Published on September 27th, 2017 | by Ashley Williams0
Quebec City Marathon 2017 – 30th Race on my 30th Birthday
Quebec City Marathon was down in my diary for a very long time,
I love running, it’s a huge part of my life and as a small challenge to myself, I always planned to run my 30th race on my 30th birthday! After hunting far and wide for a marathon race to fit with the special day, I found one…in Quebec….Canada!
So, saying goodbye to Lindsay, I left with my bag and running shoes and set off for Quebec City Marathon solo.
Getting there was pretty easy, the train station is at the edge of Old Town, and there seemed to be multiple bilingual people to help in the initial 5 minutes of landing in the place. However, being an arrogant chap at times, I happily walked in circles for an hour, ‘getting to know the place’, before stumbling across the Marathon Expo, where I picked up my race bib and ‘swag bag’.
Pre – Race Planning
The Quebec City Marathon expo was pretty cool, with the usual appearances of energy bar suppliers, carb shake cheerleaders and leaflet waving lunatics. Needless to say, I loaded up the free stuff and headed home.
Now the sole reason I was in Quebec was to run the marathon and the place I picked out to stay was perfectly planned out for getting to the start line easily at 5.00am, without needing to use public transport or an overly expensive taxi. Furthermore, as the race itself was a point to point run, I needed to find a place that I could get back to after the race, without dying of exhaustion in the post race muscle collapse. This brought me to Maratha’s! A lovely little Columbian lady, who has a small flat on the Levis side of the river. Her home was perfectly positioned 4km from the start line and 7km from the ferry port in Old Town, where there race was due to finish.
So, with rucksack, running shoes and swag bag in hand, I abandoned sight seeing in Old Town (pretty but really no different to any old town in Europe) and headed for Martha’s.
Now, in the vast majority of Quebec Old Town, the ‘locals’ were bilingual (English / French), however in suburban Levis, English speakers became rarer than a Yorkshire pudding in Asia, which made asking for directions and using local shops that little bit more difficult. As I mentioned in a previous post, my French speaking ability is pretty much the equivalent of a chien in a blender.
Luckily, Martha was bilingual…in French and Spanish.
My Spanish was (at that time) slightly better than my monstrous murdering of French and through a combination of sign language and well intentioned smiles and noun labelling, (Huevos, Baño, cansado, supermercado) we got to know each other pretty well.
I had two days with Martha before the Quebec City Marathon, improving my Spanish and carb loading on Walmart tortellini ahead of the race.
The day before the marathon, I made it my mission to not only eat my body weight in pasta but also find the start line. Not having transport, I’d need to set off in the dark at 5.00am and wanted to be 100% sure I was walking in the right direction. This was unexpectedly a great idea, as the map given out at the expo, wasn’t exactly an OS map and the start line, labelled in the tiny booklet, was in fact 1km away from where it should have been – in an industrial estate – next to a hotel! Probably should have stayed there in retrospect.
The morning of the race came, and with a 4am breakfast and a well planned out route, I set off from the AirBnB in the pitch black for the 50 minute walk to the start line.
It wasn’t the most picturesque of start locations (industrial estate car parks never usually are) but it was well marshalled with Gatorade tables and well used porta-loos. As I walked in, I came across tens of shuttle buses from all across the city, arriving to drop off equally cold and confused marathon runners. Coming from England, I’ve seen the start of many cold races and the sight of a thousand shivering and slightly bewildered runners dressed in an assortment of bin liners, scrappy clothes and luminous running attire is always fun.
Being part of a whole series of races across a weekend, including 5k sprints,10k runs and family fun days, the marathon itself was an interesting race as it was also a qualifying race for the Boston Marathon. This lead to a strange mix of runners scattered around the start-line, with many first-timers from across Canada, excited and hoping to just finish, as well as a number of club runners from the USA, who had come to the cold north to try and qualify for one of the last places in the elite Boston race. I actually met a New Zealander (who lived in the USA), who was aiming for qualification. He couldn’t speak French either, so we had a lot to talk about…mostly because I’d been speaking Spanish and bad French for the past three days and was missing that English language comfort bubble.
Together, me and the New Zealander attempted to interpret the instructions of the marshals and organisers, who routinely forgot to repeat race briefing instructions in English (we were in Levis after all) but together, we got the message.
Run really fast for 42km….but not too fast to kill yourself….have fun….
So as the sun rose, and the klaxon howled, the mass of shivering first-timers, Boston qualifiers and 30th run heroes set off from the cold industrial estate of Levis for the edge of the Saint Lawrence River and beyond.
The majority of the route was set to be along the river, cutting over the bridge and coming back along the opposite riverbank into Quebec Old Town.This meant that the vast majority of the race was pretty flat, as it followed roads and cycle paths that ran along the waters edge. This was of course except for the decline down to the river and incline to the bridge to get over it again.
Organisation wise, it was pretty good, KM markers counting down the distance, as well as water / gatorade stations every 3km. All the roads were closed, with a great deal of support from locals, police and officials alike, who rung bells and called out from houses along the way. Sadly I had no idea what the vast majority were shouting but it all sounded pretty positive.
The views were also spectacular, from scenic river banks to small Quebec hamlets, even the massive industrial estates (which seem to always be a feature of city based runs) looked somehow prettier than normal. Maybe it was the joy of running my 30th run or the slow creep of dehydration bringing on a sense of delusion but it felt like a good race.
I avoided all the Gatorade stands and unknown gels that were being handed out (‘Cannabis flavour’, one marshal claimed) opting only for water and the Vanilla GU gels I’d brought with me. Boring I know, but it seemed to work, as the all to common stomach punch of gas and cramps didn’t hit in later stage of the race.
I finished in 3.17.16, just as the sun’s rays were beginning to pelt the track and as the last wave of half marathons were finishing their race (the half marathon had started 21km ahead of the the marathon).
With legs of jelly, I was greeted by a mass of marshals handing out an endless supply of food swag, bottles and cutlery. In fact, I was handed so much free booty (drinks, chocolate, yoghurt, fruit etc…) that my arms were overflowing and I suddenly became panicked I wouldn’t get my medal but had been given a corner yoghurt instead!
The post-marathon brain works in mysterious ways. Of course I got my medal…after the yoghurt lady.
Finding a fountain (that I had to constantly fight the urge to just jump into), I assessed my food swag, consuming the vast majority, whilst taking the compulsory running selfies.
The post race finish area was a pretty energetic place with music, food stands, hang out areas and cold water chill zones. I think I must have chilled for more than 2 hours in the sun on that day as by the time I left, I was just in time to clap in a few of the last runners who were finishing their own fantastic races.
Lasting Impression of The Race
Quebec City Marathon was pretty fun race. With great marshalling and facilities, I felt pretty comfortable all the way along. Although the start was pretty dull and the road very long, being so flat and smooth made for some amazing and consistent split times. Although the early start was a little tedious and some of the pre-race instructions a little simple, it all came together into an awesomely well planned day.