October 24th, 2016 – By Amy Friel
In the days leading up to the 2016 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, it seemed as though everyone’s mind was on one matter: the weather.
“Throughout the week I was pretty worried,” recalls marathoner Calum Neff, who had spent the better part of a summer preparing to run down a Guinness World Records title at STWM.
Despite the less-than-ideal conditions, including rain, wind, and high humidity, Neff — along with four-year-old daughter Aley — captured the title for fastest marathon while pushing a pram (stroller), finishing in a blistering time of 2:31:21 and bettering the existing mark by more than ten minutes.
“I just said, you know, anything can happen, but I trust that it’ll be okay,” he says. “It was a little bit rainy, but I decided I wasn’t gonna let the wind be a factor on the day, and decided to get after it.”
But while the combined 60-pound weight of stroller and passenger made headwind the decisive factor for Neff, fellow Guinness record-chaser Jen Wilson was far more concerned with precipitation.
“I was starting to get nervous,” she recalls. “They were calling for torrential rain, and there was no training for that.”
Wilson had her eye on the Guinness World Records women’s title for fastest half-marathon in a suit. But the threat of a downpour exposed what she worried might be a weakness in her preparation.
“I didn’t do any training runs in my suit in the rain because, I mean, who does that?”
Clad in dress pants, a blouse, vest, tie, and blazer, Wilson (along with a handful of fellow Guinness World Records contenders) cut a conspicuous figure in a start corral packed with the usual shorts-and-singlet set.
“Everyone was kind of staring on the morning of like, what is this person doing?” she says. “But in comparison to the girl in the motocross gear, I looked downright comfortable.”
After a rainy first 5K, Wilson and her many wet layers toughed out the remaining miles to clinch her first-ever Guinness World Records title in a time of 1:42:42.
At the finish line, she was congratulated on her race by a Guinness official. A laughing Wilson recalls accepting her certificate, smiling for a photograph, and then immediately stripping off the many layers of her sopping wet suit, as fast as humanly possible.
“I’ve never been so happy to be wearing a sports bra in public,” she jokes.
But though the rain proved less-than-ideal for running in a suit and tie, one thing it did not seem to impact was the spectators who came out to cheer. For Toronto chef and record-chaser Daniel Janetos, it made all the difference in the world.
“Race day, I had an incredible experience, as far as all the people that came out,” he says. “Friends, family, my girlfriend — there was a ton of support.”
Janetos claimed the Guinness World Records title for fastest marathon dressed as a chef, finishing in a time of 3:56:21, and beating the existing record by a whopping ten minutes. His race doubled as a fundraising endeavour for the National Wildlife Rehabilitation Foundation, ultimately raising about $5,000 for the charity.
“It kind of re-inspired me,” he says. “Just the way you can turn something little into a huge success.”
But whether struggling with a soaked suit and tie, pushing a stroller into a headwind, or lugging some cookware along for the ride (Janetos’ costume required that he carry a pot), the biggest challenge facing record-chasers remained the race itself.
“The pot wasn’t as bad as everyone might have thought — it was more just my legs,” Janetos recalls. “It was a really, really difficult last 10K.”
“It was a typical marathon, so it wasn’t easy by any means,” agrees Neff. “We really loved the Beaches, but that was a long uphill, and then you turn around and get the downhill right into the wind. That final 10K was the absolute toughest.”
Struggling over the final miles, Janetos was paced to the finish line by a friend and fellow runner from the Night Terrors Run Crew. That, along with the friends and family who made it out to cheer, carried him home to claim his Guinness World Records title.
“Without that support, I probably wouldn’t have been able to do it,” he says.
Along with fellow runners Bridget Burns, Robert Winckler, and Jasper Moester, a total of six new Guinness World Records titles were set at STWM 2016.
Despite worries about the wind and rain, Neff recalls a day that ultimately unfolded exactly to plan.
“I was having one of those magical days you always hope for in a race,” he says. “Everything was kind of perfect.”