Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Winning races

On Sunday I won the Saint John Marathon by the Sea. To be more specific, I won the half marathon in a new fastest time of 1:13:20.

Here I am finishing in style (this is the first time I recall even finishing in style). Here's a link to a cbc news piece.   The reader comments accurately point out that the women runners are completely omitted. Sad.  

There was a long-standing record held by Paul Morrison set in 1996 at 1:14:28. For 17 years it held, which is far too long. The record was narrowly missed by Chris Brake in 2010 with a time of 1:14:46. Others have come not quite as close 

UDATE: Alex Coffin ran 1:13:25 in 2008, barely 5 seconds behind my time. The race organizers completely forgot to update the records. Even more fascinating is that Alex lives in Saint John. How did this escape everyone's attention? 

Several people warned me this is a really hilly course but I figured even with hills and not being in the best of shape I could probably do it, though it's unusual for me to have confidence in such things.

Nevertheless I registered, paying my $70 (which is insanely expensive for a nothing-race). I also figured if I was going to drive 400 km from Halifax I should at the very least knock that sucker down and bring the record into the present. After *almost* getting sideswiped by a car midway through the race (the cop supposedly directing traffic was busy buying a donut!), almost missing an unlabelled turn, I eventually managed to get under the old mark with a minute to spare.

But running 1:13 is not all that special. So why did I even choose this race?

It certainly wasn't for the money. The win netted me exactly one $75 Running Room gift certificate, which doesn't buy you a decent watch. I meant to take a picture of the draw prize table with random gifts that were better than the overall winners (a GPS watch!). I wasn't for the attention, either; I had no idea any news outlets were covering the race. It's a rather small one, though I later found out this was a lot of people's last hope to qualify for Boston. And as all know these days anything Boston-related generates news.

When I said that I decided to set a new record, I didn't factor in the hills. Originally, when I first knew of the existence of Marathon by the Sea two months ago, it was so I could run a sub 1:11 and qualify for Chicago. Running under 71 minutes is something I can do on flat ground, but I learned early on this wasn't going to be a 1:11 sort of day. Several people warned me this is a really hilly course. Having now experienced the hills of Saint John, I can confirm it is, among other things, a very hilly city.

Why run this fast, specifically? While I didn't think about Chicago when it sold out in April, you can qualify as late as August 31st with an "elite development" time. But the Chicago race was not on my radar until running the Cabot trail relay with the Toronto-based Black Lungs in May. After that suddenly I knew close to a dozen people going. That means shared rooms, shared stories, etc etc. I'm sure it would have been a good, though rather expensive, time.

On the subject of of expensive, let's assume I had run a 1:10-something on Sunday. What would I have had to spend to run 42.2 kilometres in the windy city? There's a Porter Airlines sale on right now, so I can go check.

Round-trip cost to fly to Chicago (from Halifax): $573
Four nights in a decent hotel near the biggest race in town: $400 (Assuming split costs here)
Marathon registration: $200+fees
Food, dinners out, bus tickets/commuting cost: $150
Random merchandise (everyone caves eventually): $150

Total, at the very least, will be close to $1500. And when I think about it, I don't really have that much to spend. I spent less than $400 on the Cabot trail relay, which to me was a far more unique experience than many marathons could hope. There is another reason I won't be able to go: I may be travelling to India and Bangladesh preciously close to race day. This trip is ridiculously exciting; the mere chance of travelling that far is incredible. To go there with a scientific mission in mind as well tips an already toppled scale. Not to diminish any marathoners' dreams, but since this developed in early August Chicago hasn't exactly been the foremost thing on my mind.

The next two paragraphs are petty, but I need some place to vent.

Going back to the subject of money, lately there has been a theme of me spending conservatively on running. If I can do the same running distance for cost x or another race for half that, I'll choose the latter. For instance, the Natal day 2 miler race I won two weeks ago cost me all of 20$.  That's a bargain right there.

With my cheapskate disposition I've looking for more bargain races to do. I like to be non-critical of races, but when they get too expensive I feel the right to be an extreme judge of every little thing they do wrong. If the Toronto Waterfront marathon were priced under $100, I'd be grateful of just being there. But as it is I can't say much nice about them. Likewise I paid 70$ for the Saint John race and they didn't have the decency to close a single road. Though I was appreciative of the free photos (such as the one above) I didn't appreciate being nearly hit by a car, so I can't say I plan on going back. If a race is going to be expensive, it had better be unbelievably awesome. Otherwise I can time myself, save a hundred bucks, and run any day of the week. On these days the traffic is likely quite open.  

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