Latest reviews by Debra Kato

"Little Support for Slower Full Marathon Runners"
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Race Management

This was the first time that I ran the Manitoba Marathon in Winnipeg. I decided to fly the 1200 miles to do this race and visit family and friends. I could only find one review of this race on a blog and it was over five years ago. This was my fifth full marathon so I expected it to be similar to other experiences I've had before. I had done a full marathon the month before and had been sick for weeks with a sore throat and hacking cough so my goal was just to finish it. It was a hot and humid day and I didn't have much experience running in weather like that.

Overall-This race excels in community support. I've never been in a race where there were so many people out and cheering for the runners. Many had lawn chairs and lined the streets. Some offered treats and drinks. They really made you feel like a rock star when you ran by. The volunteers were also top notch as well, who did their jobs and made sure to cheer everybody as they ran by. However, after around the 10th mile, those supporters became far and few between. After the 16th mile, you were pretty much on your own. It was so disheartening to feel abandoned like that. This may be a great race for faster marathoners, half marathoners and shorter distances but it's not for slower marathoners.

T-Shirt/Swag-The finisher t-shirt was a thick tech fabric and long sleeved! Why would they have a long sleeved shirt for a race in late June?! Maybe because last year's race had been cold and rainy? Design and color was good. Not surprisingly, I did not see anybody actually wearing the shirt during the race like they do in other races, it would have been way too hot.

Aid Stations-The aid station support in the first miles was excellent, the volunteers were great and always cheering, the water and sports drinks were plentiful. There were several wet sponges available, showers set up for runners to run through and even sticks with vaseline offered. HOWEVER, at the 16th mile, I was told that I better drink as much as I could because there probably wasn't going to be any more water. I was shocked! I said, 'Are you sure, there's ten miles left of the course!' And she said that they were packing up soon. There was still almost 120 minutes left before the course was supposed to close. Sure enough, the next aid station was packed up. What made it worse was that this part of the course had little or no shade. I was lucky and got a freezie and a hose spray from a person living on the route. There was also NO gels which shocked me. I've never been in a full marathon that did not have gels. I was glad that I had brought two myself. A course marshall cyclist asked me how I was and I asked her when the next aid station was. She also said that they were probably closing up but she would see what she could do. She cycled up ahead and then came back with two small paper cups of water. When I did get to that aid station, it was in the process of closing up but I did get some more water, warm water. I think that there was one more aid station after that. I was extremely disappointed with the lack of aid in the most crucial last miles of the race. There were a lot of medical cycling volunteers who kept asking us how we were (because of the hot humidity) but we probably would have done better if we simply had more water!!

Course Scenery-This course has its moments, running around the university, along Wellington Crescent which has the city's more expensive houses, the City Park (which was busy with other events, including another race we had to run beside), adjacent to St. Vital Park, a view of an interesting bridge and running along some of the city rivers, but for the most part, you are running on busy city streets that have little or no shade (I felt unsafe at times because there were just some small traffic cones separating runners from the cars). There was entertainment along the route. However, toward the end of the race, they were also packing up. One group hadn't packed up but didn't bother to play when some of us ran by.

Expo Quality-The package pick up area is organized well. It didn't take long for people to get their packages if they had their bib numbers. I had volunteered in the bib number look up area. (Volunteers, who were very well organized, got a nice cotton t-shirt and a really good pita lunch with cookie and drink) There were three of us at bib look up and it was good that there was because so many runners did not even get their bib number email before the pick up day! I did get my bib number by email the day before. They ran a contest where runners could get 'stamps' from different expo booths and then enter for prizes. However, almost none of the exhibitors had any clue of this contest. It was an okay expo with charity booths and some product booths but most runners did not stay long. The best exhibitors booth for me was the Wild Hog Grand Forks, ND Half Marathon booth which had a spin the wheel activity. I will probably enter their race next year because of the enthusiasm of the rep and the info and swag at their booth.

Elevation Difficulty-The website boasts about a fast, flat course but I did not find any actual information until closer to the race and it was vague, just saying that it was ten feet. It would be nice if they had an elevation map on their website, like other races do. I found it fairly flat during most of the course with little slight elevated areas.

