Running along a tiny seaside road as the sun sets directly in front of me, I nearly forget that I’m running a 5k race. The sting of the sea air and the overwhelming number of runners, volunteers and spectators dressed as pirates snaps me out of the trance cast upon me by the surrounding beauty. I’m running the evening 5k at Maritime Race Weekend, and it’s a wild race.
In just its fourth year, Maritime Race Weekend has grown into one of the must-do events on the East Coast. The weekend begins on Friday evening with the Coastal 5k, followed by a fireworks display that will rival that of most Canada Day celebrations. The main events, including another 5k, 10k, half-marathon and marathon take place Saturday morning. Runners are also given the option of running both the Friday night race and an event on Saturday in order to complete what’s called the Tartan Twosome. Runners are rewarded for their toughness with a special medal.
All races start and finish in the charming Fisherman’s Cove. The touristy enclave of shops and restaurants inhabits a dock that still functions as a launching point for local fishing boats and a ferry that runs to nearby McNabs Island. It’s a great location for starting and finishing a race, both from a runner’s and spectator’s perspective.
The half- and full marathon take runners along country and seaside roads that are closed in one direction. Careening around Cow Bay, runners are treated with the peacefulness of a small-town race and the refreshing scent of ocean air. The course is well marked and, although there are a few rolling hills, each seems to come with the reward of a fantastic view of the coast at its crest.
Back at the start and finish line it doesn’t feel like a small-town event. Both the Friday night and Saturday morning races attract roughly 1,200 runners, along with hundreds of spectators. Cow Bay is deceptively close to Halifax, making it a great morning escape for the city’s vibrant running community.
Maritime Race Weekend director Michelle Kempton has an army of volunteers decked out in elaborate pirate costumes cheering runners along the course and handing out the copious swag at the finish line. Kempton prides herself on coming up with creative new ways to cele- brate her race, last year designing a low-relief treasure chest finisher’s medal that actually opened. Certain lucky finishers won a pair of Brooks shoes. This year, Kempton has upped her game, offering runners the ability to select their own selection of race gear from an assortment of choices, including glow-in-the-dark shirts, a toque and a Buff.
The race also gives back. Kempton has embraced the non-profit model, and last year raised thousands for various causes, including $10,000 for local running clubs. And with one of the prettier and fun 5ks in the country along with a selection of well- organized and engaging events the following morning, it’s no surprise that Maritime Race Weekend is a hit with local runners and destination race seekers.