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Ottawa Race Weekend – A Volunteer’s Perspective

21 Jun

I have been traveling the past few weeks so didn’t get a chance to put up this post on Volunteering at the Ottawa Race Weekend so here it is….

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On May 25th, I volunteered at the Ottawa Marathon again this year. Just like last year, it was a great experience. I picked up the t-shirt shown above at the Race Weekend Expo. I love large race expos even if I am not running in the races. So many things to see (and buy!)

This year I didn’t take part in any of the races, but over 48,000 did and it made for a really exciting weekend in Ottawa!

In an effort to remain involved with the event, I decided to sign up as a volunteer once again. I wanted to be at the finish line and hand out medals to the half and full marathon runners.

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The day started early, being downtown at about 6:30am but the weather was absolutely gorgeous for volunteers and spectators (wayyy too hot for runners and it showed out of the course).

I had invited a friend of mine to volunteer this year and so got to enjoy some time catching up in the midst of all of the race frenzy. Once we had the medals all prepped, some of us were able to move up to the finish line to watch the elites finish. It was more than impressive to watch these men and women cross the finish line.

I even got to experience the finish of the fastest marathon ever run on Canadian soil (and somehow got a photo at the exact finish time: 2:08:54)

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I handed out medals to thousands of people for about 7 hours that day (including a handful of people that I knew!) and noticed that as time went on the reactions of the finishers changed. The longer that each finisher was out there, the more emotional they seemed to have been. It was touching to see the reactions of some runners and the sense of accomplishment that each of them felt.

I stuck around until the very end to see the final finisher. The race organizers very thoughtfully were ready with a bouquet of flowers for that final finisher and she graciously accepted them and was so happy to have made it through her race.

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Overall, it was a wonderful day. I love volunteering at this event, it is one of the biggest running events in Canada, how could I not take part in it?!

A little evidence of how lovely a day it was – this is what my sun burnt nose looked like at the end of the day!

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I’ll definitely be back next year at the Ottawa Race Weekend – running or volunteering!

M.

 

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One Year Later – 2013 Ottawa Race Weekend

20 May

This time last year I was in full training mode for the 2013 Ottawa Race Weekend – 10km. I was also in my absolute busiest time of work in my entire life so didn’t even have a chance to blog about one of the best running weekends I’ve ever had!

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With the 2014 Ottawa Race Weekend fast approaching, I was reminiscing on that weekend and wanted to capture some of my favorite photos and memories from that weekend on this blog….even if it is a whole year later!

Saturday: 10km Race – Personal Best!

I ran the 10km race on the Saturday evening and had been raising funds for a charity as part of the True Sport Running Team. It was one of my 2013 Running Goals and I was happy to accomplish it and support a great cause in the process.

I remember the weather being a little chilly but ultimately great for running. I had to spend most of my day pre-race at the office working but the good news out of that was that I was able to find some old clothes there to use of my throw away clothes that were key to keeping me warm before the race started.

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There were over 9000 runners in the 10km and the sight of that many people running together was just amazing!

I had what felt like the best long distance race of my life and finished with a personal best time of 47:30! I felt great the entire time and even managed negative splits throughout the entire 10km.

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Of the 9000 runners, my husband some how managed to spot me running by and was able to snap a photo in the process.

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Sunday: Marathon Finish Line Volunteer

On the Sunday of Race Weekend, I accomplished another one of my 2013 Running Goals – to volunteer at a race. I was a Marathon/Half-Marathon finish line volunteer, which meant helping out at the finish line distributing medals and race blankets and various other miscellaneous tasks.

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I met some great people and had a really fun morning being involved on the other end of a race. One of the perks of working the finish line was that we got front row seats for the finish of the elites.

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Those runners were incredible and inspirational. Definitely an exciting experience to be a part of. Throughout the morning, as the thousands of marathon and half marathoners streamed in, I gave away thousands of race blankets and was even more inspired by each of those runners than I could have imagined.

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2014 Ottawa Race Weekend

This year’s edition of Ottawa Race Weekend I will be volunteering at the finish line of the Marathon/Half Marathon once again! If you are running, let me know and I will keep an eye out for you at the finish!

M.

Shoppers Run for Women 5km Race Recap

12 May

The Shoppers Drugmart Run for Women was this Sunday, May 11th. It was an event I really wanted to be a part of but for the past few months it didn’t look like one that I would actually be able to make…until this week. Some things changed and all of a sudden I found myself signing up at the last minute for the race!

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I was thrilled to be a part of such a wonderful event. Funds collected went to support the Women’s Mental Health Program at the Royal Ottawa Hospital so it was definitely a worthwhile cause.

