What qualifies you as a runner? I mean a “real” runner? Getting up at 0-dark-30 to travel for a 7:45start comes pretty close I think.
Co-Race Director James Penny and I often joke about being a ‘real’ runner. On our long runs especially, when we pass runners with the water packs, gel packs and compression gear, we know just by looking at them that they are of the ‘elite class’ they are ‘real’ runners. “What are we then?” I’d ask him. Oh, we just “pretend to run”. Yah! Tell that to my soaked clothing from head to toe , my burning lungs, my heavy legs and my aching back that I’m just pretending!
Jimmie is one of the best running buddies I’ve ever had. He never complains, he always goes my pace no matter what pace that is and he has agreed to sign on as co-director for the H2H 5k. What more could I ask for in a running buddy? (besides asking him to just be quiet… he talks WAY TOO MUCH!) So, when Jimmie asked me if I would go to the Valley Harvest Marathon with him, I couldn’t say no. It was immediately following our ½ marathon at Maritime Race Weekend. I knew he wanted to see just how fast he could do it and I knew he wasn’t expecting me to do another ½ he just wanted someone to go with him. Of course! He signed up to do his 2nd ½ in 3 weeks and I signed up for the 10k. At 0-dark-30 James Penny was sitting in my driveway ready and anxious to get on the road to Wolfville. Him, up since 4am, me just pulling on my socks 10 minutes after the alarm went off at 6:15 am.
Since this one was more Jimmies race to run than mine, I asked him to Blog about it. I asked him to contribute his review, sadly, he’s more of a talker than a writer so it’s on me. I will do my best to describe the event but as I have no idea what the ½ route entails, I will write about the 10k.
First off, rolling up to Acadia University was pretty easy. We were expecting lots of traffic and difficulty parking. This was not the case at all. I’m going to say it was probably around 7 am that we arrived and Ben Brown (wheelchair athlete) had already departed for his 10k race. The parking lot adjacent to the track was still pretty empty and the traffic was light.
Upon entering the track, we could already hear the excitement of those racers warming up for the first event start (the ½ marathon) and the MC could be heard announcing the day’s events. Music was playing and immediately I got a sense of thrill and excitement for the day ahead. A long car ride, a large coffee and nervous jitters dictated my first move of the day. The washroom. Initially I eyed the 3 port a potties on the far edge of the field and thought oh dear… if that’s all we have, I’d better stake a permanent spot near the door. I was pleasantly surprised to be informed that the stadium was open. No worries on the washroom front, plenty of facilities for all!
It was awesome to be present when Wheelchair Athlete Ben Brown came in after completing the 10k in 28:35. Having run the 10k, I can tell you that was no easy feat! He looked simply bagged when he crossed that finish line and I can bet he was! (more on the 10k route to follow) Amazing job and an amazing time! There is simply no ‘can’t’ and no ‘quit’ in this young man and I’m so thankful that I had the opportunity to witness his finish! I am also grateful to the organizers of the Valley Harvest Marathon 2017 for giving him the avenue to compete!
Immediately upon Ben’s finish, the ½ marathoners began to line up. Their start time was 0745. H2H 5k Race Director James Penny was eyeing up the Pace Bunnies trying to decide which one he would fall in with. I told him to stick with the 2:20.00 bunny, told him to stay slow on start up and if he felt good and was hitting his stride then he could go faster, I thought he took my advice, but he didn’t. More on that later! I believe he settled in behind the 2:10.00 bunny.
Immediately following the half marathoners, the 10k`s were up. That`s where I took to the mat. I myself eyed up the Pace Bunnies and decided I would put myself somewhere in between the 1:05and the 1:10. Funny enough, that`s where I finished!
