It was a chilly morning on Apr 24, 2016, for the first Edmonton First Responder’s Half Marathon at Hawrelak Park. The race used to be called the Edmonton Police Foundation Half, and has been running for 8 years, but this was the first under the new branding to include Police, EMS, Fire, and Military.
The event included a 1K kids race, 5K, 10K, and Half Marathon. The event drew a huge crowd and despite the cold. I ran the Half Marathon with a highly competitive field, but there were some first timers there too. My wife ran the 5K and my kids did the 1K. All events were chip timed, including the kids race. I have never seen chip timing on the 1K.
I did not witness the kids race, as I was running at the same time but my wife told me that the kids race was not well marked or organized. They did not do a countdown for the kids and just gave vague directions so my children were not impressed by this event. They preferred the last 2 races that they did over this one.
Well, with the criticism out of the way, this was the toughest event that I have ever taken part in and it was great. The half marathon started with a loop around Hawrelak Park and then headed up the Groat Rd hill toward the U of A. We went past the 5K turn around and proceeded south through residential before going downhill to the river valley. We past the 10K turn around and proceeded toward Fort Edmonton Park. The route went up and down some hilly terrain at Janzen Park and then turned around and went back to the Whitemud bridge. After a steep climb, past the “Balls” (if you are from Edmonton you will know this landmark) we ran across the Whitemud bridge, down the switchback and through Laurier Park.
I had assumed at this point that we would take the trails along the north side of the river, but I was wrong. We turned left and ran up the hill that you drive down to get to the Valley Zoo. This hill was brutal as you were hitting the 11K mark. We weaved through some residential streets before heading back down to the valley floor as we approached the Groat Rd bridge. I was burned out trying to climb the hill up to the bridge so that we could cross back to the south side of the river. Then up the Groat Rd hill on the south side, across the overpass, and back to the finish at Hawrelak Park.
The half marathon route had an elevation gain of 252 meters (820 feet). This is the toughest that I have ever done but I was still happy with my finish time. Not setting personal bests with this course, but very emotionally rewarding.
I also have to mention that there must have been 50 course marshals or more along the entire length of the course. At every corner, in the woods, at any street crossing, and they were all cheering the runners on. This was a huge boost for the runners to see this kind of support. No one was getting lost. There were 7 water stations, I think, and they were well manned and were handing out cups to runners.
The registration for the race was done through Multisport Canada, which is great because you can register all runners at once, unlike Running Room, which makes you pay for each runner separately. The swag bag included your race bib (with chip timing), an event t-shirt, an energy bar, some leaflets, and a meal ticket for after the race.
After the race they had bananas and muffins but had run out of water really early. No water at the finish really hurt. The meal tickets were good for a hot dog and drink from Fat Franks, or noodles and spring rolls from the Lemon Grass Grill. Real food after a race is awesome.
Everyone got the same finishers medal. The medal is double sided and lists the event name on the white side, and the front was a shoe print displaying the logos for the Canadian Forces, EMS, Fire, and Police, along with each of the distances included in the design. This medal was definitely earned.
All in all, it was a great event and I am proud to have taken part.