by Jennifer Adams
Where: Calgary, Alberta, Canada
When: July 9, 2017
I am starting a position at the University of Calgary and since I will be spending most of my year here, I thought the best way to self-induct into the local running scene was to sign up for the half marathon. There was a 5k and 10k option, but I understood that only the half participants would receive a medal so the medal won.
This half marathon coincides with the annual Calgary Stampede. The whole town, I mean, city turns into a scene from the Wild Wild West with almost everyone donning cowboy hats, boots and their finest western-esque gear. You could learn a little more about the Stampede here and some of the animal welfare issues here.
I’ve become so used to the sardine corrals of the NYRR races that I was surprised at the race cap of 1,000 participants. There are probably that many people in one corral.
For those people who registered before June 1st, the bibs were personalized with first names. For those who registered after, there was a space to write your name and sharpies supplied to do so.
Calgary currently has a heat advisory, so the race organizers admonished participants and volunteers to hydrate properly both before and during the race as well as take advantage of sponge stations. So I limited my pre-race wine and drank plenty of H2O and electrolytes.
Not having a car, I took public transportation to the start of the race. With a start of 7:20 I left at 5:30 in order to give me plenty of time to figure out where I was going. Walking through downtown at that time, I encountered a jackrabbit looking all thuggish and thought to myself about the questions my middle school students always asked about animals, “If a Calgary jackrabbit and NYC rat got into a fight, who would win?”
I made my way to the start of the race. I was there early so had time to stretch, use the portapotties (no lines!!!) and make my way to the start. With everything having a Stampede theme, we were serenaded with country music and invited to sit on haystacks while we waited for the start time. After a countdown and “Yeehaw,” we were off promptly at 7:20. The first two kilometres (remember, this is Canada) were through local streets. During this part of the race, I kept holding back, reminding myself that I have not trained in dry heat so be careful. I ran a comfortable pace for the first almost 8 kilometres (Canadian spelling) but then the altitude kicked in, something I neglected to consider in my decision to run the race.
At a little more than 3,000 ft (1,000 m) above sea level, while not high enough for Olympic training, it is high enough for athletes to feel the effects during endurance events. And feel it I did. First my legs started to feel heavy (versus just tired) and then I felt like I was catching my breath. So, between this and the dry heat, my decent pace dropped to a walk/shuffle gait. Thankfully the scenery was enjoyable—much of race encircled the Glenmore Reservoir, which was combination of lovely views of the body of water and birch forests (on an asphalt path). Although it was mostly flat, there were a few short roller coaster-like hills with steep inclines and declines and bridges. There were ample water stations and volunteers along the course, all very friendly and most donning their finest Stampede gear.
I made my way, slowly, out of the reservoir and the biggest “hill” was during the last 2.5K of the race—a pretty steep switchback ramp to an overpass over the highway. After the ramp, it was pretty much a downhill and flat run to a 200m finish on the Glenmore Athletic Park track.
I finished, not my best time but a done time. Got my Stampede-themed medal (a sneaker with a spur) and then all runners were treated to a traditional Stampede breakfast—pancakes, maple syrup and beef sausages. There were also scones, Muscle Milk bottles, juice, and oatmeal. It was quite the post-race buffet.
Overall, it was a good race and a good induction into running in Calgary. There were ample water, volunteers and post-race food. If I am here in July next year, I would do it again and hopefully by then be prepared for the altitude.