In the second week of February, I ran the Birch Bay Half Marathon, a race that I have done before. It was a very cold, crisp morning but the skies were a gorgeous blue colour.
When I arrived at Birch Bay, which is just a short drive south of the US-Canada border, I saw a few of my Marathon Maniacs friends. As usual, they were the serious, enthusiastic ones who were running the marathon distance. Meanwhile, compared to them I was the “wimpy” one who chose the half distance.
I don’t know why I chose to wear capris because immediately after stepping outside my butt and legs were freezing! At the beginning of the race, my whole body just couldn’t get going. Like a car, I almost need anti-freeze! The half marathoners and marathoners started together. I think I was the last one to cross the start.
This is a course that I am familiar with because I have run races in Birch Bay for the last 5-6 years. The close proximity to home makes this location a great choice to run races, and so I find that Birch Bay races attract quite a number of Canadians, although this time it attracted runners from as far away as New York! I also like the fact that these races are typically smaller and the volunteers and organizers are always friendly. Having run so many of them now, I have become acquainted with the Birch Bay running community.
I like that this course loops around the Bay. It is very hilly, but such a lovely course. The half marathoners ran one loop around the Bay, while the full marathoners did two loops, as well as an extra mini loop around mile 6 or 7. The marathoners appeared to all be fast. I felt fine after warming up a couple of miles into the race, but then came a long stretch of about a one-mile long hill. I walked parts of it, which helped make it more manageable. On certain days, hills aren’t so bad, but on this particular day, it was real tough! The half marathoners split from the marathoners after this major hill. The fulls turned right while we continued onto the left and followed a different route back down to the water towards the finish line. This year, there was not much of a head-wind luckily, or else that combined with the icy cold weather would have been brutal. So, the back half of the race was actually quite pleasant. Very friendly residents were out for their walks, and the volunteers were diligent in ensuring water and snacks were out on the tables.
The biggest challenge was the last mile and a half. I could see the finish in the distance, but it was deceiving due to the curves of the roads. Many full marathoners were already onto their second loop at this point, and they were so friendly – when I should have been cheering them on, instead, they were so nice to cheer me on. I pushed to the finish, and when I got there, lots of runners had already finished their races. By then, the sun was brightly shining. There were many smiles at the finish, and every runner seemed happy to be done, especially me 🙂
Another Birch Bay race complete…but no doubt I will be back for more!