Latest reviews by Crystal
This flat, fast, and fun race is held in the Northwest section of Calgary, close to the university, and is in support of the U of C cross country and track & field teams.
Signing up online is pretty easy and package/bib pick-up is done at a nearby Running Room (no expo).
This race is actually pretty easy to get to by transit and car. There is a C-Train stop very close to the start and there is parking available onsite because it's a track area as well as being next to McMahon Stadium.
Not a very big race, but definitely a good crowd at the start/finish line. Also, university track students are situated throughout the course for aid stations and cheer crews. This actually makes this smaller race quite fun. I had a good time high-fiving a few athletes as I cruised along the course.
The course is pretty flat and goes around the university and nearby suburbia. Not a lot to see, but I did enjoy the flat course for once. I actually PB'd this 10K race, so I was pretty happy!
- Central location, parking, nearby transit
- Good registration price
- Cheer crews
- Not too early in the morning
- Finish line is on a track, good crowd around
- Flat course
- Smaller race - good or bad depending on how crowded you like your races
- Cool medal
- Stroller options for families - family friendly event
- Indoor washroom access
- Can't really recall anything too bad
- Calgary weather - plan plan plan for everything!
Calgary Marathon (May 29, 2016) had a bright an early start of 7:00 am for the 50K, Full, and Half. Because of this, timing and arriving early is very important for this race. Trust me on this! (The 10 and 5K start later)
Many roads are closed for the race, but taking transit to the start line is very easy - especially if you take the C-Train. Many other runners are on the train too, so the excitement can help wake you up! There is also a lot of parking nearby, you just need a little extra time to get into the spots/lots.
Once at the event grounds, checking a bag was easy - plenty of volunteers ready to help. But, once I decided to go for one last washroom trip, this is where I started to lose time. I used the washroom (lineup wasn't too long inside the Grandstand building) and rushed to get in the starting chute, but there weren’t enough openings for me to enter near the pace bunny that I had hoped to run with. I had to go way back in the chute, entering where most of the Ultra runners were. Here’s where I’ll enter my biggest pet peeve of this race. Having the 50 KM, 42.2 KM, and 21.1 KM runners all starting at the same time is a bit chaotic - no corrals too! I’m not sure why the Calgary Marathon does this, but it does not make the race start very easy for the runners (especially if you're a little nervous).
Once I found an entrance to the chute, I TRIED to move up further but it was so packed that I couldn’t. Honestly, I was freaking out a little bit and here’s when I made one of my biggest mistakes of this race. Once we started and crossed the start line, I attempted to speed up to catch the 4:15 (finish time/my goal) pace bunny. Not a great idea and I believe I paid for this later in the race. I did manage to catch the 4:15 pace bunny and I can’t recall how long I was able to maintain that pace… I think around 20 KM, but then after that I was hot and had to slow my pace a bit.
The course was great and lots of people came out to watch/cheer, so that was a nice change from other smaller Calgary races. The day turned out slightly warmer than expected, so that did affect me a little bit. You never know what you are going to get on race day with Calgary weather!
I felt good for most of the race and kept it together mentally till around 30 KM. But, around 30 KM it started to get to me how I lost the 4:15 pace bunny and I kept wondering what my time would change to. Many rolling hills in the second half of the race started to slow me down a bit. I did lots of hill training and still the hills got to me!
The last push was difficult, but I did what I had to do to finish strong. There were some good crowds around for the last 2KM, so this helped with motivation and focus for the final push. Running into the finish chute at the Calgary Grandstand was a great highlight of the event. I raised my hands in the air and crossed that finish line as a proud marathon runner.
Overall, I’m pretty proud of myself. My chip time was exactly 4:25:00 and every KM was fought for. Calgary Marathon was an amazing experience with many lessons learned and I may tackle the course again in 2018... But I know I'll have to prepare even more for those rolling hills!
- Great organization
- Easy access - transit & parking - race start in central location of city
- Pretty good expo with vendors, etc.
- Good crowds for most of the course
- Finish line in the Calgary Grandstand
- Jugo Juice sample at the end (good smoothies!)
- Mini-expo after race inside Grandstand building
- Lots of volunteers
- Pace bunnies/rabbits
- Pretty good course (I hear the Half course is nice and flat)
- There are some indoor/flush washrooms available
- 50K, Full, and Half all start at the same time
- 2016 race shirt was not the best (the year before the shirt was awesome!)
