Natal Day Road RaceJuly 6, 2017
By Janet Hoyt-D’Eon
The Dartmouth Natal Day Road Race is one of the oldest road races in North America, dating back to 1907 and it is one of my personal favorites. This race not only has a long history with names like Johnny Miles in the winner’s circle. It is also a race where families run together and generations of families come back year after year. It is “a Come Home Week” kind of race for many runners who live away and it is a race that has produced some of the fastest times ever by our Nova Scotia runners.
As a young girl, I grew up running the 2 miler and later when I was in my 20’s I transitioned over to the 6 mile event. I have been back many times lining up at the start line with my own family and cheering on the hundreds of runners who come out every year.
My coaching partner Erin and I have decided to offer you our best memories of this special race and we hope you’ll consider lacing up for this year’s 111th edition on Monday, August 7th. We also have a special promo of 25% off my coaching services to prepare for this event, using the coupon code “NATALDAY”
My favourite memories
One of my favourite memories is my very first Natal Day race. I was a track athlete at that time training with a local club, the Dartmouth Kinsmen Achilles. This was a track club where other runners you will find in the Dartmouth Natal Day record books got their start. Runners like course record-holder, Robert Englehutt and 8 time winner, Pam Currie-Yarr were my teammates.
Dartmouth Natal Day was one of only a handful of road races scattered throughout the province then and there was no road racing series. For two years I stood on the sidelines cheering on my older teammates. I remember watching the boys’ race and listening as they bantered, laughed and shared their road race stories. I can remember wanting to be a part of that.
When I was 14, my coach asked me if I wanted to run the race. Well he didn’t have to ask me twice. It was my turn to run with the big boys and have fun. It was a different venue and there were new faces running that I had never seen at the track. It was a chance to race and put our track training to the test without knowing every 400 metre split time. There was a sense of adventure, fun and community spirit and I enjoyed being part of it.
I captured the Women’s 2 mile title winning in a time of 11:46. I think that is still my best PB on that course! (lol) That was my first race but definitely not my last. I would be back many times over the next 40 years.
Dartmouth Natal Day Race would not only end up being my first road race, it is also the course on which I ran my fastest road race.
In 1990 I was having a good year. I was training for 5k and 10k road races and I wanted to break 36 minutes in the 10k.
My coach that year was the late Cliff Matthews and he had really helped me to train smart which kept me injury free. He had also worked hard on breaking me of leaning too much on the time on my watch. Despite my objections, he usually would take my watch during workouts so I wouldn’t know my split times. He always said that if you are fit, the time will be there. His philosophy was that you could limit yourself by relying too much on your watch and instead he taught me to tune in to running and racing according to how I felt that day.
With this training behind me I lined up at the start line of the 6 miler. I had a shot at winning my 4th straight title but I really wanted to have a strong race and finish with a PB. That was usually my goal in most races.
I can remember starting out at a pace that felt a bit conservative. Generally I liked to start a little cautiously, within reason of course, in the beginning. That 3 loop race can bite back if you take the pace out too quick. At the one mile mark I remember hearing my split time thinking that is perfect. It was right where I wanted to be and I was feeling good.
After that I just let my legs run. When I came through the first loop I was with the leading women and I felt strong. I decided I could push the pace and over the next two loops I continued to it pick up. I had no idea what my time was after the first mile. I just raced tuning into what I felt my body could give that day, just like Cliff taught me. When I finished, my third loop had been my fastest.
Final time: 35:42. Although not a 10k, it would have been very close to being sub 36 minutes. I was elated! A PB for me and a new course record for the Women’s 6 mile event. It was a record that would stand for 16 years and a time that would be an all-time best for me.
Erin’s Favourite Memories by Erin Poirier
Natal Day always holds a special place in my race calendar because it was one of my late running coach Cliff Matthews’ favourite races. He was a cornerstone fixture at the race, standing on the route, shoulders hunched over, watch in hand, jeans on no matter the weather, booming voice echoing through all of downtown Dartmouth.
One of my most memorable Natal Day races was 2013. I was back to racing after having my daughter in spring of 2012. I was super motivated that summer to earn a spot of Run Nova Scotia’s Timex Team heading to 10km Nationals by placing in the Timex Series. But as motivated as I was, I was finding the series to be long. I was in peak shape for the April Timex Lung Run 5km. Now we were 4 months later, a long time for me to hold onto peak fitness. I was lamenting about this at running practice. One of my kind-hearted training partners Clint Cummings offered to pace me at Natal Day; he didn’t want to race himself. Maybe he was tired of me complaining too!
At race kit pick up that year, I was totally thrilled when volunteers told me that my bib was with the Elite Field’s bib pick up. My first Elite bib!!! Race Director Dave Nevitt sure knows how to treat his runners well! During warm up drills with Clint and my club the next day, I had great fun as Clint got started on lots of chirping with our Cliff’s Antiques’ fast guys, pointing out that my bib number was lower than theirs ergo, I was the faster runner, hahaha!
Clint and I head off to warm run up solo. I want to be solo because something joyous and unexpected has happened that is surely going to impact my race. My daughter is now 15 months old. My husband I have decided that we are ready to add baby #2. But we don’t expect to get pregnant on our very first try. For the second time. But we do. So I am lining up about 9 weeks pregnant and I’ve been vomiting… a lot. Being the cautious parents we are, my husband and I prefer to wait until the second trimester to share our pregnancy news. So far, the number of people who know about this are: my husband and my running coach Cliff. Clint has already told me that he’s all ready to yell at me to run faster and to do so repeatedly. I’ve been on mission to crack 40 minutes in 10km. He wants to see it happen. Clint becomes the third person to know our happy baby news because I don’t want him yelling at me while I am barfing behind a tree on the race course!
I love this race with my teammate. We run a respectable 40:47 with a body that’s fatigued from early pregnancy. It’s a special first race with this new baby on board. I make it through the race without barfing.
My second most memorable Natal Day was last year, 2016. Fellow Love Training More Coach Linda is a longtime friend and training partner of mine with both Cliff’s Antiques and now Halifax Road Hammers. I don’t get to run this race with Linda but I do get to run it with her university-age daughter Liz. The torch is being passed in a very special way from mother to daughter- how often does that happen!?
For Liz, a collegiate cross-country and indoor track stand-out at ST FX, this is her first race at this distance. I’d been training with Liz and a crew of young collegiate girls all summer, unintentionally becoming the workout mama. Coach Lee gives us a specific race plan but it basically boils down to this: work together, match stride for stride. I love going out there with Liz. Teammates are always better together. We push each other and take care of each other… through to a 3rd place finish for me with a new PB of 38:05 which is 97sec faster than the year before: I am thrilled. Liz clocks a 6 mile debut of 38:21.
Prologue: Natal Day is a really special road race and Love Training More hopes you’ll make it part of your Natal Day weekend. We would love to help you prepare and/or fine-tune your training over the next 4 weeks to get you ready for the best day possible. Coupon Code NATALDAY will give you 25% off Janet’s coaching services to prepare!