Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Clinical Race Review of the Downsview Half

I went to to review the Downsview Half Marathon - a more personal review of the race is forthcoming.

I think the most fair way to approach this is to address the race based on how it was promoted, and therefore my impressions compared to those expectations.

From the race’s website: (My comments in brackets) 

 Race Information 

 Certified Half Marathon 21.1k route (13.1 miles) and 5k (My Garmin – and others – measured the course over the 21.1k. I was told on facebook by the race organizer that the course was accurate, and that sometimes GPS devices can be inaccurate. So I guess there were a number of inaccurate GPS devices out there. I hugged the pylons and didn’t do any bobbing and weaving between people, so I can’t place where else the distance comes from.) 

Flat & fast course (NOT flat. Not super hilly like the Oasis Zoo Run, but the park section, which we ran twice, had plenty of hill action… including the final stretch to the finish line. Ouch.)

Start & finish inside Downsview Park (Yes, yes it did!)

Run throughout the Park past the new lake, the ‘mounds’, hangars, soccer fields and more (We sure saw all those things – twice!)

Run past vintage planes and modern Bombardier jets (Not really. I don’t fault the race organizers for the fact that there was only one airplane on the course, despite the course map delineating 6 spots where planes and jets would be located. Clearly, this one is on Bombardier, but it was still kind of a bummer. The planes were a big draw for me.)

Free parking (Yes! And it was CLOSE!! Wonderful)

Technical race hat, goodie bag, finisher medal (Nice hat, lots of great treats in the goodie bag – side note, are Werther’s Caramelts the new big thing for races? I sure got a lot this season! – and finally, the MEDAL. The medal is GREAT. It is a big part of what drew us to add this race this year as we train for another half in January.)

Remembrance Day ceremony with military personnel, bagpiper & more (Very nice, and very respectful. It was a nice touch.)

Aside from all that:
There were great, supportive volunteers along the course (I was only almost mis-directed one time).
There were a handful of military personnel hanging around the parked military vehicles (including a wee tank) and I got a big kick out of them saying “Good job, ma’am”.
The course didn’t seem too crowded, despite the narrow pathways (although that could be because we were well in the back of the pack!), so the number of runners felt right.
Having a place indoors to wait for the race, stretch and cool down afterwards was a huge plus.

Things I’d like to see improved?
Get Bombardier to pony up the airplanes
A turnaround chip reader
Reword the race description (some rolling hills through parkland, baby)
The road to the military base was muddy (slippery) and full of holes – obviously the organizers can’t go out there and fill the holes themselves, but I hope that the road is in better shape next time
Clear signs (not just volunteers trying to deal with hundreds of runners) showing “1/2 marathon, this way” “5K, second loop, this way” – and maybe clearly colour-code the km signs – they got confusing in the 5k loop.

Overall, I had a good time. The weather happened to be perfect, and so it added to my enjoyment of the race so I was more forgiving than I would have been had it been gross outside. While I had a good time, and enjoyed a PR I’m not sure I’d hurry back next year without some changes.

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