Last weekend, my wife and I and two of our friends ran the Prince Edward County marathon relay. The idea is that teams of up to five people take turns running part of the course, with the team’s total distance being the marathon distance (42.2 km). Our team name was “42.2K With A Little Help From My Friends”, which my wife came up with – we all liked this name very much.
The relay was divided into five legs of unequal distances. Our best runner did the third and fourth legs; I did the last leg, which was 7.1 km and ended in the town of Picton. I was given the last leg because (a) I was the only member of the team who had never run a full marathon, so we thought it would be cool for me to cross a marathon finish line, and (b) I was the slowest runner, so I wouldn’t be zipping past too many tired marathoners on my way to the finish.
On the day before the run, my wife and I drove the course. It made me realize how enormous an achievement running a marathon really is – it took us a fair bit of time to drive the course, so you can imagine how long it would take to run it. When driving the course, we discovered that my leg was the hilliest – however, the hills were gentle ones, so I figured that I could handle them.
On the day of the race, an elaborate system of buses was set up (which worked reasonably well). The people running a full marathon, and relay runners who were doing the first leg, had to present themselves at the Picton Fairgrounds before 6:45 am. People like me who were running the last leg didn’t have to get there before 9:30 am. My wife was running the first leg, so she had an early breakfast and headed out; this gave me time to rest, have a leisurely breakfast, and worry about what could go wrong (which I tend to do).
The bus arrived on schedule, and dropped us off at our designated relay exchange zone. Here’s a picture of relay zone 5:
What those of us in Relay Leg #5 soon discovered was that there was no portable toilet anywhere near us. Toilets were positioned at water stations, which were located every 2 km throughout the course; however, we were at the 35.1 km mark. A few people obediently trotted down to the 34 km toilet to prepare for the race (we couldn’t see the 36 km toilet from where we were, so we weren’t sure if it existed), but most people just snuck off into a nearby shaded area. (Because the area was populated, I joked to someone else at the relay point that I had asked my teammates to post bail for me if I was arrested for exposure.) It was tougher for the women, of course; those that didn’t just choose to wait wound up going to a nearby barn to do their business.
This was all just a minor inconvenience for me (since I’m a man), but I was a little envious of the people at relay point #3, who were positioned at the start of the half-marathon race. They had coffee and muffins there as well as toilets! But no matter: I’ve had to do this sort of thing before. I was in place well before our third runner arrived; I had a rough idea of when she was going to be there, as each leg finisher sent a text message indicating when the next one had started, and we knew about how long each leg was going to take.
The buses that transported runners to their start locations also travelled the course throughout the race; this allowed runners to go from point to point to cheer their teammates on. Shortly before my handoff, our other two teammates arrived to give me moral support, which I appreciated.
Each relay team was given a transponder on a belt; this was used to measure the team’s total race time. At a relay point, the belt was passed from one runner to the next. So, at about 11:28 am, I got my handoff, and started my leg of the race.
The first part of the race was really nice (all of it was good, but the first part was especially good). They closed the course to cars for the duration of the race, so I got to run in the middle of the road. The scenery looked like this, courtesy of Google Street View:
There’s a hill off in the distance, but you can’t quite see it from here. The hilly bits turned out not to be a problem; I didn’t have to work harder, but I did notice that I was slightly slower on them.
As usual, my watch provided lots of stats. Here’s the map of my run. (It shows 7 km rather than 7.1, as I had a little trouble starting my watch.)
And here’s the elevation map:
As you can see, there were some ups and downs, but they weren’t too severe.
Last but not least, here was my race pace:
I started a bit slow, partially because I had been standing around for over an hour and a half. But I got a little faster as I got going, and I finished at a decent pace. A bus passed me on the way; it had my teammates on it, but they were on the side away from me. So my teammates got a bunch of random strangers on the bus to help them cheer “Go, Dave!” as it went by me. I thought this was funny.
As it happens, all of our team members went faster than expected. Which made the finish a bit of an epic adventure for our team – the plan was for the rest of the team to meet me near the finish line so that we could cross it together (this was encouraged, provided you didn’t get in the way of other runners). But, as I approached the finish line, I didn’t see them. What happened was that the bus that transported our team to the finish line had to go down side streets in Picton to get there (since the main street was closed except for runners). The bus got there later than expected, and my teammates had to sprint across the Picton fairgrounds to the finish line; they got there when I had less than 200 metres to go. A movie script could not have written it any better.
Here’s our team’s race stats, if you’re curious. We finished 14th out of 28 relay teams, which is pretty good. Our third runner is quite fast, which helped! By the time I got the handoff, there were no other relay runners near me; the team ahead of us was nearly three minutes ahead (or nearly half a kilometre), and the team behind us was nearly two minutes behind.
So I didn’t pass any relay runners or get passed by any – I passed a few tiring distance runners, and got passed by a few who were clearly faster and fitter than I was (which was to be expected).
So I now have another race medal for my collection (I’ve picked up five this year!), along with a long-sleeved race T-shirt that says “County Marathon” on it. I will feel a little weird wearing it on training runs, as I only ran about one-sixth of a marathon. But what the hey – I earned it. We had fun, and we are thinking of doing more relays as a team.