The horn blasted and we were off. It was a cool start to the morning and I felt like with the overcast skies it was shaping up to be a beauty of a day and I could almost smell my PB (that`s personal best, not peanut butter) We left the track, and on to the main road in Wolfville. It didn`t take long before I realized that this is not your everyday flat course and it didn`t take long before the clouds broke and the heat and humidity slammed me right in the face. It`s October, the leaves are a beautiful shade of red and orange, what is this humidity! Luckily, as I was beginning to suck wind and saying a wistful goodbye to my dream of a PB I was greeted by the 5k turnaround point and a beautiful water stop. Good point 1; about the water stop; they separated the water carriers from the Gatorade carriers by shirt color. I think the blue shirts had water and the orange shirts had Gatorade. What a novel idea! I love that! If you are a race director and you are reading this and you are a director of marathon distances, this is an awesome idea! Take note! Good point 2; because I was dying, I decided to opt in for the Gatorade, I felt a bit guilty because I`m not running a marathon, it`s ``only`` a 10k, however, the sugar rush was just what I needed. Sugar rush indeed! It was perfect! I mean, some ``real`` runners might not like the mouthful of sugar and prefer the watered down version that I am used to, but this was a full mouthful of sugary goodness that went straight from my mouth to my legs! Perfect! Bad point; this water stop was also the 5k turn around. Not a great place for it. There was too much congestion from people getting their fuel and people turning right. I can`t count how many 5k`ers missed the turn right but I know there had to have been at least a few. Unless you were running on the right hand side of the road and unless you stopped for refreshment, I can`t see how you would have noticed the mark.
The great thing about this race is not the course itself, but the route. Stunning. The timing is perfect, the leaves on the trees are in that stage where they have changed color but have not yet fallen. This is key because there is nothing worse than running on wet fallen leaves. I can`t imagine more perfect timing to be honest. A right turn brings you from the main road down along farms. There is nothing better than a herd of cattle cheering you on as you race past. It really is something special! That was my whole take away, the jaw dropping autumn glow of the trees and pastures and the cattle mooing. Honestly my favorite run to date. 100%.
I found myself keeping time with the 1:05 Pace Bunny for the most part, but I did have to stop twice at the water stops and he managed to squeeze past me. I knew I wasn`t going to beat my first ever 10k time of 1:03, but there was still a good chance I`d beat my last 10k of 1:11.53 (Navy 10K) and I did. The victory half lap around the field brought me across the mat at 1:06.01! I`m calling that a PB! I don’t know if it was the amazing Autumn scenery, the Pace Bunny, the Gatorade or the inner competitor but I crossed that finish line looking like a hot mess and feeling like a million bucks! (my only prayer is that there is no photographic proof of the hot mess, though I`m 100% sure there is!) I did a quick washroom break, grabbed my camera and took to the main road so I could get a photo of Jim as he came in after his half. I figured I had a good half hour or so before seeing him so I decided to take a few shots of the other racers. The link to those photos is here. I settled into the pole and had my camera dangling by my side when all of a sudden out of the shadows came Jimmie! I was so startled and excited to see him that I brought my camera up to take a pic, the strap was wrapped around my knee and the force of bringing it up to my face caused it to snag and go crashing to the ground. Thankfully I managed to pick it up and snap the pics before he passed me. If you were a witness to the jumping and screaming fool running with a camera, that was me. If you were the person whom I smashed into with my lens hood, that was also me. I apologize profusely! I was expecting Jimmie to come in at around 2:10 or 2:15but certainly not 2:00! I was gobsmacked! I was screaming 2 hours 2 hours! It was actually 2:07.38 when he crossed the mat but I still was amazed. Considering he just finished his first half at Maritime Race Weekend just 3 short weeks prior, it was incredible to see him do so well at the Valley Harvest. Well done to you James Penney!
All in all, the Valley Harvest Marathon is a fantastic event. Getting in and getting out was very easy, the traffic was light and the availability of parking was plentiful. The organization was pristine, the facilities accommodating and the setting stunning. It`s not hard to tell why this event is 25 years old and going strong.
As for my co-race director and running buddy James Penney, I don`t care what he brings or doesn`t bring with him on a long run day, he is a real runner in my books! Welcome to the `elite` Jim! You`ve earned it!
I began my running journey in March of 2009. I began my journey of faith in September of 2012. Running releases stress from my body while my new found faith releases stress from my mind.