyline. Woo hoo, a real mountain race. It’s 55 km and 4700 m of elevation gain and it’s the final race of the Skyrunning extreme series.

Here’s a description of the race taken from the website …

The third and final 2016 Skyrunner® World Series EXTREME race, the Salomon Glen Coe Skyline™, will be held in Scotland on Sunday 18th September. The course is widely regarded as the most challenging mountain running race in the world, which features long sections of exposed scrambling including the famous Aonach Eagach and Curved Ridge.

Yikes!! What am I doing!!  Can’t wait!!!

Sky Pilot, solo, trip report… and… Icebug Anima3 Bugrip shoe review

 

Sky Pilot is a fantastic and deservedly popular peak located fairly close to Vancouver. Despite its proximity to such a major city, the dramatic rock walls, pocket glaciers and craggy summits give this area a remote alpine feel – Scrambles in Southwest British Columbia by Matt Gunn

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Near the summit of Sky Pilot

I signed up for the Icebug Ambassador programme at the Sinister 7 last month. The programme allowed runners to buy a pair of Anima3 BUgrips for only $79. In return we were asked to post feedback from three runs on the Icebug Canada Facebook page. I had previously used Icebug Zeals and was enthusiastic about trying another pair of Icebugs. I can tell you the Ambassador programme is turning out to be a lot of fun!

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Icebug Anima3 BUGrips

The Icebug Anima3 Bugrip is billed as a lightweight running shoe that can handle any terrain. BUGrip is the name of Icebug’s grip technology for the most slippery conditions. The sole is made of a special rubber compound and has 19 integrated steel studs. Icebug say these shoes provide the best possible traction on anything from dry asphalt to pure ice.

With their steel studs, my first impression was these shoes were most definitely meant for snow or ice. The sole looked like grippy winter tyres! But, not wanting to wait for the seasons to change I put my Anima 3 Bugrips to the test for the first time on a hot August day!

I took them on a popular BC scramble – Sky Pilot near Squamish. I knew there would be plenty of different types of terrain to try them on. What a fantastic day!

The approach to Sky Pilot is pretty easy. You hop on the Sea to Sky Gondola near Squamish. From the top of the gondola it’s a nice hike into an alpine bowl where you cross a non-crevassed snow field on the lower section of Stadium Glacier to reach the fun scrambles.

If you’re interested viewing the route here’s a link to my Strava of the day.

https://www.strava.com/activities/686866126/embed/e6618b44b86fee2fe9e3ba0c62e4dda9c624b795

So, how were the shoes? In summary, super comfortable and they handled all the terrain of this trip really well.

Some details…

First, the most fun part! The route I took on Sky Pilot (I think it’s the most popular route) has two crux sections of difficult exposed scrambling (one is class 4 and the other class 3). (Just so you know I’ve had plenty of experience scrambling and climbing so I wasn’t being reckless doing this on my own)

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The pink ribbons show the route!

I just have to rave about how much I loved the grip of these shoes on rock slab. I had no idea how they would perform and I took my trusty approach shoes as backup; they stayed in my pack!. The soles and metal studs on the Animas were fantastic. I would say their grip and confidence I felt wearing them on the rock was equal to that of approach shoes with their sticky rubber.

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The soles gripped this rock slab – class 4 scramble – really well

The shoes also felt great and grippy on the steep loose talus of which there was lots, and narrow ledges and gullies.

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Near the summit

The snowfield lower down was pretty soft with sun cups and the shoes performed as well as any other shoes on this. When the snowfield became steep and a hazard, I put on my Yaktrax.

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The snowfield of Stadium Glacier

Also, before the snow field there is a long, steep section of loose scree. The Animas gripped this stuff with confidence. Zero slipping and sliding!

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They were also great for boulder hopping.

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As for the fit, the shoes felt comfortable straight out the box. They felt flexible and cushioned. I didn’t have any hotspots after 7 hours of wearing them. I couldn’t get the women’s shoes in my size so I have the men’s version but they fitted my feet well. The only thing I didn’t like – as expected the studs made a bit of a noise on rocks but I soon stopped noticing that.

I didn’t use the shoes for running on this day. I was recovering from an ultramarathon. and just wanted to hike and enjoy the slower pace. But, I look forward to running in these shoes soon.

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A selfie at the summit!

