2023 Toronto Marathon Race Report

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Last Updated on August 23, 2023 by Cory Kawa

Selfie of me at the start line with the sub-elite sign in the background
Surprised to Learn I was Lining Up with the Sub-Elites

An unusual sense of calm set over me as I approached the start line of the 2023 Toronto Marathon. My goal today was simple, set a new Personal Best by running a sub 1:30 half marathon.

I’ve been dreaming of one-thirty since running 1:32 while prepping for a failed sub-forty 10k attempt in 2016. These two times have since become my two biggest bucket list goals, remaining stubbornly elusive and seemingly more and more unattainable with each passing year.

As I noted last week in my post, Challenging for the Podium in 2023, what once seemed impossible, no longer seems so impossible. I towed that start line knowing that I earned the right to expect success and everything was lining up perfectly to make magic happen.

The Five Key Ingredients for a Successful PB Attempt

  • 🧑🏻‍🏫Coaching – I’ve been coached by Roger Hospedales of PR Endurance Training for the better part of ten months, and for the first time in my life, I’m competitive at both speed and distance. Or, as I like to think about it, I’m having my cake and eating it too.
  • 📉Downhill – Both the marathon and half-marathon courses are net downhill, with the half-marathon course featuring 210m of loss and only 120m of gain, with one hill of consequence, Hogg’s Hollow.
  • 👟Carbon Shoes – I’ll be running in my carbon-plated Saucony Endurance Pro race shoes. I feel like carbon shoes are legal steroids, shaving what feels like 5-10 seconds off my pace, provided I’m running at a sub-4:30 pace.
  • ☁️Weather – After four weeks in a row of Sunday morning long runs with the wind coming from the south-west, a nightmare scenario for this race, the forecast is perfect, with warm overcast skies and a light breeze from the east pushing me on that final 7k false flat to the finish.
  • 🎉The City – My favourite part about these big races is the thousands of people lining the street, cheering for random strangers, and helping me dig deep when I need it the most.

Toronto Marathon Race Notes

Race Shirt, Big, Medal, Banana, Energy Drinks, and Various Post Race Snacks
Race Shirt, Bib, Medal, and a Collection of Post Race Snacks
  • 🗺️Distances – 5, 10, half marathon, half marathon walk, and full marathon.
  • ⛰️Elevation Profile (Half and Full Marathon) – Downhill with a flat finish.
  • 🚗Parking (Half and Full Marathon) – Lots of neighbourhood parking near the Yonge and Sheppard start.
  • 🎆Features (Half and Full Marathon) – Climb out of Hoggs Hollow, descending Rosedale Valley, running through the downtown core, and for those running the full marathon, the run along Lakeshore Blvd.
  • 🏪Race Expo – No race expo, bib and shirt pickup only at the CNE Grounds with the option to ship your bib. FYI, packet pickup parking was $13 flat, so shipping is a great choice.
  • 🍾Post Race Expo – More drink and food giveaways than I’ve ever seen, with free massages provided by the students of Georgian College. A collection of what I brought home is shown above, not including my post-race Beatrice Protein chocolate milk (highly recommended) and the packs of multi-pack BioSteel available for all.

Toronto Marathon – Start through Hoggs Hollow – 0-3 km

Running up Hoggs Hollow with a chase pack about 2km long following me.
Running up Hoggs Hollow – 3km From the Start

Starting at Yonge and Sheppard, the course follows a false flat for the first 500m before gradually descending into the first and only big climb of the day, the run-up Hoggs Hollow.

I hate hills. I hate what they do to my pace, how they sap energy from my legs, and how they impact the rest of my run. The only benefit to running up Hoggs Hollow early is it happens before fatigue has a chance to set in, and it’s followed by a long 8.75km downhill recovery.

Hoggs Hollow to Rosedale Valley Road – 3 – 11.75km

Running down Rosedale Valley during the 2023 Toronto Marathon
The Run Down Rosedale Valley Hill

The next 8.75 km is a wonderful section of Yonge St. with a slight decline, culminating in a beautiful stretch of downhill from Yonge and St. Clair through Rosedale Valley Road.

Hoggs Hollow to Rosedale Valley Route Notes – I caught up with the half-marathon walkers just north of Eglinton and merged with the 4:00 – 4:30 marathoners at Rosedale Valley, creating some additional on-course traffic.

Along this stretch of beautiful downhill, a nagging confusion started to set in. I’ve worn a Garmin for countless races over the last ten years, and throughout all those years, I’ve never once had my Garmin measure a race short. Today was the exception, with each marked kilometre consistently measuring only 970-980 meters.

Although that 20-30m may not seem like much, it was going to be the difference between breaking 1:30 or not.

Being on the downhill and desperate to hit my PB, I tried increasing my pace, pushing my limits for all I was worth. I used every bit of mental and physical strength I had, like cadence increases or repeating running mantras, to will myself to a watch pace of 4:15 or better. Try as I might, I didn’t have it in me.

Here’s one of those mantras I repeated throughout:

Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever.

Lance Armstrong

Not hitting my watch pace was defeating. Instead of targeting a PR, I was now targeting my 3rd best Half Marathon. Not the result I wanted or felt I deserved.

