Race Report: Ottawa Race Weekend Half Marathon

Pete van Wesenbeeck sent in this account of last Sunday’s Half Marathon – part of the Ottawa Race Weekend.  In it, Pete is much too humble to point out that he kicked butt, squeaking in a top 50 overall (out of 9,333), and finished 6th in his age category (out of 680).  Full results here.

A muggy, overcast Ottawa valley day couldn’t stop over 9,000 committed souls from toeing the line in the 2011 version of the Ottawa Race Weekend half-marathon.  With a forecast high of 33, many were dreading a long, slow plod through unbearable heat.  Luckily, the inferno held off and late-morning rainshowers served as a welcome respite from the humidity; soggy sneakers notwithstanding.

Pete all smiles at around the 6 km mark

The new course promised to be a pleasant change from the well-worn journey up and down the canal that many a runner have endured over the years.  Heading west out of the concrete canyon of Ottawa’s downtown, the course meandered through Chinatown, Little Italy and Wellington Village before doubling back east along the Ottawa River Parkway.

Keeping its inter-provincial flavour of past years, the route nipped into la belle province for a couple of kms before heading back to Ontario across the rustic Alexandria Bridge.  Incredible fan support greeted runners as they tackled the remaining few kilometers along the canal, across, and back again to the finish chute.

Perhaps the greatest aspect of the new course was its accessibility for the citizens of Ottawa to come and catch the excitement.  And come out they did!  Pretty much from downtown and all through the neighborhoods, spectators could be found cheering and clapping, providing much-appreciated encouragement to competitors.  As I ran by one of my favourite breakfast diners along Preston, I even noticed the owner out front taking in the action.  My hastily called-out order for one of his gourmet brie omelets as I ran by was generously answered with an offer to stop by after the race for one on the house!

The route passed within a block or two of our house, so I had the added advantage of seeing my wife and kids, plus lots of friends, around the 5k mark for some rousing encouragement and a few high-fives.  As an added bonus, I could always sneak off the course if things weren’t going well and head back to bed for a mid-morning nap.

I heard Evan’s cowbell clanging away and saw John snapping pix just past the 6k mark, as I headed through the heart of Wellington Village.

The cheering squad

Seemingly haphazardly-placed kilometer markers made it tough to keep track of pacing, which would be my only complaint about the course/organization.  I’m no metronome, but I’m pretty sure I wasn’t responsible for the near-minute difference in my pace between a few of the kms.  Anyway, I ran at what felt was a comfortable speed and tried not to get carried away by the great cheering along the way.  It was difficult to get a good idea of where in the throng of runners I was situated, but by the time I rounded the bend onto Wellington St., the crowd had thinned out a little and I could focus on trying to catch a few clumps in the distance.  I wasn’t concerned with placing really; my main motivation was to get to the massage tent in the recovery area before the line-ups got too long.

I was grateful for the amazing turnout of exuberant crowds in the downtown core, as I was starting the feel the toll of the previous 18 kms.  Buoyed by the raucous clapping and cheering, the final stretch passed by in a bit of a haze, and before long I had the finish-line arch in my sights.  A couple of failed attempts at a finishing kick nevertheless resulted in squeaking in just under 1:23.  Marathoners coming in around the 3:30-mark were streaming in and as I admired their effort, I couldn’t help but think how much I would have dreaded facing another kilometer, let alone 21.

All in all, the day was great fun and a positive enough experience to consider running another half in the fall…  We’ll see.

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