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8 reasons to put SSQ Quebec City Marathon on your race calendar

Canadian Running was at the SSQ Quebec City Marathon this weekend to check out the new course, and found it 'absolument formidable'

Photo: Mathieu Bélanger

The SSQ Quebec City Marathon, a healthy invitation from Brunet and associated half-marathon, 10K, 5K and 2K went off without a hitch Saturday and Sunday, and Canadian Running was there to check out the new course and the new time of year. We found some great reasons to put this race on your fall calendar for 2019. The dates are October 11-13. Exclusive pre-registration is available at a reduced price until October 21, 2018. Click here.

RELATED: Mohamed Aagab wins SSQ Quebec City Marathon

Photo: Philippe Roger

The race now takes place in October (previously it was in August), and is a looped course that incorporates the most charming parts of the historic old town, both upper and lower. It also crosses the river briefly to the north, following a paved path through parkland and the funky Limoilou neighbourhood in the first half of the marathon, working its way back into the old town, alongside the Plains of Abraham and into the Sillery district before returning along the Grande Allée to the finish line. 

Local runner Anthony Larouche finished in 2nd place in the marathon. Photo: Mathieu Bélanger

One of the most scenic courses in North America: With the historic Fairmont Chateau Frontenac, beautifully restored buildings, and Plains of Abraham, Quebec City is filled with rich history, and runners get to enjoy all of it. You will be entertained by local bands at various points, as well as students from the Quebec Circus Arts School as you pass by it on 2nd Avenue in Limoilou.

Photo: Mathieu Beélanger

Runners can even listen to a guided tour of the course throughout the race and listen to personalized, pre-recorded messages from their supporters by downloading the Motigo app.

Variety of terrain: The Boston-qualifier course follows a winding route that includes not just scenic views of the old town, but also parkland, a short stretch of highway, a tunnel, and some long, straight sections through funky neighbourhoods like Sillery, Montcalm and Limoilou. There are many turns, a few hills and one long climb at the 24K mark, just to keep you on your toes.

It’s also exciting to see the frontrunners in the half-marathon overtake the marathoners, and to see the frontrunners in the marathon after they pass the turnaround point on boulevard Champlain at 21K.

Cool temperatures, fall colours: The October date offered a nice change from the heat of August, and the fall colours were at their peak. It was a cool but not uncomfortable 2 C at the start, warming up to about 7 C and sunny by the finish. 

Photo: Mathieu Bélanger

Variety of distances: The race offers a 2K kids’ race and 5K on Saturday, and a full marathon, half-marathon, and 10K on Sunday. Something for everyone in your group.

Friendly, well trained volunteers: The race felt well organized, with 3,000 total volunteers involved in helping make it a great experience for all participants. Quebec is a tourist destination, and though the crowds have mostly left by this time of year, the welcoming atmosphere and joie de vivre are uplifting. Plus, most people speak at least some English. Stay and celebrate at the post-race party at Place George-V.

Photo: Mathieu Bélanger

There were frequent refuelling stations offering water and Gatorade (and occasionally nutrition). The marathon has pace bunnies for 3:15, 3:30, 3:45, 4:00, 4:15 and 4:30 continuous, and 3:45, 4:00, 4:15 and 4:30 run/walk (10 and 1’s). The half-marathon has bunnies for 1:30, 1:45, 2:00, 2:15 and 2:30 continuous, and 1:45, 2:00, 2:15, and 2:30 run/walk (10 and 1’s).

Photo: Mathieu Bélanger

There are also 90 medical personnel available or on call to assist runners experiencing any kind of medical issue.

Small size: The scale of this race feels very manageable, and it’s easy to get around. The start line and finish line for Sunday’s races are within a short walk of each other in the centre of town, and the expo is held at the convention centre, also close by on Réné Lévesque boulevard. The post-race party area at Place George-V offers a festive atmosphere, music, and generous snacks for runners. And with only around 8,000 runners in all five events (though of course it’s hoped that number will grow), you never feel hemmed in by crowds.

Your supporters can cheer you at a variety of locations. 

Strong organization: Everything started on time and felt well organized. There were a lot of changes this year, and if there were any glitches, they were not obvious to runners. The race has very strong sponsor support.

Excellent amenities: The city is dotted with small hotels, restaurants, and attractions. It is all highly walkable, if you don’t mind a few hills and stairs. People are friendly and welcoming, and most speak English.

Photo: Mathieu Bélanger

All in all, this race weekend has a lot to recommend it. Next year it’s on the same day as the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, so if you prefer the smaller-city race experience where you can get around without a lot of stress (and still go for a Boston qual), SSQ Quebec City Marathon is definitely for you.