On June 16th I had the good fortune to time a weekend getaway with the third annual Barrie Half Marathon. Although race day was full of rain, there were many thoughtful touches incorporated into this race that made it worthwhile. Here’s the recap:
A Shopping-Friendly Packet Pickup
The race was on a Sunday and I opted for the Friday pickup at the local Running Free store in Barrie. Pickup was quick and it was great to see the race director on hand to answer any questions. Runners were entitled to a 20% store discount which I used to pick up a nice purple Garmin for my half-marathoning wife. I always enjoy supporting (read: shopping) a local running store whenever I visit an out-of-town race.
A Wet Start
Leading up to race day I was in weather-forecast denial – the forecast consistently called for rain despite repeated checking. As race day arrived, the forecasters were indeed correct – it was undeniably wet and pouring.
Upon arrival, I was surprised to see that the start line hadn’t been setup yet; given the potential for lightning, there appeared to be a delay to evaluate whether or not it would be safe to run the race. Despite the wetness, I was thirsty and a bit frustrated in not being able to find any water at the start area. After a brief delay, the race director used a police-cruiser as a makeshift announcement system to inform us that we would be proceeding. The start line was setup, the runners crowded forward, and we were off!
A Course That Makes You Think
The half-marathon course is essentially a double out-and-back – from the start line you head southeast then turnaround back to the start and then head northeast and then turnaround back to the start which also serves as the finish. The course is a scenic route around Kempenfelt Bay which I’m sure would be a beautiful sight on a clear day.
The race started off flat, but there were a couple of rolling hills that you had to go over twice between the 4 and 8 km stretch. The 10K and 5K races were also run on the same course with later starts and this caused some congestion as the half-marathoners were heading back as these latter runners were heading out. The back half of the course was on gravel trails which were puddled with rainwater and challenged you to take extra care as to where you ran. The combination of hills, oncoming runners, varied terrain and rain meant that you really had to be mindful of where and how you were running in concert with your target pace.
One minor quibble I had was that there was a slight shortage of race marshals at some points in the course – this was likely due to the rainy weather. I could have easily made some wrong turns when I did not have any immediate runners ahead of me. I did, however, appreciate the cheers of the locals and the finish line announcer did a great job recognizing all the runners as they completed their race.
I was relieved to be done and quite content with my finish time (1:36:26). Pizza was served for the finishers which was a real treat from the usual bagel fare found at many races (I have nothing against bagels provided they’re toasted and buttered please). There was water and Gatorade but there was a shortage of cups. On the plus side, massages were available and I ended up with an exfoliating experience as my legs were covered with dirt (my sincere gratitude to the masseuse)! In any case, it was one of the better post-race areas that I’ve enjoyed.
Oh My Schwag!
The best part of this race, however, was the schwag. The race shirt was a Brooks technical shirt with the distinctive race logo on the front representing the “Spirit Catcher” sculpture found on the Barrie Waterfront. Upon race finish, the finisher’s medal I received was HUGE and is also modeled after the same sculpture. The neckband features a Velcro strap for easy removal as the medal itself has a magnet on its back so that you can display it on your fridge – brilliant. On top of that, the medal can also be used as a bottle opener – genius.
The one final piece of schwag I really appreciated were the race photos as they were made free of charge for us to download and enjoy – awesome! So for a smaller, local race, the Barrie Half Marathon has a lot going for it and I’d encourage you to give this race a try as a late spring run.
Soaked but happy,
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