Waterloo Half Marathon – 24th April 2016

Trek and Run were supported during this event by;

Salba Chia 

Brooks Running

&

Helly Hansen

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First, here’s a short film showing the route from a runners perspective.

This year’s Waterloo Marathon provided no shortage of inspirational storylines. From running legend Ed Whitlock gunning for the world record for the 85 and up age group in the half marathon (spoiler alert, he crushed the record), to Rhonda-Marie Avery, the first blind runner to run in the infamous Barkley Marathons 100 mile race in the hills of Tennessee, both running in Sundays half marathon. While the full marathon saw 2015 winner Jennifer Schneider toe the start line a mere six days after running the Boston Marathon. “Runner Jenn” has a story that is hard not to love. Last year’s Waterloo Marathon was her first, after discovering a natural gift for running while living on the streets of Guelph as a meth addict a few short years ago. Not only did she do alright in her first marathon, she won the women’s race and qualified for Boston. Now her inspiring road to recovery includes looking for a sponsor to allow her to run for a living. This event features a certified Boston Qualifying marathon as well as a half marathon option. Both courses travel through rural Mennonite country and often alongside rivers and creeks. All funds raised for this friendly and well organized race go to St. John Ambulance, who’s mission is to enhance Health, Safety and Quality of Life. Here’s a few thoughts about the event from Trek and Run’s Tim and Michelle.

Tell us about the pre-race experience.

Tim – All my dealings with race organizers and volunteers were a delight. These are clearly people who enjoy what they do. The race pack pickup had me in and out in a few minutes. I agree with Michelle that the website countdown timer was a nice touch. I’m amazed at how many race websites I have to search and search for the damn date of the race! Seems like the first thing you should make sure is visible, but that’s not the case with several recent races I’ve searched online. The website really did provide you all the information you needed, even for first timers like us. It was also nice being offered a race discount at the local running store Runners Choice while stocking up on gels.

Michelle - The Website is simple, clean and easy to use. I especially appreciated the “Countdown” that is live at the top. Race pick-up was small (no expo) but quick and seamless. The day of was organized extremely well! Runners had more than enough room to relax, stretch and warm up in an Indoor Soccer facility before the race. There were washrooms both inside and port-o-potties outside, change rooms, lockers and bag check. The walk from the warm up facility to the start line was about 2 minutes – very reasonable and volunteers were available to point you in the right direction. Special note on the volunteers: They were excited, happy and full of energy even when we arrived at 7am helping guide us into the parking lot then into the facility.

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How was the race itself?

Tim – I really enjoyed this course. In the half you do get a fair bit of roadside running, but the time flew by for me, even with some challenging little inclines. Random Scottish pipers featured throughout the course was definitely my favourite part. One minute you’re chugging along looking at the Grand River, trying to keep a PR pace, and then suddenly out of nowhere you hear the distance strains of the bagpipes. I imagine some people might run faster to get away from the sound, but it just pumps me up and I try and channel the spirit of my ancestors going to war…or Mel Gibson.

Seeing Ed Whitlock run past on his way to breaking the 85 and up half marathon world record by nine plus minutes was pretty damn cool as well.

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Michelle - The 1/2 Marathon started promptly at 8:30am (Full Marathon at 8:00am). The course was decently marked although there were a few areas where if I hadn’t been following runners in front of me I could have taken a wrong turn through RIM Park. Volunteers for water stations were every 3k( almost exactly) – never overwhelmed and always excited and cheering you on. Police were guiding traffic and had the runners safety as their only consideration (thank you). Some parts of the race (going down University Ave for example) were on roads that were not closed which made me nervous at first. However the massive pedestrian path where you could run about 3 people wide was ideal and I kept to that mainly. The last 800m was exactly what you needed – bag pipes, enthusiastic spectators and happy runners. The photographers were visible at the finish line (most important photo of the race). The course measured exactly 21.1K according to my Garmin with approximately 10 rolling hills between 120-300m of elevation.

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And how was the post-race experience?

Tim – This is where the indoor soccer facility was really appreciated (not that it wasn’t great to keep warm pre race as well). It was a little chilly, and after eavesdropping on a TV interview of Ed Whitlock that was going on, and getting some fresh orange slices, we headed inside to warm up…but not before being surprised by the marathon winner breaking the tape behind us. It was hard to find the results on a mobile device, even the next day. That would be the only thing I could find to whine about if I had to. But they were online if you searched on a desktop computer. I devoured half of the post race bag of food inside the facility, and left knowing that I’d like to come back to run this race again.

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Michelle - This was likely the best post-race experience I’ve had recently. Medals were hand-painted clay. There was no wait for the food which included 2 bottles of water, a banana, Lays potato chips, a bagel and a Granola bar. A separate station was 10m away which Nutella, Peanut Butter, Jam and Cream Cheese for the bagels AND Coffee and Hot Chocolate. The volunteer there was even offering to spread the condiments on the bagels for the runners !! We retreated back into the Soccer facility to pick up bags from bag check (seamless), stretch, change clothes and head out. There was an option to get a free post-run massage and only 2 people waiting in line. Photos are not available on-line yet – they did say it would take about a week – but results were available that day (by paper) and on-line 24 hours later.

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To discover more about the Waterloo Marathon, please see http://waterloomarathon.com/ 

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