Location: Niagara Falls, Canada (starting in Buffalo, NY, USA)
Time of Year: Late October
Distance options: International Marathon, half marathon, possibly shorter races
Year(s) completed: 2013 (marathon)
So I waited awhile to review this race in hopes that I would be less harsh, but overall it just wasn’t a well-executed race.
- Pretty cool location. The idea of an international marathon is neat in itself (Starting in the US and ending in Canada), but Niagara Falls, Canada seem a pretty good destination (and not a bad drive from mid-Michigan. As long as you don’t mind touristy-sprawl, there are lots of good places to eat and plenty of fun things to do and see (including the Falls), outside of the race itself.
- The race expo seemed pretty solid. Lots of merchants and all-round hyped pre-race atmosphere which was fun. (It was located in Niagara’s Skylon Tower, which also housed the pre-race pasta dinner (at the top) and had a fun-looking arcade in the basement, which I didn’t have quite enough time to indulge in). See below to view the couple bonus pieces of race swag I picked up at the expo.
- The pre-race pasta dinner was perhaps the highlight of the weekend for me (not the race). At the top of the previously-mentioned Skylon Tower, we dined (pretty romantically) with awesome views of both the Canadian and American falls. I found it truly moving, and in great company, I really enjoyed it. Afterward we were even allowed access to the outside walkway to take pictures and view the panorama, both falls and surrounding area. Oh, and the food was also good with good variety.
- Course-wise, it was pretty flat. See Cons section for other course comments.
- The pre-race setting was pretty exciting and positive. The bus ride from the Canadian side to the starting area in Buffalo was pretty fun and full of anticipation, and the starting area, including hanging out in the art museum was pretty solid. Plenty of outhouses at the start and music playing.
- Included tech tee and available other race-themed apparel for purchase was really good.
- Good GOLLY the course was boring! The first few miles in the US were pretty good–going through city and some neighborhoods. Then the rest of it was just mile after mile of snooze-fest coastline to my right and occasional house to my left. Sure the coast/beach was pretty at first, but it wasn’t diverse enough to keep me interested. With a race with so few people (2000-ish) it gets spread out and there weren’t even other runners around. There definitely wasn’t much crowd to be seen after the first couple of mile and the last couple of miles.
- The in-race support was pretty bad as well. There weren’t always people at all the of the pre-determined water stops (some just had tables with cups and water jugs… I mean.. really?). There was supposed to be at least one Clif Shot stop which I never saw (and I was in the top 50 runners, no crowds, so I would have seen it, but perhaps they got there late?). Also, most of the volunteers were not enthusiastic at ALL. Except for a could water stops around miles 17 and 20-ish run by what looked to be the same high school (with a Spartan mascot), there was no cheering, yelling, encouraging, or even rarely smiling or clapping from any volunteers. Since there were virtually NO spectators/fans/any people out on the course, these people would have been a big help.
- That being said, some occasional musics and cheer stations out along the course would have helped a lot. It was just so desolate I took some walk breaks just out of boredom. It wasn’t fun.
- The weather was colder than normal (high 30’s and windy, but we were glad it wasn’t pouring rain like it had been the couple days prior). I know this is out of the race’s control, but they COULD have been more prepared for less than ideal weather. The post-race festivities seemed fun (grilling out, beers, music) but it was so cold and there was no shelter (tents, pavilion, etc) for runners that I had no desire to stick around–I would have easily went hypothermic if I hadn’t packed lots of warm clothes in my throw-bag. Some heated tents to huddle in post-race would have made a WORLD of difference. If it would have actually been raining and they had been that ill-prepared, they probably would have had some serious medical issues to deal with.
- The race-tracking system for friends and families was dismal. It only tracked our half-marathon and finish times, which is NOT enough. Every 5k, or 10k at least, would be a much better system.
At the end of the day, I had a fun time during the TRIP for this race, but the race was lacking in enough areas that I wouldn’t do it again most likely.
Official tech tee with entry (men’s pictured, women’s was red):
Other goodies picked up at expo: