The race: Grande-Dique 15 km
Location: Grande-Dique, New Brunswick
When: April 28
Distance: Gave that away above, but, yes, it’s 15 Km
Why do it: Prize money; test yourself against some of the best runners in the Maritimes
Swag: More like what doesn’t this race offer? Cash prizes, age group winner jackets, running shoes and much more
It’s not often you see a race director frantically coordinate everything on race morning and then, just before the gun goes, jump into the starting line and lead the whole affair out.
Well then, you haven’t met Sylvio Bourque. Bourque is a world-ranked arm wrestling champion who has a genuine passion for running. He can be found at nearly every race going, not only running, but beating the drum for Grande-Dique, the race he annually puts together.
And so he should. Grande-Dique is a regional gem, one those off-the-beaten-path runs that remain largely known to locals. About a 30-minute drive north-east of Moncton, a white church marks the start of the run.
At first the course seems relatively flat and fast before moving into some gently rolling hills. You’ll run past fields, farm houses, and stunning views of the Northumberland Strait, all of which will help take your mind off the incredible discomfort you’re experiencing. That flat run has likely lured you into starting harder than you intended and now you’re running at a higher pace then you really meant to and battling the stiff wind off the water.
Some respite is found as you run past the summer cottages and begin to turn inland. The wind abates. But then there’s the hill. It’s one long hill. Actually, it’s one really long hill. While you climb that hill, you’ll have plenty of time to think about just how damn long that hill lasts.
The upside? Uh, wait, let me reword that. The best part of any uphill is it means a downhill on the back side. That long, gradual uphill that clawed away at your endurance now rewards you with a swift downhill finish. Hammer hard to the line of this loop course.
Grande-Dique pays an extra $100 for a course record, over and above the $650 first place prize it awards to the first male and female finishers. The records as they currently stand both date from 2011 and are Ryan Cassidy in 48:30 and Paula Keating in 57:03.
After the run, everyone gathers in the local community hall where local volunteers from the town serve a huge home-cooked pasta meal (including a vegetarian option).
Then out come the draw prizes. Excited? You should be. Up for grabs this year are $100 gift cards to a running store chain, running shoes, heart rate monitors, a $500 gift certificate from a local travel agent and more.
Can you Dique it? We can. Grande-Digue offers the best sort of home-grown, back-to-the-roots race that you only get to experience on the regional circuit.