Posts Tagged ‘Half marathon’

5 reasons to race the Canada Army Run

army run race bib and dog tagsThe Canada Army run is a popular fall half marathon in Ottawa. In this post I’ll share what to expect if you decide to run. The race weekend includes a the half marathon a 10 km, a 5 km, and some combination races.

FYI – I should warn you that the Army run is my favorite half marathon 🙂 so this race report will be a tad biased.

1. The spirit

100154_logoThe tag line sums it up nicely: “No Ordinary race”

As you might guess from the name, the Army Run celebrates those who serve or who have served. There is an ill, injured soldiers and athletes with disabilities category who start their races 5 minutes before the rest of the corrals. You may pass soldiers completing the race in full gear with backpacks. You might pass someone wearing a shirt that says “I am running in memory of Corporal Martin LeClair”. One year, I passed a soldier who was dragging a tire behind him the entire race. Another year, I caught up to Chris Koch, an ambassador for the war amps program just before the finish. Chris has no arms or legs (he uses a longboard to race). This year, at mile 11 there was a half mile of signs in remembrance of individuals who died in service to their country on either side of the route.

DisabledstartSo when you reach that point in the race where you would usually think to yourself, “wow, I am tired! my legs hurt! I don’t know if I can keep this up” you have reminders of how fortunate you are to be running a half marathon with nothing more than a cramp or a tight IT Band! This is a time to be thankful that you have the health and strength to run a half marathon and take strength from those who have sacrificed so much for all of us.  There are many personal stories and victories at the Army run.

ArmyRunDogTagsWhen you finish the race you are reminded once again this is no ordinary race as you are handed not medals, but dog tags by the volunteers, cadets, and soldiers. The Army run has raised 2.6 million dollars for Soldier on and Support Our Troops since 2008.

2. The half marathon is THE big race

Before I started running marathons, if I ran at a big event weekend such as Ottawa race weekend. When asked which race I was running I answered “just the half”.  Now let’s be clear. There is no reason to use the word “just” when describing a half marathon! It is no small achievement to run for 13.1 miles. But regardless I still felt like I needed to add it because others were running the full marathon distance.

On Army Run weekend they have a 5km, 10 km race and a half marathon. The half marathon is the longest race! so, when someone asks what distance you are running and you answer “the half” it feels like you get a small nod of respect because you are doing the ‘toughest’ distance.

Because the half is also the longest distance the crowd support is also strongest for the half. You won’t have crowds along the entire route, there are some quiet stretches, but there are enough people along the route with signs, costumes, cheer stations and bands to make it feel like a big race.

Quick sidenote: I don’t want to take anything away from those who are running the 5 km or the 10 km distances, I applaud everyone who gets off their couch to race, volunteer, or cheer at any race!

3. The sights along the route

Let’s be clear not every moment of the Army Run is stunning scenery, but it is a remarkably good tour of the region. (Thank you for the photo James Peltzer!)

OttawaCanal

  •  Parliament Hill –wave to the Prime minister unless he is racing again.
  • Along the Ottawa River out and back and past the Canadian war museum (the windows spell a message in morse code)
  • Cross the Ottawa river on a rather ugly (but flat!) bridge. Then a few stretches along side streets until you pass the Canadian history museum . The museum is designed by Native-american architect Douglas Cardinal and the architecture around the public entrance looks like a face.
  • Cross the Alexandra bridge which has an annoying hill at the start the start but a beautiful view of the Ottawa river and the back of parliament hill (also a beautiful view of the back of the Canadian History Museum if you look back, but I never think to look behind me to check out a view when I am in a race).
  • Right after the bridge is another short but nasty hill, but you will be re-energized by a good cheering section right after that hill. Then a stretch along the streets and then you run across the grounds of the Governor General’s residence, Rideau Hall complete with the guards at the gate cheering you as you go by.
  • Back into downtown and finish with a run along the (nice and flat) Unesco World Heritage Site Rideau canal to the finish line.

4. The race has two official languages

potatoYes, you get to hear people cheering you in English and French since when you cross the bridge at the War Museum you will find yourself in Gatineau, Quebec until you cross back over to Ontario on the Alexandra bridge.

So listen carefully as the cries chagne from “Great job” “You can do it” to  “Lâche pas!”

If you are curious “Lâche pas!” means “Don’t give up!”

This year I heard “Lâche pas la patate!” which confused me, because the direct translation of that phrase is “Don’t let go of the potato!” Curious, I looked it up when  got home, and apparently that expression is just a more emphatic way to say “Hang on, you’ve got this, don’t give up!” and originates from roasting potatoes over a hot fire, when you grabbed the hot potato you had to ‘hold on to the potato’ even though it was hot and burning your hand and not drop it on the ground.

