The race: Maritime Race Weekend
The location: Eastern Passage, Nova Scotia
Distance: 5 km, 10, km, 21 km, and 42.2 km
Why do it: Because you want a challenge, you love swag, and deep down you’ve always wanted to be a pirate.
Swag: High quality shirts, buff, gels and much, much more.
In its excess, Maritime Race Weekend is almost Disney-like. Leading up to the first annual two-day event, it seemed as if every second day organizers were announcing more, better swag; yet another incredible draw; and constant innovations. Before participants even arrived at the start line for the sold-out event, the draw prizes included multiple $50 gift cards to the Running Room (disclosure: this writer won one of the first), massages, running shoe and clothes packages from Brooks, hotel rooms and even a rum cake.
A rum cake!
Furthermore, organizers promised runners lavish swag bags with high quality race shirts; medals the size of small dinner plates; and even a pirate-themed running race.
Cue the “Aaaaarrrrrrs!”
Well matey, they not only offered distances from the five km to the full marathon, but came up with something they dubbed The Tartan Twosome. If participants ran the Coastal 5K on the Friday night and then either the 10 km or the half or full marathon the next morning, the pirate booty increased proportionally.
Tartan Twosome runners received a short-sleeve and a long-sleeve shirt; they also found a number of extras in their swag bags, including a coffee mug emblazoned with the Maritime Race Weekend’s skull and crossbones logo, and a pair of Brooks Gloves. And they received not one, not two, but three giant medals. We’re talking serious bling here, the kind that makes every runner feel like a winner.
To be sure, after the races Saturday morning, Tartan Twosome runners strolling around the exhibition area could be easily identified from their hunched-over posture from the combined weight of the medals that made a “ching ching” sound as they clinked together.
Some might have balked at the pricey race fees, but when was the last time you met race organizers who tried so hard to please?
With all the hype and hoopla leading up to the event, many were curious to see how its actual execution would go. Nearly 900 people gathered out in Eastern Passage for the inaugural Coastal 5K, an out-and-back along a stunning piece of shoreline just as the sun set.
As runners lined up in the chute, race emcee Mark Stein announced “Pirates to the front of the start, pirates to the front.”
Aaaaaaarrrrr! (Yes, that was the shout-out of the weekend). Maritime Race Weekend, after all, was a pirate-themed event – complete with its own immaculately dressed rapscallions who could have stepped right off of Captain Jack Sparrow’s Black Pearl.
With a thundering boom from the cannon, pirates and runners alike surged over the start line to set off down the relatively flat course.
A pirate ran on my heels the entire race, a rather demoralizing experience overall. I was running in fourth place, but rather than cheering for me, people kept yelling: “Here comes the first pirate!”
I ran as hard as I could to avoid being the guy whom the first pirate managed to overtake.
The next morning runners – and, yes, more pirates – regrouped to run the 10 km, the half and the marathon. I ran the half-marathon, which made use of the Moose Run course in Cow Bay – a traditional spring test for Nova Scotia runners headed to the Boston Marathon. The course is hilly and fairly unforgiving.
In this instance, we ran the back half backwards, mostly running downhill and flat before meeting the first major uphill at the half. After that, the course rolled for several kilometres before relenting with a long downhill (which came at about the three kilometre mark going out) and then a flat back to the finish.
The course was extremely well-marked and populated with water stations and volunteers, taking away any guess-work from the runners and leaving us able to…well, just run and not have to worry about wrong turns and that sort of thing.
Generally, given Maritime Race Weekend catered to about 2,000 runners in its first year, the event went very smoothly. It’s always going to be a tough job for runners race-bound on the Friday night to deal with Halifax’s horrendous traffic as they jockey with the rush-hour commuters heading home across the bottle-necked bridges to Dartmouth.
The other challenge facing Maritime Race Weekend is how well it handles its growth in the next few years, for undoubtedly the race will expand. Many, many people said they’d register for next year’s as soon as registration opened again, and overall runners appeared to love the extravagant loot and spectacle the event served up.
Aaaaaaarrrr matey, thar be treasure in Nova Scotia’s Eastern Passage and it’s name be Maritime Race Weekend. This event is set to thrive and become a major destination race for runners in North America.
(Photos in this post are courtesy of the most energetic, ever excellent Cookie MacKilt. Be sure and look him up on Facebook.)