Dayna Pidhoresky stood metres beyond the finish line at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon on Sunday and brushed aside tears. The 32-year-old in pink running shoes and pink socks to her knees won a women’s national championship and secured a position on Canada’s 2020 Olympic Team.
“I felt like I had this performance in me for many years,” Pidhoresky said. “It is overwhelming for it to finally come together. I need somebody to pinch me. I can’t believe it.”
Pidhoresky, who has had only limited success at the marathon distance of 42.2 kilometres, ran seven minutes faster than she ever has before. Her time of 2 hours 29 minutes 3 seconds placed her 10th among women overall and exceeded the minimum international standard for the Tokyo Games.
A number of brilliant times were recorded on an equally brilliant fall day. The chill of the morning gave way to a mild and sunny afternoon.
Trevor Hofbauer of Calgary won the Canadian men’s title for the second time in three years in a personal-best 2:09:51. His previous fastest marathon was 2:16:48 in Hamburg, Germany this spring. He, too, is bound for Tokyo after bettering the men’s Olympic requirement of 2:11:30.
“It is everything I have ever dreamed about,” Hofbauer, 27, said. After finishing, he sought out his father, Andy, in the crowd. As they hugged, his dad fought back tears. “It is what I have worked for over the last five to seven years. I am kind of speechless.”
Cam Levins, who set a Canadian men’s record in Toronto last year while competing in his first marathon, faded badly over the final third of the race and finished third in 2:15:01. He will need to qualify for the Olympics at a future event.
“It would have been nice to lock in a place, but I knew this was a possibility,” said Levins, of Black Rock, B.C. “I am going to have to go back and re-evaluate the training I did and see what went right and what went wrong.”
More than 26,000 runners participated in the 30th edition of Toronto’s big race along the lakefront. Entries came from every Canadian province, 40 U.S. states and 70 countries, including 700 runners from Mexico.
There were so many Mexican runners that a mariachi band set up along the route. The massive field also included one woman dressed as an astronaut, others as ballet dancers and vegetables, and one more costumed as an elf.
Guinness World Records had an adjudicator stationed near the finish line to document wacky attempts.
Philemon Rono of Kenya, sixth at this year’s Boston Marathon, ended up first among the elite international starters and was crowned the overall race champion for the third time in four years. He overtook 2016 Boston Marathon winner Lemi Berhanu Hayle of Ethiopia down the stretch and outlasted Felix Chemonges of Uganda and fellow Kenyan Benson Kipruto. The distance between the top four was tiny – with the first three runners-up only nine, 12 and 13 seconds behind.
“Toronto is like my home,” Rono, 28, said. “When I come here, I always win.”
Magdalyne Maisai-Robertson of Kenya set a course and Canadian women’s marathon record of 2:22:16 to finish atop the elite bracket of female runners. She arrived in Toronto only on Thursday after having to re-apply for a travel visa that was denied at the last minute.
Then, a cab driver made a wrong turn on the way to the airport in Nairobi, and she missed her flight.
Biruktayit Degefa Eshetu of Ethiopia was second (2:22:40) and Betsy Saina of Kenya was third (2:22:43.) Saina recovered nicely after abandoning the Chicago Marathon last weekend after 25 kilometres because of food poisoning.
Both Pidhoresky and Hofbauer were surprise winners among the Canadians. Neither had been invited to a news conference on Friday that featured favourites.
Pidhoresky, who moved six years ago from Ontario to train in Vancouver, outran her nearest rivals, Emily Setlack and Kinsey Middleton. She fell in behind the track pace-setters and benefited from the fast clip they established.
“The plan was not to go out that fast, but when it happens, there is not much that you can do,” Pidhoresky said. “All you can do is settle in and trust that something special will happen.”
Pidhoresky, who is coached by her husband, Josh Seifarth, said she began to feel rocky at the 35-kilometre mark.
“I wasn’t sure I was going to get through this,” she said. “My workouts were designed to run under the Olympic standards but for it to come together when it counts is really hard. If I hadn’t done it, I would have felt it was my fault.”
Hofbauer did not wear a watch as he ran. He knew he was doing well, but was not sure if he met the required Olympic time.
“My buildup to the race was perfect, and I knew I could do something special,” he said. “I didn’t really know how fast I was going.
“When I saw my time, it blew me away.”
Pidhoresky, who runs more half-marathons than marathons, said she is unlikely to do another 42.2-km race before the Tokyo Games.
“To win here this way was ideal,” she said. “Now, I can plan to train in a way where I will be at my best in Tokyo. It puts me in a really good position. This was a huge break for me.”