While writing this, my thoughts turned to a friend I used to climb with. Years ago, I remember him telling me of his early climbing days in Scotland in the 1950s. He and his buddy wore nailed boots. They climbed stiff grades using nails or studs for grip on the rock. Footwear looks very different today. But the technology might resemble that used by the pioneers of climbing! I wouldn’t be able to climb in these shoes but for scrambling they are great. I’m hoping they will work really well for mountain running too.

Are any of you mountain runners? What shoes do you use?

The Hamster Endurance Run 24 hour. Race review

It was 3 am on a hot, humid night and I was at a picnic shelter at Lake Padden in Bellingham, WA. The day had been cooking hot.  I was wiped out and barely able to walk having been on the go for 19 hours, running the 24 hour race at the Hamster Endurance Run. I was running as many 2.6 mile loops of the lake as I could in 24 hours and didn’t think I could do any more. I wondered how many laps I’d done. My fried brain couldn’t work it out but I knew somebody had told me a couple of laps back that I’d reached 100 km. My feet were killing me. I  was very, very tired and hot and just wanted to stop and rest. So I did.

I lay down on my back on the parched grass. I was half in, half out a sleeping bag lying next to Peter who was snuggled up sleeping, resting, having crewed all day for me.I  tried to sleep but couldn’t so I looked up at the stars. The sky was so lovely and clear. My eyes searched between the stars for the meteor showers that I’d been told would very likely be visible that night. The stars twinkled and jumped. Lying there stargazing my body slowly relaxed. I gazed. I thought. I relaxed a bit more. I thought a bit more: about my mum and dad, also my brother Callum. Surely they must be up there in the black, twinkly infinity with all the other souls who have gone before us.

I lay there for half an hour. I didn’t see any meteor showers but the stars and the thoughts of my family moved me to get up.

And then, I could walk! I walked. It felt easy. Yeah!

I set off again into the night round and round Lake Padden with a few other runners and some bunny rabbits for company.

I managed a few more laps running into the dawn and another hot day. At 6.30 am I stopped. Once more I was spent. I’d done 31 laps and thought my race was complete. But, you never know what’s round the corner! Half an hour later, after a nice rest, the sight of  2 fast guys (Neil and Scott) fighting out their final laps spurred me on to do another lap. I don’t know how I managed but I ran that final lap. I didn’t shuffle or walk-I ran! So, I finished my first ever 24 hour event. My total was 83 miles-32 laps. I was first female! I was 2nd overall! A huge surprise.

The Hamster Endurance Run was another wonderful ultra-running experience with new-found friends and tremendous volunteers. The organisation was 10 out of 10. I entered this race after my DNF at my first 100 miler in July. My goal for it was not to give up, to keep going through the night when things got tough, to practice for another 100 mile attempt sometime. I am so happy I succeeded and more. Thanks again to Peter. He was there with me crewing again, maintaining his vigil through the night. A star!

Some photos from the event 🙂

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The female 24 hour podium

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The female 12 hour podium

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The male 12 hour podium

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The aid station/lap counters

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Nap and lap!

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Kelly the RD cooking dinner

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2 runners resting!

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A summer day at the Lake

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I saw this trail 32 times

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Near the beginning. I’m on the left.

 

Four and a bit weeks till my 100 miles! Yikes!

I love this winter photo taken near Dumbarton, my home town. Being in the middle of a stinking hot spell here in BC, it’s really hard to imagine deepest winter right now.  As well, it’s really hard to imagine that in just over 4 weeks I’ll be putting my toe on the starting line of my 100 miles!! Wow! Scary thought!!! I signed up on 1st January, a crazy New Years thing and now it’s upon me. It is the hardest physical challenge I’ll ever have attempted. It’s scary. I have no idea if I’ll get to the finish line. I’m embracing that!

I did my LAST LONG RUN at the weekend, the Chuckanut Mountain trail marathon. That’s how close the race is.


I have been kind of following the 100 mile training schedule in Krissy Moehl’s great book “Running your first ultra”. I haven’t nearly managed to get in the total mileage that is recommended in the book. I’ve topped out at 100 Km on a couple of weeks. I keep telling myself that humans like me run 100 miles on less mileage than even I have done and I’ll be OK! Really, I’ll be OK!

