The race: The Moose Run
The location: Cow Bay, Nova Scotia
When: Late March
Distance: 25 km
Why do it: Traditional spring tune-up race to gauge your fitness, particularly if you’re planning to run Boston. And because it hurts so good and it’s a great old school, no frills race.
Swag: A ton of draw prizes, many which look like they came out of your grandparents’ garage.
The Moose Run is renowned for many things: terrible weather, including wind, rain, sleet and even snow; big hills; pain; and, of course, the moose for which it’s named.
About five kilometres into the race, just before you begin to hit the really serious hills, you run past a corner and sandwiched now between two huge homes (one of which has an impressive wind turbine all of its own) is a bronze, statue of a full-size moose. No one actually knows why the moose is there and, personally, I’ve always had an issue with the moose since the run is in Cow Bay, so maybe it should be the Cow Run, but somehow…that doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.
I can, however, see how this particular run might cow individuals. It’s not for the faint of heart, weak of lung, or puny of leg.
First of all, the weather rarely cooperates at the Moose Run. Generally, it tends toward a cold, grey drizzle that steadily creeps into your clothing and wears you down into a pre-hypothermic condition. Sometimes, it can be just downright miserable.
Secondly, the hills are a factor. The other day I was out with some runners and they were discussing a course and one of them referred to it as “Nova Scotia flat,” meaning anywhere else runners would gasp, weep and collapse.
The Moose Run is not flat, in a Nova Scotia sense or otherwise.
Finally, I mentioned the weather, but the wind is an unique factor all of its own. Here, in Nova Scotia, the wind blows – from all four directions at once so that no matter which direction you’re running it’s into a head wind.
All that accounted for, 160 people signed up for the run this year, proving that the province is full of physically strong individuals who possess dubiously weak mental characteristics.
Yes, I was one of those people.
Actually, my long-time friend, Leah, talked me into it this year. I wasn’t planning on running, but she told me it would be fun. Did I mention that Leah finds runs of 35 km followed by dry needling sessions at the physiotherapist extremely enjoyable?
Of course, making the run extra attractive this year was the fact the run coincided with St. Patrick’s Day – an excuse to dress in green, or something approximating it. I fell into the latter camp. The day before the run I arrived home to be told that Leah had picked out a costume for me for the run.
I could only imagine.
As it turned out, this year’s run has the best weather ever: crisp, but not cold; sunny; and seemingly windless. Runners milled about the start dressed in green shirts, wigs, hats and more.
And then there was me: I had on black and green pajama bottoms emblazoned with clovers and the Guiness beer logo and a black T-shirt for some Irish hardcore punk band that said on the front: “Kiss my ass. I’m Irish!”
I looked less like a happy-go-lucky leprechaun and more like some decrepit wino who’d crawled out of a dumpster and accidentally ended up out on the course. Later, I’d use this to my advantage when hammering up hills, I’d bark: “On your left! Guy in Guinness pajamas passing you!”
The run itself is an out-and-back. You head out along a flat stretch, turn right down a slight downhill (which will come back to haunt you later) and then run a long, flat stretch before turning and passing the moose.
Then the hills begin. They’re not long, but they’re steep. Cast your eyes off to the right and soak up the water views to take your mind off your burning quads.
The rolling continues until you hit a left turn, at which point you hit a roughly two-and-a-half kilometre climb up to the turn-around. The good news is, after the turn-around, you get to head back down. The bad news is…well, remember the wind?
The wind pulled my face back into a taut mask so tight I looked like Steve Martin after his face lift.
I ran with my friends Mich, Frank and Doug and we all pushed each other at various points. But heading back, Doug really started to set up a wicked pace. My intent wasn’t to race, but use the course to switch up my long run, but put some runners in a pack and well…they run.
The return features some particularly demoralizing hills, which I believe look worse than they actually are; but a couple of people fell off pace and Doug and I began to gather up a few more. Then we chugged across the causeway and hit that – remember? – slight downhill near the finish, which was now an uphill. For me, everything went bla-a-a-ergh. I slowed down completely. Doug danced away.
And just like that it was over.
Inside the hall at Cow Bay, everyone ate home-made beans, drank Guinness, and watched folks collect the some 90 draw prizes, most of which like they’re part of someone’s garage sale.
The Moose Run is a must. Ten bucks gets you a T-shirt and gift certificate worth twice that to local running store, Aerobics First. After you get to party with your pals. And in between you can suffer as much as you want in an old-fashioned, down-home, frills-free race that features as much gorgeous Nova Scotia coastline as you care to take in.
Just don’t expect the weather to be so kind every year.