The Downtown Core to the CNE – 11.75 to 21.1km

Running along Front St. with the CN Tower in the background at the 2023 Toronto Marathon.
Front St and The CN Tower with 3km To Go

The course’s final section is a scenic stretch of false flat from Corktown Commons to Spadina before gradually declining back towards Lakeshow Blvd and the CNE.

I loved this section, the roads were packed with cheer squads, and there were so many sights to see, including St. Lawrence Market, Gooderham (Flatiron) Building, Brookfield Place, the Rogers Centre, Front St, and my favourite sight of the day the Princes’ Gates at the entrance to the CNE.

Tapping my Garmin at the end of the 2023 Toronto Half Marathon.
The Face of Victory – Setting a New PB of 1:29:29 at the 2023 Toronto Half Marathon

I don’t remember much from this last section beyond counting down the kilometres to the finish with thoughts like only eight to go – that’s an easy run any other day. Five km left – hit your paces, and you’re done in twenty-two minutes. One mile to go – time to turn on the jets, the hurt is almost over, and the PR will last a lifetime.

With 200m to go, I turned onto Ontario Drive for the final uphill sprint into the finishing shoot, crossing the line with a new PB of 1:29:29, and a feeling of short-lived triumph swept over me.

My time was a new PB, but was it? The question that nagged me for days was hitting hard. Why did my Garmin measure short for the first time in my life, insisting I ran only 20.7 km?

As much as I trusted the course, I trusted my Garmin more. The only consolation, if you can call it that, was everyone I asked confirmed their watches measured the course a few hundred meters long.

Styrd Power and PB Confusion at the Toronto Marathon

Picture of my Garmin watch and the Stryd distance setting that created PB confusion at the Toronto Marathon.
Distance Always – The Stryd Setting that Made Me Doubt My PB

I purchased a Stryd Power Meter as a training aid slightly after hiring Roger last summer. Although I haven’t personally bought into it, I know that Roger and many of his athletes have found it to be an invaluable aid.

I find Stryd adds an interesting data point when comparing various runs and efforts across different conditions. That said, when targeting a PR, the only metric that matters to me come race day is pace and its direct correlation to outcomes.

My biggest frustration with Stryd is that I don’t find the setup all that intuitive.

For example, I’ve run indoors many times this winter, and my pacing on the 200m track consistently calculates 25% short. Although the core power metric always felt right, the pacing never added up. FYI, as noted below, I recently discovered that even when using the Stryd app, Garmin was not leveraging the Stryd for Speed and Distance.

A week before race day, I went back online, found a few settings to tweak, and discovered I had it set up wrong. Where my stride was once measuring 25% short, it was now only 5% short on a measured track. Much better than before, but still a far cry from Stryd’s claim to provide a more accurate distance than GPS out of the box.

The mixed emotions of a contested PB were eating away at me, so a few days after the race, I went back into my Stryd settings and realized I had my Stryd set to override the GPS distance calculated by my Garmin.

With that new piece of knowledge, I can now proudly say with confidence, “I ran a new PB of 1:29:29 at the 2023 Toronto Half-Marathon.”

Final Thoughts

  • 🧑🏻‍🏫Coaching – Roger of PR Endurance has enabled me to achieve more success than I ever would have thought possible. At 46, I can confidently say that my best years are no longer behind me.
  • 📉Downhill – I didn’t get the boost I anticipated from the downhill. If my Stryd accurately tracks power and effort, although my power output and HR remained consistent throughout, I only ran two seconds slower per KM on the flats. That said, not having to burn any matches while running hills was a definite advantage.
  • 👟Carbon Shoes – This is a harder one to validate. Leveraging Styrd Power as the metric. My average power on race day was about 320w for a 4:14 pace. As compared to my training runs in my Saucony Kinvara’s where 320w gets me about 4:20 – 4:30. However, most of my training runs were much hillier and windier. I am confident that the shoes provided a boost, but I can’t say with confidence how much.
  • ☁️Weather – Overcast skies and no wind was amazing, a definite boost.
  • 🎉The City – A special thanks to the thousands of people who took the time to line the streets of Toronto to cheer the runners on. The energy you provide is a bigger motivator than you can imagine.

Let’s wrap this up with one last quote courtesy of Dick Beardsley who tied for first place at the inaugural London Marathon:

Every marathon I ran, I knew I had a faster one in me.

Dick Beardsley

Thanks for reading,



  1. Hey. I have a Stryd too. I have a garmin (older model) and that setting to use Stryd as speed source 100% does not work when gps is on. I’ve confirmed this in a track. When gps is off, the Stryd is like 99.9% accurate to a track. Be sure to check the calibration of your Stryd. Mine works best when set to 200. It’s possible yours is set o auto calibrate using gps and it’s off slightly. Try using 100 as the calibration factor. and FYI, my garmin measured 21.55km which I know is not correct as I had a few stupid fast splits in the city around buildings that was screwing it up. So I think the course was pretty accurate. Good job!

    1. Thanks, Luke, and congrats on your 1:22. I originally had the calibration factor set to either auto or .9, I can’t remember. It’s now set to 100 and it’s much more accurate.

      I don’t know that I’ll ever trust the Stryd enough to use it for distance, except maybe indoors, but it is an exciting metric for tracking power itself. I’m sure it’ll be helpful when I’m at 70.3 Tremblant in June. It’ll be a valuable pacing aid.

      How did you end up at 200? Did you do the calibration test?

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