The Chilly Half Marathon event took place in Burlington, Ontario, Canada, in early March. Jenn and Dave from our team took on the 10km and the half marathon events; this is their joint report.

You can find the event website at http://www.chillyhalfmarathon.ca/site-chilly/Chilly_Half.html

1. Pre-Event Info

There were no shortage of emails advising us of race details. They arrived most weeks, updating us on route, parking, sponsors, pace bunnies, race swag, post race meals, bib pickup, and more. The organizers were also very active on Facebook and Instagram. We went into this race with no questions at all, we were pretty certain where we’d park, where our bib pick up was and – thanks to the detailed route map – what our race tactics would be, depending on the wind. Bib pickup was available locally the week before or runners could pay a little extra and pick up on the day. 

2. Event Location

Getting to the location was extremely easy; participants could take the Lakeshore West GO service to the Burlington station where shuttle buses were running frequently to whisk you off to the start area. If you preferred to drive, the downtown Burlington area offers ample free parking and multiple pay lots are relatively close to the start/finish, or parking was available at the GO station where one could take the afore mentioned shuttle bus. Part of the pre-race information included a handy parking map, with notes on where not to park as well (tip: avoid the private lots). For participants staying at a partner hotel in the area, there was also shuttle service available from the hotels, or at another hotel nearby. We drove to the event and it was a short 45 minutes from Toronto.

3. General Atmosphere of the Event

The event was off an ideal size, there were about 4,000 people taking part. It was small enough to still have that local feel to it, large enough to have a real excited buzz, but not so large that you lose a sense of place. Maybe that was helped by the Canadian national anthem being sung just before the start. This doesn’t happen at many events, some places are very wary of nationalism, and whilst at times this is understandable it’s also a shame. I do like it when people are proud of where they are and celebrate what makes them unique, and since the singing of the anthem lets you know without a doubt that this is a very Canadian race, I’d recommend it for international runners who want an authentic travel/race experience. 

There were a couple of Canadian Olympians taking part as well as a host of other elites so that created some excitement. It’s always a pleasure to line up behind some of the best runners around. It gives the day a special edge.  

The event had a slightly later start time than many races, of 10:05am, which in my opinion is a very nice option for the winter season races. It’s nice to give the weather a chance to warm up before heading out along the race course. But with the cooler temps in mind, the event offers three indoor locations close to each start area for participants to wait in and stay warm. We were lucky enough to be part of the VIP group that had a comfortable pre-race area complete with snacks and coffee.

However before we checked into that area we stopped by city hall where the crowds were full of good spirit and people visiting prior to the start. Volunteers were readily available to assist with getting participants their bibs and swag, and handing out directions as needed.

As for the course, it’s mostly made up of out and back so there are many spots available for spectators to cheer on their friends and family. The longest out and back portion of the course is on the lakeshore, which offers lots of intersecting side streets for people wanting to offer support or good cheer to participants that are midway through the race.

4. Course 

There were 5 and 10km distances, and the half marathon. They started in slightly different locations but converged on the long, straight-ish road that dissects a quiet residential area. Occasionally we saw Lake Ontario, the day was clear blue, and the low winter sun sparkled on the water. There were plenty of pockets of support, motivation never became an issue for me.   

There were a few gentle corners but in all of the half marathon distance only 2 bollard turnarounds. At these points anybody running at world class pace would no doubt lose a second or so but for most of us they provided a welcome little breather as we slowed to turn and then gained speed again. The roads were wide enough so that even at the start of the race when all the runners were bunched up, I never felt too hemmed in, and was never blocked from running at the pace I wanted.

I ran with the 1:30 pacer and they were spot on. I kept with them and broke free just before the finish, and finished in just under 1:30. There are a few gentle up and downs on the route as it makes its way out and then back along the same road, but I’d say it was quite a fast course and if you’re after a PR, you might try for it here. 

This short video will give you an idea of the race, and the course.

5. On course aid stations 

It was a cold day, ideal for running really, about -8C feels, so I didn’t need to stop to use any of the aid stations. I saw they had water and some isotonic drinks, and there were 4 of them I believe. They were on both sides of the road so it was easy for runners to grab a cup without too much crossing in front of others. There were plenty of volunteers and marshals to ensure there was no hold up in the racing anywhere.

6. Race kit, medals and awards 

Each runner got a decent running fleece, a medal, and a range of post race food. There was also free chili and beer for every runner at participating restaurants. I was really happy to see that there was vegan pasta in the VIP area, and that it was marked up as such. So many races I attend don’t do this; they may have vegan food, but they don’t announce it, probably for fear of annoying some runners. The fact that the Chilly Half did have this shows that the race organisers have a progressive mindset.  

7. Post-Event Info 

There were several things to do after the races. The Awards Ceremony for Frosty 5K and Frigid 10K was held at 11:30 a.m. at Burlington Performing Arts Centre and the Awards Ceremony for the Chilly Half Marathon started at 12:45 p.m. The ceremony also offered lots of draws courtesy of event sponsors.

Chili and Steam Whistle Beer were available post-race at several Burlington locations. Participants just had to bring their race bib to any of the participating restaurants after the race for a free chili and Steam Whistle Beer! We went back to the VIP area where we heartily enjoyed the post race food and Dave enjoyed a beverage (I was driving).

The event offers your standard photo packages too, which were made available for purchase within a few days of the event.

To learn more about this highly enjoyable and well organised event, check out their website – http://www.chillyhalfmarathon.ca/site-chilly/Chilly_Half.html