Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Blue Nose Marathon 2011: May 21-22, 2011

For any of you long time followers of my EP adventures, you may think the name Blue Nose Marathon sounds familiar, and are wondering where you heard it before. If you remember my Cross Canada Adventure, you will recollect that when I left Halifax for Montreal, on the start of my train trip across the country, I had to make my way across the street past a bunch of runners. That's right, this last weekend marked the one year anniversary of EP Dave's arrival in Halifax.

To celebrate the occasion I decided to volunteer at the event which was to be the first strong evidence to me that I had moved to a more cultured city. See, to me, running/walking is the sport of kings. It takes determination, patience, and perverseness. Furthermore, it is the most egalitarian of sports, since nearly anyone can do it, and the biggest competition takes place mostly within yourself - whether you're struggling to complete your first 5K, or you're a seasoned veteran aiming to shave a minute off your personal best for the full Marathon. In many ways, I feel the existence of a popular Marathon within a city is a sign of that city's sophistication as a whole.

(We were a motley crew, us volunteers, but we got the job done.)

My first task was to be a course marshal for the Kid's Fun Run on Saturday, May 21. I had a couple of the thunder sticks you saw in the above photo, and I smacked them liberally and shouted encouragements at the children that most of them didn't understand: "You're in the final mile now; you're more than 2/3 done the race." When that didn't work, I simply used my tried and true motivation methods I learned from my years as a summer sports camp instructor: ["Mister, my side really hurts *sob sob*."] "I know how you can fix that. Just run down this hill and around the corner and you'll be almost at the finish where you can get some juice and snacks." ["Okay!" *takes off sprinting*]

Win or lose, everyone got a medal and moral support from Myles - the Blue Nose Marathon's mascot. Since I know you're probably wondering, "blue nose" is a reference to a true Maritimer. Historically, the men of the sea would have worn heavy blue pea coats. After being out in the cold rain for even a short while, they would invariably have to wipe their noses. The sleeve of their coats would have been their first choice, and the wet blue dye would stain their noses, hence the term "blue nose."

The next day, on Sunday, I showed up bright and early to work the marathon event (which also featured the more popular 5K, 10K, and half-Marathon events).

For anyone who doesn't know, the Marathon is not simply a long race, but a very specific distance of about 26.2 miles (44.2 km). The name comes from the dubious and improbable legend of an Athenian herald named Pheidippides, who supposedly ran about 25 miles from the Battle of Marathon to Athens to inform Athens of the Greek victory over the Persians before collapsing dead.

The story is improbable not because 25 miles is a long distance, but because it is more likely the Athenians would have sent a rider on horse back. Furthermore, this legend is a "modern" European perversion of the original version of a professional runner (Pheidippides) who was sent by the Athenians to Sparta to request support when the Persians landed at Marathon.

The original Pheidippides travelled 150 miles (240 km) in 2 days without a problem to deliver the petition, making the mere 25 miles he supposedly ran from Marathon to Athens seem like a warm-up jog. Nevertheless, this new version of the journey and Pheidippides' subsequent collapse at the end, was the story Baron Pierre de Coubertin used to create a 26 mile race called the Marathon for the 1896 Olympics in Paris (the first modern Olympic Games).

The weather was chilly on Sunday (as it has been for all of May this year really), but that didn't stop over 10 500 competitors from showing, up and a number of fan also, to take part in the 8th Annual Blue Nose Marathon Weekend.

(Garnering most of the attention, were the now "famous" Pink Tutu Boys - running in the half-Marathon, and winners of the Best Costume prize.)

(Runners push off in a pack at the start of the 10K race.)

From what I heard from the runners, the Blue Nose Marathon - due to Halifax's hilly topography and horrible spring weather - is not a fun race. The only reason anyone enters it is because of the massive hype surrounding it. Here (above) we see runners struggling up the final hill towards the finish.

(Once you finished the race then the real struggle began, as you tried to make your way past the throng of finishers back to the Metro Centre to warm up, get some refreshments, and maybe have a massage.)

Before I arrived I thought I would be out on the course, helping the runners, but I was actually given a new position as a "results roamer". My job was to wear a special shirt and carry around a smart phone from Telus, which had a special App that would grant me instant access to racers' results as they became available.

As with most new technologies though, the system was flawed. For starters, there weren't enough phones for me to have one, and of the phones that did exist most of them would shut off frequently causing much frustration on every one's part. In the end I was moved to baggage claim, where I had the difficult but necessary task of sifting through the pile of bags to find the belongings of the runners as they hobbled in stiff-legged from the course.

Because I spent the whole race inside I couldn't get many pictures of the action, but I did capture some memorable moments from the big screen that streamed live video of the racers as they crossed the finish line.

(This woman was clearly elated to have finished what I assumed was her first half-marathon.)

(This group of runners travelled all the way from Newfoundland, and were in great spirits and dancing around.)

(Some of the runners chose to run the full Marathon though, and very few of them were dancing at the end. In fact, most of them could barely move they were in so much pain. I can't wait to try too!)

(As usual, Myles was there to offer encouragement and support. On a cold day like this, the guy inside this suit was probably the only warm person at the event. It was even cold inside the Metro Centre because the doors were propped open.)

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