On Sunday, May 29, 2016, thousands of runners took part in the Calgary Marathon and Half-marathon (and the ultra, 10k, 5k, and kids races), and we were there in the thick of it all, in the half-marathon race.
By: Karen Kwan
The race is one of the most organized ones I’ve taken part in: from the race booklet with the pertinent details to the race expo and the day of, there was always a volunteer around you could ask where bag check was or where do you get your bib number. Best of all, they knew the answer (how many times have you encountered volunteers who’ve only been assigned and trained for their specific task and have not a clue about any other aspect of the race?). At the race start, there were tons of portapotties (so lines were short or non-existent in certain sections), food at the end of race was handed to runners in a bag (so we didn’t have the long lines to awkwardly gather and balance bananas and bars in our sweaty arms!), and there was a clear and wide open space leading from the finish chute into the Saddledome so there were no bottlenecks like there often can be. So, first off, a big thank you to Scotiabank and all of the volunteers for putting on such a great race.
The weather was ideal: 8 Celsius (feeling like 6C according to the Weather Network) at the race start, and warming to the mid to high teens by the time I finished the half. Mostly sunny, so this meant warm enough for a tee or tank top and shorts and no need to bundle up while waiting for the race start.
The route itself is fairly flat — by that I mean very moderate inclines and declines in elevation. There are a few underpasses you have to run so those call on the hill training you’ve hopefully done, that is, unless you chose to run the flat sidewalk portion of the underpass, which many runners chose to (which I think should not be permitted — the route should call for all runners to use the road so that we’re all on an equal playing field). The urban sprawl of Calgary is fantastic for a road race because of the wide streets meant there were very few moments where I felt stuck behind a crowd of runners, since we had such a wide space to navigate.
What I found most remarkable about the race that differed from other destination races is the crowd. There were rather few spectators as individuals, but more than a few “teams” at cheering stations, such as the boisterous ones outside the Simmons building and the soon to open Studio Bell. These friendly faces and loud cheers and high fives, along with the two or three live music stations along the route, made up for the quieter sections where not a soul could be found.
There were an adequate number of water stations (although the volunteers were on the quiet side, I often approached and wasn’t sure if they had water or the sports drink) and at least two spots where sponges were being handed out for cooling off.
The route itself takes you through some quiet residential streets but also along the river, so you get a mix of views. The marathon and the half-marathon start at the same time so you do get to see some of the elite runners during your race if you’re a “regular” runner like I am, and that was super inspiring and you can’t help but cheer and clap no matter how tired you are in your own race.
Great medals with a cartoon-inspired ribbon; I suppose to go along with the superhero contest, who definitely added entertainment during the race! Now, I know I didn’t see every superhero who ran the race, but my vote goes to the girl who ran the half as Mystique, with her wicked body-con costume and full 3D makeup (that couldn’t have been comfortable!).
As for where to stay, Hotel Arts is modern and comfortable, and a mere 10 minute walk from the Stampede Park. Plus, they have Brooklyn Cruiser bikes for guests to borrow, which is great if you’re looking to keep your legs moving post-race. And their weekend brunch buffet at Yellow Door Bistro is considered one of the best in the city, so you can indulge well post-race.
And the best part of racing in Calgary is that you get to explore the city afterwards and if you book extra time, head up to Banff National Park (where I went for some hiking in the week following the race). That’s the best race reward in my opinion, the Rockies are beyond breathtaking.
Registration is already open for the 2017 Calgary Marathon, and they’ve got fun stuff in store given it’s Canada’s 150th birthday.
Karen Kwan is a regular iRun fashion and travel contributor, and you’ll find her running fashion posts every Friday on Instagram. She contributes to a number of publications and you can also follow her travel and running adventures at Health & Swellness.