Parking/Access-The website is very good at showing where you can't park and get access to. They had several shuttles from different points. I got dropped off outside the university area since all the roads were closed and walked around ten minutes to get to the start line.

Race/Management-For the premier event and only full marathon race in Manitoba, I was surprised to see how little social media presence this race had. I'm used to races who are enthusiastic about their events and have a strong social media presence, especially close to and on race day. There were few tweets and little facebook postings. I tweeted several times and only got acknowledged a couple of times which I thought was odd. It was like they had a robot doing their social media, not at all personal or excited.

This was the first race for the race director. Since this was the first time I had run it, I have no idea how well organized it was in earlier races. Considering how many different races they had it appeared that it was fairly well organized.

Because I was sick and not used to this hot and humid temperature I knew that there was a chance that I would not finish within the six hour limit. I certainly knew that there was little chance that I'd be able to do a negative split on the second half either. In the last few miles, I knew that I was still close to being able to finish. At around mile 21 I was asked by somebody if I wanted a ride to the finish. I still had an hour to go. I said no, I'd just finish. I didn't fly 1200 miles to not finish. I said that worst comes to worst, I'd just get a ride from the sweeper. He said, 'Lady, I am the sweeper!'. I was surprised but still said no. I knew that I could always walk the rest of the way. I was still hopeful that I could finish in time. Now, there was pretty much no cheering and the volunteers were sort of impatient and just wanted to go home.

There was a police officer so I asked him if he wanted me to move to the sidewalk and he said yes. I kept trudging on. I kept getting asked by the course cyclists if I was okay. I appreciated it but was annoyed by the constant interruption at the same time.

I was coming to the six hour limit. I was around one and a half miles from the stadium when I came to the fork in the road. There were no signs. In addition to no aid stations, they had started to dismantle the course before I got there. At 1 PM, a cycling course marshall demanded my bib from me. I said, 'I'm almost there!' She said that it was 1 PM and that I had to give my bib and get off the course. Now I understand all about insurance and all but I was shocked by how abrupt she was. I sadly gave her my bib. I saw that she had another bib in her hand as well.

The runner behind me caught up to me and we commiserated our sad fate. DNF. I felt especially badly for her because this was her first marathon! We walked slowly together to the stadium, saw a porta potty that hadn't been taken away yet and took our time. We hoped that our bags would still be there.

Suddenly, the cycling course marshall who had confiscated our bibs came back and said that she was giving them back to us. She had now been told to tell us to put on our bibs and finish the race. She said that she was sorry, but she was just following orders when she took our bibs away before. We pinned them back on and finished the race. The finish arch was still up and they were still timing. The announcer was also still there and announced our names. There were maybe a handful of other people still there, packing things up.

I was glad that we were allowed to finish but it would have been nicer if they had let us finish without interruption before instead of confiscating our bib and then letting the clock tick another 20 minutes before relenting and letting us finish. There was one more runner to finish. She had on a cute tutu outfit and looked like a fairy princess. She cried when she ran past the finish line. She had a story for us. She had been stopped by a police officer who demanded that she give him her race bib. She refused. She was a first time marathoner and she just wanted to finish, medal or not. He demanded again and again she refused. He said that if she didn't give her race bib to him, he was going to arrest her! Wow! Seriously?! He's going to arrest Tinkerbell? Again she refused (good for her!) and said that she would just turn it over so nobody could see her number.

So there was three of us, stubborn women, who did not make it under the six hours but did finish. We did get our medals. I have no idea why the race director relented and changed her mind about letting us finish and gave us our medals. She said that she had been in the same situation herself where she was late finishing a marathon. Given that there were only three of us (I know others did drop out), it would have been nice if they had let us finish instead of making us feel like criminals at the end. And who knows? We might have been able to finish under six hours had we had more water support at the end!

I would recommend this race to a friend but not to the full marathon if they were not a fast runner. I, myself, do not think I would run it again given my overall experience.

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