Tag Archives: Edmonton half marathon

Race Recap-Edmonton Half Marathon


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!)

Spartan Race Calgary-Race Recap



Dan and I participated in our second Spartan Race on August 18, 2013. This race was held in Calgary, Alberta, and was classified the same as our first Spartan Race, which is a Spartan Sprint. And while the race had many similar obstacles and was undoubtedly a Spartan Race, there was some small differences we noticed in the race setup, feel, and overall experience. I am going to talk about that today.

We live in Lethbridge, Alberta, which is approximately an hour and a half from the south end of Calgary. Dan and I set out on Sunday morning at 8 am to our Spartan Race, which was held at a BMX course in Calgary off of Glenmore Trail. It took us just about 2 hours to get there—a perfect day trip distance. Unlike when we did the Montana Spartan, we did package pickup on race morning. This went smoothly, however, we both realized how much we enjoyed doing the pickup the night before Montana, as it was set up at a sporting goods store, and there was live music, food trucks, beer, and practice spear-throwing for charity. This was just a standard pick up, but I guess that’s what we get for doing just a day trip.

The Calgary Spartan was a two day event. Last year when they hosted the Spartan I believe it may have also been two days, but the numbers this year were twice as many. When I looked at the results, Saturday had 5186 registered participants and Sunday had 3668! Montana was one day. A Saturday, and had 3396 results posted. I wish I could have seen what the setup was like for Saturday, because Dan and I noticed a few things on Sunday that let us down. First, food—there were only two food trucks. One in the packet pickup area and one down near the course. And when we were done racing and hungry the one in packet pickup was closed already. In Montana there were about four food trucks lined up all day pumping out food for the athletes. This was a let down, as in Montana we hung around for a long time after and enjoyed food and drinks and took tons of photos. At least Calgary was just a day trip anyway, because when we were done there really wasn’t much to do.

Another thing that is more of a petty complaint is the beer gardens
. Now, this may be due to different laws in Alberta versus Montana. But, the beer gardens had one thing–coors light. I know Molson is a sponsor, so a Molson product is expected, but come on!! COORS LIGHT? We had our one free beer after the race, Dan could barely drink his, and we left. Montana had Tamarack Brewing Company and another local brew available and it was awesome. We spent money on more drinks after our one free because they offered quality beverages . This again may be due to location and laws involving alcohol consumption.

So far it sounds like I am a complaining bitch and we didn’t enjoy ourselves. That is far from the truth! Our heat time was at 1:00, so at 12:30 Dan and I headed down near the start chute so we were ready to walk to the starting line when they allowed us. While we didn’t go into this being “competitive” we did want to be at the front of our heat so we could get to the first obstacle ahead of a backlog of people. We lined up and about 5 minutes before our start time the emcee did his Spartan spiel. Spartan Race Canada must use someone different than Spartan Race US, or the guy we had in Montana must have been at the Hawaii race that was occurring that same weekend, because this guy was weak. He was reading from his script to pump us up, and had this been our first race I am sure it would have. But the man we had in Montana—-oh boy. That guy was a pro. But, whatever—that is just a fine detail.

At 1:00 our heat started and we barreled out the gates and down the first BMX hill of dirt. Dan told me to make sure I didn’t fall right away. Thanks. This course was completely different than Montana, which makes SpartanRace pretty sweet. In Montana we had the picturesque mountains that doubled as ridiculous obstacles to run up and down. Here we had the up and downs of a BMX course, with all the dusty moguls and poor footing. It posed as a different challenge!