Anyway, getting back to Krissy’s book. I love her words of wisdom that go along with each week’s schedule. For week 43 (which was last week for me) she writes some great advice which I wanted to share. (From page 156 of her book).

It might seem crazy having your last decent length long run this weekend, five weeks out from your 100-mile race. My plan for you is that you are rested and feeling very recovered come rest day, In your first 100, I encourage you to go in feeling rested first, strong and fit second. The trickiest part about this is that you may struggle mentally with confidence in your training. It is easy to doubt your fitness and preparedness as you get further away from your last long effort run. I have learned over the years of racing that my best performances are when I am the most rested and even feel a bit undertrained. It is my belief that one run too many (overtrained) is 100 times worse than 10 runs too few (rested).

Great advice from a legend of ultra-running. These words will be with me for the next 4 weeks. I’m working on my mental toughness seeing my physical toughness is a wee bit short!

Cateran trail 55 mile, Perthshire, Scotland. 14th May 2016. Race review

In contrast to the cold rainy conditions of my marathon in Toronto 2 weeks previously, the Cateran trail 55 mile ultra on Saturday 14th May 2016 had a beautiful warm sunny day. Just perfect for the warmest, friendliest ultra I have ever done! I didn’t know a soul when I arrived at race headquarters in Glenshee the day prior to the race, but 2 days later when I left I had lots of new friends. Everybody spoke to everybody. The race organisers Sharon and George were so very friendly and they put on a great event.

The starting line was at The Spittal of Glenshee, a lovely, quiet corner of Scotland. The event had 2 distances, 55 miles and 110 miles. The 110 mile event started at 4pm on the 13th May. I cheered these seriously crazy ultrarunners as they started out on their long journey. We would see them still running the next day. Very inspiring!

 

After watching the 110 start I went for a walk in the late afternoon sunshine.

 

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Gulabin Lodge was the race headquarters and I had a bed there for 2 nights. (There was also camping in the field in front of the lodge). My roommates were Patricia and Lorna and it was great chatting with them about all things running!

The lodge was very comfortable and the organisers laid on food for dinners and breakfasts.

So to the race! The Cateran Trail is a circular waymarked trail through the hills and glens of Perthshire and Angus in Scotland. (The Caterans were cattle thieves who marauded across the area for generations before the 17th Century. The area is now very peaceful!) The trail follows old drove roads and ancient tracks across farmland, forests and moors. It goes over one mountain pass which is the sting in the tail at the end of the 55 miles.

The race started at 7am when it was very cool and windy but it warmed up to a hot 15C or so in the afternoon.

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Race briefing

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The start

There had actually been quite a dry spell and instead of the expected mud most of the course was bone dry and hard underfoot. There were quite long sections of road scattered throughout the course, great for the fast runners.

I did get “lost” with 3 other people at one point and lost about 15 minutes. We were chatting and not paying attention. I am glad I had the “Footprint” trail map as we quickly saw where we had gone wrong and got back on course. It’s worth noting that quite a few people went off course at various points throughout the day.

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Pay attention and follow the markers!

https://www.strava.com/activities/575994457/embed/0b61cf4d265f4cf01a9589cb63bcc78011dacab8“>Here is a link to my Strava of the race.

Here are some pics from throughout the day.

The best section was the last section! There were 6 checkpoints in the race. After the last one (6 miles to go!) the main hill appeared . It was long and hard! I got myself up it by talking to myself out loud, banishing the negative thoughts by saying positive words to myself. After the uphill there was a 1 to 2 mile downhill section. After checkpoint 6 I didn’t think I could run another step and planned on walking that final 6 miles. However, when I got to the top of that final hill and looked down to the finish area (a beautiful view) I felt elated and found some extra energy. As well, there was another runner who had been behind me all the way up the hill and who caught up to me at the top. My competitive spirit kicked in. After taking a couple of photos we both ran hard down the hill. I wanted to race that last section. It was wonderful to be able to run fast at the end of 55 miles. It was wonderful to feel reasonably good at the end of 55 miles. A breakthrough for me!

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The last uphill

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Andrew, who chased me up and down the hill

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On top of the world

The race went really well for me and I loved it. This was my third race longer than 50 miles. In the previous two I suffered the “brutal bonk” of ultra-running, shuffling along very slowly for the last 15 miles or more, finishing at the back of the pack after much pain and suffering. I started really slowly at the Cateran and was at the back of the pack for the early stages but I managed to keep my slow steady pace going and found myself overtaking rather than being overtaken in the last 20 miles. I wasn’t going fast but I was passing people who were experiencing the destruction that is the “bonk”. I know what that feels like!!

