Organizing a race in the middle of a pandemic is an interesting experience to say the least.
Here in New Brunswick we have had just over 200 cases of Covid 19 and with us organizing up to 4 possible races in late summer and into the fall season this led to an almost fanatical viewing each day for new cases initially in NB and then in our Atlantic Bubble. To the credit of everyone in Atlantic Canada we have kept our cases so low that we have been able to host races as far back as 30 August with the Hampton Ladies Triathlon and now 4 weeks later our first KV Marathon as Race Directors.
John Kelly was the driving force behind the KV Marathon from 2003 to 2013 when John and the race decided to take a hiatus. Fast forward to 2019 when John re-certified the course as a Boston Qualifier and decided to run the race himself in a low-key manner with a few close friends and family. John then graciously handed the reins of the race over to us for 2020 and just as registrations were starting to come along nicely and planning was going well, Covid hit.
In the year 2020 the easy answer to anyone interested in organizing an event of any kind would have been to say no and no-one could argue with that decision but once again the people of NB stepped up. The Town of Hampton, Town of Rothesay and Town of Quispamsis plus RunNB all agreed to sanction the event as long as an Operational Plan was submitted and approved and more importantly actioned on race day. With the green light to proceed this brought up new questions:
- Would anyone register?
- Would we be able to find volunteers?
- Would athletes respect the mandatory mask policy and physical distancing requirements?
- Could we pull it off?
The answer to questions 1 through 3 was a resounding yes, much to my relief and the answer to question 4 would be found out on race day. Without fail the athletes, volunteers and the very limited number of spectators respected our boundaries and made the whole day a fun, enjoyable and stress free experience for me as a Race Director and my team.
The answer to question 4 is a little trickier. I am lucky to have a great team around me to listen to me whine, take up the slack and lower my stress levels.
Race day set up and marking out the route started a little earlier than normal with a 2.45am alarm call and a 3.30am start. Thanks to the expert guidance and support of Doug Barrett I was confident that we had the route well marked but as usual things always take longer than anticipated and I made it back to the start line with just 10 minutes to spare before the start of the marathon. It may have to be a 2.00am alarm call next year!
Having run and ridden the course in prepping for race day I know this is not an easy route with hills strategically placed for maximum discomfort – yet over the years I hear story after story of athletes running PR’s on this course despite the hills and the prevailing headwind. It’s a tough but fair route and a fast one.
Shelley Doucet is one of Atlantic Canadas top runners over any distance or terrain and Shelley was returning to the scene of her first ever marathon in 2013. Add to the mix a Relay Team who eventually raced a 2hr 45min marathon in Dean Strowbridge & Dean Mercer and you have a very fast competitive race. In the mens event Evan Doucet, Shelley’s husband, was out to break 3hrs and possibly take top honors away from his wife as he narrowly beat her in a XCountry race 2 weeks earlier. In the end Shelley ran a 2hr 54min 07sec marathon to take the overall win from Evan by 2min 16sec. 2nd female was Sandra Gregory in 3hrs 20min 274sec and keeping it in the family theme speedy sister Carrie Gregory came home in 3rd place in 3hrs 27min 29sec all the way from PEI.
Martin White broke the 3hr mark with a 2hr 59min 10sec marathon for a 2nd place male finish followed by Nickolay Ryabkov in 3hr 01min 58sec.
Another worthy mention was Brenda Guitard who ran the KV Marathon route only 2 weeks earlier as part of her virtual Boston Marathon race. The Boston warm up paid off as Brenda ran a 3hr 36min 53sec marathon running her fastest marathon in 5 years. I’m sure there are many other wonderful personal stories from Sunday’s race and I hope that whatever your goal was that you had fun and enjoyed the experience.
It was very cool to watch the lead pack of runners heading along Centennial Road in Bloomfield with the fall colors as their backdrop and so good to see athletes out racing again supported by a wonderful team of volunteers and supporters.
Then it was a quick trip to the Half Marathon start 21k down the road to greet the eager half distance participants. Alex Coffin proved once again that he is a quality runner going into his 50’s and Erica McAdam won the half in the ladies division with a superb 3rd place overall. Perhaps more meaningful though might be the stories of how people raced during a global pandemic.
Sadly, we couldn’t have all the frills that we originally envisioned, the packet pick up at the YMCA / Irving Field House, the kids fun run on Saturday afternoon or the Awards at the Field House. No finish line food or group gathering at race end to swap stories.
But what we did have was a race and it was amazing to see how people reacted with smiles everywhere. Some people were running their first ever race, for most it was their first and only race of the year and for everyone it was a great opportunity to expend some of that pent up training energy during Covid and I am eternally grateful to everyone involved who contributed to making this race happen.
In the 3 races we have organized this year we have had to dramatically dial back the ancillary things we do surrounding races and perhaps this is a good thing. As race directors we get so caught up with the pasta parties, the packet pick up, the awards ceremonies, this year has taught us that its still the beauty of racing that’s the attraction, and the medal and T-shirt of course.
Without the help of 5 key people this race could not have taken place. Doug & Christina Barrett, Daryl & Ellen Steeves and my wife Helena helped drive this race forward with enthusiasm & passion. I can’t say enough about the incredible volunteers we have in this region who show up every time to support these events and the athletes. Its very simple No Volunteers = No races.
Here is a link to the race results – 2020 KV Marathon Results
Thank you one and all for a great day.
Thanks to Lisa Flewelling for the wonderful photos