I made it to the first obstacle, the cinder block pull, as Dan had just finished it. He was willing to wait for me, but I waved him to just go on alone. I knew I needed to be taking the race slow as 1) I had just gotten back from my 16 day Disney vacation on Friday and only sort of ran once while there and 2) I have a half marathon on Sunday in Edmonton and didn’t want to hurt myself. So I went solo on this race after about the first 8 minutes, and it made the race different. I didn’t have my husband to whine to was the first difference, but more noticeably I didn’t have him to help me over the 8 foot wall. The nice thing about Spartan Races is that even if you don’t know anyone and are doing it solo, people will help you out if you need it and that is great. A woman gave me a boost to get to the top of the 8 foot wall, and after I got over it, I came back around and helped her out. So if you are nervous about doing one of these races solo, don’t be, because people will help you if you need it! And if you are doing it for pure enjoyment and completion, I suggest taking your time and helping others along the way.

Many of the obstacles were similar to ones in Montana, but not exact replicas. There were monkey bars again this race, but the bars were closer together this time and the length of the challenge was shorter! Also, since we were a Sunday heat, and thousands of people had already done it, there was caked on mud EVERYWHERE! So one thing to think about when picking a heat time and day is how used the obstacles may be by the time you compete! Same with the traverse wall—which I was able to complete in Montana, but in Calgary I fell off immediately. In the picture below, you can see how caked with mud my husband is and how the bottom half of that wall looks! So even if you find success in an obstacle at one Spartan Race, it isn’t guaranteed at another, as circumstances are always going to be different!

One different obstacle in Calgary was a balance beam. It was a zig-zag of boards where you had to walk on the approximately 2 inch thick side. I saw many guys fall off right away and have to do the 30 burpees as punishment. Dan told me later he was close to falling off on that, but focused on making it to each corner and pausing. I hope to see more balance obstacles at our next Spartan Race, though, if they are covered in mud I might not find success!

Dan finished in a really fast time of 37:12 and placed 162nd out of 3525 finishers from Sunday! Thing is, Dan didn’t train. So yes, we can hate him for that, but the 5 km distance was just right for someone who doesn’t run regularly, as it was short enough to get him through. His strength are the obstacles. He only failed at the spear throw, so he only had to do burpees once. He has the ability to do all upper body strength obstacles no problem—even the tricky rope climb over the mud pit. I guess all his lugging of landscaping materials all day doubles as strength training! Anyway, he is now actually motivated to start taking these races a little more serious! Case in point—yesterday I went on a 4 mile Dopey Challenge training run and at 3.5 miles, who do I run into but my husband! He said this is the most motivated he is ever going to be so he might as well take advantage of it.


With his fast finish, he was able to see me suck terribly at the rope climb and the spear throw. It was great having him at the last four or five obstacles to cheer me on and give me hints! After finishing, my time was officially 54:04, which is 1371st place overall. I am hoping that when the results get posted over to the main Spartan Race site they have different category placings, but it seems like the Canadian races don’t do that. Dan and I got a picture together afterwards, and it does show how caked on with mud we were! While I know there are other “mud runs” out there, this one isn’t necessarily about just jumping in mud pits. This race has extremely challenging obstacles, and depending on the landscape of the course, you may get more muddy one race than another, and some races maybe not at all.

Would we do this race again? Yes! Would we recommend this race to someone? Yes! And while I know I had my complaints about the Calgary setup, know that had this been our first Spartan Race experience we would have given it a 10 for sure. Dan and I just had a ridiculously amazing experience in Montana that is now what we have as our holy grail of Spartan Races, so any Spartan Race we do now will unfortunately be compared to that. Our next one is on September 7th in Dan’s home town of Red Deer, Alberta. And this will be interesting, as it is a Super Spartan, not a Sprint. This race is listed at being 15+ km, which means it will be well over 8 miles…a distance Dan has never ran. So his lack of running may catch up to him at this race, but with Super Spartans, you don’t just have a longer distance, but you have more obstacles. Dan will do this race solo, and has an earlier starting time than myself. I will be running with my friend Amie, who has never done a Spartan race at all! She is even shorter than me (I am 5’3″) so we will be hurling each other over tall obstacles! My 6’0+ sister in law is also doing this race with her friends, so I may need to use her heir to help me out!

If you don’t know what a Spartan Race is, head over to the Spartan Race site