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Friday, January 29, 2010

Toronto's Marathons - One Must Go

The city has finally decided that Toronto needs one world-class marathon rather than two mediocre ones fussin' and feudin'.


Up until now, Toronto has had the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in September and the GoodLife Fitness Toronto Marathon in October.

They are only 3 weeks apart, leaving some residents fuming... shutting down a slew of streets once for a marathon gets folks a bit upset, but when they do it all over again just a few weeks later? Then the gloves come off.

There are clear benefits to having a marathon in the city. People come from all over Canada (and beyond) to participate, they stay in hotels, eat in restaurants, and they experience the city in a way that is second to none. Even as someone who has lived here more than 10 years, I was surprised how wonderful the people of Toronto were when I ran the Toronto Marathon.

But two marathons? In 3 weeks? It's twice the aggravation for dubious additional benefit.

In fact, it has been argued that having two marathons prevents either one from being particularly successful. The Toronto Marathon had around 2,000 finishers, Toronto Waterfront had just shy of 3,000 (not including the shorter distance races). These are not particularly impressive numbers - even the 30K Around the Bay race in Hamilton draws over 6,000! Chicago is a similar sized city and draws 30,000.

For 2011, the city will put out a request for proposals. Undoubtedly, the two existing races will submit bids, and possibly others.

In my opinion, Toronto's wish list should be:
  • Size - more people, more economic impact
  • Showcase Toronto - the course has to showcase the city's neighbourhoods and sights.
  • Profile - the Waterfront race has this, big prizes attracts some top marathon talent.

There is no reason why a Toronto Marathon can't be the biggest and best marathon in Canada, and be a destination race for athletes outside of this country.


Boris T said...

I agree with much of what you said.

The waterfront has much of what is needed from a big marathon. Organizational structure, profile and sponsors. But it lacks in the aspect of showcasing the city, am sorry to say but running under the Gardiner doesn't draw the people to the city. Being Flat and Fast doesn't excuse for a dreadful route.

Aaron said...

Hmm. I've run them both. The Waterfront has the "flash" - sponsors, organization, but the Gardiner (and the old course on the Spit) were large minuses. The Toronto had better course scenery, but the point-to-point course is just a pain in the organization.

I wonder if something could be done starting downtown around the Waterfront starting line, then looping up through Bayview then back down through the Lakeshore. All sounds interesting but there'd be a little too much uphill in that I suspect.

Aaron said...

BTW, I agree with the title. One must go - I just don't know which one.