Banff Marathon

Posted by martin.parnell |

The first Banff Marathon was scheduled for last June. The route was marked, aid stations readied and people, not just from Canada, but all over the world had arrived in town to run. Then the rains came. The Bow River flooded causing massive damage to Highway#1 and towns and cities along its route.

Friends of mine from the Sudbury Rocks Running Club, in Ontario, had flown in to run the race. One of them, Vince, was my mentor when I had started running in 2002 and I had most recently run with him in the 2011 Prince Edward Island Marathon. They ended up on flood watch.

But, you can never hold a good marathon down and the folks who organized last year’s effort were back for 2014. This would definitely be the inaugural Banff Marathon and hopefully nothing would stop it. The scenic course runs through one of Canada’s iconic national parks. The planned route follows the Bow Valley Parkway, the Legacy trail, and finishes in downtown Banff.

Banff national park is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site and, because the area is protected, the race is limited to 1,500 entrants. This is the only marathon in North America contested completely inside a national park.

This year’s race was on Sunday June 22nd and the night before I received an email from the organizers. The heading caught my attention, IMPORTANT INFORMATION: ROUTE CHANGE. We had had no flooding this year so what could be the issue? I soon found out. The message stated that “We have a female grizzly with two young cubs in the Vermilion area. It appears that she is successfully hunting elk calves and is seeking security from three large males. It is probable that she will have a very low comfort level near any humans due to her wary nature”. The race was still on but we would run in the opposite direction. Good move.

My running buddies had returned from Sudbury and on a sunny Sunday morning I met up with Vince at the start line. The gun went off at 10.00am and we headed out, on the alternative route, toward the park gates on the outskirts of Canmore. This path runs parallel with Highway #1 and is fairly flat. This was good because the day started to heat up and I was beginning to suffer. Being an out and back course we cheered on the front runners as they blew past us and wished that we were that much closer to the finish.

At the 32km mark Vince and I were passed by a woman dressed in green. She stopped a few metres in front of us and introduced herself as Lindsay Woodcock. She said she had read my book MARATHON QUEST and that it had inspired her to run, her first, marathon. Fantastic. Vince and I said goodbye to Lindsay and we plodded on. We were now both paying a price for the hot weather and were very happy to reach the finish line.

 The inaugural Banff marathon was in the bag. Beautiful day, well organized and great people. I will definitely be back for next year’s event and maybe this time we can run the planned route. Third time’s the charm.

Quote of the week:

“Always respect Mother Nature. Especially when she weighs 400 pounds and is guarding her baby.” 

James Rollins

Vince making good time along the route of the inaugural Banff Marathon

Banff Marathon 

comments powered by Disqus