- Starting chute a little chaotic (arrive EARLY)
- Not a marathon issue, but if visiting Calgary you have to be prepared for any kind of weather (snow, rain, sun, cool, hot - you name it)
This smaller, early spring season race started in 2011 and funds go to support local homes and programs for individuals with developmental disabilities. There are half marathon, 5 mile (8KM), and 1KM fun run options available and the event is family friendly.
I was a little hesitant to sign up because you never really know what you're going to get with Calgary weather, especially in March. But, I had started training for my first marathon and this distance fit well with the training plan (for the Calgary races at the end of May). Sign up was easy online and package pick-up was a breeze out of an office downtown. Although there is no expo, the swag is actually pretty good - 2016 came with an awesome long sleeve shirt, a "buff", and extra goodies.
The race doesn't start too early (10:00 am) and is easily accessible through downtown Calgary. Parking shouldn't be too bad, but I took transit and that was easy taking the C-Train. The start line is next to Calgary's Eau Claire Market shops, so there's access to food/coffee before as well as the indoor washrooms. Because this race isn't too large, the lines aren't long, but the atmosphere all around is still fun.
The course mostly travels along Calgary's Bow River Pathway, which brings nice river scenery but also a cool breeze off the water. I'm sort of a middle of the pack runner, so there was about 4K of the race that I was running alone and I kind of thought I got lost. No crowds around and for some reason, no other runners near my pace either. That's my only minor complaint, but I was also adjusting to smaller races after living in Toronto so I know that affected me a little bit. Course is relatively flat as well, so that's nice - especially if you're going for a PB. There is a small crowd/aid station at the turnaround point and then you cruise back to the finish line along the opposite side of the river pathways.
The finish line is fun, lots of support and cheering there! You also get a cute medal for the Half, so that's a plus. Overall, I enjoyed this race and it helped as a long training run on my way to the Calgary Full.
- Easy sign up, you can raise funds if you choose
- Great atmosphere for a smaller race
- Cool swag
- Mostly flat route
- Great training run if you're in the middle of your plan
- Indoor washroom options
- Post race food options & coffee, there may have been pancakes but I'm gluten free so I didn't have any
- Route a little quiet for me, but others may like this
- Plan for the Calgary weather (2016 happened to be quite nice, so this was a bonus)
Sunday, May 3, 2015 - GoodLife Fitness Toronto Marathon
One thing I really liked about this race was that the start line was relatively close to where I lived in north Toronto at the time. I got a drive close to the start line, because the subway does not open on Sundays until 9:00 am. This is very important to remember for races that start earlier! The buses are running, but of course you have to plan for more time if you are using this option.
I was able to find the start line near Mel Lastman Square easily, but before taking off I did spend about a half an hour waiting inside the North York Centre for the washroom. The timing actually worked out really well for me, but I couldn’t believe how crazy the lines for the inside washrooms were. (I have no idea how the lines were for the outdoor porta potties) I used this time in the washroom line to get pumped up and chat with other runners who were a little nervous about the race.
Taking off at the start was really easy and relaxed and I even ran into some runner friends, which was just the extra push I needed before the race. I wasn’t too far back at the start, so I was off and running pretty quickly.
Overall, I love the course for this race. I was ecstatic about running down Yonge Street and even kicked butt running up the hill right after York Mills Road (Hoggs Hollow Hill). I managed to tag along behind a 2:00 hour pace bunny group because I was starting out the race optimistic and feeling good. I was able to stay with this group for pretty much the whole race until I took off from them around 19K. At that point I was feeling tired, but I felt good and knew I could get to the finish line under 2 hours. With that last push to the finish line I finished in 1:59:28 (a PB) and I couldn’t be happier!
The Half course did have a good amount of entertainment & cheer squads to motivate us along the way. The Briar Hill Lululemon crowd was especially entertaining! I also found that there was an adequate amount of water, which was good considering how this race was a little warm (and I don’t carry any water on me). I was a little disappointed that at the end there weren’t any bottles of water (unless I couldn’t find them) and there were only tiny cups of Brita filtered water available. Run 21K and you get pretty thirsty! I did like how there was a gluten free bun (Udi’s) option available though! That’s definitely a nice addition to the post-race food for those of us who can’t have gluten but still want ALL THE CARBS.
As you can probably guess, I really liked this race. I had a fun morning (yes, fun!) running the Half Marathon with all those other “crazy” people and earning my shiny, cool medal. The 2:00 hour run/walk pace bunny was very nice and encouraging. I’m not sure I could have kept up the pace without his encouragement and conversation. I had a fun time at the 5K last year, a great time running the Half this year.