The race kit and victory bags were also pretty impressive – full of goodies and samples. Shoppers Drugmart did great filling up the bags for all the runners.

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With this race being a spur of the moment thing, I really wasn’t sure how things would go. I haven’t raced since October 2013 and have not really run a whole lot since then.

Nonetheless, I carefully planned my race day outfit. The weather being forecast looked like it was going to be a perfect day for a run..

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When I woke up on race day I went for my usual pre-race favorite foods…

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The race took place on the Aviation Parkway in Ottawa and started at the Aviation & Space Museum. I have run several races in this location and always enjoyed them.

As forecast, the weather looked fantastic…except for the wind. There was certainly more wind that I would have liked, and when I realized I would be running into the wind during the final 2.5km of the race, I was slightly worried about it.

Race organizers were very enthusiastic and had everyone warm up and get moving together before directing everyone to the start line.

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With that they also announced a few special guests present – local politicians, Shoppers Drugmart representatives, the Royal Ottawa Hospital representatives and perhaps the most exciting, a celebrity who was in town for Comicon – Sean Austin (from Goonies, Rudy and Lord of the Rings). 

Pre-race he spoke with passion about being at this event in support of women’s mental illness and talked about his mother’s struggle with bipolar disorder. He took part in all the race festivities and even ran the 5km with everyone!

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Photo credit: @SeanAstin twitter

Fun to have a celebrity at the race, but I really had to contain myself to not start chanting “Rudy, Rudy, Rudy, Rudy….” every time I saw him!

At the beginning of the race, I lined myself up near the front because I had a feeling there would be a lot of walkers or slower paced runners and I wanted to get out ahead of that as much as possible.

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I successfully got off the start line and was in about 6th place overall right off the bat. I knew there was at least one faster runner there today so I expected her to catch up to us fairly soon.

Within the first few hundred meters, I spotten my husband on the sideline with the camera so waved and said a quick hello.

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From there, I set out on the out-and-back loop with the intention of placing well. I wasn’t sure what kind of pace I would be able to maintain as I had been out of training for a while, but I knew I had enough in me to place well today.

I ran with the same woman beside me for a while, then slowly pulled away from her at the same time as I passed someone else. By kilometer 2, I was in third place with the first and second place runners a good distance ahead of me.

I maintained my third position at the turn around point and then ran head first into the wind – serious WIND. I was telling my husband yesterday that I would rather run in anything else but wind. I have a slight build and the wind just slowed me right now. No chance of negative splits today and by that point I was just hoping to hold on to my third place position.

I started to really struggle with about 1.5km left but kept moving. As I rounded towards the finish line, my husband was there for another photo op but I was not as keen to wave at that point – very much hurting!

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I ended up with a third place finish overall and am very pleased with it! Finish time was 23:27 – not a personal best time but still one to be proud of for sure. My last 5km race was exactly one year ago today – recap here – and today I finished 12 seconds faster than I did last year, so that’s good news!

I stuck around for a bit afterwards and I am glad I did because they actually announced the top 3 winners and called everyone on stage to receive a medal.

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At the finish line, instead of a medal they provided a finisher’s bracelet, a piece of jewelry designed by Foxy Originals.

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It was a fantastic idea for a women’s race and something unique that I really loved about today’s event.

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So happy that I was able to take part in this run – hope to make it an annual tradition and I strongly encourage people to participate in the Shoppers Drugmart Run for Women if one is taking place in your city! Great race, great cause…and great race goodies!

M.

 

Scotiabank Waterfront Half-Marathon Race Recap

18 Nov

On, Sunday, October 20th I ran one of the best road races of my life. I ran the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half-Marathon, and I crushed my personal best by 8 minutes.

I have never felt so good during a race, and certainly never felt so good during a half-marathon. This was only my 4th half, the most recent being 3 and a half years ago, and I must admit that I loved everything about this race.

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I enjoyed it so much that I think I ran almost the entire race with a smile on my face!

Let ‘s backup a bit and start from the beginning…..the entire week before the race I was doing my best to taper but the pre-race nerves got me early. I worried about the race and tried to maintain my confidence in my training, but the nerves still did manage to creep in.

Friday

By Friday, all my colleagues knew about my upcoming half-marathon and I felt the added stress of having to perform (knowing everyone on Monday would ask how it went!) As this was a “destination race”, my husband and I took Friday afternoon off to give us enough time to drive down to Toronto so that I could get a good night’s sleep Friday night. We stayed with friends and woke up Saturday morning ready for Race Expo Day!

