So, I am becoming somewhat of a regular at Melissa's road race. I mean, I haven't done it every year, but since I began running seriously (and seriously being a fairly loose term here), back in 2001, I have run it 8 times. I did the 22km once, and it was a disaster, and every other time I've done the 10km. It's a fantastic race. Truly, the scenery is spectacular. You have mountains all around you. There is the Banff Springs Hotel, the river, Bow Falls, and Banff Avenue. It's just a gorgeous race. It's also a busy race. You are never alone!!
This year, we had the registration date marked in our calendar, but due to husband sleeping in and parenting the children, we forgot to sign up for it. No big deal, there was always next year (even though it's my favourite race!!). And besides, Jeremy ended up being busy with Ironman training etc, so it wasn't really a priority. After my training basically disappeared after the Ride to Conquer Cancer, I wasn't really in a good position to be running it anyways!! But, a friend had a race number and she didn't want to do the race. And, who was I to pass up such a wonderful opportunity?? So, with about three weeks before the race, we committed to completing the 10km. I knew it wasn't going to be a personal best, and in fact, now that I look at my time, it was actually the worst 10km I've ever done for Melissa's. Oops!! However, I have to say, it was an excellent race.
We never had a chance during the week to grab our numbers, so ended up doing this on race morning, which, thankfully, is an option. We dropped the boys off at grandma's house, and off we headed to the mountains. Parking seemed busier than usual and we ended up parking quite the distance from the starting line. If you consider doing this race, keep this in mind, as you need to arrive very EARLY to make sure you can get across the river on foot in time for the start etc. Picking up the numbers had long lines but even longer was the line to check and make sure your chip was you. I was a bit disappointed with this, but again, I could have gone earlier and the week and grabbed my number and didn't, so really, that's my own fault.
There are always tents set up with little samples, including Jugo Juice and Vitamin Water, which is a nice little pre race snack. We also had some Gu gels with us to get us going. I tried the Cherry Lime Roctane and it was fantastic (now, if you are new to gels, keep in mind, that a fantastic gel, is a relative thing, since gels in general, are a unique source of nutrition that many people have not yet developed an appreciation for, yet are a necessary part of distance events etc).
The route had to change this year because of construction at Cave and Basin, and what they did to change it was phenomenal. I loved the whole thing. It flowed so nicely and on Tunnel Mountain, even though it meant, more uphill, there was no sharp hairpin turn where runners got all caught up in each other etc. I thought the course was smooth and loved the new scenery, with a lot of the route even being in the shade, on this very warm day!! The beer signs marking the water stations were nice, and appreciated, even if it was only water at the stations, and no beer (that was for the finish line!!). The race volunteers were friendly and nice, and the race was great overall. I hope this route continues again next year as it was a wonderful and welcome change. I also appreciated the extra entertainment. There were way more bands than I recall from past years, and it was nice walking through any water station, listening to this entertainment.
The food is usually pretty okay after the race, however, the line is always so long, that as per year's past, we simply skipped it. And, although I should have enjoyed my beer, instead I gave my beer ticket to someone in the beer line. So, can't really comment.
I love the shirt. When I first moved to Calgary and ran at the Oval, I always saw all these runners in Melissa's shirts and had no clue what it was, but knew it must be something special. And, it is!! I love my Melissa's shirts. They are perfect for pre and post training. They are a nice shirt on a fall or winter day. And, if you aren't crazy about a long sleeved cotton shirt, you can pay and get a technical shirt instead, or in addition to, the cotton one.
Finally, you get a coupon for half price at Melissa's Restaurant. This is another great perk of the race. It's not valid on race weekend, and there is an expiry date, however, as someone who frequents the Banff area, it makes for a nice inexpensive dinner. As well, the menu is varied and includes fantastic deep dish pizzas, amazing burgers, and even steak and lobster if you feel so inclined. The staff is generally quite friendly, and the restaurant is great.
So, is it a race worth doing? Well, no baby joggers allowed, no pets allowed,no walkers allowed, however, as this is a busy race, I understand why in both cases. The route is busy and it could end up causing an accident. We do the Mother's Day race every year with a Chariot, and are often stopping quickly etc, so as not to clip someone's ankles. Since there are portions of this race, on narrow trails, the joggers just wouldn't fit. So, find alternate arrangements, or someone to watch your kids at the race. But, if those issues are okay for you, then go for it. This race, is well organized, and lots of fun. It truly is my favourite race. And, I've had my worst race ever at Melissa's, and it was also the race where I broke an hour in a 10km for the first time. The field of athletes is quite varied. There are definitely those who are rather fast on their feet, but there are many people also who are doing their first 10km, or who mix running with walking (10 and 1s). If you are looking for quiet solitude, this is not the race. It's busy and you are never alone. However, that makes it a race that everyone can enjoy and find support from. It's a fun race, and when you go back to Banff to enjoy your coupon, you get to remember the race and enjoy a great meal.
If you are looking for a fun race, with spectacular scenery, this is the one. The 10km is tough, but not impossible, after all, what goes up, must come down, and then down some more, but hey!! After you finish that hill, you feel great, cause you conquered it!! So, it's certainly a race I will continue to love, and even though this might not have been a stellar performance, I finished the race feeling good and strong. And at the end of the day, I know I put forth a good effort, so for that, I'm extremely proud. So, mark the date, it's usually in February sometime, and come join us. It's a great race, and you won't regret it!!
P.S. The 22km is nice as well, however, I've only done that distance once, and it was my first, and worst, half marathon, so although tons of people have great things to say, I haven't done it, in so many years, that I don't really want to comment on it, except to say, that those I know who do this distance, love it as well, and it does NOT have the big huge hill that the 10km does!! Food for thought...