Sandwiched between two storms those of us walking the Chilly Half Marathon, and those outstanding volunteers manning our water station, had the weather gods grinning broadly upon us. For the first time in weeks, I could safely wear three layers instead of 20.For many of us this was the first major race of 2008 and an auspicious beginning to our spring season. Considering that we have been training under less than ideal conditions both underfoot and overhead, walking on a clear and dry road for 21 kilometers felt more than marvellous.
The dry roads also offered a perfect canvas for the inspiring chalk messages written by Jay and Jill of 50-state fame. The twosome went out early Sunday morning before the race, to leave colourful and inspirational words along the entire 21 kilometer course. At 15k, the WoW Water Station volunteers had the names of all WoW Power Walkers (and even some who did not come out to the race!) written on the road for a welcome hit of encouragement. These are the little things that keep us going in a big way on race day.
I’ve said it before, but I’m thrilled to say it again: the Chilly Half marathon is one of the best half marathons for walkers any where I have walked. Our one hour head start means that we finish with most of the runners. A pace car for the leaders shows respect for the entire division as athletes. A loud crowd roars us in to the finish line. The Master of Ceremonies still has a voice when the walkers arrive. And, there is plenty of hot food being served by friendly volunteers. To top it off, there are medals and prizes for top three in the overall category, masters category, AND age group categories.
The result of this attention to walking detail on the part of the organizers means a huge walking contingent. In 2004 there were 43 people at the start line of the first walkers-only start at the Chilly Half. Yesterday, there were 262. This is 600 percent growth in 4 years. More than 70 of this year’s participants have taken or are now taking a WoW Power Walking program. And many of these WoW Power Walkers went home with double medals – winning overall, or in the masters or age category divisions.
Like I said during my talk to guests at the Yo-Pro Pasta Dinnner on Saturday night – the growth in participants and the result times posted after the race reflect an exciting attitude on the part of walking competitors. We have raised the bar! Yes, we are in the event to complete, but we’re also here to COMPETE. I’ve heard many stories since yesterday of people who improved on previous times. I saw people pushing so hard to get to that finish line that they couldn’t muster the energy for a smile. And I saw people who had truly gone to the bottom of the well to find whatever fuel was there to shave a few more seconds of their finish time.
(Pic above: Kelly Arnott, Race Director, Cam Jackson, Mayor of Burlington and just a few of the WoW Power Walkers who were Overall, masters, and age group winners!)