Obsessive Runner NFWHM – The best half marathon I didn’t run

NFWHM – The best half marathon I didn’t run


I’m hesitating to write this race review. I’m pausing because it was a gem of race and although it deserves to grow, I don’t want it to get too big and lose its compelling charm. The kicker, however, is that I didn’t run this race – my wife did. This was the second annual Niagara Falls Women’s Half Marathon and I never had so much fun at a race I didn’t run.

It Starts With the Portapotty

The packet pickup was held at what would be the start and finish area of the race. This gave us a good preview in terms of arrival logistics and parking. As we entered the area, the first thing we noticed were the portapotties – lots of them. Women-friendly-don’t-have-to-wait-as-long-in-line amounts of portapotties.

Being the curious male that I am, I snuck into one of them (I had to go, ok?) and marveled at the nice soaps and scented sprays provided within. There were also some potted plants where the, ahem, men would normally go along with a cute sign advising occupants not to “water the plants.” By the way, my apologies to the next occupant for leaving the toilet seat up (habit).

"Please don't water the flowers"
Who knew a portapotty could be so fun?

A Pink Packet Worth Picking Up

Packet pickup was smooth, efficient and full of goodies. The theme of “empowered” was emblazoned on the pink packet bag as well as on the front of the Brooks technical race shirts. The shirts came in your choice of green or blue (how cool is that?) and the race logo was smartly printed on the back to prevent having too much ink on front which would block ventilation. The kit included a plethora of samples including: shampoo, makeup, mouthwash, a toothbrush and a bottle of wine. I double checked to see if the wine was to be used as a sports drink but it was not advised.

Also at the packet pickup was one of the most inspirational and influential female runners in history, Kathrine Switzer. Kathrine was the first woman to run the Boston Marathon when women weren’t allowed to run in endurance races. She registered using her initials and when she was spotted on the course, the race director famously tried to pull her off the course. Kathrine ultimately prevailed and finished the race and helped to open the doors for female athletes to participate and compete in marathons. Participants were given the opportunity to meet Kathrine and take pictures with her.

A pink race packet with a technical t-shirt, makeup, mouthwash, toothbrush and wine!
The race packet was full of goodies!

The Cheer of the Niagara River

The course was a flat, scenic run along the Niagara River. The runners went down the river, past the falls and the main Clifton Hill tourist area, made a u-turn back to pass the falls again, then continued back along the river up past the start, and made another u-turn to go down the river back to the start which also served as the finish. Although crowd support was sparse, the stunning beauty of the river provided the inspiration for runners to keep going. There was some entertainment along the way such as a harpist and a “muscle beach” area where some men were pumping iron (I don’t know why I wasn’t invited to do this :-)). Kathrine Switzer was also on the course high-fiving and encouraging all the runners.  A really nice aspect of this double out and back course is the fact that you can see your other running friends at least once or twice as you run and can cheer them on.

The Finishing Touches

In keeping with the sly humour of the race, the finish was referred to as the “Finish Wine” and the emcee did an excellent job of creatively encouraging and announcing each runner as she crossed the finish. The medals were a bright and colourful pink and sported a unique design from the previous year. Food boxes were provided to each runner and there were bistro tables setup with tablecloths and flowers which provided the most elegant post-race dining venue I had ever seen.

Whimsical with a Purpose

This race is a whimsy – from “Very Important Pee-ers” (VIP) portapotties, to “voluncheer” t-shirts, to cold, wet towels at the finish, this is a well thought out event that’s more than a race. One of the most significant elements of this race is that funds are raised for the Women’s Place of South Niagara which provides shelter for women and children experiencing abuse. For my wife, she felt great to be a part of contributing to a local and worthwhile cause.

My wife posing for a photo with Kathrine Switzer
My wife with Kathrine Switzer

The Champ

This race was my wife’s first half-marathon – she had done a couple of 10K races before and was a little bit nervous about covering the distance. The thoughtfulness and the organization of this race, however, empowered her to enjoy the run. I was and am so proud of her for finishing strong and am truly glad (and a little jealous) that she had the opportunity to do this distance at such a great event. My wife is already talking about next year and thinking about taking advantage of the early bird registration deal that is on til June 30th.

Channeling my inner woman,


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  1. Andrew, you’re so right, this was an amazing race. I could not believe how much Kathrine Switzer gave to each and every woman she met. She high-fived, she cheered, she posed for endless photos, and she actually looked AT you and spoke right to you, making you feel so included in the day. I loved this race, so well organized, so pretty, and the kits ROCKED. My only issue was the ‘six abreast’ walkers in their matching shirts who not only would not yield, they also wore annoying beeping things to mark cadence that were set on HUGE LOUD. Oh, and getting out of the parking lot was horrible, they should have charged for parking on the way in, not at the exit.

  2. I love your article – it covered the race to a “t”. I ran this race with 6 of my friends and describe it to others as the classiest race I’ve ever run. Can’t wait to do it again next year.

  3. Awesome review! This was my second year running this event and I have already signed up for next year! I too am afraid the event will get so big that it loses its charm … But I shouldn’t be selfish. Haha.
    Last year they did charge for parking as we entered which resulted in a huge number of people still waiting to park at 8am. The directors recognized this and delayed the start for 15 minutes so we could all start at the same time.
    That’s why it was changed this year to paying once you left.
    I’m actually surprised there aren’t more spectators. Thousands of women running in tiny pieces of clothing??!! Haha

  4. Excellent summary!
    Amazing event!!!
    The skary girlz will all return!! We had so much fun and really did feel ’empowered’!

  5. I love your review of this race. I had the awesome opportunity to have run it this year as also my first half marathon and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. I look forward to running along with your wife next year!

  6. I agree, it was a GREAT race, and really well organized! Carolyn, last year, they charged on the way in, and the line was so long that a lot of people missed the start. At least this way, it was staggered depending on when you finished…everyone wasn’t trying to make it for the 8:00 start. MUCH better this way!

  7. ps…I still don’t think there were that many port-o-potties. Not at the start/finish line, and certainly not on the course. We waited 15 or 20 minutes, and the lines were still that long when we left to go to the start line at about 5 minutes to start.

  8. Hey Andrew – why not join your wife and run next year? Some male solidarity is cool – bonus points if you run with your wife and let her set the pace.

  9. From start to finish, you couldn’t help but feel empowered!!!! Definitely spoiled by my first half Marathon. Everything you wrote is absolutely true and I can’t wait to do it all over again next year. Thank you to all of the voluncheers too!!!

  10. I agree with Andrew — it was one of the most fun half marathons I’ve ever done, and very well organized. I was lucky to have used the port-o-potty early before the start because there were HUGE line ups and I suspect a lot of people missed the start. I also think there could have been more medical staff patrolling the route by bike or car. Other than that, I loved it! Loved the cute boxes given out at the finish line filled with fruit & cookies and the medal is one of my favourites. The route was fabulous and I’m signing up for next year for sure!! Congratulations to everyone who finished.

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