I admit it, I am a planner. I enjoy confirming the little details. I check distances, locations, timings, site maps and costs and then check the details again (sometimes repeatedly), before every race. In some respects, I think it gives me a sense of control when truly I have no control over anything –except maybe my reaction to a situation. As the warmer months approach, I already have my Excel spreadsheet planned out well in advance with upcoming races, cost for fuel, travel time, costume selection (where required), hotel bookings and which team members are carpooling with me to the event.
On average I attend 20 races a year and I find myself getting quite ‘selective’, but every so often a race comes up that intrigues me, peaks my curiosity and lures me with a description that portrays is as “outside the norm”. The Perth Kilt Run was one such event. I had heard about it from a friend who said it was in the evening and everyone wore kilts. The race organizers broke the world record previously for most number of racers wearing a kilt and there are plans to tackle that record again in 2016. When I researched it online I noticed they had a ‘Warrior Class’ where there were added challenges along the 8K (5-mile) course. Well, once I read that, my plans changed (slightly) and I knew I had to add this to my already full list–I also loved that the Running Goat was one of the sponsoring shops –Love that name!
Fortunately, Perth, Ontario is only about a 55 minute drive north from us along a beautiful carved rock roadway. We enjoyed the scenery as our excitement began to bubble just below the surface. As we drew nearer, there were moments of giddiness and then of trepidation as we were completely uncertain what was in store for the 100 kilted warriors who were brave enough to sign up for this cryptic category. Little is given away prior to the event, just that the “adventurous” should tackle this class. Anyways, I digress, we found the downtown Crystal Palace with ease and it was located beside a beautiful river with waterfront pathways, tree lined streets and oozed small town charm.
Racing for the kids was divided into age categories from 2-4 up to 10-14 years old with supportive parents jogging beside the younger racers and motivating them to continue to the finish line trying to keep them from getting distracted by cute puppies and men on stilts that peppered the course.
While the adults waited for their race to begin at 6:15 p.m. they had the opportunity to participate in fun competitions like the haggis hurl or sampling oatmeal cookies, beer and scotch. Others chose to get their faces painted to show their Scottish pride. Nearby, fiddlers, jugglers and local entertainers keep the mood festive and traditional. Racers of all shapes and sizes donned their kilts and strolled to the river’s edge enjoying the picture perfect weather and parkland setting.
Warriors were told to meet at the Big Ben statue and get ready for battle with a sword and shield that must be carried at all times throughout the 8K (5-mile) course. As mentioned above, 100 warriors prepared for the race and then divided into two groups to lead the marching bands towards the start line. 50 Warriors led the first group of racers who would complete the course in an estimated 50 minutes or under and the remaining 50 Warriors led the second group estimated at taking 50 minutes or longer. Overall, 2800 participants registered for this event with 200 of them being children.
After the pipe bands and national anthem the racers were off. We had been advised that we had to make a quick dash through the first 2K as the course lapped back through downtown as the leaders would be in hot pursuit of the back of the pack.
Water stations were ample and the volunteers were tremendous, each station motivated you to continue on, some chose to wear costumes, others had music and sprinklers for sweaty racers to dash through, savouring the cool, if only for a few minutes. A fire truck was well positioned near the halfway mark and hosed down racers who chose to brave the frigid shower, one women in front of us decided to dance and squeal in circles finding her inner child and then proceeded to thank everyone for how “awesome” she then felt.
The route was lined by the community and some had little snacks (strawberries, cut fruit pieces) for racers to grab as they passed by. There was not one water station that did not have 5-10 people eagerly handing out Dixie cups of the liquid that we so desired in the blazing heat.
At the 5.5K mark the Warriors were directed off into a nearby campground where they were to begin their challenges. After crossing a swampy bog over tires, Warriors could drop their sword and shield and line up to tackle the Stone Toss, Hammer Throw, Spear Toss, Tabor Toss, Log Carry and finally after completing those activities, dart around the bend to cross a thigh-deep river to an island where they took a shot of scotch. Some of the racers chose to swallow the scotch others took a swish and spit approach. Then it was off for another 2.5K run with sword and shield back in hand.
The finish line was hard to miss as it had been transformed into a great medieval castle and they had fiddlers up in hoists playing for runners at the start and enthusiastic spectators lining up to cheer the finishers at the end. Medics stood by as a few eager racers tumbled across the finish line fainting or vomiting. It was hard to say whether it was the heat, exertion or perhaps the samples of food and drink available ahead of the race that led to their conditions, but at this event it was few and far between, unlike some obstacle course races we have run. Once completed, racers headed down towards the river and received their Spurtle for participating and Warriors received a Kilt Run glass for their efforts.
I have to admit this one was really well done. Apart from the line-ups for the Warrior challenges, which I am uncertain how, going forward, they could modify the course to avoid this? We would have liked to have had the challenges spread out slightly so it broke up the running segments a bit more or have the Warrior’s not timed for the run, but prizes for the challenges instead? I.e. best costume, furthest throw, shortest throw, largest team, first Warrior, last Warrior….etc…I also would have liked to have picked up my race bib at the same time as my kilt, but it was nice to meet Shannon before the race and put a face to the name.
This race is great. Not only do they offer a grand prize trip for 2 to Scotland, which William MacDonald won, they also offer prizes for top 3 male and female for EVEY age group. I still did not place in the top 3; however, it gives me something to shoot for as I continue to get older!
I admittedly am NOT a runner, I am a participant, I am active and I am a speed walker at most…however, this course kept us engaged from start to finish and we managed to come in under the 90 minute time limit. The community support was outstanding. Friendly faces were everywhere, even though for the most part, the town of Perth was shut down for much of the evening to host us. Restaurant staff came out to greet us, residents lined the streets with signs and even while I was peeling off my wet kilt roadside, one of the residents asked how I did and wished me a great evening and safe drive home. Wow. For anyone wanting to get out and get involved this would be an event to put on your list. Fun, colourful, enjoyable and the air filled with music and laughter well into the evening.
Thank you to the volunteers and organizers for putting on a memorable event. I understand that next year you are going for the world record again; we hope to be there to help with that goal! Thanks also to Shannon, Mary and the committee for all their hard work! A big shout out to Kathryn (who I met online the day before the race) who kept me company -my original race partner had to withdraw from the event suddenly and as you will find out, if you don’t already know, the OCR & racing community is a great place to meet new friends with similar obsessions!