Date: May 22, 2016 Location: Red Deer, AB
This was the biggest race in Canada that we have gone to so far. It truly was a world class event; offering a Kids Race, 10K, Half Marathon, and Full Marathon distances. The event T-Shirts were a stretchy bamboo material and were different for each distance; very nice shirts with a retro classic running look featuring a local artist’s depiction of a portion of the race route.
The weather was horrible, cold and the rain did not stop! That said, the course support was amazing. My wife ran the 10K, my kids did the Kids run (which we were told was 1K, but I think it was closer to 2K), and I did the Half Marathon. I also loved that the kids race started 2 and a half hours after the Half so that I could be done my race and enjoy watching the kids do their race. At other events I am running still and miss seeing my kids run their race. This was a great bonus. Thank you to the organizers for understanding that runners also like to cheer on their kids!
The day before the race there was a small runners expo at the race package pickup (which was well organized and well staffed; no long line ups). They had a Running Room booth with all the necessities, a Chopped Leaf booth giving away samples of wraps and salads, a massage booth, and a clothing booth with running apparel. All of this was setup in the gym of my old High School (Camille J. LeRouge) that I haven’t been in for 20 years. The school is now an Elementary School. It was a bit nostalgic for me.
Race Day. Did I mention that it was cold and wet! They had a huge line up of port-o-potties near the start area and the road blocked off to allow for a very wide starting gate. Chip timed start and finish. The 10K race started first and was followed by the Half and Full Marathon 15 minutes after. The 10K course did not overlap much with the other distances so I did not see my wife after she began until I was all done.
The Half and Full people ran together for probably 17Km until the full people were diverted a different way. The Half course started out going north toward McKenzie Trails and had a tight loop turn around at about the 3K mark. This was good because I could see that I was doing ok. There were more people behind me than were in front of me. The course was already less congested by this point as runners were starting to spread out. We past 2 water stations on pretty flat ground between the 4K and 9K marks, and although I was soaked already from the constant heavy rain, I still grabbed a water at the first station and a Gatorade at the second.
The path continued through the river valley on the south side of the river and came to a substantial hill around the 10K mark, heading up to Heritage Ranch. We passed a lot of supporters cheering and holding signs, which was surprising considering the weather. After the ranch there was a long downhill through the woods which got me back on pace. I was aiming for a personal best. We took a loop around an island at Waskasoo Park (this island was rendered on the t-shirts and the finishers medals for both the half and full). This was also the only dirt trail portion of the race. Other than this scenic detour, the entire race was on paved paths.
The course continued across a pedestrian bridge to the north side of the river and around Bower Ponds. We passed a few more water stations with water, Gatorade, and gels. It was just passed Bower Ponds that I was passed by the 4hr Pace Bunny for the Full, and the 2hr Pace Bunny for the Half. I tried to pick up my pace but could not keep up with the 2hr Pace Bunny. Then I was surprised to see a live band playing under a bridge. They were cranking out a Nirvana cover; it was so loud that I couldn’t hear my headphones. So awesome.
We ended up going across the train bridge back to the south side of the river and around behind “The Comp” High School and up the trail at Michener Hill. This hill was very exhausting with 1Km to go. I kept checking my time on my watch and knew that if I kept pressing, even though I could not feel my hands from the cold, that I was going to beat my personal best time and if I could keep powering up this hill, that I would even finish under 2 hours for the first time ever. I hit the top of the trail and then surged down the road, giving everything that I had, passed the Woody Woodpecker mascot, and turned to the finish line. Giving all I had left I crossed the line at 1:58:40 and earned my medal.
This was my 8th Half Marathon. I beat my personal best time by almost 8 minutes! And finally broke the 2 hour mark; something that I have been trying to do for 2 years.
I was so exhausted, and cold, that I did not even check out the tent city of post race goodies. I grabbed a bottle of water, which I needed someone else to open for me because my hands were completely numb, and I sat to rest.
After a short rest and celebration with family, I took my daughters to the start of the kids race, which was a 1km walk from the finish line. This was a tough walk being that everyone was wet and cold. My kids did not complain once. They are 5 and 7 and they were done watching others and ready for their race. I am so proud of them both. I ran with my 5 year old and my 7 year old took off with the front half of the pack.
My kids were each awarded different medals. The kid’s medals were recycled from previous years of the race. One of the kids got a Half Marathon medal dated from 2012, and the other got a Full Marathon medal from 2015. This was rather disappointing. There was a sicker on the back, covering the original year of the medal, but this wore off before we even left the grounds because they were wet from the rain. The kids did not care, but I was disappointed that they got recycled left over medals and not something unique for their event.
My wife set her own new personal best 10K and the 10K medals were completely unique. The Half and Full medals had the same design but with the different distances listed and the Half medals were silver while the Full medals were Gold.
This was such a great day. Pouring rain could not damper the Red Deer spirit. The crowds seemed even more driven to cheer because of the poor conditions. We will be back. I will give my feedback about the kids medals and hopefully next year will be less wet. It was a great course that showcased Red Deer.