Fall colours and a near-PB: the PEI half-marathon

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Approaching the finish. (Photo: Kevin Barrett)

The brightest reds, yellows and oranges lit up the trails ahead of me today as I came within 10 seconds of a personal best half-marathon on Prince Edward Island.

This race was sweet. It was flat, cold and clear after the rain clouds parted mere minutes after the gun sounded. But the colours, oh, they were the highlight.

I’m not sure where it came from, but I managed an average pace of 5:43/km for this run, finishing in 2:00:03. This falls just nine seconds short of my best half-marathon time from two years ago in Moncton. Maybe I shouldn’t have high-fived the mascot in the final 300 metres…

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But really, anything under 2:05 seemed like a stretch for me, based on my training runs and my August half-marathon time of 2:10 on the much hillier Saint John course. So I was flying high by this point!

The weekend started on Friday night. My husband, 15-month-old son and I drove from Saint John to Charlottetown right after work, arriving around 8 p.m. It gave us all of Saturday to enjoy Charlottetown, go for a drive to allow Silas a nap, and enjoy some great food.

Silas loves PEI
Silas loves PEI
We checked out part of the route along Victoria Park.
We checked out part of the route along Victoria Park.

We had lunch and pumpkin ale at the Gahan House. I ate lobster sandwich and had a salad. I ate a cookie with a coffee during a drive to view the colours around Brudenell and Montegue. After a quick dip with Silas in the hotel pool (and as I chugged water, realizing I had not drank enough all day), we ventured out for the pasta dinner. But to our disappointment, there was a long line-up by 6 p.m. Not great with a one-year-old. So we tried Piatto Pizzeria and it was awesome. I enjoyed a barbecue chicken pizza and Mark had a calzone.

We fell asleep super early. After putting Silas to bed in his pack ‘n’ play around 8 p.m., we stayed very quiet in the dark waiting for him to fall asleep. But we fell asleep too! So it was pretty easy to wake up when the alarm sounded at 6:30 a.m., giving us plenty of time to eat (I had toast and a banana with a coffee) and get to the start line.

Pre-race pic with my boy
Pre-race pic with my boy

Since it was rainy and cold, Mark and Silas dropped me off so they could do their own thing while I waited for the race to start.

I was dreading being wet and cold for 21.1 kilometres. But luckily, just as the gun sounded, the skies seemed to clear. It made for a beautiful run. It was crisp and the bright sun shone on the fall leaves. It felt like I was running through a picture at some points.

The race started out meandering through Charlottetown neighbourhoods along the harbour and North River before crossing inland toward the Confederation Trail. I kept up a brisk pace through the first half, finishing 10K in less than an hour. I didn’t think I could keep it up and wondered about my strategy for the remainder. Should I keep running as fast as possible or pull back to conserve energy? I decided to plow ahead, and worry about the consequences later. Worst case scenario is I do a lot of walking, I thought.

Around 11 km, the two-hour pace bunny came up behind me. I tried to run ahead, but the bunny kept up with me. So I made my new strategy to join the two-hour pace group. At first, I loved it. I fell into their brisk pace, followed by 1-minute walking breaks every 10 minutes. But then I felt winded, and realized I couldn’t keep it up. I decided to give up on the idea of getting a sub-two-hour time.

I fell into a new rhythm around 16 km and headed downhill toward University Avenue, the long final stretch. Then, I had to dig deep. I was sore, my legs felt wobbly and I wanted to walk. But my pace was still good (well under my goal of 6 min/km), so I pressed on. I did walk on a couple of hills, but I was getting closer to the two-hour pace bunny again.

As I reached the final two kilometres, I saw the bunny stop and start to cheer people on. He even turned back to help some runners behind me. I looked at my watch and realized a two-hour run was within reach. I never thought it would be possible, but I was on pace.

The final kilometre felt long and I struggled to keep up a good pace. Taking out my earbuds, I could hear the cheers by the finish line, at Province House. I high-fived the mascot and waved at my friends, Kevin and Kathy (thanks for the pics!) I pushed to the finish and started to cry a little. I did it!

At that point I thought it was possible I had a new personal best. But according to Atlantic Chip, my final time was 2:00:03. I thought it might be a little faster because of my chip time, but from what I understand, only gun time was measured.

Now back home, I can’t help but feel how lucky I am to have had the opportunity to run in all three Maritime provinces this year, with my husband and son there to cheer me on. I never had faith that I could get back into running so seamlessly after becoming a mother.

I saw a sign near the finish line that said, “Warning, Sense of Accomplishment Ahead.”

I get that. I’m kind of addicted to it.

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Published by

April C

Writer, editor and mom in Saint John, NB.

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