I have a done a handful of races that I would never do again because there was literally no hope for them! There are also a lot of races I would do multiple times because I loved them! The Niagara Women’s Half Marathon falls into a category of its own: a race I want so badly to love but find irritating for so many reasons. This is a race that could be amazing but just hasn’t quite figured out a few things!
The Niagara Women’s Half prides itself on being a race for women that celebrates our empowerment. Can’t find much wrong with that right?
Earlier this year I was asked to be an ambassador for this race and quickly agreed as I knew the course was great! I started promoting the race and even convinced my friend Trudy to fly here to run it and thought of what a fun weekend I was going to have with so many of my friends signed up.
A couple months before race day some behind the scenes things started to happen and the online leadership/prescence for the race changed hands. I started to see bizarre pictures posted with inappropriate comments made back to the women who questioned the posts or asked questions about the race. I became really frustrated as I thought about the message of empowering women that the race was supposed to be putting out versus the message I was seeing presented online. The ambassadors were never communicated with from that point so I wasn’t sure what was going on as there was seemingly no longer anyone in charge.
I contemplated dropping out of the race completely and even emailed the race director twice to have my name removed. I never received a reply of any sort and two weeks before the race my name was still on the list. Trudy had purchased flights so I decided to try to ignore the underlying issues I had with the race and focus on having a good time with one of my best friends. Niagara Falls holds special meaning to Trudy and I was more than happy to run the beautiful course with her! I had not trained for the race distance, so I knew having fun needed to be the priority!
Trudy and I drove up to Niagara Falls on Saturday and picked up our race kits. As we waited in line Trudy remarked to one of the volunteers how efficient the women were and how quickly the pickup was going. The volunteer immediately said, “Wait until you see the race shirts though. The race director is a man and I told him that the shirts were too low cut, but he wouldn’t listen.” We laughed but also talked about it later. How sad that a race supposedly dedicated to empowering women is led entirely by men. There are no women making decisions for this women’s race!
After kit pick up we headed to our hotel after a quick stop at Shoppers Drug Mart to buy breakfast food (because apparently I forgot that I would need to eat before the race!) and met up with Nancy there before heading to dinner! Kate met us for dinner as well and we had a great time hanging out and eating before heading to bed for the night.
Niagara Women’s Half is known for their race kits because they always contain a bottle of wine along with a bunch of other goodies. This year we got sparkly eyeliner, nail polish, Chapstick, Epsom salts & some other items.
Race morning was easy breezy as we dressed and headed out really early. It was already raining & obviously we were very excited to run in the rain! We were parked 300 metres from the start with an hour and a half to spare. (I like to be early in case you didn’t know!) Trudy and I ate our breakfast, put on some makeup, took pictures and took a trip to the gender coloured bathrooms: blue for boys and pink for girls.
A few minutes before the start we headed back out into the rain, made one more bathroom stop where we found Kate and got into the corral. The start was delayed for some reason and I really just wanted the race director to stop talking! It was rainy and gross and no one can ever hear the announcements before a race anyhow! Finally, the countdown went off and we headed across the start line. I yelled at Trudy to GO because she had a goal and I didn’t want to hold her back!
I wasn’t trained for this race and won’t even pretend that I was. The longest I had run since January was 7.8k during my first Ragnar leg in May. I decided to test out a 4 minute run/1 minute walk plan and that’s exactly what I did.
I felt stupid walking before we even hit the first kilometre but I was determined to stick to my plan. I listened to my music, thought how this was probably a really dumb idea, watched all the other runners and just kept plodding along.
Around 6k I really started wondering at my sanity and then at 8k I gave myself a little pat on the back for running my farthest distance all year.
I saw a man running with Ragnar calf sleeves on so I ran up to him and asked if he had run Ragnar Niagara. He had so I grinned like a total weirdo and said, “ME TOO!” Obviously, we were now best friends.
I took water at every water station and stuck to my run walk plan. My pace got slower and slower but really I didn’t care too much. I was feeling pretty chill about the whole thing which was pretty amazing for my personality!
Along the way I saw Kate on the other side of the road so we high fived. I guess everyone on the other side thought I was there for the high fives so I then got to high five like 25 other runners as they went by. Lol.
Around 17k it finally stopped raining so I pulled my phone out and started texting people great things like “I’m dying” and “death by untrained for race.”
Around 18.5k I was on another walk break and must’ve looked a little distraught because another runner asked if I was okay. I burst out laughing and said, “Oh, I’m great! I just neglected to train properly!” My watch beeped my next run interval so I ran with her for a little while as we discussed the run-walk method and how far away the 19k sign looked.
She took off as I ran ever so slowly along the last 2kms. As I rounded the corner for the last 500 metres I told myself I should sprint. I may hate an entire race but I can always sprint at the end. Not this time though. My legs were not having it. As I got about 100m from the finish I finally picked up a little speed and managed to pass the umm pregnant woman running beside me. (Probably shouldn’t feel too good about that right?!)
Trudy & Kate were at the finish and Carmy text me my finish time: 2:23:36. Definitely not a PB but also not a personal worst. I’m still totally happy with that time considering my lack of training. Don’t get me wrong–I’m not so happy that I plan on doing it again or anything!!
My issue with this race is that while it tries to spread the message of empowerment for women it instead fills almost every detail of the race with cliches.
I’m a woman therefore I obviously love pink, right? I mean, sure, I do but if you really want to empower me–give me a black shirt. Maybe toss a pocket knife in the race kit (okay–I’m not advocating we give out weapons. Please note the sarcasm!)
Let me have regular porta potties like I use at every other race. I’m no delicate butterfly that can’t use the same smelly toilet as the men do! I don’t need a special pink bathroom.
Do not, for the love of all things that are empowering, set up a table with makeup and hair supplies 500 metres from the finish so I can do my hair before I cross! Women run fast. Many women even beat men (gasp!). They work hard, train hard and fight for their finish line. They don’t stop and fix their lipstick along the way.
I wish that this race was amazing. I want it to be so badly because it has so much potential. Unfortunately, I fear that unless a group of women are brought in to run this event it is going to disappear like sparkly eyeliner did in the 80s. (Wait! I have some in my race bag! It must be making a comeback!)
Come on, Niagara Women’s Half! It’s time to step up your game. Women all over North America love this race; let’s not let them down!