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Disclaimer: I received a free entry to Rock ‘N’ Roll Montreal as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

Combined with my first visit to Quebec in four years, Rock ‘n’ Roll Montreal provided the chance to reconnect with friends and explore even more of the city. As travel day approached, however, the extreme heat warnings began. Then, just four days before race day, on the eve of our departure, the unthinkable: the full marathon distance of Rock ‘n’ Roll Montreal was cancelled! And so began a sweaty, humid and exhilarating weekend in Canada’s major French metropolis!

I have an affinity of Montreal – but I’ve outlined all of that in my previous blog post anticipating Rock ‘n’ Roll Montreal. We flew the red-eye on Wednesday night, allowing time to recovery from jetlag (surprisingly easy) and acclimatize to the heat of Eastern Canada (less easy). Thursday was spent on sightseeing, and reconnecting with our friend and host, Seiun Thomas (thanks for taking care of us!)

Friday – Expo Day

Things played out in my mind somewhat differently than in real life. I figured that be showing up first thing on Friday of the two-day expo of Rock ‘n’ Roll Montreal, I’d beat the crowds. I was quite mistaken. Arriving at Place Bonaventure, I was shocked by the number of folks already queued up to enter the Expo. However, once things got moving, the process was remarkably speedy.

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I knew I had to go to Solutions, because somehow I swapped my birth date and month. However, when I received my bib I was taken aback by the colour. Blue. Marathon. Not half marathon, as I had intended. Inadvertently, I had registered for the now-cancelled full marathon and, yes, indicated an anticipated finish time of 1 hour 45 minutes. Obviously, the organizers and/or automated system thought I was out of my mind (since no one has ever run a marathon in under 2 hours), and I had been relegated to the very last corral.

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No worries! All full marathoners had been automatically transferred to the half. The Solutions person gladly corrected my birthdate error, and I was bumped up to Corral 4.

What about the full marathoners who wanted / intended to run the marathon? Well, they were given a few options: 1) a full refund; 2) transfer to the half, but with the ability to receive their full marathon medal (and qualify for any related Rock ‘n’ Roll Remix Challenges); or 3) free entry to Rock ‘n’ Roll Montreal 2018.

Debra was there! She had intended to sign up on-site for the full, but ended up lining up for ages to register for the half. She volunteered, too! In an interesting twist, she had wanted to volunteer a package pickup, but was assigned a 9-hour shift (take it or leave it). This seems unreasonable to me. In the end, she took a shorter sandwich-making shift. I admire her dedication!

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Grabbed my shirt, wandered the expo…and headed off for some more sightseeing!

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Pre-Race

The weatherman called it. Sunday dawned warm and muggy. After the transit fiasco of Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle, I made sure to get up early and onto the train. Thankfully, the Montreal Metro has more capacity, and there were no issues boarding. And who should get on the train right in front of me but fellow BibRave Pro, Nora! In the crush of 11,000 runners, I didn’t expect I’d get to see anyone I knew – and it was great to have some company for the ride.

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Arriving across the river in Longueuil, we proceeded to trek towards Jacques-Cartier Bridge, where the race would start. There was no signage, and few volunteers to point us in the right direction. We flowed with the crowd, and finally realized that because we had no bags to check, we could go straight up…up a hefty flight of steel stairs…to the bridge. RECOMMENDATION for next year – better directions for the runners!!

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The corrals weren’t open yet, so we milled around, admired the sunrise, and took advantage of the nearby porta-potties. Then, once we were allowed in, we trekked up and over the bridge towards the start line. Crowds started surging forward, and I wonder how many people didn’t make it in time for their wave start.

Nora moved on to her corral, and I stood at the edge looking back at the crowds. Then I saw another orange shirt heading my way…another BibRave Pro – Ryan! He was excited to run his first race for BibRave!

Shortly thereafter, we were on our way!

The Course – and the Heat

The route veered quite quickly to the left, and we headed into Parc Ile Jean Drapeau, on Ile Sainte-Helene – an island in the Saint Lawrence River, and the site of Expo ’67. Almost immediately, a whole bunch of guys (myself included) veered off to take advantage of the parkland…since there were no porta-potties to be seen. With that out of the way, we looped the island and back under the bridge, where (20 minutes after the initial start) I could hear other waves of corrals were just heading out.

