Brendan Lunty and Adela Salt are both returning to defend their Woody’s RV Marathon titles.
The Alberta marathon staple will be ready for its 17th edition this Sunday — rain or shine — with a few new twists, adding a kids run and a marathon relay.
Organizers are prepared for a field of 1,500 runners to take part in what has become a favourite race for many an endurance athlete.
“Our course is made for runners and not for cars,” said race director Jason Hazlett. “You’ve got the beauty on the right or your left for just about the entire course, you’re looking at the Red Deer River or you’re looking at woods and forest or at the golf and country club; the beautiful scenic trails all through the area. There’s very little road that we actually have our runners on.”
The reputation is well earned.
Lunty told Hazlett that this is one of his favourite races of the year, and that he makes a note of it to come down from Camrose for it. Last year was his 10th year in the marathon and fourth straight men’s title.
Salt, who moved to Calgary from England two years ago, was transfixed by the atmosphere and scenery of the race.
“She felt she was with nature the entire race,” said Hazlett of a recent conversation with Salt. “It wasn’t racing with competitors, in a sense, it was racing with nature.”
They will be competing against 160 in the 42.2 kilometre marathon this year, while there are 750 registered for the half marathon. The 10K, meanwhile, sold out its 500 spots in March.
Hazlett says the race has a large participation with runners from Central Alberta, Edmonton, Calgary, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat. This year there will even be a few international participants from Belarus and Australia.
Four years ago organizers added a 10K event to the day to help feed the half and full marathons. This year, they are striking for an even less experienced demographic with a 1.2 kilometre kids race. The Kids race is part of an even larger competition called a marathon quest, encouraging kids to run regularly, finishing the 42.2 km quest on Sunday. The event filled its 100 slots.
“We want to get the kids involved with running and the atmosphere and feeling it, because we have many parents that are encouraging their kids to get out and run,” said Hazlett. “We’re thinking, start at the bottom up and bring them up and support athletics and fitness in Red Deer and Central Alberta.”
One of the other new wrinkles is a pair’s relay, with one runner doing the first half of the race, and the second runner finishing out the final 26.1 kilometres.
The idea is to allow those who have only ran the half marathon to finally see the entire course.
However, through his own experience, he says this can be an intimidating experience for those running the whole marathon.
“I’m running and these fresh runners all of a sudden come out that got tagged off by their relay partner,” said Hazlett, who first saw the format at the California International Marathon. “You think you’re doing well and then you (get passed) by these fresh runners, but you see them later on in the race.”
All of the races begin and end at Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School. The 10K has a 7:45 a.m. start time while the full and half marathons starting at 8 p.m. with the kids race slated for 10:30 a.m.
The full course encompasses loops of Heritage Ranch and River Bend while using the city’s trail system. Among some of the better viewing areas include River Bend Golf Course and Discovery Canyon and Heritage Ranch for the full marathon while every single race will go through Bower Ponds.
Those looking for parking are recommended to do so in the Michner area by the cemetery and walk down to Lindsay Thurber, where there is limited spots available.
For many, this will be their first marathon experience and Hazlett says that in and of itself can be a daunting mental challenge for many runners. His advice is simple: Don’t change anything you’ve done in training, use the same shoes, socks, gels.
“Treat your body right, don’t change anything and stay hydrated,” said Hazlett.
For more information, including a map of the course, go to www.reddeermarathon.org