2023 Raquette River Marathon Race Report- by Terry SanCartier

March 25, 2023 in Potsdam. NY

A simple, no frills, small town, inexpensive race less than a two hour drive away from Ottawa. The course is an out and back on a country road with rolling hills with partial views of the Raquette River with good support at regular intervals.

Overall Venue Rating: :
2 – Okay

Rate the course:
2 – Okay
The out and back course runs along the Raquette River. The road is not closed to traffic but is monitored. Runners are asked to run on the left side. The course is not flat, there’s a mix of hills with a just a few flatter sections. There are a few sections with nice views of the river.

Rate the aid stations:
3 – Good

What was provided at the aid stations?:
The aid stations provide water and Gatorade. No gels or fruit. Simply yell out in advance and a volunteer will pick up what you need. One to two volunteers per station.

How was the weather? :
Cloud covered and cool – just below zero Celsius. Wind gusts in some areas and later in the race. Some snow flakes for the last 30 minutes of my race.

My Race Experience:
The night before the race, I felt pain in my throat. Having had a cold two weeks prior I simply ignored it. How could I be sick again so soon? The truth is that I never felt that my lungs completely cleared after the worst of my cold was over. I was up several times during the night dealing with the excessive heat being blown into the room. I finally got it right on the third try with the thermostat.

Up at 7 am, I still felt like I had slept enough but my throat is worse. I say nothing to Gen as we go downstairs for breakfast in the hotel.

At 8:45 I’m standing at the start line on a country road near the Pine Arena. The race director is yelling out instructions for the 200 or so runners waiting to start. Runners of all distances start together (5, 10, half and marathon). For a few seconds, I really don’t feel like doing this. I don’t know why exactly but I quickly switch the channel and focus on what’s to come. The weather could be a factor today as the winds will pick up and there’s rain and snow in the forecast.

The gun goes off and we all start running up a hill – a sign of things to come. I’m carrying 1.2 litres of Nuun and my gels. The course is not closed to cars and we are asked to keep to the left lane at all times. Clearly, some runners were not paying attention as a local police car coming from behind on the right asks them to move to the left.

This race feels like a long run in a small town. At 5 km a woman standing alone with her small dog yells out “Way to go!” to remind me it’s a race. I say “Thank you!”

I have not done any hill training to prepare me for this hilly course, nor do I feel like I have regained any of the speed I feel I have lost since before the pandemic but I’m not thinking about that right now. Experience and determination will get me through.

I’m feeling fine and given the less than 40 runners in the marathon distance, I don’t expect to be running with anyone.

Four large white birds bigger than blue herons fly past towards the river just past the 7 km mark. I wish Susan was around to identify them. They look larger than egrets. There’s a huge nest above an electrical post.

I can hear a runner approaching on my right. I look over and recognize this runner as she was in front of me for most of the race so far. “I’m looking forward to the flat parts!” I say. She laughs and says “Me too!” I’m expecting her to run past but instead we start a conversation. I look at my Garmin and my pace has improved. I will try to stick with her. Just when I thought I’d be running this alone, along comes Becca. She’s 22 and about to go to medical school to become a doctor (emergency/ trauma). I don’t want to hold her back and let her know that she can ditch me at any time. She’s good and tells me the same.

Together we run to the turn-around (21.1 km) and stop briefly at the water station before running back. Becca’s best and only marathon time is over 5 hours but if we keep the current pace, she could run a new personal best by a large margin. She’s energized by this and so am I.

I’m thankful for the company as I’m convinced I would have been slower if I hadn’t “run” into her. I let her know – she’s grateful for the company as well. She’s wiser than her 22 years. We have some interesting conversations on a variety of subjects. It takes our minds off the hills.

With less than 5 kilometres to go, I make the split second decision to walk up the hill and tell Becca that I will see her at the finish. “Are you sure?” she says. I take a few sips of Nuun but don’t feel like taking another gel. I start running again at the top of the hill and I can see my new friend several hundred metres ahead.

It’s now snowing and windier. Good thing this didn’t come sooner. Come on, you have a race to finish! The last 400 metres runs along the building in the parking lot. There are a few people cheering and I recognise Becca’s voice. Gen appears and is running to take a few photos before I finish. Done! I get my timing chip removed from my right shoe (I’ve never seen this type of chip – small plastic rectangle).

I turn the corner and I see Becca’s arms open and we hug. I congratulate her on a new personal best. I meet her dad who had come with her (she confessed earlier that she wanted someone to drive her back so she could relax on the drive back). We walk inside the arena where she finds out that she has come in second in her age group and I third in mine.

Before leaving, I thank the race director and tell him jokingly that there were just enough hills on the course and that he shouldn’t add any more.

And so ends my 120th marathon. (Ok – the drive home was a bit nerve racking given the snow and rain and heavy amounts of slush on the highway but we eventually made it safely.)

Would you do this event again? Why? :
Possibly, but probably not. If I was a much faster runner, I would run this every year given that there are cash prizes to be won and there are so few runners in each distance, especially for the marathon. The course is not flat with rolling hills for most of it. It’s cheap, it only cost $40 US (plus fees of $3.32) to register.

Would you recommend this event? Why? :
The race director and the volunteers were all excellent. I would recommend it for them alone. The course on the other hand, is not flat. It does not have Big Sur type hills, there are many with few flatter sections. Most of the course runs along country roads with forest and homes with a few open areas with views of the river.

Closing thoughts. Any hints for others planning to do this race? Where to stay? Things to bring? What to wear? :
There are several hotels in Potsdam and area. Canton is about 10 kms away and has several chain hotels. I stayed in Potsdam at the Clarkson Inn – it has free breakfast with hot and cold options. It’s a one kilometre walk from there to the start of the race at the Pine Arena. Bring a variety of winter clothes options as the weather can change. The race start is at 9 am so it does warm up somewhat by then.

Published by judyapiel

Runner, triathlete and coach. Owner of RunK2J, Community Events at Bushtukah. Always looking for a new travel adventure.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: