This race has been on my radar for a few years now but I’ve been busy with other things. Honestly I love a good campy experience no matter how it happens. I also love a good costume and a reason to dress up as a grown up. Check and check. Truthfully it’s far from home, but not far enough to be a destination, I run by the water all the time and it’s always the day before Terry Fox. But it still looks like a lot of fun. I have followed the race on instagram for well over two years so I think the writing was on the wall to do it eventually. I really recommend doing your first half or longer at a big shiny race since they run so smoothly and there is just so much on course support. So when my stepdad was toying with the idea of a half this race was a great candidate for all those reasons. I gather that there were some changes this year but… I wasn’t there before just lurking and following online. It turned into another family race with the parents doing the 10k and my step-sister even flew in for that one too. It turned out to be worth it though since girl got a PR! Overall this race is a great candidate especially if your looking for a racecation on Canada’s east coast.
A bit about the race: If there is one thing this race is known for it’s swag. The medals and kit is off the charts, mostly if you do two races, but we’ll get to that. I know it’s been around a while now but I’m not sure how long. The website is devoted to things runners need to know and ALL of that information is on there for sure. But there isn’t a whole lot of information about the race there. In fact the facebook page has a bit more info and they are really active on instagram. No where (that I found) was there an established date or a total number of participants each year. I want to be clear the information on the website is totally sufficient but if anyone is bored this winter a few extra pages might be appreciated. Things like a back story, a rundown of the dates and prices for all the different race options and a list of the contest deadlines would be great. I quickly added up all the Saturday participants and it come in around 2000, many years this race sells out so book early.
This race is a great destination, racecation candidate if you’re looking for a quintessential east coast running experience with or without a side of camp. The routes are amazing and scenic as is the start line finish area, the medals, the swag and the vibe is off the charts. There is a very optional pirate theme which most don’t participate in so no pressure and lots of on course support. Probably as a way to encourage you to register early the race holds a lot of early registration draws along the way. Crazy prizes like a trip to the Toronto Marathon, new Brooks shoes and lots of other good stuff too. Honestly follow their social channels to stay up to date and see what it’s all about because what you see there is pretty much what you get.
Parking and weather: I was warned ya’ll parking is tight. It says arrive an hour before and I highly suggest it or hit a gas station bathroom along the way. There is plenty of parking within a 12 minute walk half an hour before. There were plenty of porta potties but too many people in the line and we all had to line up without doing our business. Even though you might think you know better, have your kit already and you can just drive up at the last minute, maybe not so arrive early. We parked on the main drive about a km away and made the lineup no problem half an hour before. After the 5k’s and 10k’s left the car got moved closer by my the support crew so I didn’t have to walk as far after my half, which would be a pro tip for you too!
It is maritime race weekend in the maritimes after all which means it might be cold, medium or sweltering hot on race day in September. It’s also an even spilt for rain or sun and it is hurricane season so plan to bring all the outfits. Snow however should be off the table. We have been into the cold night hot day trend earlier than I like but it’s typical of this time of year so it does make outfits a challenge. I usually dress for a race exactly as this site tells me to and add anything easy to make the wait more comfortable. So it was 7 c (45 f) when I started and 18 c (65 f) when I finished which is a hard outfit to plan. I went with a tank and shorts (tutu) as suggested and added arm buffs for the first couple of km and then stashed them in my bra. As it got hot toward the end I rolled up my shirt into bra length which I suggest as a winning strategy in case your wondering. Being too cold for the race was a major worry for me in the lead up since my outfit was hella planned.
Course: It was pretty well set up for that part of a crowded race feeling essentially everyone starts at the same time at 2.5 k the fivers drop off and about a km or so later the 10k peeps and half peeps take a different turn. So you get all the excitement of race day but leave the crowds behind early. There are plenty of stunning views no matter what course you choose. The whole 5k is along the ocean as is 90% of the 10k, Over half of the 21 is along the ocean too. This area of town was also hit by our hurricane the week before and it was crazy to see the wash up remnants in some places. It was pretty hilly though with 190 m. Is that hilly over 21 k? Well by the standard that 50%+ is on a hill, then yes it is. The 5k and the 10k are basically flat. There was lots of on course support and perks and the signage was really awesome. More on that in logistics though.
Cheer squad: So when does the world’s best spectator finally get a medal? Officially all four of the racers shared one dedicated cheerer in honey but I think we all cheered for each other too. Whether he likes it or not (he does more at the end though then the 5:30 am wakeup call) honey is pressed into service for all of us in a big way. He carries the bum bag even though the request to carry a proper bag is always denied, holds our coats and makes sure to get start and finish video and pictures of all of us even though we finished at three different times. He always takes the most of me though 🙂 . Everyone was super supportive of everyone else except me really, since I finished last in the group.
Logistics and support: First off this races isn’t crazy expensive like you might think. The half only option tops out at $75 which I think is less than Bluenose and there is more support overall. Water stations have water obviously and gatorade every 3 km, red I think but no fuel so bring your own. None of them ran out while I was on the course. So here’s the deal with porta-potties on the course it’s complicated so settle in. One year someone stole their potty and left it in a ditch afrer/before the race, they did get it back but that’s not cool. I know there was one at the 1 k, 4k, 17k, and 20k markers or close too. I don’t believe there were anymore further out. But since I went at 4k (I was glad I did) one might have snuck by me but I don’t think so. Factor that into you life plan and I’m guessing if I’m right it’s due to that previous theft so give them a break too.
There were no pace bunnies, or mile markers on course so your GPS watch is a godsend on this one. But every single sign had the race hotline on it. That’s right there is a race hotline you can call at anytime should you get into trouble. How cool is that? The race ran incredibly smoothly and these are just the sorts of races I recommend for your first go at a new distance.
This is really important there is no kit pick up at the race location on race day. One has to pick up their kit or maybe get someone to do it downtown Halifax in the two days before. The do a great job of letting you know that but I wonder if there is another option for those from away. Perhaps they could mail race kits if you resister in time for a fee. Instead of having to come into town earlier, maybe even paying for a hotel for an extra day. But they do have a selection of very convenient times for pick up.
Nail polish rationale: So I’m weirdly excited to report this one because your girl loves a grown up reason to wear black nail polish and this was it! Since my pirate outfit also had lots of red in it I went for a signature nail in there too. Then I wore it for as long as possible after that.
Race goals: Would I have taken a PR, oh yeah but it probably wasn’t in the cards given that I’d done (most of) a bare minimum half plan this time. I did set my pacing strategy so that it was technically possible to PR if the day was going swimmingly. I kept saying I just wanted to look cute but secretly I wanted to not be slower than my first go. As I was sewing my ridiculous corset come race shirt I was thinking two things. One that this probably wasn’t a 21 km outfit in the first place and that it didn’t feel fast. Okay three things also ‘this is so cute!’
Swag: This race is known for it’s swag but … to really bring it to the next level you gotta do the tartan twosome. For me I got a killer medal that opens and a technical race tee but I think a regular cotton one was also an option. If you did the twosome you got three equally crazy medals and sleeves with a pirate theme. Your medals open and if there was a ruby in there you were one of the lucky runners to win a free pair of Brooks. There we’re lots of booths probably handing out other free stuff but when I finally finished it was time to go. There was also a free beer ticket on your bib and a great ‘free’ concert after.
Time: 2:31:38 chip (2:26:39 app – porta-potty stop)
Category (F 30 -39): 50/56
Shoes: Asics Gel Cumulus 18 (second pair)
Kilometers 1-8: Nike run was not playing ball (or running) on my watch that day so after fussing for the first km I launched the apple workout app on my watch. By the second km my sleeves were in my bra and I was off. At km 5 I waited in a line of 5 for the porta-potty since it had to happen eventually. I started out faster than I had planned but not my much. I was targeting a 7 m/km pace at the start and I was running about 6:45. I was thinking slow down a hair if you can but that PR, maybe it COULD happen at this point in the race. This was before a lot of the hills though.
Kilometers 8-17: The race I was expecting caught up with me here in a big way. I expected the hills, that this outfit was not an ideal half marathon running outfit, that I WAS getting sick and that there would in fact not be a PR here today. I ate my first raisins at 8km and that and my not tight but not all that stretchy skirt waist band gave me a stitch. I did breath into it, ease off on the pace and walk for a few hundred meters here and there. The field for the half was sparse though I could see another runner or 5 all of the time so I was out there on my own which I like. It hit me that these were exactly like the country roads I run on all the time. Any urban runners might want to log a few miles in the boonies in training for this one. There were lots of aid stations out here including a wet sponge station. At km 15-ish there was a 2 km hill and I walked and chatted with a lady doing her first half and regretting it in the moment for about half a km up that hill. If you asked me she looked strong and she’ll be signing up for another one in no time.
Kilometer 17-21: I did my best to turn it up at this point and I did but I was feeling those hills, my lighter training schedule this time around and the fact that it was 17 degrees now at this point. Around this point I folded my shirt up and went for the bare belly look. But I’d say I finished strong but three was the odd 100m I took a little walk break. I usually take an earphone out at the end but I forgot and walked right past the cheer squad at the end.
Looking Back: This was a fun race and really pretty budget friendly which might be surprising for some. One thing that stays on my mind about this one though is the timing, it’s always the day before Terry Fox. I hope that no runners are skipping Terry Fox the next day because of their participation in maritime race weekend. I get it it has to happen someday and the day before is better than the day of. I’d love to see the organizers of this one though give some incentives for runners to get out there on Sunday too. Practically speaking this could be hard but maybe something like an extra beer or treat for those that show their registration emails for Terry Fox on race day. That would be very, very dope of them. I would totally do this race again and even though I was the one that suggested it to the step dad for his first half I’m not so sure it’s a perfect choice for him. It has ALL the support he needs but there is a three hour time limit. However now that I’ve finally checked my results it seems they let people finish at least a few minutes late. The hills would make a PR hard if you’ve already run a flat half but if you’re looking for a super fun east coast destination race, THIS is it!!