[Greetings intrepid readers! I am happy to see that beyond all reason, I still get a few hopeful visitors almost every day. My apologies for the infrequent posts, but if you have been this patient so far I hope I can at least keep posting a couple times a month over this running season. ]
Today was the 5th annual Blue Nose International Marathon in Halifax, Nova Scotia (Canada). I had been looking forward to this event ever since moving to Halifax last September. Originally, my optimistic plan was to run the half marathon and use that as a launch pad for an eventual 2008 marathon. Then last October, as I have too frequently complained about here, I seriously injured my left knee in a non-running situation. For months afterward, I would experience clicking/sticking tendons and sharp pain on long climbs (despite multiple physio visits). In February I realized that my local drug store carried a $20 solution: a knee brace (duh!). Since then I have cautiously resumed being optimistic, and signed up for the 10k in the Blue Nose rather than the half marathon. Another great motivating factor on my last two races (New Year’s Eve 2007 Resolution Run, and the un-blogged-about Spring Tune Up in April, 2008 ) has been that my wife has joined in the running, and she signed up for the Blue Nose 5k as well.
The first thing that impressed me about the Blue Nose was the sheer scale of the event. The biggest event I had run in previously was the 2007 Bread and Honey Run in Streetsville, Ontario, which had about 1500 participants. The Blue Nose had over 8000 participants in all categories. The whole city of Halifax has been abuzz with running-related events for the past three days. At 9AM, my wife and I got to watch the full and half marathoners start to the crack of a rifle shot from a Scottish Highland Guard. It was very dramatic and exciting to witness my first marathon ever.
The 10k started about at 9:30AM and I was crossing my fingers that I don’t re-injure my knee on the dreaded hills. I got away to a quick start, running at about 4:40/km pace for the first 600 metres and then reigned myself in by remembering that it’s twice as long as the 5k runs that I’m used to. From that point on, I pretty much settled on about 5:20/km pace. The coolest thing about the Blue Nose course is that it involves two crossings over the MacDonald Bridge which spans 1.6Km (1 mile) across the historic Halifax Harbour. The first crossing arrived at about the 2k point in the race, and I was pleasantly surprised that the climb didn’t feel too bad even though it seemed to last forever. The view from the top of the bridge will definitely be my biggest memory of the whole race. It was a beautiful sunny day and impossible to beat the view of all types of ships (commercial, recreational, military) bustling about the harbour hundreds of feet below.
The MacDonald Bridge took the 10k participants over to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, where we were greeted with yet another long climb and a fun little 2k loop on a slightly lower incline before descending for the return crossing. This return climb somehow looked far more ominous than the out-leg. It was a long, steep-ish climb into a strong headwind and about halfway up the bridge, I caved in and walked. Argh! Such frustration, but such sweet relief as well. I was starting to feel a stitch on my right side, so I consoled myself with thoughts that the walk break was absolutely necessary and would actually improve my time compared to soldiering on and aggravating the stitch.
Returning down the bridge, I held back my pace. We then turned and faced the final 1.5k uphill battle to the finish. The final 500m were especially brutal, with the finish line in sight and the climb slowly exacting its toll. Thankfully, by this point I could also hear all of the fans at the finish line and that is what magically pulled me up the hill to cross the timing mats. Final time: 53:57 (according to my Forerunner, although somehow my official shoe chip robbed me of 14 seconds and says 54:11). I have to say I’m quite happy with this time considering that it was my first 10k race, that it’s a notoriously difficult course and also given my uncertainty about my knee heading in to the event. Eventually, my goal is a sub-50:00 10k, just as I still continue to aim for a sub-25:00 5k. More than anything, I’m ecstatic that I can now register for other events this season without worrying too much about my knee.
I didn’t do a great job describing the atmosphere, but the fans along the whole course, live bands and DJs all created a party atmosphere; this, combined with the amazing route and scenery makes the Blue Nose a very highly recommended event. If you’re from nearby or far away, definitely consider making the trek and checking it out next year!