Saturday

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The Expo of any major race is always a highlight for me. I love the atmosphere, the sales and the special events they have throughout the weekend. Sure enough, we managed to spend several hours there, checked out all the booths, did some shopping and heard some great speakers, including some women who’s blogs/twitter I follow (Miranda from Thoughts and Pavement and Christa on Twitter @christadavidson).

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My husband and I decided to spend Saturday night in downtown Toronto so that we’d be close to the start line and wouldn’t have to stress about making it on time or finding parking. We decided to splurge a little and got the race participant rate at the Fairmont Royal York. It was an amazing hotel and I took full advantage of it by spending most of Saturday afternoon lounging in the room.

Race Day – Pre-Race

Race day I woke up nice and early, feeling ready to run but equally as nervous.  I found my way to the start line and my yellow corral for the 1:46- 1:59 folks.

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I was happy to have my husband there for support (and for someone to carry all of my layers before I stripped down to my race attire!)
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As I didn’t want to be stuck in the back of my corral, I decided it was time to join my fellow yellow corral runners and get this thing started. It was chilly at the start line (I was happy to be wearing my newly acquired arm warmers), but once the race got started I realized the conditions were perfect.

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Race

I had determined a strategy for this race, but wasn’t sure where my half marathon fitness level truly was, so I thought I would use my strategy to start and see how things felt.

In my past races this year, I have somehow thrived on negative splits. I have been most successful when I can start moderately (not going out too fast), and then pick up the pace as I go along. My 10km PR in May was done using  this strategy and it was one of the best races I have run, so I decided to test it out again for the half-marathon.

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For at least the first 6kms, I was passed by what felt like everyone running that day. I had to repeatedly remind myself that I wasn’t racing against anyone else out there that day but myself. It was a little defeating, but I knew I had to stick to my plan and not go out too fast the first half of the race.

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There I am in the white cap and all black

I had never raced in Toronto, so I enjoyed starting the race running through several of the downtown city blocks. There were lots of spectators and it was exciting to be a part of such a large event.

I was feeling so good and was so happy to be running that I was grinning without even realizing it.

Once I reached the 8-9km mark, the steady stream of runners passing me had finally leveled off, and I started passing people without even realizing it. As defeating as being passed was early in the race, being able to pass others for the entire second half was probably doubly as motivating!

My plan to start the first few kilometers around a 5:25 pace and then maintain a 5:10 pace until about  the 9km or 10km mark worked out well according to my splits thus far:

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10km Mark

I reached the 10km mark at 52:24 which was roughly what I had thought I could do. I felt fantastic, which I took as a good sign and pushed on with my race plan to pick it up a little each kilometer.

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Somewhere around kilometer 14, I could finally see the 1:50 pace bunny. When I started the race I didn’t want to focus on keeping up with any pace bunnies as my plan was to start slow and pick up the pace as I went. I knew that if I started with the 1:50 pace bunny I might have gone out too fast, and potentially wouldn’t have been able to stick to my plan.

I quickly zipped by the 1:50 pace bunny somewhere between kilometer 14-16 and was still feeling great. I smiled again knowing that a personal best was within my grasp at that point and reaching my goal of a sub-1:50 half marathon was entirely possibly if I could maintain my pace.

The crowds started to get more dense the closer we got to the end of the race, and the cheers certainly helped propel me faster.

When I looked down at my watch at kilometer 19 and saw I was now running at a pace of 4:49, I smiled (again!), happy that I had made it that far with my race plan and knew I could push it with whatever I had left and would be getting a personal best once I made it to that finish line.

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My husband was watching for me a few hundred meters from the finish and managed to snap a photo as I ran by.

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I crossed the line in 1:46:29 and was giddy with excitement. I had crushed my personal best by 8 minutes and had never improved by so much in one race event.

When I calculate my 10km time for the second half of the race (kilometers 10-20), I realized that I had run it in my fourth fastest 10km time ever! 48:39!

I was thrilled!

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Race Reflections

I decided two weeks prior my race that I would try something interesting during the race that several other bloggers had done. I would dedicat small portions of the entire race to important people in my life.

I spent the weekend before the race determining who these special people would be and how I would divide up the kilometers. I wanted to be able to remember who I was going to be thinking about each kilometer so I need to memorize the list.

I didn’t want to spend too much time reflecting on it before race day as I wanted to save any special thoughts for that moment during the race as I may have needed them to get me through tough portions on race day.

In the end, I loved this experience; I have many important friends or family in my life and I had 2 kilometers per person to reflect on why they were each important to me. It kept my mind occupied during most of the 1 hour and 46 minutes and may have been a contributing factor as to why I smiled during the majority of the race.

