At this point in the running calendar I am inclined to reflect on what has transpired over the challenging winter months.
Not much to say other than it snowed a lot! My preference is to speak of the events ahead that so many winter runners have had their sights on since Christmas.
However, let me digress briefly.
Rumour has it that spring has arrived and with the predictable yet delayed change of seasons come the seasonal walkers to join the foolhardy year-round runners and walkers. Even more for the drivers to become accustomed! It is my continuing wish that we all get along!
Beware: it is pothole season and yours truly found one last week near the old airport half way to wherever we were going. Had it not been so darn cold and windy, I would have minded. Seriously, be careful. There is no worse way to miss your prized event then to turn an ankle. The upside to a long run...my geese are back and give you reason to embrace the warmer days.
Special mention is deserved for two local businesses that have paired up with local runners and walkers in support of good health and charity. Our running pod offered Max Health an opportunity to support our work for the local chapter of the Mental Health Association. Every Saturday morning, a large group gathers at the YMCA to socialize over 8 km or so. We donate a Loonie each and Max Health matches our contribution. Thanks Graham, Heidi and the rest of the team. No sooner had the idea taken shape than Gary Williams and partner George from Fabulous Flooring (Gary himself is a Boston running partner) stepped in and matched the weekly contribution. Thank you so much!
The most diverse running group in full swing these days is the half marathon crowd out of The Running Room. Word has it there are upwards of 70 partygoers. As is often the case, personal circumstances and choice dictates where they will run. It appears they are divided between Fredericton, Halifax and Ottawa. Each event also offers the traditional buffet of distance events. Expect local speedsters to appear down home and professionals to surface in the nation's capital.
In terms of Fredericton, the Capital City Road Runners have been putting on their increasingly popular event with support from Scotiabank for quite a few years and no one will leave disappointed. Personally, I have never taken up the challenge but being my home town there exists a certain lure.
Run almost exclusively on trails, I challenge you to find a more beautiful route. It also serves as the site for the provincial marathon championship. Be it the old rail bed up through town towards what was known as Silverwood, or across to the north side (the best side) and along the Nashwaak River towards Marysville, you will not be disappointed. My former political friend Andy Scott was known to have said when they commissioned the old train bridge as a pedestrian crossing that it was the first time he saw southsiders clapping when people were approaching from the north side. Local joke.
Halifax with its Bluenose offering presents an entirely different weekend. The weather is hugely unpredictable but the landscape isn't. Expect hills and unforgiving ones at that. In excess of 10,000 hearty souls will tackle the multitude of distance events.
Properly trained one need not panic, just worry. In all due seriousness, it is a tough course but very popular. The best in the Maritimes will surface for that special day. The route will showcase the waterfront, a little parkland (hilly) and both sides of the harbour. Some say the toughest stretch involves crossing the bridge if the weather turns nasty. If you're scared of heights, you may not finish. And a word of caution for the directionally challenged: this race turns left and right a million times. My only complaint is that in winds through too many side streets.
Ottawa has a special place in my heart. I did graduate work at Ottawa U in the early '80s and ran my first marathon there in 2003, having completed the first Running Room marathon clinic. This year, my oldest daughter Mariah, herself an Ottawa U student, will be running the half and I have committed to the full, wisely or not, five weeks post-Boston. Her friend, Queens's student and Riverview native Erin Wallace will also join the ranks.
Organizers have devised a new route that takes each distance event in a westerly direction before turning north towards the river. The scenic parkway draws you back towards the Hill but not before diverting to Gatineau or what we knew as Hull. In short order you cross back into Ottawa, not before passing the breathtaking Museum of Civilization and the National Art Gallery. A little loop up the canal and home you soon will be.
The marathon crowd divert to beautiful Rockcliffe, past the (ne) Prime Minister's residence before heading up the canal like their half-marathon pals. Expect huge crowds, civil people, a run through history and all that Bytown has to offer as you end near the war memorial on Elgin! In excess of 20,000 people will embrace the range of events.
Two weeks from today, Boston will be the focal point of the international running community. Yours truly and a gaggle of pals of all ages from Metro Moncton (23 last count) will converge in Beantown. We will join you through the CBC radio morning show from the Boston Common on your drive to work as we prepare to caravan with 25,000 of our world friends to the starting corrals.
Good luck to all but no more than to Nick Lambert and Carol Chan on the birth of Madeleine! Another man with buggy!
* Pat O'Brien serves as president of Parole Consultations, a criminal justice consulting firm and can be reached at email@example.com.