Chicago to Toronto – Two Journeys to the Marathon

A Tale of Two Marathons

Two Lions Valley Athletics members took the long road towards running a marathon this fall,  Darryl Rowan at Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon and Cynthia O'Halloran at The Bank of America Chicago Marathon. Training for a marathon is hard work, time consuming and sometimes you have to make sacrifices to ensure success on race day.  They trained for the same distance but had very different journeys to get there.


Bank of America Chicago Marathon

Cynthia O'Halloran

Getting to the Start

Cynthia already has a a couple of marathons under her belt and despite having experienced it all before the road to Chicago was unfamiliar territory.  2015 had barely begun, when she experienced a hard fall, breaking 4 bones in her jaw, took her away from running and training for 8 weeks. [Read about it in Canadian Running Magazine...] Taking things slow and adding very little mileage with each passing week she saw her running fitness come back to where it was before the fall.  She proceeded to have some excellent race results throughout the early Summer confirming that running a fall marathon is within her grasp. Though her training and racing was going better than expected, life had other challenges for Cynthia she talks about in her blog. She took any challenges head on, kept training, proving her decision to run the Chicago Marathon (a choice she made in April) was the right one. Committed and dedicated to accomplishing her goal of finishing the Chicago Marathon, yet bogged down with time constraints and conflicting commitments the majority of her training was alone.  Her presence was rarely seen at the Lions Valley Athletics workouts but she was missed.  In the weeks leading up to Chicago while starting to enjoy the taper, she reflected upon her journey so far writing about it and the challenges she faced in her blog. [Read Cynsspace - Timing Isn't Everything...] 

The Marathon

After everything she had experienced leading up to this marathon the race was not about to let her off easy.  The long drive from Toronto to Chicago (and back after), temperatures expected to be hot on race day were not ideal, conditions.  She made the trip with the family, Cynthia couldn't hide her excitement about running The Chicago Marathon especially when 6 months earlier this wasn't even in the realm of possibilities. [Read Cynsspace - Travelling to the Start Line...]  Finally in Chicago, wearing her sharp Lions Valley Athletics singlet / running skirt race outfit, the gun went off and nothing was going to stop her from reaching the finish line in 42.2KM.  




In Canada, we were up and following the little icon run around the map as her splits showed up.  Cynthia was moving fast and on pace for a marathon Personal Best through 10KM, both excited and nervous hoping she didn't go out too fast.  We watched her stay on track for a PB through 20KM but her pace was slowing and it was getting hot there because you could see the spectators and reporters sweating as much as the runners.  Between 20-25KM Cynthia's pace slowed and although it can sometimes be very lonely on a marathon course, the spectators had lined the entire race course cheering her on, as we also cheered back home in Canada. The spectators of the Chicago Marathon are said to be some of the best and the reason why its unofficially known as "The People's Marathon"  Cynthia is tough as nails and despite having to do some walking she made it to the finish line, throwing her hands up in celebration of finishing The Chicago Marathon.  She goes into more details and recalls her marathon trials and tribulations in her post race report. [Read Cynsspace - Race Recap: The Chicago Marathon...]    Her official time was 03:51:03 for the 42.2KM making her the 8614th finisher and 88th in her Age-Group with approximately 40,000 finishers it puts her in the top 90% of her Age-Group and qualifies her for the Boston Marathon should she want to go back!  Cynthia, you should be very proud of everything you accomplished including finishing the race and everything you had to face along the way. She mentioned, thoughts of doing another marathon again, so if anyone is interested in training for a marathon, Cynthia is the training partner you want every step of the way and it wont take much convincing!


Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon

Darryl Rowan

Darryl Rowan put in a lot of time and effort training for his first marathon and made it to the Start line with what he calls the best fitness since returning to running.  His many runs including those in the early morning, the long race pace tempos, easy runs with his dog Buddy and evening workouts with the Lions Valley Athletics team all prepped him for his first marathon.  Proceeding with caution after coming back from an injury Darryl would increase mileage slowly and included a few weeks with no mileage increases so his body could adapt to the higher weekly mileage. You can see his weekly mileage leading up to the marathon in the attached graph. Towards the end of the graph there is a sharp drop which was his 3 week taper before the marathon, something every runner appreciates.

Darryl also did a great job of eliminating other distractions during his taper so he could focus on the race and accomplishing his goal.  These other distractions are a part of life, which is always moving forward whether you have your "A" race approaching or you're recovering. Darryl has always successfully found the balance between work, family, and running and one of the main reasons why his training had gone so well.  

The day of the marathon Darryl had his ideal running conditions, temperatures were 5 degrees Celsius, with the sun shining and practically no wind. He followed his race plan getting comfortable at the start and finding his goal pace, looking strong, smooth and focused at both the 5KM and 13KM markers. Everything was going well and he was running just ahead of his goal pace feeling good and enjoying the race through 21.1KM.  It was two thirds of the way into the race when Darryl felt a sharp pain in the opposite knee he had injured previously. At this point there would be so many thoughts going through any runners head and Darryl was no exception.  

"Oh no, what is this? Do I keep going? Should I stop? Maybe it will go away!"

It always good to know your body and what different sensations, aches or pains may mean because it will help you evaluate the situation and determine the best course of action in the moment.  Darryl continued running with the pain but it wasn't going away after a couple kilometers of walking combined with multiple attempts to continue running.  There was still a large portion of the race to go, with the pain getting worse, Darryl made the decision that he will not continue the marathon after 29KM.  

It is always a tough and heart breaking decision to make because we all want to accomplish our goals and finish what we started but at what sacrifice? Darryl made the best choice because continuing through the pain and finishing the marathon, could have lead to the following; most likely not meeting his goal time and possibly sacrificing his mobility (walking in the short term; running in the short and long term); the only positive outcome being he would finish the marathon. The outcome may feel disappointing now but Darryl is a winner because he will be back running in months versus years had he kept going. His passion for running and dedication to his training is second to none and continuing to enjoy it is a priority for him. Currently, he has already attempted some short easy runs but will be back running full workouts in no time.

We all wish him the quickest recovery and look forward to having him back at workouts.