Thursday, September 2, 2010
Quebec City Marathon
We arrived in Quebec City on Friday afternoon, and I walked or stood almost nonstop for the rest of the day as well as all day Saturday. Yes, I knew I would pay for this once the marathon got underway, but we only had the weekend to explore and I wasn't out to PR or anything anyway. Keep in mind that all of this walking was in a city built on a cliff, with unremitting stairs and hills and cobblestones, and endless streets of visual delights around every corner (don't get me started on the culinary delights...). So this was workout-level walking, and I was almost limping each night. Added to this was a forecast of temperatures over 30 C with high humidity for marathon Sunday. This wasn't the first hot marathon for me, but I had never been this active right before a 26.2, so it was going to be a new experience.
The 8:30 am start time was the latest I ever started a marathon as well. We stayed at a hotel quite close to the finish area, as did many runners since the start areas for the full and the half were across the (very wide) St Lawrence river. Buses were lined up outside the hotel in the morning and took us to the ferry. When we disembarked from the ferry there were more buses to take us to the start areas. Organization throughout was flawless, and I just have to say that the organizers did an outstanding job. I always like to hear John Stanton over the PA system at the start of many Canadian races; his smooth, authoritative advice settles nerves and lets you concentrate on the job at hand. He's truly the godfather of Canadian running!!
The half started at the halfway point of the full, so we only saw the slowest of the half runners during the run, kind of nice in that it meant a less crowded field. The full had just shy of 1000 runners, which is the size of race that I absolutely prefer.
And they're off! These Quebecois folks sure hoot and holler up a storm, huge enthusiasm. The first few hundred metres of the race were uphill, and it was already hot, and I was more than a little worried. However, once it started going downhill it continued to do so for more than the first half of the race. Which put myself and other 4 and a half hour types at a sub-4 hour pace, which, as all marathoners know, means payback in the last half.
But I didn't care about the impending payback. How could you, when every turn in the road opened another breathtaking vista of the old city on the hill across the vast St Lawrence river? I cursed myself for not bringing my camera on the run. Oh well. There was a nice breeze in our faces for a lot of the time, and the spectators, while few and far between, were crazy enthusiastic, even attempting English shouts of encouragement at times. Have to say, the crowds were magnificent.
So after crossing the bridge (another in an endless day of spectacular sights) the course flattened and the sporadic walking began. Lots of walking. Lots of spectators hauling out garden hoses to keep us sprayed down and going. Lots of wet sponges at water stations. And despite the almost dangerous heat, my enthusiasm never flagged; there was very real enthusiasm in the runners and in the crowd.
So I finished in 4:33, and I was gobsmacked that it was less than 5 hours after all the walking I did. But I'll take it. This is a must-run marathon for anyone who is looking for a great destination and a memorable adventure.