5. The race gear & photos

20180924_074950Let’s be clear, sometimes it’s all about the shirt and historically this race has done a nice job designing the shirts. My biggest complaint for years was the fact the half marathon shirts were always green and the 5 km race alwasy got red shirts. I wanted a red shirt, but I was too stubborn to run the 5 km instead of the half. When they added the commanders challenge (run the 5 km and the half marathon), I registered and ran it jsut so I could get both shirts :). This year I was pleasantly surprised because the half marathon shirt was red! This year was also the first year we got short sleeved shirts. Since I have run the race on multiple occasions, I was quite happy to get a t-shirt for a change since I have a drawerful of long sleeved Green half marathon shirts from past years. This year they also included a headband and a drawstring bag with similar designs to the t-shirt.

In 2018 Zoom Photo took the race pictures. Digital downloads of your photos are included free with registration! it’s so nice to be able to download pictures and even my finish video from the race without paying $70! It’s quite brilliant actually. The free download includes a watermark from the race at the bottom of the photo. So you are  basically advertising for the race when you share it online.  If you want a digital download without the watermark it’s $2.50 🙂 but personally I kind of like having the watermark so I can remember which photo goes with which race.SusanRacingArmy

 

A few additional facts and stats

A few facts about the race

Race Size

  • 4,500 runners in the half marathon
  • 5,000 runners in the 10 km
  • 10,000 runners in the 5 km

Weather

The Army run is in early fall. The average high this time of year is around 19 C. But of course on a given day it can vary quite a bit. In 2018 we had almost perfect running conditions, about 5 C at the start and sunny. In 2017 it reached 28 degrees, and felt more like 34 C with humidity. Another year it poured rain. You just can’t predict the weather in this area.

How the race started

The idea for Canada Army Run was sparked at the 2006 U.S. Army Ten-Miler in Washington D.C. when Lieutenant-General Beare (now retired, but then in the third highest ranked position in the Canadian Army) crossed the finish line. He turned to his Director of Army Training, Colonel Dean Milner (now a Major-General) and asked “Why aren’t we doing this in Canada?” The Colonel replied, “Sir, you’re the general. You tell me!”

Race options (as of 2018)

  • 5 km
  • 10 km
  • Half marathon
  • Ortona Challenge 5 km + 10 km
  • Commanders challenge 5km + 21 km

Course Map

ArmyRouteMap

Hills

I can’t find a good elevation profile of the race, and my Strava elevation profile of the race has a lot of odd spikes and drops so is misleading. Army run includes a number of rolling hills. It is not flat. The first out and back stretch has one pretty good hill, and you get to go up and down that hill in both directions. The stretch in Quebec includes a couple of steep but short hills. The out and back to the governor generals residence is light rolling hills. The final out and back along the canal is flat.  According to my Strava, the total elevation gain is 232 meters.  So it’s not a flat course, but if the weather co-operates it is quite possible to set a Personal Best on the course.

If you enjoyed this post, you can find more of my running related posts.

 

 

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Racing in Japan – Kokyo Marathon – different yet the same!

Taking a trip? Always worth checking to see if there is a local race you can run! In this post I share the story of my first experience racing in Japan!

Before arriving in Tokyo, I registered for the 8th Kokyo Marathon. Before you are too impressed, I should explain that in Japan the term marathon can be used to refer to a race of any distance. My Kokyo marathon was 21.1 km so it was what most of us would call a half marathon!BibNumber

I received an email with instructions on how to find the start, right down to which exit to take from the subway station! Arigato! They also sent me my bib number: 1. With a bib number like that I already knew this would be a race to remember!

Race day was 18 degrees and raining. There was no mention of bag check, so I stopped at Tokyo Station to leave a backpack with dry clothes in a locker. Unfortunately I underestimated the time to get lost in Tokyo station and reached the start line 2 minutes before gun time. The start line consisted of a volunteer in a white rain coat clutching a Ziploc bag standing next to a large garbage bag. The local runners had all received their bibs in the mail, but since I was coming from Canada I was told to pick up my bib at the start. Luckily I found another runner who spoke English and with her help the volunteer retrieved my bib and four safety pins from her Ziploc. I was ready to go!

Susan and Japanese runner

Making a friend at the start

I looked around and spotted 4 or 5 other people with bib numbers. Several of them wearing clear plastic bags with arm holes to keep themselves dry. One gentleman stopped to ask where I was from. He has run the London Marathon, 2 Boston marathons, 7 Tokyo Marathons and 8 Maui Marathons (and those are just the ones he mentioned)!

