First-time champions take 16th annual Blue Nose Marathon
Nearly 11,000 people laced up their sneakers in Halifax this weekend for the 16th annual Blue Nose Marathon, as Atlantic Canada’s largest race continues to attract participants and supporters from across the country.
The date of this year’s marathon was pushed back three weeks from its traditional Victoria Day weekend date, because of the Memorial Cup being hosted at the Scotiabank Centre.
The weather certainly co-operated with the later start, as past events have seen challenges from the elements, but this year the weather was on the runners’ side, with temperatures in the high teens and nary a cloud in the sky.
“The weather really came out for us” said Blue Nose Marathon Executive Director Sherri Robbins. “It might be a little hot for our participants right now, but we have lots of water out on the course sponge stations, so we’re well prepared for today’s weather.”
Thousands came out on a beautiful Sunday for the final of four days of events, which included the showcase event, the Scotiabank Bluenose full marathon, measuring 42.2 km through the streets of Halifax.
Nine of the previous fifteen Blue Nose Full Marathons had been won by two men- defending champion David MacLennan, a five-time winner, and four-time champion Greg Wieczorek. But neither MacLennan, nor Wieczorek participated in this year’s event, meaning there would likely be someone new crossing the finish line first
Just over two and a half hours after the race began, that winner was crowned. 24-year-old Cal DeWolfe, originally from Bridgewater, N.S. won the race with an official time of 2:34:41.
Amazingly it was DeWolfe’s first ever marathon, but he is no stranger to distance running- he ran cross country at both St. Francis Xavier and Dalhousie University, and was named the 2016 Atlantic University Sport Men’s Cross Country Athlete of the Year.
“I didn’t have a whole lot of expectations going in,” said DeWolfe. “I wanted to qualify for Boston, but I was thinking maybe I could run 2:45, or 2:40, and I knew it was going to be a hot day, and obviously Halifax is a hilly city, so I was super surprised and happy with it.”
DeWolfe’s official time of 2:34:42 was the best time posted at the Blue Nose in five years, and appears be the third best time in Blue Nose history, trailing only Kenyan Philip Kiplagat Biwott’s record of 2:27:10 set in 2014, and 4x winner Greg Wieczorek’s 2011 time of 2:28:52.
Despite being somewhat of an unknown around Halifax running circles, DeWolfe said he felt the love from both the crowd and other runners throughout the whole race.
“It was nice to have everyone alongside, all the volunteers giving water out and cheering, and having your name on the bib is a big boost, hearing people cheer your name, you feel like a celebrity even though nobody knows you,” laughed DeWolfe, who is now studying law at Dalhousie.
The women’s full marathon also saw a first time winner, as 23-year-old Clara Lownie crossed the finish line with a time of 3:24:24, setting a personal best.
“I’ve never won a marathon so this was very special for me,” said Lownie. “I love this course and it’s a beautiful day, so I really couldn’t have asked for anything better.”
Lownie previously ran the Blue Nose in 2015, and has since run in the Boston and Toronto marathons, but says getting her first win in Halifax was special.
“I love the city. I used to live her for my undergraduate degree at Dalhousie, and have since moved back home to London, Ontario, but I really miss it here, so it was special to come back to Halifax to do the race and see my friends, I used to be part of the Halifax Roadhammers and they were all along the course cheering so that was really special as well,” said Lownie after finishing.
The marathon route meant many downtown streets were shut down to traffic, but supporters still managed to come out in droves, lining the streets to cheer on the participants. On Sunday, that included a group of horn players, who belted out the marathon classic ‘Chariots of Fire’ as they cheered on the passing runners.
“When you see runners of a certain age, and they don’t have their earbuds in, and they’ve seen ‘Chariots of Fire’ and start doing that slow-mo run, it’s best, it’s just so fun,” said horn player Mary Lee.
With seven different races over the four day event, the Blue Nose Marathon offers something for everyone, whether you’re running, walking or even wheeling.
“My fiancé and I did the 10k last year,” said Brian George, who participated in this year’s half marathon in his wheelchair. “I did a half marathon in Victoria, B.C. about eight years ago. I was much younger, so we’ll see how that goes.”
Since 2004, the event has seen more than 150,000 runners cross the finish line. Many participate in the marathon year after year, while others enter on more of a whim.
“I signed up on Thursday,” said participant Emily Clarke, who was the first woman to finish the 15k with a time of 1:03:46.
While the later start date seemed to be a success, race organizers say they aren’t sure if they will be changing it permanently or moving back to Victoria Day for future years.
“There are a number of factors that come into play,” said Sherri Robbins. “Victoria Day is very near and dear to us, but we do want to collect some feedback and that’s a decision that our board of directors will make once we have the time to collect that and see how everything went so we’ll probably be making that decision later in July.”
One thing all Blue Nose participants have in common is they are running for a cause. This year's event raised an estimated $500,000 for 61 different charities.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Heidi Petracek and Allan April.