After weeks, nay months, of anticipation, it was finally time for the Perth World Record Kilt Run. I have to say, I don’t think I’ve had as much fun in my short life as a runner as I had last weekend.
The three of us, Kalin, our friend Signi, and myself, headed down to Perth early Saturday afternoon, which put us there around 2-ish. We immediately went to registration to get our race kits and kilts. This year’s kilt was in the Wallace tartan. Registration, chip activation kept us busy until about 3. We milled about the downtown for a bit before grabbing some ice cream and heading to the park to hang out in the shade.
While we were enjoying our time in the shade, we came upon a wedding in the park. My mind immediately went to 2004 my cousin’s wedding in Kananaskis, Alberta. It was a glorious outdoor ceremony on an lookout over the golf course with the Rocky Mountains as a backdrop. It was so beautiful that a group of Japanese tourists crashed it. I would later learn from the New York Times that western-style weddings were the new fad in Japan. They were a rather aggressive bunch and my uncle quietly deputized me to coral the additional guests behind the wedding photographer.
This wedding, too, would be crashed. Not by us or the seniors that moved to a park bench precariously close to the ceremony, but by a dog that came off its leash and tore through the ceremony. Seemed like everyone got a laugh out of it and the ceremony continued. Apparently, the part of the ceremony where someone can object to a marriage only applies to humans. We would actually see the bride and groom at the end of our run as they walked along the canal with the ring bearer and flower girl in the evening.
As it got closer to race time, we found a spot to change into our gear. I also picked up a tam from the merchandise table. One of the signs that this was going to be largely a fun run was the sight of many fellow runners noshing on hotdogs, hamburgers, even pizza. Not exactly pre-race nutrition. We saw one kid make a beeline for the canal just before race time to woof his cookies. As previous entries of this blog have shown, it’s not the first time I’ve seen pukers on race day, though they usually make it to the start line first. We met up with Signi’s friends from Gannanoque and waited for the pipers to call us to the start line.
Yes, we were piped to the start line in parade. All 1900+ of us.
The start/finish line was shaped like a castle. It made think of the Culloden episode of Battlefield Britain and the Scottish war strategy of the Highland Charge. It’s exactly what it sounds like and looked like in Braveheart. Taunt the enemy and then charge at them like madmen. Yes, it lost its effectiveness when the musket became standard issue in the British army. The castle shape of the start/finish made it easy to get into character for that final charge toward the finish line. I just had to imagine a garrison of red coats on the other side who an urgent need to meet my broadsword.
The cannon went off and we ran (skip to 1:26 for Kalin and I, 1:52 for Signi and the Gannanoque crew). Here’s the tale of the tape. It’s a great course that snaked through the downtown and about half of it was along the cart paths of the golf course. Perth’s golf course is apparently the oldest in Canada. It’s very nice, but that trail through the woods would have been nicer (sorry, Perth, a beautiful golf course is still a walk in the woods ruined). Nice rolling hills provided a great challenge on a relatively short course.
I really loved how the whole town came out for this event. Although, I’m not sure they had much of a choice. With large swaths of the downtown and the roads to and from the golf course closed for the race, the town pretty much shut down for the event. While a surbanite in Ottawa might not notice race weekend if they were staying put in Orleans or Kanata, Perth doesn’t seem large enough that one could get away with not being jammed up by the event.
Regardless of whether they were there by choice or simply consigned to their fate for the evening, they came out in droves and cheered us with enthusiasm. Probably the only exceptions were large portions of the golf course between water stations. Like the stretch of race weekend’s half marathon along the parkway, the crowd was only thin where no one actually lived. Although I’m sure there’s a few country club rats who object to the notion no one lives at the course 😉
As per the theme, most of the official cheer stations were highland dancers of one sort or another. Every mile maker had a bagpiper. If you ran fast enough, by the time you lost the sound of the pipes at the last mile marker, you could begin to make out the sound at the next marker. There were plenty of water stations and several sprinklers to cool us off. The fire department set their hoses upon us from atop the ladder trucks, giving us a welcome soaking around the 2k mark. I even got a splash under the kilt when running through one coming off the golf course.
