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    Niagara Falls Marathon highlight reel

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    I sat down to write a race report on Friday, but by the time I was finished, the report was really really (really!) long, and to be frank, kind of boring.  So I decided I would just share the highlights so you can get on with your day.

    So here they are, in no particular order:

    • Start area:  they let us hang out inside the Albright-Knox Art Gallery to stay warm and dry, which was terrific. There was also a beautiful park across the road (bonus porta-loos in the park!).
    • Peace Bridge: seriously, the reason we run this race – to start in one country and finish in another. The highlight of crossing the border comes a mere 6K in.  Contrary to popular belief, the bridge is not steep – but it is windy, so if you can find a group to tuck in with and share the load, you might be happier.
    • My race crew: no highlight reel would be complete without a shout-out to my husband, Steve, and my friends Kirk and Tanya who drove all the way to Niagara Falls to bring me birthday balloons and meet me on the course three times. Then they patiently waited around for me while I took an ice bath, followed by a hot shower, then walked nice and slow as I hobbled up Clifton Hill to go to dinner (hint: it’s not named after a guy called Clifton Hill).
    • Water stations: where do I even start? They were terrific.  First, they were frequent. Second, they were enthusiastic!  A lot of them were staffed by area high schools, and the volunteers were absolutely outstanding. They made signs. They cheered, sang, blew kisses, called runners by name, and of course, supplied water and Cytomax. Then there was one that was staffed by some other community group – I can’t recall who it was, but their station was a tribute to the bicentennial of the War of 1812 – on the north side of the road, volunteers were dressed as red-coats and natives, and on the south side, they were dressed as blue coats. It was awesome.
    • The Shuffler: in my experience, there is always at least one low point in a marathon. Also in my experience, the way I handle it mentally determines how the rest of my race will go.  As I was running through said low point, maybe 31K in, I was giving in to the urge to walk, starting to believe I was having trouble breathing, watching the time bleed away, and thinking I was going to blow it.  Then I heard “Is that Karen?”  I looked up, and there was none other than our own Shuffler and Mr. Shuffler – Dana and John.  They ran along beside me, did their best to distract me, encourage me, and generally push me along.  As they were about to leave the course I asked if they were waiting to see anyone else. The answer blew me away – nope, they had come out just for me.  No word of a lie, that was exactly what I needed to dig deep and pull off an almost-terrific final 10K.
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    A runner for just over four years, Karen has already completed a marathon, two half marathons and a variety of 5k and 10k races. She describes her first marathon - the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon last September - as "a nightmare." However, she met a very interesting person in the process - a man named Sydney who was running his 152nd marathon! Although the race didn't go as well as planned for Karen or Sydney, he showed her that no matter how experienced a runner you are, you can still have a bad day. "Does that mean we shouldn't bother to prepare, or maybe just shouldn't bother at all? Of course not!" says Karen. "In the end, it is what we make it." We like her optimism!

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