If someone asked me a question about how many races I have done near Birch Bay, I would not have the answer. I know I have run a 15k there once, one full marathon, one half & now the Ghost Mega Half.
I don’t know if it has anything to do with the bay, but with many of the races here, as soon as I’m near the water, the wind becomes so strong.
The course is very nice and serene, except for the occasional driver who drives very close to the sidewalk which makes it a bit treacherous. This mega half is a frying-pan loop, which means we run the distance in the shape of a “frying pan”. The first part is flat or straight, like the “handle”, and then we run in a “loop”, and return back to the flat (handle) part of the course.
This is a tough course. At about the 3 mile mark, there is a slight hill which isn’t bad, but at about mile 5 or so, the real hill begins. And I am talking about one mega hill. At this point I always slow to a quick walk, but as soon as I make it up the hill, there’s a bit of a break…but then more hills. The rest of the hills are testing, but not mega like the first.
Many times, I have seen deer crossing onto the fields. This time, I saw the cutest little dog who happened to follow me as I ran along, all the way to the end of its fence when it finally stopped. So cute! During the rest of the course I would occasionally see someone walking their dog. For the most part, I ran alone until I met up with the full marathoners; by then, they had already exited from the extra loop they had to do. But by this point, there was an aid-station which was stocked with donuts, pop, water, electrolytes – the set-up was more like an ultra race so we were quite spoiled.
As each runner continued on, the pack of full marathoners were pulling further & further away, for they were obviously faster runners. But extremely friendly marathoners! When they passed me, they all said hi! There was this wife with a young child, stopping every couple of miles to meet up with her husband who was racing. Very sweet. She became my cheerleader as well.
I hit this bend on the road, but as soon as I climbed over it, I started the downhill. What a great feeling. All the hard climb was over. When I came back down to the water, the wind began to pick up. From that point, I could see the building where the finish line was located. It seemed so close but I still had a good 3-4 miles to go.
As soon as I reached 13.1 miles, I suddenly felt tired, maybe because my body is so used to running a half marathon distance. Funny how our minds can play games on us. My brain was saying “I am done, why am I still running?” But I started to gain back my focus, and picked up my pace and off I went again. I kept looking at my watch for the distance covered, and one by one I reached 14 miles, then 15…and all of the sudden, the finish line was within sight. I dashed towards it – 15.1 miles done.
There were hotdogs, chili, potato chips, pop, all waiting at the finish line. What a treat! And if you were there to see what kind of medals we got, it would make anyone jealous! It was the most creative, environmentally friendly medal we could get. They were rocks that were picked up from the beach and hand-painted while we ran. They came in all sizes and shapes, and when we crossed the finish line, we were allowed to pick out whichever “medal” we wanted. What a brilliant idea! I picked one which resembled a cute little ghost, which I thought was fitting given the name of the race.
There were also warm blankets and folding chairs with heaters nearby. Who could resist such a post-race arrangement. Food was great, somehow the pop tasted better than usual. I chatted with the race director for a while afterwards while resting my legs and thanked the organization for putting on such a great race. Thereafter, I was headed home to Vancouver. With so many races completed in this area now, Birch Bay seems like home turf to me. Although tough, I know I will be back to race here again. But until then, I have a couple of pictures to share with you how beautiful that morning was.