My list was broken down as follows:

Kilometer 1: No one – I wanted to wait a kilometer until I got into the groove of the race. The first km is usually very hectic and distracting so I didn’t think I would be able to dedicate the brain space to anyone at that point in the race.
Km 2-3: My parents
Km 4-5: My younger brother
Km 6-7: My older brother
Km 8-9: My older sister
Km 10-11: My niece and nephew
Km 12-13: One of my good friends who has becoming a great traveling companion
Km 14-15: A former classmate turned great friend and “neighbor”
Km 16-17: One of my oldest friends from my hometown near Montreal
Km 18-19: A close friend and confidant from Toronto who’s house I stayed at Friday night
Km 20-21: My husband
Km 0.1: Again, no one as it was the final sprint to the finish and I knew I wouldn’t even be able to hear my own thoughts by that point

And there it is, a race that probably was one of the highlights of my year (and not just in terms of running and races, but in life overall). I hope to return to Toronto to race the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half-Marathon again….or dare I say it, maybe even the Marathon….only time will tell.

M.

Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half-Marathon Registration

10 Sep

As I alluded to in my 10km race recap on September 8th, I am now training for a half-marathon. I made the decision earlier this summer that it was the right time for me to complete another half-marathon and I had been toying with the idea of a late October race.

Being out of the country for a month from June 26 – July 25 and being swamped with work for the few months before that, I knew a half marathon any earlier than late October was out of the question if I wanted to train and be prepared to run it well, so early in the summer I started looking into my options.

I haven’t run a half marathon since 2010 for a variety of reasons. After watching a few big half marathons regretfully pass me by, I decided that I need to forget about everything else going on and sign up for one before any more could pass me by.

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I calculated that 12 weeks from my return from Russia was the October 20th Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon. I wanted my half to be a big race, with a big crowd and lots of excitement and this one seemed to fit the bill. Toronto is also about 5-6 hours from where I am in Ottawa so this would also be a destination race for me – completing one was on my 2013 Running Goals.

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I spent some of my time in Russia this summer debating whether or not to sign up, and came home with the decision unresolved.

It took my husband telling me the following that utlimately lead me to sign up the very next day: “You are in good enough shape to run a half-marathon right now if you want to, just think of the next 12 weeks as bonus to get you finishing it even faster!”)

He was right, so I went online and signed up before the price jumped or the race sold out.

Once that part was done, I got into one of my favorite parts of any race preparation – building the training program. As a very detailed oriented and organized person, I must admit that creating a training program for any race, big or small, excites me, so I spent some of the next day perfecting mine.

I am by no means a running coach but I feel like I know what works well for me and what is unrealistic. I build my training plan with all of this in mind and am now half way though it!

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True to my blog’s name and origin, I have already taken my training to many different cities – Montreal, QC, Lakeside, PEI, Sherbrooke, QC, Whistler, BC and Vancouver, BC. Photos of many of these runs are on my twitter account (@marymac82) but I plan to post reviews of each of these training runs shortly as well.

Here’s a sneak peek….from a run in Vancouver, BC.

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And, it doesn’t stop there, stay tuned for my next 6 weeks of training, where I travel internationally and take my training to Italy – Venice, Milan, & Trento!

M.

MEC Ottawa 10km Race Recap

9 Sep

On a whim Friday I decided to sign up for the MEC Ottawa 10km Race that was held this Sunday, September 8th. I wanted to get a 10km race in in sufficient time before I run my half marathon in October (another post to come about what race that is!) and as I will be out of town for most of the weekends leading up to the half, I knew this was likely my last weekend to get a 10km race in.

I had missed the online registration deadline so had to go into the MEC store to sign up. It was a smooth sign up process as it was only a small race. I got an awesome drawstring bag, a magazine and 10% in store so I purchase a lovely little 4 pack of NUUN.

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Sunday morning I had to be up early so was fairly tired. I had a bad case of pre-race jitters but managed to eat half a bagel and a small pack of Welches before the race so I wasn’t running on empty.

It was a bit of a chilly morning but with the temperature above 10c I knew I could still pull off running in shorts and maintain my comfort and warmth. I was cold pre-race but once it got going, I was the perfect temperature with a long sleeve shirt on top.

The field for the 10km was really small, only 37 runners. There was also a 5km and a 15km race going on with a total of about 175 runners out that day.

