Calgary Marathon Course Overview

The history, beauty and fun of the Calgary Marathon Course! Why I love it!

Pt 1: The Venue

Pt 2: Stampede to Inglewood

Pt 3: Zoo to Bridges

Pt 4: The East Village party to 17th Ave

Pt 5: The Southern communities

Pt 6: Where the Buffalo Roam

Pt 7: Memorial Drive – beauty and fun!

Pt 8: The Finish – The Calgary Stampede Grounds

After running a number of marathons around the world, I have often asked, what is the that makes a runner select one marathon over another?

There are many factors that likely go into the decision that will be the focus of months of hard work. And, of the many, certainly one of the key decision factors, in my mind, is the course. (Disclaimer: I am bias, being part of the Calgary Marathon team, but I would certainly love to hear peoples views on this, here are mine….)

I’ve run, or definitely looked at with a curious eye, some really awesome marathons. New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and many more and have come to the conclusion that we’ve got something pretty good going on here in Calgary.

I would match the Calgary Marathon course up against the big races any day! Starting off with a convenient and iconic venue to start and finish, you are able to easily access the Expo and race day activities with ease. Our course is not only non stop beauty but is also quite interesting when you take a look, as I have done here in these posts noted above. There are many interesting neighbourhoods and history that people tend to overlook in Calgary (both locals and visitors).

And, some phenomenal beauty. Inglewood, The Zoo, Bridgeland, Mount Royal, Memorial Drive (likely one of the best sections of a marathon in the world – in my humble opinion), we’ve got 42.2km of really awesome running.

Spectators… How tough can it sometime be to follow someone race day? Our race course loop and LRT access make it easy to catch runners at least a few times during the event. If you have a bike, then it is even easier to track a runner. (But please do not ride on the course… SAFETY first!)

I could go on about how wonderful the course is but I really think you need to check it out yourself! Run Calgary, it will be a marathon to remember. I would love to hear your thoughts on our course. Especially if you have covered it on foot!

Safe running!

To volunteers… Hey runners, please say thanks!

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Thank you to all volunteers!!

After months of hard training, sacrifice and overall preparation, race time arrives. From the first place finisher to the last person across the line, everyone has done their job. And, I mean everyone. Hundreds of people, likely in the thousands have been planning, preparing and even sacrificing in the name of being a volunteer!

Volunteer

I wouldn’t say it is a thankless job. Any good race organization will do their best to thank the volunteers that contribute significantly to making it happen. Rightly so!

But what about you?! I am guessing you do but in case you don’t…

Every aspect of putting on a major road race requires volunteers. From route preparation, package pick up, start line, finish line, on course safety during race day to many more aspects of making sure your day is enjoyable and safe!

By the time you’ve started your taper, volunteers are kicking into high gear. By the time you arrive at the Expo to pick up your kit, there is a bee hive of activity that you will probably never see. Many days and long hours.

So, just as with anything else in life, it is good to remember to give a smile and say THANKS! Thanks to the folks who are helping you hit your goals! Thanks to the folks who are making your day enjoyable and safe! When you say thanks it will feel good to the volunteer and will actually make you feel pretty good too (a secret performance enhancement tool)!

Have a great run!

P.S. Check out Start2Finish here, and why I’m supporting them!

 

Help a kid’s future… a great cause for our community

How important is reading and running and how do they fit together?…

Do you remember a time when someone gave you a hand? Advice? Directions?…

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(Support a young athlete with Start2Finish – contribute here)

Where would you have ended up without that someone? Friends pitched in when you moved. A colleague suggested the better course of action that led to success. Someone helped you orient that map while sight-seeing in an exotic location. That was helpful. But I am talking about something much more serious, and long lasting. Most of us have had someone in our life that helped us find our direction in life, advised us on how to attain a major goal, or provided us the critical support we needed to get where we wanted to go in life. Career paths, academics, perhaps even just graduating high school, you likely had that guidance, support or even just a role model who could help you dream, even if you did not notice it!

Not everyone is that fortunate. For many reasons, there are many kids in our society who do not have that support structure or perhaps even someone who can give them the most basic ideas on how to achieve their goals or more importantly, their potential.