On both this island and neighbouring Ile Notre-Dame, there were interesting sight: roller coasters, a ferris wheel, the Biodome and, as it turned out, a race track (that we ran on!). By this point, there was no shade, and the heat was rising. Thankfully, there were well-stocked aid stations with water and Gatorade to keep us hydrated. And, at regular intervals, some old school rock ‘n’ roll (often, but not always, in French) to keep us distracted/entertained.

Just past the halfway mark, another long straight bridge took across the river toward Montreal proper. And I could feel my energy starting to flag. There was some brief reprieve as we were shaded by the geometric architecture of Habitat ’67, a model community designed for the Expo – and immortalized on our race medals!

I took a walk break at 15k. The heat was making me feel like my head would explode. But, I rallied my strength and soldiered on into Vieux Montreal – the Old City. Beautiful, ancient stone buildings. Cobblestone streets. And increasing numbers of spectators cheering us on. And bless the fire department – a number of hydrants had been rigged like sprinklers onto the road, so runners could get a refreshing splash of water.

While to this point the road had been pretty flat, we started an upward trend that would continue until the end of the race. A few blocks through the Village, along the vividly decorated Rue Sainte-Catherine before veering uphill again. The final kilometres were a bit of a blur, as I struggled to maintain my pace on the hills. The crowds were cheering in earnest now – I don’t think I’ve ever seen more support for a half marathon – and I was encouraged by shouts of:

  • Ne marchez pas! (Don’t walk)
  • Tu es capable! (You can do it)
  • Allez, Bradley! (Go Bradley!! I love how the French pronounce my name!)

Just before the last corner into Parc La Fontaine, my honey was there with a camera and a cheer!

The final stretch, and I crossed the finish line with nothing left. I was soaking wet, exhausted, and thrilled to have run my slowest half marathon in 4 years. But, you know what? I worked damn hard for this medal!

Post-Race

The energy in the park was fantastic – so many people, all the smiles. A free beers and, thanks to the liberal drinking laws of Quebec, no need to stick to a beer garden!

Because we were meeting friends for lunch, we didn’t stick around for the post-race music and additional festivities. But as the temperatures continued to rise, I have no doubt that the runners and their supporters made the most of the summer-like weather!

Lots of folks were disappointed by the decision to cancel the full marathon, I have no doubt. However, given the brutal conditions, I personally feel they made the right call for both the organization and the runners. On that note, a HUGE shout-out to the volunteers who braved the heat to keep us cool, and the spectators who cheered for us – definitely couldn’t have done it without you!

Pretty excited that I also got my spiffy ‘World Rocker’ medal for running in both Canada and, thanks to Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle, in the US. I’m all international now!

Final Results

Chip Time: 2:02:35
Average Pace: 5:48 min/km
Place Overall: 4086/11718
Age Category Place: 477/1004


Rock ‘n’ Roll Montreal 2017 – Quick Review

Social Media: Somehow I ended up on the French-language mailing list (which is fine, gave me a chance to practice), and we received regular updates as race day approached, including information on the marathon cancellation. Twitter and Instagram are for the entire Rock ‘n’ Roll series, but Rock ‘n’ Roll Montreal had their own Facebook page, which was informative.

Packet Pickup: Given all of the changes that resulted from the marathon cancellation, I thought things went fairly smoothly. Long lineups and long waits, but nothing too unreasonable. I heard that Saturday was actual less busy than Friday, so I guess it’s all about timing. Everyone was very friendly and helpful.

T-Shirt/Swag: The t-shirt is not my favourite – a little on the dull side – but the light blue colour is quite nice. I LOVE the finisher’s medal. I had the chance to get a full marathon medal (because I had accidentally signed up for the full), but took the half because I liked the colours (and, in reality, only wanted to run the half!).

Course: So many bridges, parkland, islands and touristy areas, old city streets and urban areas – this race has it all! Great views of the skyline, too, from the islands. Although the uphill for the final three kilometres is tough, it’s not excessively steep – overall, an enjoyable course.

Post-Race: Although I didn’t stay to experience the whole ‘party’ atmosphere, I felt that there was something for everyone at the finish line. Parc La Fontaine is big, so heaps of space for relaxing away from the crowds if you want.

Organization: Other than the lack of signage at the start line, I thought this was a well-organized event. Given the challenging circumstances of the weather, a race cancellation and an earlier start time, they managed remarkably efficiently. Good job!

Would I run it again? Montreal is a five-hour flight from Vancouver, so there are logistics and vacation time involved. However, all things being equal, I would absolutely run this race! And, as the only Rock ‘n’ Roll race in Canada – and in one of the country’s most amazing cities – it’s definitely worth it!

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