Once the race started I immediately scoped out my competition. I had a race plan and I knew how I wanted to pace myself but I also knew if there was a chance I could place well I would push myself to get there. When we started I noticed right away there were only 3 women ahead of me, so I made it my mission to at minimum place in the top 3.

The first kilometer people always so go out too hard. I try to hold myself back and maintain my pace and it has typically paid off with negative splits on race day.

I started out by passing the first female almost right away and set my sights on the 2nd place female ahead of me. She wasn’t far and after about 2km I passed her. With that I only had one female ahead of me for the rest of the race – I timed that she was about 30 second ahead of me so I wasn’t sure I could actually reach her.

Nevertheless, I plugged on sticking fairly close to my race plan and passed a few guys through kilometers 3-5. The course was a 5km loop which we had to run twice. At the end of the first loop, I noticed that the female ahead of me was only about 20-25 seconds away, and I then realized I was gaining on her and might actually be able to catch her in the second half of the race.

As I began kilometer 6, she got closer and closer. I struggled with the thought of whether or not to pass her now or to hang back and pass her at the end thinking I would have the upper hand knowing exactly where she was ahead of me.

I then thought otherwise and decided I was there to run my own race regardless of what anyone else ran so I maintained my pace and zipped by her somewhere between kilometer 6 and 7. I didn’t see her again until she finished 1:25 behind me. I was glad I trusted my instincts and ran my own race at that point!

The final few kilometers of the race were my fastest of the entire 10km. I managed to pass 2 males and have a strong sprint to the finish line (which was around 300m of a track – making for a pretty cool finishing experience!) I finished in an official time 48:18.

It was a small race so not much fanfare or cheering at the finish. I didn’t have anyone there watching me so I just smiled to myself after a well-run race and wondered why I had such nerves in the first place!

This was the final race in the MEC race series this year, but I certainly hope to run more of them in 2014 – they were inexpensive to participate in, the parking was awesome because there was not a huge crowd, there were no bathroom lineups, the post-race food was great (cliff bars, bananas, oranges) and there were door prizes to be won!

Stayed tuned for an update on my fall running plans, which include a major half-marathon update!

M.

True Sport Running Team

15 Apr

To start 2013, I decided that one of my 2013 Running Goals would be to fundraise for a cause at a race.

When I heard the organization True Sport (a group I am very familiar with and supportive of) was putting together a running team for a large, upcoming local race to fundraise and generate awareness for their cause, I was immediately interested in being a part of it.

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For those who don’t know, True Sport is a social movement that believes in transforming lives and communities through sport. The True Sport Foundation strives to instill character in our youth and strengthen Canadian communities by fostering a quality experience for those involved in ALL sport. They set out to accomplish this through a variety of sport and education programs that focus on values such as fairness, excellence, access, inclusion and fun!

For the first time, they have created a running team to take part in the 2013 Ottawa Race Weekend on May 25-26, 2013.

Race Weekend is the biggest running weekend of the year here in Ottawa. Members of the running team can take part in any of the races being held that weekend (races range from 2km to marathon). I will be running the 10km.

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As part of this running team I have set a fundraising role and have been included on the True Sport Running Team Website along with other members of the team.

I began my fundraising efforts a few weeks ago by sending an email out to friends and family members looking for their support and donations.

For an added incentive to get more donations, I decided to hold a contest. For every $10 donated, the donor receive 1 entry into this contest. The contest is “Guess Mary’s 10km Finish Time” and the closest guess to my official (chip) finish time will receive a $50 Bon Appetit gift card (good for Kelsey’s, Milestones, Montana’s, Swiss Chalet, Harvey’s restaurants in Canada).

To date, I haven’t received many entries into my contest, but I still have 6 weeks to go, so am hoping the donations/contest entries pick up.

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If anyone is interested in donating, you can follow the following steps:

1. Donate as much or as little as you would like on my Giving Page
2. Email me at marycolleenmacdonald@hotmail.com to indicate you have donated and for every $10, you have one guess at what my 10km finish time will be (ensure you make your guess down to the second, for example 50:51 or 50 minutes, 51 seconds)
3. On May 25th stay tuned for my official finish (chip) time to see if you guessed the closest
4. In the event of a tie, whichever individual has made the largest donation will win
5. The $50 Bon Appetit gift card winning prize will then be sent to the winner (this card is only valid in Canada)

I am looking forward to being a part of a team for this event (with team t-shirts and all!) and most importantly raising awareness and funds for a cause and organization that I support.

As we are just over a quarter of the way through the year, I am happy to have this particular 2013 Running Goal well underway.

Stay tuned for additional updates as I work towards completing this goal, and all of my other 2013 Running Goals.

M.