Photo Finish: How I Set the World Record for Fastest Half-Marathon in a Suit

Nicholas Mizera - Fastest Half Marathon in a Suit 2015

I now officially hold the Guinness World Record for fastest half-marathon in a suit with an adjudicated time of 1:35:47 (1:35:48 chip time), just a little more than four minutes faster than the 2012 record I set out to break.

It was as tough as you’d expect. Even training in my Indochino suit didn’t entirely prepare me for how I’d feel during the attempt. When Coach gave me my race plan, I actually laughed out loud — the paces were far faster than what I thought I was capable of. Thankfully, my Pace & Mind teammates refused to let me settle for less and encouraged me every step of the way.

It would result in the personal best of a lifetime.

The Race

Pre-race: Conditions are optimal — zero degrees Celsius, slightly overcast and very little wind. I opt to wear a headband and gloves in the corral. Between fellow racers offering encouragement and my teammates hyping me up, nerves quickly gave way to steely resolve. I keep a small water bottle on hand as a bit of a psychological safety net. Pop a Gu gel just minutes before the starting horn blares.

3 km: My pacers make it easier to navigate the crush of runners as we turn onto Bloor Street. The incline up University Avenue was a good warm-up and it’s now time to increase pace on the downhill. Confidence high. Bank those seconds!

5 km: Things begin to heat up under my suit jacket. My teammates are sprinting ahead and exciting the spectators. Lots of “Go, suit guy!”

6 km: Pace feels like something I’ve only ever hit during speed work. But that means I’ve done this before. Focus. I throw away my water bottle. Teammates caution me to literally save my breath — an excellent call.

7 km: Tear off the gloves and scrunch them inside my inside chest pocket. Bonus: the bulge generates a modicum of ventilation!

9 km: Hit the first roller — the ramp onto the Queensway. Feeling comfortably uncomfortable, but my breathing is getting harder and I need to focus to control it. I choke down a second gel per Coach’s instructions.

12 km: My legs feel like mush at the turnaround but I’m now on my familiar training route along the Martin Goodman Trail. I’m on auto-pilot. My teammates are further ahead than I recall them being. Dazed, it dawns on me that if I don’t keep up, I won’t hit my goal.

13 km: “You’re the sky — everything else is just the weather.”

14 km: The sky opens up. For the next eternity (10 minutes), I’m subjected to a beautiful and sunny day. My pace takes another small hit from the heat. I start focusing on catching my teammates and I’m relieved when I do. They have me running perfect tangents, shaving crucial seconds off my final time.

17 km: Downtown is in sight. My teammates signal for me to pick up the pace as we pass Coronation Park.

18 km: My friends at Tribe Fitness catch me running through their cheer station. Their energy helps me power up the steep Gardener Expressway on-ramp.

19 km: Full-on survival mode. I check my Garmin to realize I have only 14 minutes left to beat the record. Brief flash of dizziness. Sweat beads off the lapels of my suit.

19.5 km: Confetti obscures my vision. It could only be the Parkdale Roadrunners cheer squad manning the Bay Street split-off!

20 km: This hill is eating me alive. There’s a considerable headwind stinging my eyes and causing my vision to blur. My speed tops out and I feel like I was trapped in a dramatic, slow-motion film. No sprint finish for me.

21.1 km: Somehow snag a decent photo despite being completely out of it. Left everything out on that course. I can’t adequately put into words how much it meant to me having my teammates at the finish. As for the suit itself? A trip to the dry cleaners and it’s ready for the office.

Beyond the Finish Line

Things didn’t end there. News of my record was picked up around the world.

I literally jumped for joy when I received this incredible shout out from my boss in the U.S. My co-workers at Huffington Post Canada featured me in the website’s style section.

I was also beside myself when Megan Hetzel wrote a web feature for Runners World — every runner’s dream!

Sounding off about my race with host Chris Uszynski and Pan-Am Games medalist Melissa Bishop on AM800 CKLW’s runningFlat Radio was an absolute pleasure. Having grown up in the ‘burbs of Detroit, I was particularly excited about the opportunity. Oh, and it felt damn good being back on the air.

My most surprising interview request came from overseas — France, to be exact. Ouest-France wrote up a story for their French-only newspaper.

Before the race I scored an interview on Canadian Running’s website. Thank you to Michael Doyle for being the first to reach out!

Of course, I can’t leave out the fellow men’s style bloggers who supported my attempt. Thank you to We The Timeless for your pre-race post.

Photo by Christine Spingola / Canada Running Series

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