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5 Tips to running a successful Fredericton Marathon

Advice from those who have done it

By Andrew Wagstaff
Maritime Runner
April 14, 2017

FREDERICTON – Flat and fast.
When it comes to the Fredericton Marathon, perhaps no two words are used more often to describe it. From the first four kilometres around the downtown core, to the scenic trail system and the Bill Thorpe Walking Bridge, runners are treated to level terrain with few surprises, and a maximum elevation of only 24 metres.
It came as no surprise to Maritime marathoners when 27 per cent of Fredericton’s finishers in 2016 qualified for the Boston Marathon, the third highest percentage among running events in Canada.
No race in the Maritime Provinces sends more qualifiers to the Boston Marathon than Fredericton.
Photos courtesy of Bruce Macfarlane
But it would be foolhardy for any runner to consider a BQ time to be a sure thing at any marathon, and Fredericton is no exception. Ryan O’Shea of New Maryland, N.B., who finished first last year with a 2:39:21 time, said the flat course makes it easier to maintain a steady pace, but also presents its challenges.
“I love getting to some downhills in a race just to stretch the legs a little and catch my breath,” he said. “In Fredericton though, there are no such breaks or sections to look forward to. It is just flat, which means that you need to work hard to keep your momentum going for the entire distance.”
This can be mentally draining, especially in those trail sections where spectator support is minimal, according to O’Shea.
“The great thing about Fredericton though is that it is a double switchback course, which means that you do get to see everyone in the race multiple times, which is a great boost,” he said. “You can really absorb some great vibes from seeing that long train of runners coming your way. Lots of smiles and encouragement makes it a very unique experience and really makes it a special run.”
Maritime Runner talked to several runners who have had marathon success in Fredericton, including O’Shea, Chantelle Grenier of Boucherville, Que. (top female in 2015), Paula Keating of Miramichi, N.B. (top female in 2014), and Maura Wieczorek of Halifax (top female in 2016), and came up with the following five tips for those looking to run their best marathon in Fredericton on May 14.
Maura Wieczorek gets congratulated by her family after finishing as the top female in 2016.
Train on a similar surface:
The majority of the Fredericton marathon course is on a non-paved trail for pedestrians and cyclists, and prepared runners will make themselves familiar with this type of surface.
“In order to set yourself up for success, it is good to have done a few long runs on a long bike path and crusher dust trail,” said Wieczorek, who finished in 3:07:46 last year. “Like any race, specificity of training is important as you want to mimic the conditions you will experience on race day.”

Prepare yourself mentally and physically:
While the Fredericton course is beautiful, especially through the wooded area, the solitude can sometimes present a mental challenge. This is perhaps even more of an issue on the second loop, when a little encouragement can go a long way.
“My advice to runners is to prepare well (do your training) and keep your pace, especially during the second loop,” said Grenier, whose 3:04:00 was good for fifth overall in 2015. “The gravel surface is great to run on, but that last time across the bridge killed my legs. You just have to push through and smile through the last bit. You’ve worked so hard, it’s time to enjoy it, even if it hurts.”

Make the most of the two loops:
The loop course means runners get to swing by the finish area at the halfway point, where there are always supporters on hand, and they can then focus on the second loop over familiar ground.
Always keep that second loop in mind, and use it to your advantage, advised Keating.
“I would say to first-time runners of the marathon to pace yourselves well on the first loop and save something for the second loop… it’s still a long way to go,” said Keating, who set the female course record in 2014 with a time of 2:53:54. “Enjoy the trails and camaraderie of the many runners in all of the races who you may encounter looping back on the course.”

Use your support team:
Everyone brings someone along when they are running a marathon, whether it is a spouse, a parent, or a friend. Why make these people stand around and wait for a few hours, when you can provide them with a useful role?
These supporters can provide extra water, fuel, or a vital boost to the spirit at the right time.
“My best advice is to really plan your course support carefully,” said O’Shea. “The start/finish area is amazing, but once on the trails it can get lonely. Having support along the way can really make a huge difference.”

Watch what you wear:
As mentioned above, the majority of Fredericton’s route is run off the road. While the trail is well maintained and easy to run on, it is still a trail, and one would be wise to wear footwear suited for that surface.
In other words, the last thing you want to be doing is stopping every few kilometres to pick rocks out of your shoes.
“Choose racing shoes that aren’t susceptible to picking up stones, as there are many kilometres on crusher dust trail and you want to avoid discomfort or chafing,” said Wieczorek.

The 39th annual Scotiabank Fredericton Marathon Weekend will take place on May 13-14.
Your supporters can play a vital role in your success in Fredericton.
Ryan O'Shea after winning the 2016 Fredericton Marathon in 2:39:21.