Saturday, October 15, 2011

Pounding the pavement

Pounding the pavement

A marathon weekend of walking and running events set to go on P.E.I.

Sandra Gregory, right, of Charlottetown and her mother Dorothy are  set to run their third straight marathon together on P.E.I. The race  gets underway in Brackley Beach Sunday at 8 a.m. Photo by Jim Day

Sandra Gregory, right, of Charlottetown and her mother Dorothy are set to run their third straight marathon together on P.E.I. The race gets underway in Brackley Beach Sunday at 8 a.m.

Prince Edward Island is enjoying a growing reputation as a great place to race around.

Event co-ordinator Myrtle Jenkins-Smith says the annual BMO Nesbitt Burns Prince Edward Island Marathon has built strong participation in a host of running and walking categories.

Set for its eighth run this weekend, the annual event began modestly with 173 people participating in either a full or a half marathon. This weekend, more than 2,000 will take part in one or more of nine events.

Close to 300 are registered for the toughest physical and mental test of the weekend: the full marathon that starts in Brackley Beach and ends in downtown Charlottetown.

They are coming from near and far to traverse the scenic 42-kilometre course.

The marathon is attracting runners from every province in Canada, as well as from Yellowknife and the Northwest Territories.

Runners from several parts of the United States will lace up along with participants from Singapore, Japan and Germany.

A 70-year-old Nova Scotia man is believed to be the oldest runner entered in the full marathon.

Sandra Gregory, 19, of Charlottetown is thought to be the youngest.

Sunday will mark the third straight year that the teenager has entered the full marathon, each time with her mother, Dorothy.

Gregory, who likes to train with her mother along the Confederation Trails, says the marathon route offers a bit of everything.

“You get the dunes and the farmlands and then you get in the city,’’ she said.

Gregory adds that spectator support is strong along the run.

Jenkins-Smith says runners can expect to hear encouraging words from the sidelines and possibly eye supportive messages painted on bales of hay.

Marathon participants will also be racing by some entertainment that might just give them a little more bounce in their step as musicians play bagpipes, flutes, guitars and fiddles.

For Shiona Green, the run will hit close to home.

Green, 52, who lives in Winnipeg with her husband David Ramsay, was born in Scotland but grew up in Charlottetown.

She has run the Manitoba Marathon four times but is set to take her first crack at the marathon in P.E.I. She hopes nostalgia will kick in and help get her through the run.

The marathon will take her along the North Shore, where she used to run years ago. She will also pass by the Sherwood Cemetery where her father is buried.

“I will be thinking of him,’’ she said.

And her 80-year-old mother, Jean Green of Charlottetown, will be waiting at the finish line.

“Well it certainly will be special because Prince Edward Island is the best place in the world,’’ said Green, who left the province in 1979. “I’m ready for it.’’

Jenkins-Smith says runners consider the marathon here a flat, fast course.

Last year, the highest number of qualifiers for the Boston Marathon in Eastern Canada came from the P.E.I. run.

“We’re a smaller marathon and we do some personal touch things,’’ added Jenkins-Smith.

“Our (some 300-strong) volunteers are awesome along the route.’’

Sunday’s forecast will be welcome news to many of the runners. Environment Canada is calling for a mix of sun and cloud with a low of 10 and a high of 14. That is in pleasant contrast to the high winds and cold rain runners pounded through last year.

Scott Clark of Linkletter managed those tough conditions well last year finishing first in the marathon, running a personal-best 2:44:42 that served as a tune-up for an Iron Man competition that he successfully tackled in Florida three weeks later.

He told The Guardian earlier this week that he does not expect to successfully defend his title Sunday. He says some strong competitors that were not in last year’s race will be toeing the starting line tomorrow in Brackley Beach.

A top five finish, adds Clark, would make him happy.

Today, hundreds of little tykes will be subjected to a far less competitive environment when they take part in the free P.E.I. Potato Industry Kids Spud run. The children will make their way around the UPEI Canada Games Track until they have run, walked or combined the two to put tally one kilometer.

Jenkins-Smith frequently hears people comment that the marathon weekend offers something for the whole family.

No new categories were added this year to the full line-up that includes a full and a half marathon run; a 10K and a 5K run; a half marathon walk, a 10K walk and a 5K walk; a corporate/team relay drawing at least 36 teams; and the spud run expected to see 400 to 500 children on the track at UPEI.

“This is the first year where we haven’t changed any of the categories. We’re building and improving on what we have,’’ said Jenkins-Smith.

“You love to see it grow little by little and that’s exactly what happened.’’

Traffic tie-ups

Motorists could experience some minor traffic delays across P.E.I. Sunday due to the number of marathon participants on highways.

The Gulf Shore Parkway in the P.E.I. National Park will be closed to all traffic from Brackley Beach to Bayshore Road. Only eastbound traffic will be permitted from Bayshore Road to the Dalvay Gate.

The road closure will start at 7:30 a.m. and should re-open about 10 a.m.

Full road closures will be in effect on the Sherwood Road between Brackley Point Road and Route #2 from 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m., and on University Avenue between Kirkwood Avenue and Grafton Street from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Travelers should also note that Grafton Street, from Queen Street to Church Street, and University Avenue, from Kent Street to Grafton Street, will be closed from Saturday at 2 a.m. to Sunday at 4 p.m. to host the finish line area and to ensure the safety of all participants.

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