Destination Races: Race Reviews

Destination Races: Race Reviews

I know not everyone is the competitive type and racing may not appeal to every women….but hear me out on this. I AM NOT a competitive person. Historically I have shied away from competition whenever possible….but then I discovered running and races….in particular destination races and this has become a major motivator and driving force behind my running. It has helped keep me on track through tough, cold winter runs, fight back from an injury and push myself to beat my personal record time. Now lets be clear….I’m not winning prize money or often even placing in my age category ( although that did happen to me at my race in August – crazy I know!)  But the motivation and accountability of racing against myself is part of what I love about the sport of running. New races pop up it seems almost every day. There are entire websites devoted to listing races by state, country or region. Think of where you want to run and when and likely there will be a race to attend. My husband has often commented “Do you have to run a race every time we go on vacation?”…. to which I answer “why not? We are already there and it gives me even more excitement to look forward to!”

Destination racing has become big business in the sport of running and major companies host or sponsor races. Some of the swag bags are so incredible, it’s a lottery system to get in!  In addition, the great thing about destination racing, is that many of these races cater to the recreational runner or racer. There are women from various fitness backgrounds who run at various paces, and the goal of these races is just to finish or PR (personal record)! There’s no pressure, just FUN, FUN, FUN! 

For myself, entering races has become a slight addiction I must admit…. As soon as I finish one, I’m looking for the next. My personal criteria for racing is just that – personal – based on nothing more than my own preferences, goals or ambitions. Having said that, I will give an overview of the races I have done, and in a later post, list my “bucket list” races as well as more realistic races that I hope to do sometime in the nearer future.

Races I have done:

Niagara Falls Women’s Half Marathon

-          June 2016, June 2017

I have done this ½ marathon twice, in fact, it was the ½ marathon that got me started and motivated in long distance running. Having said that, both times I have run it, the weather has been not great. Windy, rainy, chilly. Unfortunately, the race organizers cannot control the weather and its really too bad, because the race is well organized and has a fantastic vibe. There are PLENTY of lovely port-a-toilets ( did I just use the word lovely with port-a-toilet???) crazy I know, but these toilets have lavender scented spray, toilet paper, flowers inside, feminine hygiene products and there’s LOTS of them. This means short lines to take that last minuet nervous bladder break and still get to the starting corral which is literally meters away! They also had hand washing stations with lavender hand soap and hand sanitizer. The swag bag included cosmetics, a beautiful race shirt, and a bottle VQA wine!!! HORRAY!! The race course is BEAUTIUL – twice past the falls and flat and fast. It’s a great course if you want to PR and the volunteers are absolutely amazing! It’s a small race – about 2500 runners and all women, so it’s a great race for just starting out – no intimidation, no pressure , just fun! Every year Katherine Switzter has been there to sign autographs and sound the starting horn. The race is all about women feeling Empowered and I’d highly recommend doing it at least once.

Toronto Scotia Bank Waterfront Marathon and ½ Marathon

        -October 2016

-This is a big city race. Much more intense, through down-town Toronto and along the waterfront area. It is part of the Canadian Championship race series and attracks the elite racers (Kenyans and Ethiopians) as well as the Canadian Olympians and Champions. It is exciting to see these top athletes, even if its only on the podium. The swag is pretty basic, race shirt, a few samples. The expo before the race is great though – a huge array of vendors with tonnes of running gear and shoes, great place to pick up unique items or try the latest shoes and get expert advice. When I ran this race there were about 16,000 racers, so it’s a unique experience running in a huge crowd, pacing yourself and running your own race. However, the vibe is energetic and motivating as you get caught up in the huge crowd running all around you and you realize you are part of a global group of people who love this sport like you do! I would recommend running at least one big city race if just for the experience. I personally enjoy the smaller, more “boutique” races, but there is something to be said for running with thousands of others down major free-ways closed off just for the race!

Run Disney Star Wars DisneyWorld ½ Marathon

- April 2017

-This was a bucket list race for me. I LOVE DisneyWorld and desperately wanted to run in one their events. The race course literally has you running through the Disney parks and resorts. Its such an amazing vantage point – no crowds, just runners in front and behind you, so the view of the parks is unique and special. These races start EARLY – by early I mean I was on the bus to the race start at 3:30am and in the starting corral at 4:30 am for a race start of 5:30am. These are BIG races – there were 18000 racers in the event I ran in. This is definitely a race where you want to register with a qualifying time – that way you are in a corral with other racers your speed and you avoid tripping over or dodging participants who may be running slower or walking the race. Running through Disney World was amazing – the sun was rising as I entered Animal Kingdom and I saw the monkeys swinging overhead. Running through Epcot around the empty world showcase was breath taking and coming up to the finish line under the Epcot dome was Epic! These races are definitely more expensive than average races and when added to the cost of accommodation and flight, these may not necessarily be a yearly choice, but they are worth considering if you like Disney.  The swag is pretty basic ( race shirt). The medals however, are HUGE and very themed as is the race course with characters and photo ops all along the course.  The race expo is fantastic and I was able to pick up some really cool running gear from vendors at the expo.  Overall, I would say Disney races are absolutely worth experiencing and I’m hoping I can do another one at some point

Rocky Mountain Soap Company Women’s ½ Marathon (Burnaby, B.C)

        -August 2017

-This was a very quaint, boutique race with fantastic swag ( a bag full of Rocky Mountain Soap Company products), race shirt and coupons for the store. The race course was hard packed dirt so it was more like a trail race than a road race, but the location was lovely and I could see the coastal mountains at various points of the race. This was the first year they have offered a ½ marathon distance and it was a small category (most of the other racers were 10km). I placed 3rd in my age category and was able to PR at this race breaking the 2 hour - ½ marathon barrier at 1:55:17. The race course definitely lent itself to a PR and it was a relaxing event as it was located within a regional park so we could use the indoor toilets before the race! This sure beats port-a-toilets in the summer heat let me just say!!! They also had a girls event held before the main race started and my daughter had a great time running her first race there too! She received a race bib, shirt and swag bag and was all smiles at the end of her 500m race!  I would recommend this race if you happen to be out that way when they hold the event. I cant say I’d fly out just for this event, but I did enjoy it!

Destination Race Websites:

http://www.race-calendar.com/races/north-america/

       https://marathons.ahotu.com/calendar/marathon/north-america

       http://www.rundisney.com/

       https://marathons.ahotu.com/calendar/canada

       http://canadarunningseries.com/

       https://www.events.runningroom.com/hm/

Beverly Gordon