My time was 12 hours and 2 minutes. I finished 38th out of 89 starters, 8th female and 2nd female SuperVet! A podium place! I was very proud.

Everybody was presented with a beautiful Highland Quaich- a drinking cup of friendship.

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It was wonderful being able to do a big race back home in Scotland. I love the Scottish hills and mountains but during my recent trips home I haven’t been able to get out into the hills too much due to other priorities. Now, I have that freedom. I was choked up with so much emotion during this race. I smiled, laughed and cried. I choked up with tears going up that final hill. I thought so much about my mum, dad and brother who I have lost in recent years. Also, the rest of my family who are still with me. I had a great big smile on my face when I crossed the finish line. Ultrarunning takes you through all the emotions but leaves you feeling fantastic at the end.

I highly recommend this wonderful event.

 

Musings from the GoodLife Fitness Toronto Marathon

I was in Toronto last weekend! It was marathon weekend!  Another great training day for my ultras. Bonnie’s Dream Team tell of the conditions for marathon day.

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Bonnie’s Dream Team FB post

 

People who come out as cheerers are so amazing. The push they give you is priceless. Lots of Love to you, Bonnie.

I’m amazed I got myself to the start line. The night before a race is always restless but this night-before was almost torture. My hotel room was right next to 2 rooms hosting a rowdy party. Grrrrrrr. I politely phoned reception twice and politely yelled in the corridor. The revellers eventually trouped out to take their party elsewhere. They came back at 3am. The only consolation was there were less of them at 3am than 11pm. I was so stressed by the whole thing I got no sleep. Not a wink. I told myself running sleepless would be good training for my 100 miles!

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The Start

Like Bonnie’s Dream Team said, the marathon was cold, wet and windy. The last 8k, as always, was hard! I thought I had blown my pacing and at 8k could see myself slowing and slowing then slowing some more to the end. But, at 4k to go I found myself running beside another girl and without saying anything (we were too knackered) we helped each other to pick up the pace for those last kilometers; a LONG straight section. The fine rain was pelting into us. I was cold. Every piece of me and every piece of my clothing was sodden. It felt so awesome to run with Danielle (I saw her name on her bib). We were wet marathon sisters trying to finish strongly. And we did.

Crossing the oh-so-welcome finish line Danielle and I emotionally thanked each other for the support. Then I looked around for a space blanket. I was freezing. I had been thinking about a space blanket for 4K. In fact, I thought I would ask nicely for two. Sadly there were none. Never mind. I would use my ultrarunning mental training, be mentally strong and transcend the cold. Not easy!

Onwards to the medals. Wow! The medals! All I could think of was “that’s a big medal” Truly, it was the biggest marathon medal I had ever seen. All I could think of was – this is going to ruin my “travel-light”journey. I had a plane to catch the next day!

Laden down, I hauled the medal to the bag collection area. Thankfully I had wrapped my change of clothes in plastic bags. Our bags were outside and my bag was almost as wet as me.

Where to change?! I spied 2 small white tents. One had a W on it and the other an M on it. I opened the flap on the tent with the W. Yes, it was the right place to change. I squeezed myself in among wet, shivering runners all unashamedly stripping off wet clothes and replacing them with dry stuff. This wasn’t easy in the cramped, cold, wet tent. It was fun, though. We all chattered about how hard the last part of the race was, how cold we were and how hard it was to change our socks while having to hobble on one leg; there was nowhere dry to sit. We were a tribe of warriors. Or nutters! It was so good to get these dry layers on.

I later found out that my time of 3 hours 55 mins and 6 secs counts as an age-group Boston Qualifier and a “Good for Age” qualifier for London. Woo hoo what an awesomely, brilliant day! Thank you Toronto.

 

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The Large Medal

 

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MarathonFoto pic. Heading to the finish line. Yeah!

Resource: If you’re interested in a route description for the GoodLife Fitness Toronto Marathon here’s a link. I did a quick piece of pre-race googling and this was the first page my clicking took me to. It seemed a comprehensive route description so I didn’t look further.