18 October 2015
So there I was waiting around like a troll under the bridge near Toronto’s Distillery District wondering if Commando had already gone past and, if not, exactly where he was. Now I’d stopped moving I was getting cold again and the light wasn’t the best under there the expressway so it was touch and go whether I spotted him at all. Runners came past in dribs and drabs and I squinted at them all. The problem was I didn’t know exactly when he’d crossed the start line or how far I was from the cheer point. The longer I waited to more worried I got.
Eventually, just as I was about to give up and carry on walking, I saw him. As he ran towards me I jumped up and down and waved but he didn’t see me in the gloom. In the end I shouted out his name and he spotted me and waved. Of course seeing him still didn’t tell me if he was on track for his under four hour time but at least I knew he was ok.
Now I had around two hours before the finish so I thought I’d go back to the Distillery district for a little while before heading back. Back on Tank House Lane I took another look at the love locks display and the interesting display outside Baltimore Domicile, huge totem poles, old trunks, planters, wall hangings and all kinds of knickknacks. This is just the sort of place I love but I’d never be able to get any of it home in my case so looking was all I did.
The outdoor eating area at El Catrin looked nice but I had no time for food so I went inside one of the buildings and had a wander around all the distillery exhibits. Ther were lots of interesting looking pieces of machinery, cogs and wheels, grinders, massive copper mix kettles, filters, and tools of every kind. If I’d had the slightest knowledge about distillery they’d probably have made sense. The distillery art made me smile and I was tempted by some of the shops selling everything from clothes to cakes but didn’t buy anything.
There were some beautiful floral displays along the brick paved streets and, To make up for the lack of actual flowers at this time of year they’d used brightly coloured cabbages. Other displays employed pumpkins to add a little colour and one even had inspirational sayings printed on seats made of old packing cases. Everything was wonderfully old and inventive.
While it would have been nice to wander around for longer and maybe stop and sample some of the cakes and coffees, I had a marathon finish line to get to and no real idea when I ought to be there. On my way down to the cheer point I’d noticed a little park so I thought I’d go back that way and check it out. The path through it was heading in the right direction and I had faith in the grid system of the streets. If I got lost I could easily get back on track just by turning a corner. At least I thought I could. With this in mind I set off along Mill Street, back to the modern day.
Parliament Square Park turned out to be small and unremarkable apart from the glorious colour along the avenue of trees. On the other side I walked along the Esplanade past a pretty little fountain and a basketball court with bright graffitied hands to catch the ball if it went in the net.
There were squirrels in the park and, as I strolled along a squirrel popped his head out of the top of a tree beside me. I thought he’d dash off as soon as he saw me but this quarrel seemed to have other things on his mind and he slowly climbed down the tree without seeming to pay me the slightest attention. This was my best chance to get a photo of one of these delightfully glossy black creatures and I took full advantage. When he reached the bottom of the tree he sat amongst the fallen leaves and seemed to be looking at the traffic. It looked very much as if he was going to cross the road and, as it was full of moving cads, I didn’t stay around to watch. The last thing I wanted to see was a squashed squirrel. Hopefully he got across ok.
Pretty soon I found myself walking through the hustle and bustle of St Lawrence Market. This was the first market in Toronto, established in 1803 as a Staurday market where farmers could go to sell their livestock and produce. Originally called simply Market Square, it thrived and a wooden market building was constructed in 1820. This became the centre of the city’s social scene where auctions and even public punishments took place alongside the more traditional buying and selling of goods. A brick building replaced the wooden structure in 1831 but ten years later it burned down.
The present market building, a large two story brick structure with a slightly domed roof, was built in 1850. Opposite is another, less permanent looking structure in what appears to be canvas. The stalls I wandered past were filled with interesting antiques and knickknacks. It looked like an interesting place to spend a morning. It wouldn’t be how I spent my morning though because I had to make tracks towards Nathan Phillips Square. Leaving the market behind I turned right towards what I hoped would be Front Street. It was, but I hit an obstacle there, the marathon was now running along it. For a moment or two I considered hanging about in case I saw Commando again but it seemed like a chance in a million so I dismissed this.
It took a while but eventually I managed to cross the course with the help of some marshals who were acting as traffic police to help people across. After that it was basically the first part of my walk in reverse until I got to the junction of Adelaide Street and Bay Street when the race crossed my path again. This time there was no getting across. A rather long winded and convoluted detour followed with lots of turning back and going round in circles. Eventually I found my way onto University Avenue, more by chance than anything.
The paring down of my plans at the outset meant this was not as rushed as it might have been as I had about an hour before Commando was likely to cross the line. In fact I had time to collect Commando’s fleece and dash into Starbucks and grab a coffee and two blueberry muffins, one for me and one for Commando, who I guessed would be hungry when he crossed the finish line. He’s a bit of a blueberry muffin fan. Then I made my way to Nathan Phillips Square. It was a mass of people waiting for runners and runners wrapped in space blankets who’d already finished.
By this time it was twelve thirty five. If Commando finished in under four hours I’d have a little while to wait. Still, he might finish earlier and I wanted to be there ready. There were crowds on all the raised walkways looking over the race course and I could have gone there to look out for him but he’d never have seen me and it would have been a struggle to get back to our prearranged meeting point. Once again I wondered how he was doing and how far from the finish line he was.
With all the crowds and confusion it took me a while to actually find the meeting place. Like London, they had flags with letters of the alphabet on for people to wait under, obviously I was supposed to be under the letter K. Firstly, I couldn’t see any flags and I had to go and ask one of the marshals. When I did find them there was no actual letter K so I sat under the I-L flag. A few other people whose names obviously began with I J K or L were standing about nearby.
Now it was about a quarter to one. If he actually finished at one o’clock, by the time he collected his medal and got back to the square it was probably going to be quarter past. Thankfully, I had my coffee and muffin to while away the time. That and people watching. One woman had a tiny dog with her, wearing a Toronto sweater (the dog not the lady) and she kept saying, “daddy will be here soon.” The dog didn’t look impressed. A runner, wrapped in his space blanket was wandering around as if he was lost. He looked warn out and, after a while he sat on one of the benches looking bewildered. Whoever was meant to be meeting him was obviously not there. I felt sorry for him.
All around people were either anxiously waiting, like me, or being reunited with their runners. Now I’d stopped walking I was getting cold, especially sitting on the concrete paving, but I daren’t move in case I missed Commando. My coffee was finished, and my muffin. Then I thought I saw Commando. It was only one o’clock, way too early, but the nearer he got the more sure I was it was him. Feeling cold was instantly forgotten. I jumped up and ran to him.
The reason he was so much earlier than I’d expected was that he’d smashed the four hours and finished in three hours fifty three minutes. Needless to say this was one time he wasn’t disappointed with his finish time. He didn’t want his blueberry muffin though.