I am always impressed by anyone who can run a half-marathon in 1:15. But if you can do it in a banana suit, you have earned a whole new level of respect. On Sunday, at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, American Melvin Nyain did just that.
I spent the morning marshalling at the marathon and was stationed at the 13K point. As expected, the first groups of runners came through about 40 minutes after the start. There were two groups of competitive men were followed by a third group of men pacing elite women, who were being chased by the second group of elite women, followed by a banana. Yes, the fastest marathon women in the world were being chased by Melvin Nyain who was dressed in a banana costume. When he crossed the finish line, Nyain broke the world record for running a half-marathon dressed as a fruit (1:15:35). This is one of the many things that made me smile last Sunday morning.
As a runner, I am grateful to the many volunteers who drag themselves out in the early morning to help at races. It’s quite simple; without them, races simply wouldn’t happen. So it’s important that I give back when I can. My running club always helps at the Canada Running Series races and the STWM is one of my favourite events to work. This year’s races attracted 25 000 runners which included a field of elite runners (and several Canadians vying for a spot in the 2020 Olympics), costumed runners like Nyain who were trying to break world records, and thousands more hoping to BQ, achieve a personal goal, target the finish line, or check off a life goal. Whatever their reason, the runners made the day a fun one for volunteers.
Aside from cheering on friends and strangers, there were many highlights to my morning:
- Seeing the first group of elite men come into sight. Fluid and graceful, they left me feeling wowed.
- Watching the elite Canadian women run. I couldn’t help but feel a sense of national pride as they raced towards their ticket to next year’s Olympics.
- Cheering on the banana man. “Go, Banana!” And, yes, I actually did yell this.
- An end of the pack runner who ran up to me and quietly asked, “Can I give this to you?” I looked at her hands, expecting to see a card asking for money or giving me some information on some charitable organization. But she was holding an empty gel pack; she didn’t want to leave it on the road. “Sure!” I smiled. How could I say no?
- Cheering on my friends as they passed me. It was such a sea of runners that I felt bug-eyed looking for them a few called my name before I spotted them. I absolutely loved cheering for them, getting high fives and sweaty hugs.
- Seeing the costumed runners, especially this one from “Game of Thrones.”
- Seeing the very last of the runners and walkers come through, emphasizing that the marathon is truly a race of commitment and perseverance. For them, it isn’t about how fast or slow you are; it’s about getting the job done. It’s about finishing what you started.
The best part of the day, though, was hanging out with my high school friend, Anya, whom I have kept in touch with but haven’t seen in over 30 years. When I heard she was in Toronto, I sent her a message to see if she wanted to marshall with me on Sunday morning and she jumped at the chance. This shows how strong the running community is; we encourage and support each other, whether we’re friends or strangers. We’ve all been on a race course and benefitted from the virtue of strangers so it is important that we take the opportunity to give back. And if you can do it on a day when you see a man in a banana suit chasing a group of elite women, you’ve had an extra special day.