2015 Race #7: Kitchener Kids with Cancer 5K, Kitchener, ON

Date: August 23, 2015
Gun Time: 21:10
Chip Time: 21:09
Placing Overall: 5th out of 259
Placing in Age Group: 1st out of 11 (M40-49)
Theme Song: Casimir Pulaski Day“, Sufjan Stevens

I’ve been rather lazy with the blog over the summer. With the fall running season upon us, I decided it was time to dust things off and do some race reports. I have recently been running a lot of 5K races, as this seems to be a distance I’m pretty well suited to. The Kids With Cancer 5K wasn’t even on my radar at the beginning of the year; in fact, I had no idea it even existed. I discovered it when I was surfing around on roadraceresults.com looking for some summer races to do (as those of you who run are aware, the race schedule gets a little thin in July and August).

This race doesn’t seem to know what to call itself – it’s still billed as Kitchener Kids with Cancer but the website claims the name has changed to KW Run for POGO (POGO being the Pediatric Oncology Group of Ontario). Nevertheless, I was very pleased and excited to have found it, since given my academic pursuits at the University I tend to lean toward events which are cancer fundraisers. I also loved the fact that it was right in my backyard, with the course starting at Grand River Hospital up the street from my office.

I arrived on a sunny Sunday morning to the north parking lot of the hospital near where the race was to start to pick up my race kit. Lori and the kids were coming to this one to watch but not participate, and we browsed around the small runners’ expo that was set up in the lot before heading over to the start line where helium balloons were being handed out by a number of volunteers. This race ended up raising over $32000 for POGO, which helps support families in need when dealing with a pediatric cancer diagnosis, and one of the organizers told a very affecting story about his own son who sadly passed away from cancer recently and what the support from POGO meant to him.

Ready to go. Balloon in hand.

Ready to go. Balloon in hand.

After the national anthem, we all released our balloons and watched the phalanx of white and green ovoids float off into the clear blue sky. It was as nice and affirming an opening to a race as I can ever remember.

Up, up, and away.

Up, up, and away.

As for the race itself, the organizers admitted right off the bat that they hadn’t really gotten the permissions from the City of Kitchener that they wanted, and this was to become evident as I was running. There was a large group of young male high school students right at the front along the start line, and as we were counting down to the start of the race about 10 of them ended up actually false starting and taking off when the countdown reached 2. As kids this age are wont to do, of course, most of them took off way too fast and ended up gasping for breath after about 500 yards. I settled into what felt like a pretty fast pace and soon was ahead of all but a few runners.

The race was an out and back along the Iron Horse Trail, which is a converted disused railway line in Kitchener. The first problem was that the trail crossed several city streets and the organizers were denied permission to close them and stop cross traffic. This meant we had to stop and wait for a break in traffic in order to continue. As you can imagine this was not exactly conducive to a fast time. The other problem was the narrowness of the trail and the fact that it wasn’t closed either, forcing us to dodge the various strollers and bikes that were present for a Sunday outing. We passed a number of bemused people who obviously were not aware of what was going on, but to be fair they did for the most part stay out of the way.

At the turnaround there were four runners ahead of me – two of them were teenage runners, a boy and girl, and two older men. I was actually feeling a little gassed at this point which kind of surprised me. I decided to hold back a bit and not really push things, since this wasn’t the kind of course that I was going to run a PR on anyway, and I couldn’t see anyone behind me. I cruised into the finish in 5th place comfortably and just actually ended up just a little off my PR despite all the issues with the course, which I thought was pretty encouraging. There was a cool little medal modeled on the gold ribbon that pediatric oncology uses as a symbol, and I ended up winning my age group and a GC for the Running Room, which was a nice bonus. There were excellent post race refreshments included too, with lots of coffee from Tim Hortons and pizza from Boston Pizza on offer, among other things.

My standing in the race was definitely inflated by the fact that there were lots of walkers in the race who were timed, and this being a small regional race the competition level wasn’t super high. I was pretty happy with my finish in spite of this, and given the proximity of the race to me and its cause (and the fact that it’s one of the only races in the region in summer that doesn’t involve running through a big mud pit) I will definitely be running it again next year. I thought that it was a very nicely put together event despite the shortcomings and the organizers are moving the race to a completely different location at the Waterloo Region Museum next year which should solve all the logistical problems, and it’s a great opportunity to help kids and their parents in need. I would urge anyone in the area, whether you are a runner or not, to take part.

A good day, and a good cause.

A good day, and a good cause.

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