Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Running In The Right Direction

Let me be the first to say that I'm not in the pay of the Bluenose International Marathon (BNIM). Nor, must it be said, am I a great friend of the race. I placed 2nd overall in the full marathon in 2005 and didn't get anything for that, no medal, no cheque, not so much as a free entry for next year. This "so long and thanks for all the fish" attitude I experienced in '05 gives my dislike of the race some legitimacy, or so I like to think.  A victim of Race Director Gerry Walsh's great democratisation of running; don't give prizes to the winners so everyone feels like a winner.

Certainly this build-it-and-they-will-come attitude has worked. The event has grown three-fold over the last eight years to about 12k runners, if you include the kids' run on Saturday, even if the actual marathon component has remained constant at ca. 300 runners. What's not to love about an event that is mobilising an extra >5000 people a year to do something? Even if your actual marathoners occasionally get pissed off by the ignorance of local media labelling all 12 000 runners as marathoners when actually only 3% of us are,and jealously guard the designation.

Yet I digress.

In my opinion, and yes it is an opinion (not Holy Writ) this was one of the best run BNIM in recent years. Which likely goes against what some are saying.  I can say this despite my ambivalence towards the event. I like to think I have some perspective on the matter; I've run most of the BNIM, to date six full marathons and one half-marathon. I've been there for the crappy weather, the confusing courses that even local runners couldn't keep straight in their heads, the mass DSQs, the cross-overs, I've nearly hit oncoming runners, a friend of mine was hit by a car and I believe la belle was once stopped en route by police and course-marshalls to let vehicular traffic have priority.

Not this year.

Incoming director Gerri Wallace took the race by the scruff of the neck and shook it up. The confusing courses were gone. I'm partial to the old, original course that took in oxford, Jubilee, Connaught, Almon and Young, but I can see how the city doesn't like that course.  This year it was quite intuitive for a change, no more two and a half loops of the North End and an "optional" loop of the Citadel! Dartmouth then Halifax means a lot more cheering in the final stages of the marathon. The timings were different and they helped to cut down on course congestion. It wasn't totally alleviated, but until the city allows them to run the 5 and 10K on Saturday, a la Run Ottawa, they'll never fully solve this. If the event continues to grow the way it has however, then the city might soon be amenable to this. One hopes.

Runners have always complained about not having a closed course. I don't think this town will ever give us 26 miles of roads all to ourselves but this year had more road closures and parking bans than previous years. This goes in the category of things unseen. Your average runner won't even have noticed there was less vehicular traffic on the course this year and is likely not even be aware of this. So consider yourself told!

Kudos to organisers, but the far end of the Dartmouth side of the marathon route, a part of the course visited by only 300 or ca. 3% of the participants, had the same look & feel and attention to detail as, say, the Five Corners intersection, visited by all 12000 runners, sometimes more than once.

There were some problems on the Halifax side, I won't deny it, but remember, this was, essentially the first time this course had been used, there were bound to be some mishaps.

They also had some great green initiatives, like the Hydropouch and using HRM tap-water, reducing the bottle and cup count considerably. Like the course, these initiatives were somewhat imperfectly done, but this can only be a learning experience, both for HRM, the LOC and the runners.

One of my favourite expressions about racing is adapted from a saying attributed to the Duke Of Wellington, that one might as well tell the history of a ball as a battle. He meant, of course, in either situation, the experience of one or two people may not be representative of the whole. The same applies to racing. My experience of BNIM , from the vantage-point of the 3:30 pace bunny may be, and is, slightly different from that of la belle, as the 4:00 pace-bunny, which again are different perspectives  from those of any of the other 12 000 runners.  Ditto the spectators. So, all I ca say is that for my time and place on the course, it looked pretty good. Not perfect by any means, but pretty good. In fact, at the risk of repeating myself, the best for a few years.

Finally, before you say anything about this apparent BNIM love-in; Gerry - I'm still waiting for my 2nd place overall gong from the 2005 event. Just sayin'


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