I recently came across a charity called Start2Finish and I was instantly attracted to the concept. I have mentioned before that I have found so much richness in running. I have also been blessed to have had an opportunity to have a wonderful education. I have always been attracted to the concept of Sound Mind Sound Body. Start2Finish works to deliver this concept to kids who may be challenged to find their path. I think many of us might forget that we have had a hand or even just had someone who either gave us an idea or maybe showed us an example that we can dream of being a pilot, a doctor, or even an astronaut. I think we owe it to every kid to say to them, dream big, but work hard and together we’ll get you there.

With that, I want to ask for your help. Start2Finish is supporting kids, providing a platform, structure and coaching through their program, which will culminate with a 5km run during the Scotiabank Calgary Marathon weekend. And, to that end… it would be immensely helpful to support the kids by contributing one entry to the 5k race. Please donate $50 to Start2Finish and help me make that happen.

Oh yeah, I am going to be participating in the 50km Ultra (and, if you’re generous, attempting a bit more) to mark 1km per entry to you invest in. 50 entries = 50km, 51 entries = 51km, etc… Please challenge me to run a kilometer (or more) with your contribution.

And, please remember to encourage a kid to dream big and work hard toward their dreams. They may just need an idea, or them may need some direction, either way, if you have read this, then you are likely the person who can come up with a few good words to help out!

Thanks and happy running!

Dan-o

A total aside trivia detail… I can on occasion be found running in ASICS running shoes. As a young runner, I was attracted to the shoe that really fit me, which for a long time was ASCIS. Then at some point I discover what I thought was another cool aspect of the shoes… The name is an acronym for the Latin phrase anima sana in corpore sano which translates as “a healthy soul in a healthy body”.

 

Calgary Marathon Finish Line

With more than 100 years of sporting and cultural history, the famed Calgary Stampede Grandstands have seen a lot. This is your exclusive chance to finish a marathon in true iconic style.

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After making your way back into the Grounds, rounding the final will provide you the view of one of the best finish lines in the business in front of the Calgary Stampede Grandstands.

And, there is ample space, in comfort, right by the finish line for family and friends who have supported you throughout the endeavour to watch you cross the line.

Warmth or shade, we’ve got it covered at the finish line of the Calgary Marathon! Your medals and refreshments await within meters of the finish.

Congrats on your training and effort so far, have a wonderful race!!

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Calgary Marathon Course, the final miles…

After the descending down through Lower Mount Royal, marathoners will turn left back onto 17th Ave rejoining the half marathon course a few blocks from where you left them to head south. After a short jaunt to 14th St, the race heads north, through the Beltline, back to the Bow River. A short dip under 9th Ave and a little climb up over the Bow and we are back on the north side of the Bow where we turn right onto Kensington Road and through yet another great neighbourhood. The residents of the trendy inner city neighbourhoods of Hillhurst and Sunnyside, as well as many other Calgarians and visitors, regularly take advantage of the stroll down Kensington to shop, eat and drink in a number of great locations. Heading down the road, on your right as you near in on the turn to Memorial Dr, you will pass the historic Plaza theatre that has served Calgarians for more than 75 years. It still has that serious old school feel! And across the street the Kensington Pub has been a favorite location for a nice post-run pint of Guinness.
Turning right, followed by another quick right and you are on one of the most scenic roads around. For the next 11 km for the marathoners and just over 6 km for the half, you will experience the beauty and energy of Memorial Dr. At this point in the race, you may think you have it tough? Well… Memorial Dr is dedicated to the women and men who sacrificed their lives defending our freedom!

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After the First World War, Calgarians planted trees for each fallen soldier of the Great War, creating a living memorial. On May 11, 1922, the first tree was planted on Sunnyside Boulevard (now Memorial Drive). The planting continued through 1928 with and a total of 3,278 poplar trees being planted.
More recently, the City has added a number of features and improvements to both the roadway and the heavily used adjacent bike and running pathway that have made Memorial Dr that much more of a wonderful place to get in a run or a nice relaxing riverside stroll.
After heading west briefly, the half marathoners will make a quick return, marathoners and 50k’ers will continue on to a further turn around point. 50k’ers actually get to enjoy this section of the course twice. This is an area were all participants need to keep an eye out for where their event specific turnaround is. Memorial Dr should have a good party going so have fun but keep your focus!
After the turn around, runners continue back across 10th St heading toward the Centre St Bridge, where you will cross back over to the south side of the Bow. But Along the way you will pass by one of Calgary’s latest visual icons, the Peace Bridge.