- Great course in my opinion - loved running down iconic Yonge Street
- Good atmosphere
- Indoor washroom options
- Pretty good race entry prices
- Good bling (the marathon medal is HUGE)
- Gluten free bun option (I hope they kept this!)
- Pace bunnies to run with
- Long lines for indoor washrooms
- No train access for early start (not the races fault, but worth noting)
- Expo is just ok
- Not enough water at end of race (maybe they fixed this for 2016)
- Early May weather can be tricky, bring layers
My first ever outdoor winter training season all came down to the March 28 – 29 weekend for North America’s oldest race – ATB 30K in Hamilton, Ontario.
The day before the race I commuted to Hamilton (from North Toronto) by GO Transit and visited the expo shortly before closing. Somehow the expo was still packed and at points even felt a little crammed. I guess that’s just the nature of the design of First Ontario Centre (formerly Copps Coliseum, which I still call it) with all the booths and stands lined up on the sides for vendors. Packet pick up was relatively easy and I had a chance to browse some of the stands. I’ll say that I love the tech shirt that came with the race package, great colour and long sleeve. The line on the back that says “Older than Boston” is great, but I feel like I have to tell people that it means the race and not ME!
Then it was the big day – Sunday, March 29, 2015. ATB doesn’t start super early (9:30 am), so it was nice to not have to get up before the crack of dawn. I got ready, had my morning smoothie, and then headed to Copps to try and meet some fellow runners before the race. Well, if I thought it was busy at the expo, I was wrong! Copps was packed with all the runners coming and going and waiting in bathroom line ups. This is one great thing about this race – indoor toilets before and after! Actual flushing toilets and sinks to wash your hands in, worth the price of admission, friends. After that, it was time to head to the start line. Now the excitement really begins!
I’m not too speedy, so I was not set up to start in a certain corral. I made my way to the “general” corral and tried to get in the zone. We started moving pretty quickly as the corrals set off first and then the rest of us. There was some hooting and hollering as we all crossed the start and then everyone started to take off pretty smoothly onto the streets of Hamilton.
Overall, I found the course to be quite enjoyable (the historical big hill near the end was taken out this year though due to construction). We ran on the city streets, through the well-known industrial plant area of Hamilton (yes there was a smell), and then through the rolling hills of a section of suburbia.
I actually started off really well and maintained a good pace. I got confident and joined a 2:55 pace bunny group (my original goal was 3:15) thinking it would be a good time to really challenge myself and step up my running game. Well, I was able to maintain this great flow for the first 20K… but then I started to slow down. The rolling hills caused me to lose the pace bunny group. I had to walk a little more than I wanted to and I even tried to stop to stretch it a little bit. The last 8K was difficult on those hills... this is something to be aware of for this race - don't skip your hill training! (I did all of mine and I still struggled a little bit!)
I remember at one point I was feeling kind of down and then I saw the famous Grim Reaper walking down the middle of the road (27Kish point?)… I high-fived that dude and then somehow I had a surge of energy that pushed me to the finish. Who would have thought that the Grim Reaper would do that?
I zoomed those last flat 500m down the road and into Copps Coliseum, crossing the finish line with my hands in the air. I was done! I gave everything I had and I was almost in tears reaching that finish line in an arena semi-packed with people hanging out in the stands and cheering people on as they came in. I was ecstatic to see 3:00 on the clock above the finish because I knew then that my chip time would be under 3 hours, which it was. My official chip time was 2:56:36 and I couldn’t be happier. (So I didn’t lose that 2:55 pace bunny group by much 😉 ) I definitely earned my medal that day – mentally and physically. Around the Bay was a big challenge - my longest distance at that time - that I took on and I feel that I met it head on… and possibly crushed it!
- Great organization
- Good expo
- Indoor toilets before and after race
- Crossing the finish line in Copps Colesium
- Very popular race, great crowds, very fun
- Good swag in 2015
- Pretty central location
- Good race leading up to a marathon if that's in your plan
- Cool medals (there's gold, silver, bronze depending on your finish time)
- Pace bunnies
- Hills... well ok, this isn't so bad, but you should be prepared for them
- Weather/wind can be tricky depending on the day
- I walked to the start from my friend's place where I was staying, so I'm not sure if parking is an issue on race day