Category Archives: Calgary Marathon Course

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!

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!

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.

1st St SW

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.

Calgary Marathon Course Part 2… On the Road Again…

As we leave the Stampede Grounds heading north up Olympic Way, we pass through historic Victoria Park. Established in 1914 and named in honour of Queen Victoria, it is one of Calgary’s oldest communities with a modern flare. Part of the Rivers District, a core area of our course which includes Victoria Park, Downtown East Village, the Stampede Grounds, the Calgary Zoo and Fort Calgary, it is a hotbed for potential new and rejuvenated development. Soon to add to the charm of this neighbourhood will be East Victoria Park, a neighbourhood park for Calgarians who live and work in the community. In addition, a number of residential and office projects are planned as well as the Stampede’s expansion, proposed extension of Olympic Way into East Village, and the redevelopment of CPR lands.

We’ll literally get back to Victoria Park shortly but as we pass the 1 km mark of the race we quickly pass under one of Calgary’s new infrastructure projects, the 4th Street underpass. This direct connection between East Village / Inglewood area and the Beltline dramatically improves walkability (and run-ability) for Calgary’s Rivers District.

The wide sidewalks and dedicated bicycle lanes with state-of-the-art LED lighting in the walls and handrails make the space brighter and more appealing. Its canopy is also a unique kinetic artwork installation. Within a galvanized metal armature, hundreds of aluminum fans are fastened to pivots that allow each fin to move with the motion of the wind or a passing train. The installation also allows light to penetrate the space below.

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After you emerge from this underpass, you will turn right onto 9th Ave SE, or as it was historically known, Atlantic Avenue. Almost immediately, to your left, you will pass by historic Fort Calgary, the birthplace of our fine city. At the confluence of the Bow and Elbow Rivers this is the original location of the North West Mounted Police fort built in 1875. Over the years, Fort Calgary was a police administration centre, a community symbol of law, order and prosperity, a hospital, a refuge, a social centre, and a focal point for settlers, ranchers and business.

For most of the first half of the last century, Calgary’s origins were hidden under a railway yard and storage area. In 1974, thanks largely to the efforts of Alderman John Ayer, The City of Calgary bought the site and returned the city’s birthplace to the public domain. Work started on an Interpretive Centre in 1975, the site was cleaned up and regained its position as a centre for Calgarians to celebrate our past and plan for the future.

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Over the Elbow River and into Inglewood! Atlantic Avenue (9th Ave SE) was Calgary’s original downtown thoroughfare, fortunately retaining much of its original feel with numerous historical building. You will literally be running through Calgary’s history at this point. Although Inglewood has experience a few down years, the neighbourhood is one of Calgary’s hottest right now! During the day you have a selection of great shops and restaurants and that carries over to the evening where you can dine or even dance with one of Calgary’s best live music venues, the Ironwood Stage and Grill. If you are looking for great dinner option, Rouge is a past winner of the Pellegrino World’s Best Restaurant award. Rouge will be waving as you leave the south shores of the Bow heading over to the Zoo Island. More to come…

The Course… Calgary Marathon Countdown

The Stampede Grounds… Where it all begins…

The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth! Although I would love to claim that tag line for the Calgary Marathon, I’m sure you know the Calgary Stampede has already snagged it.

With just a week and a half to go, I thought I would start off a final countdown to our race with a little bit about the course. The where and why of the Calgary Marathon Race Weekend. And, if you are not already registered, get in! www.calgarymarathon.com.

The why… This may sound obvious but a lot of work goes into planning a marathon. And, the course is clearly a major part of that planning. Personally, if I am going to put in all the work required to run a marathon, I want to make sure that it has a number of features, one being the most enjoyable course possible. I would definitely say that checking out a course is a part of your marathon due diligence.

With our course here in Calgary, our team thought long and hard to figure out how we could show off the best that our beautiful City has to offer. We’re a Road Race. So, how do you find 42.2 km of actual open road that works well with the City and provides a great running experience. We believe that we have done just that. Over the next few days, I will describe a few aspects of our course that will give you a sense of why we run where we run!

Start

The Stampede Grounds… What better venue is there for hosting our event? The Calgary Stampede has been part of Calgary culture for the past 100 years with over 2.5 million people attending sporting events, concerts, trade shows and meetings, it is beyond doubt a place where Calgarians, Canadians and indeed, the world convene! As Canada’s longest running marathon, we think it is a fitting venue to host the start and finish of the Calgary Marathon, and the National Half Marathon Championships! As the centre of sporting activity in Calgary, we join a very illustrious crowd.

And it works well… For organizing a major Road Race, the Grounds offer ample space for staging the start of your adventure. We have lots of space for runners to gather and get themselves geared up for the challenge head. There is a lot of space to warm up… or, if need be there is ample space for folks to stay warm pre race, in our perfect running weather climate!  Everything you need to start your day will be close by so that you can focus on the task at hand. The Grounds also offer easy access, with Calgary transit or parking in and around the area.

The race starts on the Grounds, just outside the Stampede Grandstand, which plays host to the Calgary Stampede famed rodeo and chuck wagon races (more on this… 42.2 km later…). Just after the horn sounds to your right you will be passing the Agrium Western Event Centre, a state-of-the-art facility for western events and agriculture education, exhibition and industry in southern Alberta. This facility is truly unique and one of a kind for a major urban centre.

As you run north through the Park, you will pass between the Stampede Corral and the Scotiabank Saddledome. On your left you will pass the original home of the Calgary Flames, the Corral, which replaced the name Victoria Arena in 1950 and serves as an ice hockey, rodeo and tennis arena, as well as additional exhibition space for Calgary’s largest convention and exhibition centre. The Corral houses one of the most extensive private sports photo collections in Canada on public display, and has hosted several major events, including the 1972 World Figure Skating Championships and figure skating and ice hockey at the 1988 Winter Olympics.

To your right you won’t be able to miss the Scotiabank Saddledome, home to the Calgary Flames since 1983, the Calgary Roughnecks National Lacrosse League team, and the Calgary Hitmen Western Hockey League team. The Saddledome, named for the obvious shape of its roof, hosts over 150 events per year, including such notable events as the 1988 Winter Olympics, World Junior Hockey, and one of my most inspiring moments, an intimate 15,000 person get together with the Dalai Lama.

From there you will be poising through the Stampede Grounds gates and you are on your way into the heart of our city… safe running and more to come!