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(women’s leader at the Peace Bridge)

The Peace Bridge design followed strict requirements with no piers in the water in an effort to minimize the ecological footprint. In what was clearly a fortuitous plan, the bridge opened in 2012 and was designed to withstand Calgary’s one-in-100 year flood cycle… Barrier free, it allows access for people of all mobility types. The Peace Bridge’s unique design also features red and white as used in both the Flag of Canada and the Flag of Calgary.

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(after crossing the Bow at Centre – China Town spirit)

At the historic Centre St Bridge, runners turn south on the lower deck of the bridge to make the final crossing of the Bow and into the last 3km of the race. Built in 1916 for $375,000, the Centre Street Bridge was designed with both the upper deck to accommodate vehicles from the top of the escarpment the lower deck for the riverside traffic. The bridge features four large cast concrete lions atop two pairs of ornamental concrete pavilions flanking each end of the bridge modelled after the bronze lions by Landseer at the base of Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square, London. The pavilions are ornamented with symbols of Canada and the United Kingdom: buffalo heads, maple leaves, shamrocks (Ireland), roses (England), and thistles (Scotland).

Now back through the East Village and the return to the Stampede Grounds, on to the finish!

Calgary Marathon Course Part 6 – Where the Buffalo Roam…

Heading Back downtown – The high point

Running north along Sarcee Road, you are leaving the MRU area and will pass the mid-way point in the marathon as you cross over 33rd Ave entering into the community of Killarney. After a right turn, a slow easy climb along 26th Ave will bring you through Killarney, an area known for its mature park-like landscaping and gentle hills. Featuring a community organic garden, and outdoor skating rink, and a wide variety of Community Association events held year round, Killarney is a great place to raise a family while enjoying the benefits of inner-city living.

After passing over Crowchild Trail, the marathon is all downhill from here! Passing quickly through a few inner city gem communities of Richmond, South Calgary and Bankview, you cross over 14th St into Mount Royal to start your downhill journey north.

With grand, old homes lining the streets, Mount Royal is home to many who built this city into an oil town. Originally known as American Hill for the large number of Americans who settled this neighbourhood, the area was part of a grand development plan when the CPR was pulling the country together by rail. Likely on the recommendation of the CPR chief western surveyor, J. Lonsdale Doupe, seen as somewhat of a visionary, the CPR, who controlled lands embraced a new concept of town planning that was derived from the musings of European architects and town planners. Rather than the unimaginative grids, Doupe decided to take a different approach for this land. Using the contours of the hill, he designed “curvilinear” roads upwards and along the sides.

A further concept that left its stamp on Calgary and Mount Royal was the Garden Suburb, what was coined as a part of the larger City Beautiful movement. Born in the Chicago Exposition of 1896, the City Beautiful was the expression of several trends in the new discipline of city planning where cities were laid out based on aesthetic principles rather than “rational” city planning.

As you run along Prospect Ave through the neighbourhood turning left at 25 km, down 8th St, across Royal Ave and back onto 17th Ave (where the Half Marathoners have continued…) you will surely appreciate the Garden Suburb concept. The rich history of this part of the course was shown to anchor beyond the Garden when in 1968 an extensive butchering site was discovered when upon excavating the foundation of a 17th Ave building at 7th St SW, revealing Buffalo bones and primitive stone implements. Archaeologists believe that it was a popular and well-used area for the bison hunting…

Now you can say you’ve run where the Buffalo roam!

Live from Calgary, it’s official Marathon Week…

The Scotiabank Calgary Marathon Race weekend is rapidly approaching and there is a lot going on!

Firstly, It is official! We are in the midst of Calgary Marathon Week! Thanks Mayor Nenshi!

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And, more good news. As part of our post 50th party… We are now host to the National Half Marathon Championships and… we’re going live on www.athleticscanada.tv!

