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Racing through the Highland Games

Five-miler, one-miler back for 2017 Antigonish festival

By Andrew Wagstaff
Maritime Runner
July 4, 2017

ANTIGONISH, N.S. – After almost 20 years, the road races are as much a part of the Antigonish Highland Games as the highland dancing and the Scottish heavy events.
Featuring the five-mile race on the evening of Friday, July 7, and the elite one-miler on Saturday morning, some of the sport will be given a great showcase during the popular Games Weekend.
“I just think it’s a sign of the times,” said Kevin Grant, who serves as chair of the road race events on the Highland Games planning committee. “Fitness and running is a big part of everyday life for a lot of people, and we just sort jumped in when the running craze was beginning back in 1998.”

The annual Antigonish Highland Games 5 Miler and Elite One Miler will once again be featured this year on July 7-8. Shown here are participants from last year’s one-mile race.

Photo courtesy of Antigonish Highland Games on Facebook

Prior to that, the games featured a large track and field meet that would attract upwards of 500 athletes, but the after the mid-1980s, the event started to fall off a bit, Grant recalled.
“We tried to keep some of the distance races going, like the 10,000m on Friday night, and we were having up to five people show up to run,” he said. “I just thought, at that point, let’s try a road race.”
That first year in 1998 saw 85 people enter the five-mile race, and numbers grew steadily from there. Traditionally, it now brings in around 300 participants every year, although that number dipped to around 250 last year.
Grant receives assistance from Bernie Chisholm and Joanne Doiron in putting on the race, which attracts some of the top runners in the Maritimes. The course record of 25:14 is held by Olympian and Antigonish native Eric Gillis.
“A lot of university guys who are training wherever seem to come back for the beer tent, and there also just happens to be a road race,” he said, with a laugh. “For the rest of the participants it’s sort of a homecoming weekend. A lot of people are home for the games, and they get involved in the race because it’s a great way to take part.”
The five-mile course starts and finishes on the dirt track at Columbus Field, and includes graveled path and paved street sections.
The 2017 edition of the race is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Jeanie Cameron, a long-time participant in the Antigonish Highland Games Track and Field Meet as well as the road race.
The Elite One-Miler has been taken over this year by Gina MacInnis. Many of the registrants (23 as of last week) also take part in the five-miler the night before.
The one-mile race takes place 10 minutes prior to the grand street parade on Saturday morning, following the parade route from St. F.X. University to Columbus Field, a distance that just happened to be one mile.
“All the crowd is out for the parade, so it’s a fun event,” said Grant. “The locals look forward to seeing it, and it’s quite a race. It’s a bit of a spectacle.”
For more on the Antigonish Highland Games 5 Miler, visit here.