Race Review – Johnny Miles Half Marathon

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If you talk to a lot of runners around the maritimes you will inevitably hear a lot of great words about the Johnny Miles race that is held in New Glasgow near the end of June. It’s often referred to as the small town race with the big race atmosphere. I had been intrigued for a few years but having run the Miramichi Rock and Run the last two years, on the same weekend, I just couldn’t fit it into my schedule.

However, after last years Legs of Literacy, Paul Merrigan and I, standing in the lobby of the Delta hotel, decided to run Johnny Miles this year and to see what the hype was about. I was told that the race has apparently won the best race in the Run NS series plus it’s 40th anniversary so it seemed like our timing was dead on!

My girlfriend Nicola and I left around noon on Saturday for the 31/2-4 hour drive to New Glasgow, which was entirely on twinned highways under sunny skies. We even managed to synchronize our times with Rod and Joanna Paul and had lunch in Moncton before we all made our way to New Glasgow. We arrived just after 4pm, dropped our goods off at the Comfort Inn and headed into town to collect our kits, check out the start/finish, the downtown core and attend a meet-up of other runners at a local pub.

The kit pick-up was at a multi-use venue right long the river which made for a pretty spot. We saw tents outside of the building and naturally walked into there first. Inside were a few tables and the t-shirt station, first we needed to go inside and pick up our bibs. If there is one thing that bothers me the most at races it is poor signage, a simple sign to indicate kit pick-up inside first then shirts outside would have been appreciated, or having everything put together ahead of time would have been preferred, whatever happened to that set-up? Regardless, kit pick-up was painless and we even stopped to get our photo taken for the Canadian Running magazine promo, however we bypassed the carb loading because we had a few runners that couldn’t eat regular pasta. We made the short stroll to the start/finish then to the local liquor outlet to pick up some NS beer then we headed to the pub.

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The meet-up was at the The Dock, a pub in downtown New Glasgow and was the initiative of the Maritime Race Weekend People, having never run this race i didn’t have any gear to wear to be included in a draw or to get a free beer. I refused the use of a shirt but was happy to find that Murphy’s Irish Stout was on tap…don’t stone me but I prefer it to Guinness. We ate our last pasta meal there, had a pint and chatted with a bunch of people then ultimately left just before 8 for rest and sleep.

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The day broke partly-cloudy on Sunday morning but rain was forecast for later in the day and I’m sure more than a few people were happy when the rain held off for the entire event. We had breakfast at the hotel, chatted with a few other runners and it was then that I made a prediction for Paul Merrigan’s time; it was a secret only know to Nicola, until after the race. We easily found a parking spot and made our way to the start, we were pretty early so I availed myself to the short line at the port-o-potties, always a good idea, then waited for our race to start. We watched the 5k runners leave then we got into the chute but it was apparent that the 10k and half marathon people had already been lining up behind the 5k runners because the chute was pretty full, that mean that we started closer to the back. Another thing that I noticed was that there weren’t any pace bunnies, JM is now big enough that I believe that it could benefit from this organizational addition. regardless we were off in less than 5 minutes…race on!

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We started out uphill, then crossed the river and were onto the roads. At this point it was a race like pretty much every other, undulating hills, commercial places and few supporters. We passed by our hotel and continued to run towards Stellarton, climbing ever-so-slightly as we went. At Bridge street we turned left and had a sharp downhill back into the river valley, this is where we joined the trail system…and a train….always a train!

The trail system was nice and wide and reminded me a lot of Fredericton, I made good time however I still had to pass a few people on the gras who were occupying the whole trail at points….people…keep right if you are not passing!!!! I climbed the only real hill, shortly thereafter came to the main bridge and went under the bridge on a steel grate type structure. On the other side of the bridge was a park and the only true section where there was a lot of fan support. We continued on along the trail until we joined back with a road, then headed out to the turn-around point. I headed back along this road until we met up with the bridge road then completed the loop once again. I met up with Joanna Paul somewhere between 6-8km I think and we ran together until about 11km then I went on ahead. The second loop was much emptier as there weren’t any 10km runners and the half marathoners had thinned out. i hummed along, keeping a steady pace, climbing the hill and passing the bridge. However just after exiting the trail to the street I became very tired and needed to walk…curses! I walked for maybe 1-2 minutes then resumed my running, this time at a slower pace. I noticed something disturbing though on my return loop on the streets, instead of the runners following the path, some had exited early onto the street after the bridge. I wasn’t overly happy to see this as not only is the traction better and you use less energy, the street section has less undulation. Keeping on I came to the turn sign finally, crossed the bridge, picked up my pace and hoofed it into the finish line unaccompanied, meaning I got to hear my name called all on it’s own; finished in a time of 1:57:52, a new PB! I was a bit miffed as I had a 1:55 finish time going until about 15km but in the end, any time that you can knock 2 minutes off of a PB you say thank you! I met up with Paul and said hi to Kimberly MacKenzie then waited for Joanna, Nicola and Rod to finish. Each came in with various looks of joy/pain on their faces but each was upright and had another half marathon to their credit!

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We headed back to the multi-use centre where we picked up pre-packed lunches, even a vegetarian option for Nicola, relaxed a bit then headed to the motel for our drive home.

A successful run for me which also stressed my need to increase my fitness up to and especially past 15 km but a new PB is always welcome and again I can out uninjured. Congratulations to Paul Merrigan on a new PB of 1:42:28, which as you may recall I had made a little prediction on before the race…my guess…..1:42:38….yes, be scared. Proud of Joanna, Rod and especially Nicola who didn’t have the best day or running but finished like a champ with the help of Rod.

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So with the hype that I had heard ahead of time I’ll be honest, the race didn’t live up to it. I was underwhelmed at most instances, I enjoyed the finishing chute but thought that it would have been better. The runners on the road disturbed me greatly and I have sent a note to the organizers but have not yet received a response. Would I recommend JM? Yes, with reservations. It was a well run event but I had higher hopes of more community involvement I think, there was one park where there were a lot of spectators, some creative writing on the road in one spot and the finish was good but lots of sections were quiet and I guessed I expected more.

Next up: Covered Bridge 10 km in Hartland, NB on July 12th.

Thanks for reading!

One foot in front of the other

Chris

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