Kalin and I managed to run together for the first couple of kilometres. The heat and dust would cause her to fall back a bit and take more walk breaks, but she soldiered on like the champ she is and finished with a 54:07 chip time.
As I made the final turn and headed on that final charge to the finish line, I could hear a familiar voice shout words of encouragement. Laurence, the assistant manager of the Slater St. Running Room, was cheering from the sidelines. Having already finished his race, 32nd overall, he made it though the post-race gauntlet to cheer on his friends.
As I came closer to the finish line on my final charge, another voice boomed through, this time through the PA system, “Keep that kilt down, Michael!” (skip to 41:31). I guess I was kicking up a storm on that last charge. Blame Redcoats in need of meeting my sword. You be the judge:
As I crossed the finish line, I looked up at the LCD clock to see the gun time only to instead see my name and chip time: 48:07.
I made it through the post-finish line gauntlet to collect my finisher’s bling:
And as important, finisher’s beer!
What a fun event. My immediate impression of the organization behind this event is that this a group that their event seriously, but they also don’t take themselves too seriously. I imagine there’s quite a few hoops they have to go through to get everything certified for the Guinness Book of World Records (btw, did you know that Guinness, the brewery, created the book as a catalogue of records to settle arguments in pubs). At the same time, fun was the order of the day. With the need for longer registration time to make sure everyone signed in, there was plenty of entertainment to keep people occupied. There was a haggis toss, canoe tours, and live music to keep waiting runners occupied. The race announcer wore a shirt that read “Lord of the Idiots”. Since everyone is running the same distance, there was no hierarchy of runners between the shorter and longer distances. There was a warrior class, but their numbers were rather limited. This review shows what they had to go through. I might do that next year, if only to have my photos with a wooden claymore and shield.
Unfortunately, Signi was off to Panama in the morning, so staying any later than we did was really a non-option. It meant dinner that night was a quick sausage from one of the vendors and then we hit the road. We were so tired getting back that Kalin and I indulged in some shwarma from a restaurant near my place. Well, you may be saying to yourself, the Avengers did it. I may be awesome, but I’m not a superhero. It was a welcome, but entirely preventable, late night indulgence.
Lesson #1 – plan accordingly. If we day trip it again, we should bring more food. We brought some snacks for the drive down, which we managed to stretch into drive home snacks, but I think the consensus was we should have brought ourselves something more substantial for pre-race goodies that would have been closer to a proper meal, sandwiches, salad, etc.
Lesson #2 – Carry cash. Living in downtown Ottawa, I rarely carry more cash than I can buy a cup of coffee with. That may make sense when every store you may enter has a debit machine (even some of the chip trucks have mobile debit). When you’re at a community event in a park, that might not be the case. I’m sure there was an ATM around, but I really didn’t have time to look. I knew, worst case, there was an RBC I could have gone to up on the main road nearby, but if you want to succumb to that temptation purchase of the tam at the merch table (or just want some beer tickets), you better have your money with you.
Lesson #3 – Make a weekend out of it, or at least stay the night. Since the run doesn’t start until 6:30 pm, the likely earliest you’re hitting the road for home is probably 8-8:30. Since it’s usually held near the longest day of the year, there’s plenty of daylight left of the drive. That written, do you really want to drive for a little over an hour after running 5 miles? Perth is lovely and there are a lot of great places to hang out on a Saturday night. There were actually some Groupons and Dealfinds for some local inns we could have taken advantage of if we thought this through.
Big thanks to Signi for offering to drive. We’ll get you back when you get home from your business trip.
Bigger thanks to Perth’s Running Goats club for organizing such a fun event. The bottom-line verdict on this event is: see you next year 🙂