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Mastering the marathon at Maritime Race Weekend

Five tips from those who have done it well

By Andrew Wagstaff
Maritime Runner
Aug. 16, 2017

EASTERN PASSAGE, N.S. – You’ve heard about the pirates, the great swag, the Sunset 5K and its Tartan Twosome. You may have even heard of the Tartan Trio, and the new Tidal Trail 15K.
   But when it comes to Maritime Race Weekend, you may not have heard much about its marathon, which combines some of Eastern Passage and Cow Bay’s finest coastal scenery with the well groomed Shearwater Flyer and Salt Marsh trails.
   For those looking to qualify for Boston, the scheduling of Maritime Race Weekend makes it a convenient choice, as it is the last marathon on the calendar in this region that could serve as a qualifier in time for the 2018 race.
   But what makes it memorable for most is its fun and festive theme.
   “The one thing that stands out to me at Maritime Race Weekend is the party-like atmosphere,” said Dave Nevitt of Dartmouth, winner of the 2016 marathon. “I always go out to Eastern Passage the night before and run the 5K. There’s a huge crowd of about 2,000, many dressed in costumes, and they seem to be having so much fun. Marathoners may want to save their energy and skip the 5K race, but it’s still worth the trip to go out and watch.”
   Marathon morning is pretty similar, with plenty of activity at the start area, fun and creative water stations along the course, and great food and drink at the finish line, not to mention the always-impressive finisher’s medals.
   “It is basically a big running party,” said Jen Nicholson of Cornwall, P.E.I., top female finisher in the 2015 race. “When I return I will definitely go all in and dress in a pirate costume. The energy is absolutely amazing.”
   Corey Deveaux of Sydney River, winner of the 2015 marathon, agreed the excitement level at the event cuts an impressive figure.
   “The large number of people completing the various races made it feel like a large city marathon,” he said. “The finish line was also very exciting, with large crowds of people.”
   Courtney Sherlock of Cow Bay has run the marathon three times, and will return for her fourth this year. She loves the route for its beautiful oceanfront views, its frequent water/support stations, and finish line support, offering credit to race director Michelle Kempton for bringing it all together.
   “Michelle goes all out and treats everyone like a pro racer,” she said. “For me, this is home turf, so the route for the marathon is what I run year round. Knowing the roads, the people and the familiarity is wonderful.”
   Following are five tips for those looking to run a successful marathon at Maritime Race Weekend, from those who have done it.
Know the course:
   The marathon at Maritime Race Weekend has a few hills, some short and steep, and others long and gradual. It is not one big loop, but is almost two completely separate loops, and runners would do well to prepare themselves by studying its different features prior to the race.
   “I think anyone who’s trained well can have a good race at Maritime Race Weekend,” said Nevitt, who won the 2016 race in a time of 3:12:49, and has been training on parts of the course for more than 25 years. “A lot of the uphills are within the first 9K, and there are a few rolling hills along with some fantastic ocean views from 9-18K. If you run these sections at a nice controlled pace, you should have lots of energy to get through the long flat section of the course to 29K.”

Pick up your pace on the trails:
   The flat section Nevitt spoke of includes 8K of soft rail line trail, with some decent shade. The next section will bring some more hills and may require you to dig a little deeper, but make use of that trail section while you can.
   “I would take advantage of the trails,” said Deveaux, who won the 2015 marathon with a time of 2:55:13. “They are flat and provide a good opportunity to go fast.”

Run to the hills in your training:
   Did we mention there are a few hills? If you’ve handled them with a measured pace, then you should have some gas left in the tank for the last 5K, which includes a mostly downhill route back to the harbour and your victory jaunt along Shore Road to the finish line at Fisherman’s Cove.
   But to handle those hills, you need to train for them.
   “It is not a flat course, so make sure you include some hills in your training,” said Nicholson, whose 3:11:36 finish in 2015 stands as the course record for females. “The scenery is a great distraction, and will reward you when you reach the top. If you are looking for a fun weekend and an early fall marathon, this is the one.”

Be ready for a little alone time:
   The marathon, half marathon, 10K and 5K participants all take off in a mass start on Saturday morning, making for a nice, friendly crowd running along Shore Road for the first part of the route. Marathoners should not expect the company to last.
   “For the marathon distance, you run with the 5, 10 and half, but at 18K you peel off on your own, so there can be stretches where there aren’t as many runners, although there are still just as many water and support stations,” said Sherlock. “Being comfortable running solo, or having music to keep you company, can go a long way.”

Don't argue about that last left turn (it's real):
   You can almost taste the finish line when you come down the hill to meet Shore Road for the last 2.5K, but your eyes are not deceiving you when the sign points you left, away from the finish line.
   Just follow the direction, and do not hurl any obscenities at the course marshal.
   “You need to do a very quick 100m to the left to ensure the distance is accurate,” said Sherlock. “This can throw people off if they haven’t studied the route. There are always people directing you, so you definitely won’t go astray, but for your mental preparation, take a good look at the map to understand where you are heading.”

Maritime Race Weekend will take place this year on Sept. 15-16.