As a continual part of our growth and renewal we are honoured to host Canada’s fastest runners and Olympians (in addition to all the rest of us who aren’t quite so fast!!) as part of our overall weekend. In all seriousness, we are looking forward to launching the blistering pace of the National Championships event but for the rest of us who get out there and challenge ourselves every day for our own goals, we’ve got a lot in store. We know that we have a great team who execute our various events flawlessly. We also know we have an outstanding course for all of our events, beautiful and… frankly pretty fast! Lots of entertainment and much more! Now it is time to show off Calgary and our events to Calgarians and also those folks who are looking for a great place to do a run-cation!

Be sure to tune in on Sunday morning, or come back later and we’ll have the show loaded up for your enjoyment.

Have a great week and a great run!!

 

Calgary Marathon Course Part 5… 17th Ave Heading South

As we continue our journey south, we turn onto 17th Ave S, heading west. This is where the Half Marathoners head straight on and the Marathoners will shortly turn left, heading further south.

Uptown 17th, or the Red Mile, for anyone who watches playoff hockey, is a vibrant place to hang out and grab a bite to eat or just stroll and check out the shops. 17th is that bridge between downtown high density living and suburban life. It is a rarity that 17th Ave will not be packed on a Friday night, especially if there is a game on at the Scotiabank Saddledome. A short walk, if you are coming or going to the Stampede grounds, or just a great place to go as a destination, 17th Ave has a great concentration of restaurants and watering holes that will make it tough to choose. If you are from Calgary, you know about the Red Mile energy, if you’re from out of town, it’s a place to check out.

At 5th St, the marathoners will be heading south through the community of Cliff Bungalow into Elbow Park and onto Elbow Dr. We are now heading into the southern suburbs with beautiful tree lined streets and brushing up against the Elbow River for a brief few moments. At 30th Ave SW, we take a right turn and shortly will start the climb to the far south part of our course. 30th goes straight into Premier Way, the start of the climb. After many years of running, I never grow tired of this short hill. Premier way weaves its way up to the higher levels of SW Calgary while concealing the challenge ahead. No doubt, this is a tough part of the course, but its early in so with the right pace your energy levels should be where you need them.

After the short climb, you will weave through Elbow Park the cross over to the SW community of Altadore and venture a little further uphill alongside one of the most popular dog parks in Calgary, River Park. I have had a fondness for River Park for years. From the moment you touch the edges adjacent to 38th Ave it is one mile to the top. Not exactly Heartbreak Hill, ok, nowhere close, but it is nonetheless a nice little change up from the flat. Once at the top of yet another great Calgary urban green space, turn your head to the left and you will be greeting by yet another great view of the city.

From River Park we move on to the Garrison Community, a hugely successful project in urban renewal. Growing out of the former Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Calgary, designers aimed to recognize the land’s military history through street names, memorials, public spaces and utilizing and retro fitting older military buildings. The plans also called for a focus on pedestrian movement and community interaction to create an enhanced community feel. I think it worked and it makes a great fit for the Calgary Marathon course.

Now across Crowchild Trail and in the Mt Royal University, or MRU. Calgary’s newest university campus was originally founded as a primary and secondary school in 1910, moving to become a post-secondary institution in 1931 and ultimately Mount Royal University in 2009, comprised of thirteen schools and faculties and educating about 12,000 students per year. The Calgary Marathon on recently added MRU to our curriculum, giving both residents and visitors a taste of Calgary’s beautiful and most modern educational facility. MRU is also the SW corner of the Calgary Marathon, so once you are through, you are starting your journey home!

Calgary Marathon Course Part 4… East Village to 17th Ave

East Village

Welcome back to the south shore and the energy of the East Village! From the moment you entered the Langevin Bridge, you will have been experiencing urban revitalization and we hope you can draw from that re-birth energy in your race. The city of Calgary has focused a lot of energy to re-create the East Village as a gathering spot so it is only fitting that it has become a Calgary Marathon cross roads, literally!

