Wake up calls at 4 a.m., double days upwards of five times per week, peaking at 225 weekly kilometres.
Such is life for Thomas Toth, a Lakefield, Ont. native now based in Plaistow, N.H., as he trains to gain relevance in the Canadian distance running scene. He got one step closer to doing that on Sunday dropping a 1:04:26 at the Aramco Houston Half-Marathon and finishing as the third Canadian.
“I felt confident that I could run in the low 1:04s,” admits Toth. “Much of the first 5K was weaving through athletes since I started with the sub-elites and had to make up considerable ground to bridge the gap with the group ahead of me. During that stretch I had to fight the wind which may have cost me a bit in the end. But once I got into a rhythm after the 5K point, things felt good.”
As for his splits, those are as follows: 15:26 (5K), 15:07 (5K), 15:12 (5K), 15:26 (5K), 03:15 (1.098K)
The 24-year-old finished 30th overall and was just one of three non-elites to finish in the top 30. It was his debut half-marathon.
Remarkably, Toth was unaware that Brandon Lord and Sami Jibril, two notable Canadians (among others) in the race, were within his vicinity until after he finished. Fortunately for Toth, he holds the slightest of margins over Jibril and Trevor Hofbauer and is ranked fifth in this season’s half-marathon rankings (see below).
Toth is a product of Cameron University out of Lawton, Okla., a town of 96,000 located halfway between Oklahoma City and the Texas border. The team routinely worked out in the morning to avoid the scorching southern heat throughout the year, hence his early-morning routine. Temperatures consistently reach 40 C in the summer.
Currently, Toth trains full-time in addition to finishing his studies online through Cameron. Toth and his wife moved to Plaistow, a town of 7,600 located an hour north of Boston, after he exhausted his cross-country and track and field eligibility.
“Financially, my wife has been very kind and supportive and I’m hoping to pick up some work in the spring when I’m done school to supplement living on my savings,” says Toth. “Right now, the focus is running to get funding and in hopes of landing a footwear or apparel sponsorship. I’ve made plenty of sacrifices to get where I am today, I don’t drink, all our meals are home-cooked, I don’t stay out late. Everything is put on hold right now to run as fast as I can.”
The Ontario native generally averages around 165 kilometres a week in training, a balance between high mileage and the ability to perform well in quality, benchmark workouts. His morning runs are at 5 a.m. then he plugs in an afternoon run at 3 p.m., both of which are mixed in with drills, strides and stretching.
Before attending Cameron, Toth competed for Sir Sandford Fleming College in Peterborough, Ont. until 2012. He then transferred to the NCAA Division II institution in Oklahoma. As an Aggie (the university’s team name), Toth finished 11th at the 2014 NCAA Division II Cross-Country National Championships and boasts lifetime bests of 14:30 and 30:24 for the 5,000m and 10,000m.
Leading up to Houston, Toth described one key workout to Canadian Running that instilled confidence in him. The mid-October workout is described below. He did it on his wedding day.
The workout: 3 x 3 miles (4.92 kilometres): 15:12, 15:10, 14:30.
Across the three repetitions, Toth averaged approximately 1:05 half-marathon pace. All his workouts are done solo and he’s coached remotely by Zach Johnson, the cross-country head coach at Cameron University.
Toth notes that he and his coach are considering a few half-marathon races before the March 7 qualifying (and declaration) deadline if he doesn’t land a top-three spot based on his Houston time.
For the time being, Toth, inspired by marathoners Reid Coolsaet and Dylan Wykes, is trying to take running as far as he can while enjoying the ride.