9 o’clock was the scheduled start time, but at 9 AM we were still standing around. There were now about 15 runners milling about. The lady in the white raincoat starts explaining various instructions in Japanese. Thanks to a helpful local with fluent English I determine she has told us to make sure we make sure as we complete each loop we make sure we pass close to the garbage bag on the wall because it contains the timing mat and registers your timing chip.

Our race route is the loop around the Imperial palace, a popular local jogging spot. One loop is 5 km. Since the Japanese tend to be very organized, there are signs that inform joggers they should run counterclockwise. Our race will be 4 loops (counterclockwise of course!) and then an extra km after the last loop to reach the finish line,

PalaceGuard

Because there are others using the trail, instead of a bulk start which might clog of the path with runners, one runner starts every minute. Soon I am called forward and I get a nod indicating I can tap my bib to the timing garbage bag. I can’t hear the beep but the official says she heard it so off I go

The first part of the loop is uphill and you past the first of the many imperial palace guards.

It’s easy to track your mileage even if you don’t have a Garmin. There are tiles of flowers on the sidewalk every 100 meters marking the distance.

Mileagemarker

1 km into the race I see two guys in white raincoats and another black garbage bag leaning against a wall, this must be the finish line. Shortly after there is a nice downhill stretch with a beautiful view of the moat around the palace.

20171021_104127
At the bottom of the hill was another volunteer cheering us on and making sure we did not miss the turn through the gate.Volunteer

Immediately after the gate I pass the start line for the 5 km and 10 km runners. They start at 10 AM and it isn’t long before some of them start running past me. The trail is now a mix of joggers, 5km , 10km and 21 km runners. It’s fun checking out all the different race shirts from races across Japan. Apparently some races give you shirts after the race with your finish time. A group of 3 fit looking young men job past me wearing shirts that say 100 km finisher. Their shirts show a finishing time of 9:33, 9:34 and 8:27! Okay no shame in being passed by them! Some of the runners have different ways of coping with the rain, I spot a few raincoats, and a couple of runners jogging with umbrellas! I also met two joggers who were running clockwise (at least one of them was clearly not a local, any tourist doing a Google search for running routes in Japan will likely find the Imperial Palace loop as a recommend running spot :))

20171021_105932I also discover that my trip to Tokyo station was unnecessary. The Japanese are a very honest society. Apparently there is a designated patch of trees and benches where everyone leaves their bags and water bottles.

 

HeronThe views along the route are beautiful, a pair of swans swims in the moat,  a heron flies past and lands near one of the bridges. I could get used to this!bridge

The Imperial Palace is a popular tourist attraction, so of course on a Saturday morning, even in the rain there are people coming to tour the gardens. A volunteer holding a sign in English and Japanese asks the tourists to wait on the other side of the sidewalk for the pedestrian signal so they don’t block our path.

Pedestrians

The next time I pass the water stop, I take a cup. It’s a cup of Gatorade or something similar and as I finish it I realize I have a problem. I am now clutching an empty cup and don’t know what to do with it. I can’t just throw it on the ground, there is absolutely no litter around Tokyo! But of course, the race volunteers have already thought of this, a little further down the path is another volunteer who takes my empty cup and adds it to his growing collection.

I complete my last lap and cross the finish line! I am wet and I am tired but this was a lot more fun than just going out for a jog on my own. One of the volunteers at the finish line asks if he can take my picture. I assume they want the picture because they don’t usually have Canadians in their races. I am invited to join the post race celebrations at Tony Romas (Yes apparently they have Tony Romas in Tokyo) Unfortunately I have plans, so I skip Tony Romas and check the race results the next morning on the website. Lucky for me they printed my name in English so I can see how I did.

raceresults

The time is about what I expected. Not the fastest race I have run, but good enough. So I was very surprised to see my picture is on the race site and to discover my time was fast enough to set the women’s course record!! Okay, only 35 people registered, and only 18 people finished the race, but I’ll take it! I always remember my mom’s advice when it came to running races “Every race is won because someone else didn’t come” so enjoy your victories big and small! My mom was in the 50+ and 60+ category when it wasn’t as common as it is now for older women to run, so she was frequently the first and only woman in her age group 🙂

CourseRecord

So maybe my bib number was a sign!  Perhaps a return trip is needed next year to defend my title! I hope they are able to ship my official finishers mug all the way to Canada! Arigato to all the runners, and volunteers at the race!

Here the rest of my running related posts and race reports.