In 2008 archeologists discovered over 3000 year-old teepee rings near 8th Ave and 5th St SE, highlighting that East Village has been the place to be for quite a while. In more recent times we have seen a wonderful new pedestrian friendly Riverwalk stretching from the west end of downtown to the new pedestrian bridge linking St Patrick’s Island to East Village. The Village will be the place to live and visit with new condos and hotels rising above, great restaurants in the works and cultural and community experiences to discover. The road will wind south, past urban art and Fort Calgary, as you turn west away from the Fort, you will be looking at the future home of Calgary’s new state of the art Central Library, just in front of City Hall and then you will turn south and will know you’re leaving the Village when pass under the future National Music Centre, a outstanding new centre that will encompass the famous King Eddie (Edward) Hotel at 9th ave and 4th st SE, that will be part museum, part education and outreach facility, and part performance space. If you’ve been around Calgary for a while, you will remember the Eddie as the home of the Blues!CustomsHouse The Customs House

East Village to 17th

After leaving East Village and passing under the 4th St Underpass, we venture back through the edges of Victoria Park and into the Beltline. Still within a short stroll to the Stampede Grounds, you’ve already hit a number of great neighbourhoods and already covered about 8 km as you turn off of 11th Ave and onto 1st Street SW.

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You are now in the heart of Victoria Centre, Calgary’s “Warehouse District.” In the race for space downtown and the Beltline area this has become Calgary’s trendiest office area. With a good number of Calgary’s heritage buildings, some of the city’s oldest sandstone architecture and buildings, including the historic Customs House (where goods by rail were cleared for Western Canada) to the Ribtor Buildings (that distributed the goods), Cantos Foundation Music Museum and the old Victoria Sandstone School, juxtaposed between some of the newest state of the art high-rise condo developments, the Warehouse District is one of Calgary’s most evolving neighbourhoods.

This history combines with the trendy inner city community that you will run through, past most of these buildings on your way to 17th Ave S. With a local community feel, the Beltline has a growing population and is a place where Calgarians gather for work or to grab a drink or a bite, especially before a Flames games or just heading out on a Friday night.

Calgary Marathon Course Part 3… Zoo to Bridges…

As we leave Inglewood, nearing in on 3 km into the race, we’ll be leaving the south shores of the Bow River and heading onto St. George’s Island, home of the Calgary Zoo! First thing to do when crossing the bridge… Look left and right! You will have a beautiful view of the Bow River and downtown behind it. If you have not already checked it out, you may not know the Calgary Zoo is home to over a thousand animals, in addition to 290 species of individual insects and fishes. As with any great community partner, the Zoo goes beyond tradition and regularly hosts special events such as the largest seasonal light show in Western Canada, Zoolights is an animal themed show consisting of almost 3 million lights.

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Although a decade ago the marathon briefly ran through the actual Zoo, race size and tight, twisty pathways in the Zoo did not lend itself to us getting more intimate with the animals. For now we run past on a pretty nice road and we save the visits with the creatures to later in the day (or maybe after your recovery), which I highly recommend.

BridgelandBridgeFrom the Zoo, we continue our travels to the north side of the Bow and into the community of Bridgeland. Formerly the two separate villages of Riverside, an area along the north side of the Bow River known as the “working man’s district”, and Bridgeland, the terrace directly north and named from the nearby operating Dominion Bridge Company, the area was recently the staging ground of the Calgary Marathon.

Riverside was first settled by Russian-German immigrants during Calgary’s first population boom in the 1880s, and soon became known as Germantown. At the beginning of the 20th century, the area was a popular location for Italian immigrants which led to a concentration of Italian bakeries, restaurants and groceries. The concentration diminished over time but the strip along 1st Avenue NE is often still referred to as Little Italy.

After close to a century of being home to Calgary’s Memorial Hospital, the community has seen a resurgence as yet another hip inner city community. Bridgeland is close to the Zoo, Telus Spark, has LRT access, and boasts a quick walk to downtown and has excellent dinner options.

Originally connected to Calgary by the Foggs Ferry, by 1890 a wooden Langevin Bridge was built, named for Sir Hector-Louis Langevin, one of the Fathers of the Canadian Confederation. On race day, the Langevin Bridge will get you through kilometer 6 and over the Bow into the East Village.