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Rompin’ at Rockwood Park

Annual 10K/25K/50K trail run draws 127 participants

By Andrew Wagstaff
Maritime Runner
June 15, 2017

SAINT JOHN, N.B. – When Rockwood Park was designed by Calvert Vaux in the mid-1800s, he probably wasn’t thinking of trail running and mountain biking. But it sure seems like he was.
The 55 kilometres of trails in the 890-hectare park within Saint John could not be a better fit for a trail run, and Bryan Gagner, race director of the annual Rompin’ Rockwood 10/25/50K Trail Race that took place on Sunday, June 11, seems to agree.
“I thought we might as well take advantage of all the trails in there,” said Gagner. “It’s an awesome park, right there in the city, and we just wanted to do it there.”

Participants in the 25K and 50K events head out for the second annual Rompin’ Rockwood trail race at Rockwood Park in Saint John, N.B. on Sunday, June 11.

Photo courtesy of Bryan Gagner

A total of 127 runners turned took part in the three distances, with 49 running the 10K course, 58 taking part in the 25K, and 20 running the 50K, which was a double loop of the 25K course.
Shelley Doucet tore through the 25K race with a time of 2:00:03, finishing first overall and beating the men’s course record by nine minutes, achieving both goals she set for the day.
“I had so much fun,” she said. “The event was so well organized, which is typical for all Hackmatack Trail Races. Despite being a very technical course with many turns, it was extremely well marked throughout.”
Doucet finished 48 seconds ahead of her friend and training partner, Evan Arsenault. The pair were running together with about 3K to go, and broke apart at a steep rock climb.
“I made it to the top ahead and ran scared the whole way in, listening to his footsteps,” she said. “I wanted to avoid a sprint finish, as he has a stronger kick, which I have seen many times in our training runs when we do strides.”
 When she came out of the woods, Arsenault was not in sight.
Although the course was very well marked, Arsenault said he still took a few wrong turns because he was busy watching his footing instead of the markers.
“I ran with Shelley for the whole race up until about 22K, and then she took off on me when we hit all the hills at the end,” he said. “She’s very strong climbing hills, and I just didn’t have the legs to climb any hills at the end to keep up with her. Overall, I’m happy with the effort I put in, despite the wrong turns, a rolled ankle and some muscle cramps!”
Neil Manson came in third at 2:03:09, while Jean-Sebastien Levesque was the third place male at 2:16:42. The second female was Doucet’s sister, Marcie Holland, at 2:35:46, followed by Mary Davis at 2:46:54.
“It was my first trail race and I loved it,” said Holland. “I felt like I
was born to run the trails. I’ve always loved hiking and the outdoors. I
was worried about falling but maneuvering around in a race was fun and easier than in training.”
She complimented Gagner and his wife Sadie for putting on a first class event.
“I’ve done at least 100 races now, maybe more, and this was definitely one of my favourites,” said Holland. “I also enjoyed the pace and the other runners were very supportive and fun to be around.”
Coming first in the 50K race was Michael Mueller at 4:58:46, missing the course record by only 21 seconds. Coming in second was Kevin Curnock at 5:50:17, followed by top female Melissa Allen at 5:51:09. Richard Paixao was the third male at 5:55:04, while Kelsey Hogan was the second female at 6:06:21, followed by Corinne Fournier at 6:25:59.
In the 10K it was Lars Schwarz coming in first at 47:45, followed by Andrew Roberts at 50:43 and Bill Wood at 52:14. Top females were Marnie Schwarz at 58:28, Julie Brown at 1:01:42, and Tessa Stright at 1:02:08.
Trail running is growing in popularity around the Maritimes, according to Gagner, who said he is saying many road racers jumping over to trail running and loving it. He said it’s a difference in mentality, comparing it to the difference between mountain bikers and road cyclists.
“A lot of kids in the Maritimes grew up in the country, so it brings them back to that,” he said. “It’s just playing in the woods and fields with your friends.”
It was with this in mind that Gagner started the Herring Run 10K/20K in Mascarene five years ago.
“I started that because there weren’t any trail races around,” he said. “Jodi Isenor was doing some in Nova Scotia, and Shawn McCardle was doing the Brookvale one in P.E.I., but there weren’t really any here that I knew about, so I started the Herring Run. Instead of giving people hotdogs and a box of Timbits, we wanted to give them healthy food, to promote that lifestyle.”
Scheduled this year for Aug. 13, the Herring Run has been sold out for six weeks, despite having no real promotion or advertising.
There is no questioning that trail running has caught on in the Maritimes.
“It’s growing, and it’s fun to see,” he said.