I ran my first Edmonton Half Marathon two years ago in August 2011. It was a disaster. I had been on vacation (to Disney World, duh) and gotten back on a Friday night. I headed up to Red Deer for a night with the in laws, then to Edmonton Saturday to spend time with Dan’s cousin. Sunday was race day, and all the lovely vacation food and beverage that was still in my system messed with my capability to run the race well, thus running it in 2:34:09. A disaster.
So when I registered for all my races this year, I naturally ignored history and signed up for Edmonton again. It was originally slated to be run on August 18th, two days after I would return from my 16 days in Disney World—–familiar set up, right? Well, race organizer had to switch the race to a week later due to a scheduling conflict, so I had a little over a week from my return from Disney to prepare mentally for this race.
For my stateside friends, or people generally unfamiliar with Canadian geography, Edmonton is the capital of Alberta (not Calgary), and is located about 5 hour north of Lethbridge, a little south of centre of the Province. Everything else North of Edmonton is a lot of space….national parks, oil fields, etc.
So onto the race itself. Well, first, the expo. Rumor was that the race organizers were having trouble dealing with Northlands (the start/finish line sponsors, huge exhibition grounds) this year, as this is why the original date got switched, due to a scheduling conflict. Also, the expo and packet pickup was usually at Northlands Park, an incredibly easy to access location. It got switched to a hotel in downtown Edmonton, conveniently located in the middle of construction. It was a nightmare to get to. My friend Kelly and I managed to find our way there, but didn’t spend too much time at the expo. Kelly started running half marathons just in the past 9 months or so, and trains with a group from The Running Room in Edmonton, so she saw a lot of people she knew there—a few of the people she runs with were the Pace Bunnies for race day.
Before leaving the expo, we also bought our parking pass, which did not allow in-out privileges. This was by no fault of the race organizers, but this was Northlands adding something else to charge people up the ass for. I know for a fact two years ago I did not pay for parking. I paid for parking in Calgary, but that race was downtown with limited space, and you had to be at the Stampede Grounds before 6 am to get into parking….so that seemed acceptable. If we didn’t buy the $5 pass that day it would have been $12 on Sunday. Ridiculous. But, we needed it so our husbands could come back and watch us at the finish.
The morning of the race offered excellent race temperatures. I actually had to wear a short sleeved shirt instead of just a tank top! Kelly and I were both a little slow going in the morning, as we had the bright idea the day before to go to the West Edmonton Mall indoor watermark. Probably not a great pre-race quest, but we had a blast and its not like we are champions or something! Anyway, got dropped off at Northlands around 7 am, with plenty of time to use the restrooms, stretch, and get prepared for our 8 am start. The full marathon started at 7:30 am, and we viewed it from inside the Northlands race track building.
The Edmonton course is always billed as “fast and flat” and our shirts stated this too. The total elevation change in the entire half marathon course is a whopping 12 meters. This is what actually got me nervous as we waited to start, since in all fairness, anyone used to the general high elevation in Alberta should be rockin’ this course. But, we saw two years ago, you can self-destruct at any time.
We made the mistake of not getting down the the start chute until the last 9 minutes. There was no way I could get up farther in the pack to where I wanted to be (in between the 1:45 and 1:50 Pace Bunny). So after the gun went off, I spent the first half a mile of the race slowly making my way through the pack. The race was an out and back course, that led us into Chinatown and downtown Edmonton, then through some gorgeous neighborhoods, and back. Below is the course map, and it is similar, if not identical, to the one two years ago.
I have lamented this before, but the one thing I really struggle with is a consistent pace. And this race was no different, in that I start out faster than my average pace should end up being, and I do this for about 5 km. I then start to slow down to where I ideally want my pace to be, but end up going way slower for miles 7-10 than I want. I hit my half marathon wall of frustration at around mile 9. It is always my slowest. I have ran enough in my life I should be able to know what 8:15 min/mi feels like and stick with it, but I am still working on it. Also, I forgot my Nike Sportwatch in Lethbridge, so I had to use the Nike+ app on race day, which I do have to say is awesome, but since I had my phone in my fuel belt pocket, I didn’t have a visual to look at, just the voice cues.
With my complaints about my pace, when I get to the last 3 miles I can always put on a smile and know the end is near. I haven’t fully decided if I like out-and-back courses better than a route that is all different, but it is nice going back over something you did earlier that morning, and being able to picture how much further you have left. Since I am not from Edmonton and don’t visit often, it is not like I know the area and landmarks well, but since I ran past the beautiful overlook of the river at about 2.5 miles, when I returned past it I knew I didn’t have much to go! I rounded into Northlands and was able to see my husband and Kelly’s husband behind one of the gates. I think Dan, my hubby, was surprised to see me actually finish in a decent time, given the vacation the first half of the month and our day at the waterpark. My chip time when finishing ended up being 1:51:58, which is my second best half marathon time ever! A far cry from the 2:34:09 two years prior! I conquered Edmonton!
After receiving my medal and some water, I trekked back to the Northlands entrance so I could watch for Kelly. I highly recommend anyone who finishes a race and feels up to it, to go back and cheer on some fellow runners as they finish. I know I appreciate as a runner having the cheers from strangers. And I could tell that many runners enjoyed having those words of encouragement, and me telling them its just a “right turn and a left turn into the finish line!” It was also neat because as I was walking out to watch for Kelly, runners who were coming in to finish were congratulating me for already being done—it was pretty neat. Kelly came in and set a PR for herself, finishing at 2:11:50! There were 1719 participants in the half, with 998 of them women! Kelly finished 417/998 in our gender, and I was 114/998.
I had a great time at the Edmonton Half Marathon, and would consider doing to again, as the course is gorgeous, it really is fast and flat, and it is a great race location since we have family and friends to visit. This really could be a PR course for me if I trained for it in mind, so I might set my sights on that next August, since I won’t be doing as many races as this year.
(Also, I got to meet quickly with one of my fellow Dopey Challenge runners who is part of the same Dopey Training Group as me on Facebook! Saskia lives in Calgary, and we were able to meet up after finishing the Edmonton Half! It was great meeting you and hopefully you do come down for the Lethbridge Police Half Marathon in two weeks! Otherwise, see you in January!)