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5 marathon tips to bring out your best at the Blue Nose

Words of advice from those who know it and love it

By Andrew Wagstaff
Maritime Runner
April 21, 2017

   HALIFAX – It’s not about fear, it’s about respect.
The full marathon at the Blue Nose may not be for the fainthearted marathoner – is there even such a thing? – but with the right mixture of preparation and planning, it can be conquered.
   With the Macdonald Bridge still not available for this year’s route, the marathon will once again be Dartmouth-less, featuring two loops around downtown Halifax and the always challenging Point Pleasant Park.
Photos courtesy of the Blue Nose Marathon
Downtown Halifax will be festive once again this year on May 19-21, as Blue Nose Marathon weekend will take over the city.
   “The Blue Nose is a tough marathon,” said Bryan Hipson of Yarmouth, who was first across the finish line at the 2016 event with a time of 2:46:39. “In terms of toughness, it didn’t change a lot from changing it to a two-loop from a one-loop course. It still has all the hills of Halifax, and then Point Pleasant Park twice.”
   While the Blue Nose is downright small and charming compared to some of the larger marathons Hipson has run, like Boston and Frankfurt, which draw upwards of 20-25,000 runners a year, and Berlin and Paris, which bring in 30-40,000, it is still the largest marathon in the Maritimes in terms of participation numbers.
   The excitement it brings to the city of Halifax during that May long weekend is tough to match, according to Heather O’Donnell of Bridgetown, the top female finisher in 2016 with a 3:11:24 time.
   “What I loved about the Blue Nose – it has a true Maritime feel,” she said. “You get to run through downtown Halifax and by the harbour, everyone is friendly and supportive, the route is two loops so you get to see your family/friends and get the crowd support an extra time, great pace bunnies, a weekend event with the kids’ run/5K on Saturday… it sets a nice atmosphere.”
   Maritime Runner talked to some of those who know the Blue Nose Marathon the best, and came up with the following five tips for those looking to run their best marathon in Halifax on May 21.
Get a good night’s sleep:
   If you live in the Maritimes but not in the immediate Halifax area, don’t get up at an ungodly morning hour on race day and try to drive yourself there on time, all the while stressing out over traffic, parking or car trouble.
   “What I do, so I feel rested, and since it’s an early start and only happens once a year, is I just book a hotel room close to the start and have a good night’s rest,” said Hipson. “I get up and walk five minutes to the starting line. You can’t do that at Boston or Frankfurt. I don’t know how it translates into time or anything, but at least it makes it a more, in that sense, pleasant experience.”

Use the two loops to your advantage:
   There will always be those runners who frown over trodding the same ground in the same race, whether it is an out-and-back course or multiple loops. But the current two-loop course at the Blue Nose has clear advantages, according to Elita Rahn of Jolicure, N.B., the second female finisher in 2016 with a 3:19:44 time.
   “The two-lap marathon is really advantageous for running your best marathon, because you know what to expect on the second lap and it makes the math so much easier,” said Rahn. “After the second trip through the park, keep focused and don’t get distracted by the beautiful scenery, because after you exit the park the rest of the race is a celebration to the finish. It’s an awesome finish line, because as you come down the hill on Cogswell Street and turn onto Brunswick, you finish feeling strong and fast.”

Course-specific training is vital:
   Pacing yourself carefully is important strategy in any marathon, but especially at the Blue Nose, as is preparing yourself for the terrain. The Blue Nose has its hills, most notably in Point Pleasant Park, but also its gradual incline to the finish line.
   “You have to be aware it’s hilly,” said Hipson. “If you’re doing it for the first time, you definitely have to respect the distance and the degree of difficulty. You’ve got to put in a lot of mileage before, and don’t be afraid of doing hills in your training.”
   O’Donnell agreed.
   “I did quite a few hill repeats and tried to incorporate hilly routes into my longer training runs,” she said. “There is also loose gravel in Point Pleasant Park, and lots of turns in the course, so try to take them as tight as you can so you’re not adding distance.”

Make no excuses:
   The trails through Point Pleasant Park are not a huge part of the course, but mentally the hills can have an impact, according to Rahn. She warned against using such things to justify a disappointing finish.
   According to Rahn, if runners are not figuring out math equations on new ways to run a sub-three-hour marathon at a 4:30 min/km pace, they are coming up with reasons why it's OK to ease off the throttle in this really nice park.
   “It’s a good place to invent an excuse for why you can slow down,” she said, calling it ‘complete bullshit.’ “It’s not OK, and you’ll wish you didn’t when you finish, especially the next day when you realize your legs don’t even hurt and you really could have run a little faster.”

Kick up some dust and enjoy the moment:
   Blue Nose executive director Sherri Robbins had plenty of valuable advice for this year’s marathoners: Don’t go out too fast. Trust your training and stick to your race plan. Prepare for the always-unpredictable weather elements.
But her key message can be broken down into two words: Have fun.
   “Having fun applies to all our distances,” said Robbins. “People work hard in the months leading up. It’s not always easy training throughout the winter. Savour race day and celebrate your accomplishment and hard work.”

   Blue Nose Marathon weekend takes place on May 19-21.
Bryan Hipson ran a 2:46:39 to win the 2016 Blue Nose Marathon.
Heather O'Donnell was the top female finisher in the 2016 Blue Nose Marathon with a 3:11:24 time.
Elita Rahn was the second female finisher at the 2016 Blue Nose Marathon with a time of 3:19:44.