Heartbeat Run Race Review

The Heartbeat Run is new to Saskatoon this year. 2012 marked the fourth year the event was held in Edmonton, with Calgary and Saskatoon events being added this fall. Each race is a fundraiser for that city’s local heart health clinic; RUH for Saskatoon.

When running an event’s inagural race you never really know what to expect. I arrived at the Running Room to pick up my race package on Friday evening and found my bib had been accidentally given to someone else. Eep! The race director very easily assigned me a new bib number and chip, but I still wonder who had my real bib! There were a few runners listed as “unknown” in the results, so likely one of them had my original bib.

My friend Morgan had signed up to run this 10K race with me. It was to be her first 10K, and she was pretty excited about it. We each got an email from the race director earlier in the week with all the usual information about parking, aid stations, and race rules. Ah yes, race rules. No iPods. What?! They banned iPods? It’s usual for them to be “discouraged,” but to come right out and ban them seemed…  odd. I’ve mentioned in the past my strong dependence on music when I run. I’ve tried to run without music, and I just can’t do it. Morgan is the same, so we both felt equally panicked by this rule. When she arrived to pick up her package she asked about the no iPod rule and was told it wouldn’t be enforced, just be smart about it. So basically, do the things that we do anyway: keep the volume low, take out one or both earbuds when you see a marshall in case they have directions for you, take out ear buds at aid stations, etc. I can live with that.

In the race package was a cotton t-shirt (another one for my quilt!), and several samples from sponsors: multi-vitamins and Honey Stinger energy chews. Everything was gathered in a re-usable cloth bag, bonus!

We arrived by the riverbank Saturday morning for a very civilized 9:00 a.m. start time. Our days are cooler now, and this run took place 100% on paved river trails, so no road closures were necessary. These things combined allowed for a later start time, which I appreciated. The races started and ended near the Mendel Art Gallery, so there was plenty of free parking (bonus!). After some deliberation and discussion with the skies, I settled on a short sleeved tech shirt and my new Asics running capris (love them!).

The course was a loop, and included two bridges crossing the river. The course would’ve actually been 10.5 km, so all the 10K runners walked in a pack 500m down the trail to the start line. Morgan and I were at the porta-potties (there were actually enough, no line-ups!!!) when the pack left, so we were a little nervous that we’d miss the start. We caught up though, and were able to line up with time to spare. Besides this group walk to the start, I found it a little odd that there wasn’t a timing mat at the start line. When the whistle blew, the clock began, and everyone’s timing chips started at the same time. This resulted in everyone having a gun time and no true “chip time” that started when they actually crossed the start line. The event was small enough this year that it wasn’t a big deal, but the route may have to change in the future if it grows too much, in order to accomodate a timing mat.

We started off heading north from the Mendel, with Morgan again putting some decent distance between us. I worked VERY hard to keep my pace in check for the first two kilometers, but almost every time I checked my watch I was pacing faster than I should’ve been. I struggle with this on every race I enter, and it continues to be one of the biggest challenges I have while racing. The pay off for my patience began by the three kilometer mark when I started passing other runners who had started too fast. I caught Morgan and she said she was doing well, which I took to mean that her knee wasn’t bothering her. I continued on along the twisty path, trying hard to run as straight a line as possible. There are a lot of short curves in the Meewasin Trail on the east side of the river, but if you work at it you can run an almost straight line in a lot of places and hit the inside of every curve. This course wasn’t certified, but I know that certified courses use the shortest possible route, so I try to use this strategy in all my races.

We crossed the river again on the busy Sid Buckwold Bridge, one I’ve never run across before but drive across all the time. The pedestrian walkway is just wide enough for two people, but the runners were spaced out enough by this point that it was okay. Except for the two friends running together who insisted on running side by side! If you run with a friend, please don’t take up the entire running area! At least leave a passing lane for other runners to get by you.

As we curved north again after the bridge we came to the third and final aid station. The 5K runners had started a half hour after the 10K, so they were in full swing on their course by this time. This aid station served both courses, and there was some confusion as the 10K runners had to turn north and the 5K runners had to go south. I pulled both my ear buds out as I approached the water table and called out to a volunteer who pointed me in the correct direction as she handed me water. Thank goodness for volunteers who know what they’re doing! A sign at this point would’ve been very helpful as well though. The volunteers were busy looking after two races worth of runners, and it was just by luck that I was able to get the attention of one of them.

As we headed north on the final leg of our course, we came across the start/finish area of another race taking place the same day! It seemed a little awkward as our course went right under their banner, but we didn’t have much choice. The two runs obviously weren’t aware of each other when they planned their courses! There was a photographer here taking pictures of all of us, and I still don’t know which race actually hired him! If no pictures turn up on the Heartbeat Run website, I’ll have to check out the site of the other race and see if we’re there, lol!

This other race festival was also where my parents were waiting to cheer me on! I had no idea they were coming, so it was  huge surprise and mental boost to see them at the 8.5 km mark. (My Mom said later to me “a lot of the other runners looked like they were in serious pain, but you looked so relaxed!” Thanks Mom, huge compliment to a runner!) I smiled and waved enthusiastically to them, and carried on towards the finish. At the 9.5 km point I started to surge and my parents did a drive-by with my Mom waving and cheering out the passenger window. It was great, but hard to run a finish and laugh at the same time! 🙂 I finished strong through the chute and grinned as I saw the clock – 53:32 was my official time, beating my previous 10K personal best by 39 seconds! A volunteer hung a medal around my neck (yes, a medal for a 10K! So unexpected, but super cool) and I grabbed some water before heading back to watch for Morgan.

Morgan came through in 1:00:27 amidst big cheers from me and her parents. She was upset because she’d wanted to finish under an hour, but her knee had started acting up again midway through the race (yes, she’s starting physio soon) and had affected her pace. Will you all please join me in reminding her that this was her FIRST 10K RACE! That is a heck of a time for your first 10K! Even as I was saying this to her over and over again, I could understand her disappointment. I had that same goal in my first 10K, and I’d missed a big 5K goal last summer and was crushed. I know how it feels to work hard for a goal and then not quite make it.

Post-race food – awesome! Muffins, bagels, bananas, apples, oranges! It was all fresh, and there was lots of it. We sat down to eat our snacks and listened to the race director talk about the Heartbeat Run events in Alberta and Saskatchewan (Saskatoon’s race was Sept 16, with Edmonton and Calgary the following Saturday and Sunday – possibly room for a special medal if you run at all three??? Hint, hint!).  A woman got up to speak about her own personal experience with heart health. She had received a heart transplant in March, 2011, and was there today walking her first 1K. That put it all in perspective, and made me glad I had come to the race. Once again, my family’s new resolution to move because you can came to mind. If you are able bodied and able to exercise even a little to improve your own health, do it. There’s someone out there who wishes they could.

Overall, it was a successful day. I achieved a new personal best time of 53:32, and finished 31st of 112 overall and 4th of 22 in my age group. Pretty decent I thought! Prizes were given to the top three in each age group – discounts on next year’s race entry fee. Brilliant – this will keep strong runners coming back next year, ensuring that this race continues to attract both serious and beginner runners. I look forward to adding this race to my annual race schedule.

Did you run in the first annual Heartbeat Run in Saskatoon? Did you race somewhere else this weekend? I love reading race reports, leave your blog address here and I’ll go check it out!

Gotta run.


One response to this post.

  1. […] race for medal winners, and door prizes like Running Room gift cards and shoes. (Race reports from 2012, 2013, and […]


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