Today was the 43rd running of the Calgary Stampede Marathon - quite a lot of history there. I made a last-minute decision to participate and registered on the last day at the regular price, July 3rd. The next day I agreed to fill in as a volunteer for a friend who had to leave town, so I was now doubly committed to the event.
I awoke at 02:30 and couldn't get back to sleep, so I got up early and was down at the grounds at 04:45 to help set up the start gate. Rob Stichbury was already working full speed when I arrived! The streets were empty when I got there, but the first marathoners started arriving a little before 06:00, when a small group of about 25 race-walkers started on the marathon course. By the time the marathon and half-marathon runners started at 07:00, the street outside the Mewata Armory was jammed.
Here's the start of the marathon and half-marathon:
My race started at 07:30, but of course since all the racers were wearing an electronic chip, our time didn't actually start until we crossed the electronic sensor at the start line. This same sensor was later used to help the announcer tell who was arriving at the finish line, and she announced the name of every single runner: quite the nice personalised touch.
Here's the view of the start area just before the 10k race started:
For the first time ever, I ran with a heart monitor, and it was invaluable for helping me to stay very close to, but just under, my anaerobic limit. I was so jazzed at the start of the race that I was surprised to see my HR at 177 soon after the start, and I had to dial back the pace to a more reasonable 155-165 beats/min.
The course was flat and fast, and it ran downwind to the west along the river, on Memorial Drive. The nice thing was that the turnaround was at the 6.5 km mark, so psychologically the 2nd half was shorter than the first. At that point I was on track for a 50-minute 10k race, but as we turned into the wind, I tucked in behind a runner who passed me going just a little faster, and got him to "tow" me all the way up to the 14 St bridge. Running in his wind-shadow certainly allowed me to run faster than I could have run alone, and also having a faster running "partner" forced me to push my envelope a bit. I was surprised to see the finish-line clock telling me I finished in 48:05. Not bad for a 52-year old with a torn knee meniscus who only runs once a week (or less!). I later saw that I finished 8/64 in my age-group, which was also surprising.
After a bike ride home for a pancake breakfast, I returned at noon to watch the final finishers in the marathon (over 6 hours!) and helped to tear down, finishing that work (and the mandatory beers) around 16:30. It was a long day!
Thanks to Blair Shunk for going away this weekend and vacating his volunteer spot, and to Rob Stichbury for putting me to work and allowing me to see the race from the other side.