By Paul Gains
For the third consecutive year the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon has been awarded an IAAF Gold Label, an accolade which solidifies its inclusion amongst the world’s most prestigious city marathons.
The news comes as no surprise to Eric Gillis. The three time Canadian Olympian, who finished 10th in the Rio Olympic marathon, has watched the event grow into a world class race from his position at the head of the field.
"If there are only five Gold Label marathons in North America and three of them are World Marathon Majors (Boston, Chicago and New York), known around the world, then Toronto is in pretty elite company," Gillis declares. "I guess it shows how much work it takes to become a Gold Label."
Gillis’ five fastest times have come in the Toronto Waterfront race - his personal best of 2:11:24 was recorded in 2014 - and he treasures many personal memorable moments. One in particular stands out.
"Certainly qualifying for (the 2012 London Olympics) by one second in 2011," he recalls. "Kevin Mackinnon was calling the race at the finish line that day and he got the crowd into it cheering and doing the countdown to my Olympic standard. That wouldn’t have happened in any other country.
"The IAAF Gold Label is good for Toronto, good for marathoning in Canada, good for elite marathoners. It is a fabulous option in the fall. The Gold Label is exciting and well deserved for (Race Director) Alan Brookes and his group."
The 2017 edition is scheduled for Sunday October 22nd. With the IAAF Gold Label comes a level of respect amongst the world’s elite marathoners. Ethiopia’s Shure Demise chose Toronto on the recommendations of her countrymen and won the 2015 race nine months after setting an unofficial world ‘under 20’ best time in Dubai. Last year she returned to Toronto and successfully defended her title.
Demise, now an experienced 21 year old, notes that "in both years I have faced challenging weather and I had faced a difficulty of improving the (course record) time although the course is good and there were also good competitors.
"I should simply say ‘Wow.’ The organizers treated me in a very good way. All the people who were involved in the race they all were amazing and, if I get the chance, I would like to thank all the people who were at the Toronto Marathon. I have a plan to go Toronto (again) if things would be right for me and, of course, I want to be a three times winner."
Stringent criteria must be met for a race organization to earn an IAAF Gold Label. For instance, the race must have a minimum of five men and five women from five different nations. They must have reached Gold Label standards of 2:10 and 2:28 respectively in the preceding 36 months or finished in the top 25 at the Olympics or World Championships marathons.
The certified course must be entirely closed to vehicular traffic and water and sponge stations set up, as per IAAF regulations, with electronic timing for all participants. A giant screen at the finish area for spectators and media to watch the race is another mandatory requirement.
After the race is over a minimum of twelve anti-doping tests must be carried out (six men, six women) and media must have access to the leading athletes. One other major criterion is that the entire race must be available to a domestic and to an international audience of at least five countries, either through television or live streaming. Last year’s Toronto Waterfront Marathon was live streamed to 129 countries.
Internationally, the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon has a stellar reputation. Here at home it is the flagship event in the seven race Canada Running Series and, for the third year running, it will double as the Canadian Marathon Championship. Athletics Canada’s CEO, Rob Guy, praises the event and has confidence in the organisation.
"The Gold Label means that it’s a great event," he says. "And, for that reason we are proud to associate with the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. It is great that they are the host of our championships and the athletes have great competition and the opportunity to make some money.
"Our national championships are important to us and trying to our best to get our best athletes there is important. Moving forward, performances at national championships are going to weigh into selection for our teams."
Race Director, Alan Brookes, speaks of the label as the ultimate reward for a great Canada Running Series team effort.
"It’s an enormous honour, enormous prestige to be recognized on the highest international stage. It puts our race, our city and our country in the ‘premier league’," he declares. "When we started organizing road races in the mid 1980’s people used to tell me, "Alan, if you want a decent race you’ve got to go to The States. It used to drive me nuts."
"That’s changed, and the Gold Label is recognition by the global governing body of our sport, that Toronto has a world-class marathon."
Brookes is quick to acknowledge the involvement of title sponsor, Scotiabank, whose longevity sponsoring elite marathons is surpassed only by John Hancock in Boston.
"This will be the twenty-first year with Scotiabank," says Brookes. "Their unwavering partnership has given us the support and stability to focus on building and growing the event.
"With their support we have been able to bring innovations to Canadian road running like the Scotiabank Charity Challenge and Scotiabank Neighbourhood Challenge, leading-edge race-organization technology as well as an international-class field."
Brookes emphasizes that a Gold Label means it’s an outstanding marathon experience for runners of all abilities. For more information and entry see
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