Several months ago, Kristen let me know that Anna, Eddie and Paul were planning on running the Perth Kilt Run. As you can guess by the name, it’s mandatory to wear a kilt! It’s also the Guinness World Record holder for largest kilt race. This, combined with how much fun we had the last time we’d run a race together (at the Port City Challenge in Saint John, New Brunswick in 2015) made signing up an easy decision.
The Perth Kilt Run is held in Perth, Ontario, which, according to their website, was voted “the prettiest town in Ontario” and is the “largest maple syrup producer in Ontario.
We drove to Perth after work on Friday and arrived at about midnight. Our friends had all booked at the Best Western Plus hotel so we did the same. The rate was reasonable, it was well located and check in was smooth. Everybody who worked there was really pleasant and helpful and there was also a spa in the hotel (as usual we didn’t have time to use it. Maybe next time!). I gasped when we opened the door to our hotel room. It was gigantic and bigger than our condo! We had a king bed, two big comfy chairs, a sofa, a desk and chair and a giant bathroom. The bathroom even had a tub with jets and heated floor tiles. And that was just a regular room. Can you imagine what a suite would look like?
We slept in the next day before getting breakfast at Cafe Hideaway. I had the special, which was a maple sausage, onion and cheddar omelette with hashbrowns and a choice of toast (I opted for rye bread). It was delicious! Dan had the French toast and peameal bacon. After breakfast we explored Perth. It was picturesque and peaceful. All the storefronts had little signs in the windows that said “Welcome Kilt Runners!”
After walking around the farmers market, we walked to Stewart Park and watched people practicing Tai Chi. I took my picture with the stature of Big Ben, a prize-winning Canadian racehorse.Disney World Half with us in 2012) and meet her husband Al. It was great to be together again. Anna also thoughtfully got all of the runners a “crushing it” toiletry bag (complete with a tube of petroleum jelly to help with the chafing from the kilts!). Our motto since our first race in Disney World is “crush it!” so this has a lot of meaning to us. Race kit pickup
After lunch, we walked to the Crystal Palace for race kit pick up. Pick up was really easy and I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the kilts. When we registered we had the option to pay more to have a kilt included in our race package. I can’t remember how much the kilt was, but I remember thinking it was pretty reasonable. We tried on our kilts and were really happy with them so we ended up walking back to the hotel in them. Dan even had a bit of extra swagger in his kilt.
We got ready for the race and then took a bunch of pictures. Our picture-taking was interrupted by the kids warrior race. Kids were running up the street and then crawling through a tunnel before climbing a stack of hay bales. Meanwhile a bagpipe was playing the themes from Rocky, Star Wars and more. As Eddie said, “Everything sounds good on a bagpipe!”
The race start
We made our way to the start area and made a plan for where to meet when we were done. Sue was spectating and let us know that she’d be sitting by the water. Kristen went to use the washroom one last time and while she was gone, race officials kept walking by and telling us that the runners had to get to the starting area. This started to make us really anxious and when we saw Kristen we rushed her along.
When we got to where the runners were corralled it was a huge crowd of people in kilts. Then we slowly started to move. I was in the middle of a corporate step challenge at work and remember checking my Fitbit before we started walking. It was at a little over 8,000 steps. We walked for so long to get to the start that my Fitbit vibrated to let me know that I was over 10,000 steps! I looked around to see if there were any signs to self-seed based on our finishing time but didn’t see any. I saw later that the pre-race instructions that were emailed to us said that faster runners should line up from Mill Street and slower runners from Market Street. I’m not sure which street we lined up from and wish they’d had signage or volunteers standing there to help direct us.
As we stood in the corral the Town Cryer made a speech. Then we sang O Canada, followed by Happy Birthday to Canada (since Canada’s 150th is coming up). After this somebody played a jig on a fiddle and people in the corral danced around. Then the race started!
Dan wanted to run with me but I didn’t want to hold him back (even though he said “I’m not planning on running fast so I’ll run with you!” Encouraging words!). I also didn’t want to worry about keeping track of each other in the crowd. We stayed together for the first part of the race and passed Kristen, Anna and Bev. I yelled “Crush it!” as I ran by and they said “How’d you get behind us?” Then we ran past Eddie and I yelled “Crush it!” and heard him laugh.
I spent most of the first few kilometres weaving around people. There were parked cars on the street, so the streets were narrow. I weaved around people being pushed in regular wheelchairs, people walking with Nordic poles, people running and holding the hands of their small children at the same time, etc. I think it’s amazing that all of these people are able to participate in a race like this and I hope they had a good time. With that said, I wish the race officials had asked them to start in the back, because it did feel dangerous at times trying to get around them (especially when they’re two to three abreast). I ended up weaving around so much that I added over 400 metres to my final race distance!
Anna had told me that there were seven water stations. I’d prepared my handheld water bottle since I get very thirsty and have had issues with the heat in the past (chills and heat exhaustion). Unfortunately I forgot to bring it with me. We reached the first water station but I couldn’t get to it because it was on the opposite side of the street and I couldn’t get through all the runners to get to it. I managed to drink from the second water station but missed the third on because they ran out on the side that I was approaching. If I were to do it again, I’d carry my own water.
There was a bagpiper at every kilometre and they were amazing! I clapped and cheered every time I passed one. The spectators were also incredible. I high fived kids (and one parent thanked me by bib number for high fiving their kids!), people stood outside their houses cheering and turned their sprinklers on to help cool us off. We passed porches where people were out fiddling and playing music for us. It was so much fun. The route took us past the same church three times but I didn’t mind because they seemed to have someone different playing an instrument each time.
The clouds threatened us with rain but instead we got a welcome sprinkle here and there that helped cool us down.
The route took us into the grass and then onto a gravelly path through a trailer park where people were out cheering. There’s an option to do the 8k race as a Warrior, which means you run the race carrying a sword and shield and completing obstacles. I saw several of the obstacles in this area, including a tightrope walk that ends in taking a shot.
We finished the gravel route and went back onto the road where we headed for the finish line. As I approached the finish I heard an ambulance behind me and people yelling to move to the right to let the ambulance by. I knew an ambulance meant that a runner was down and looked ahead to see a man down on the ground. Two other people were helping him by putting pressure on his bleeding head. He was wearing a black shirt and the race kilt, and from far away looked similar to Dan. As I ran by I slowed down to make sure it wasn’t Dan. I saw his shoes and I was 99.9% that it wasn’t him. With the ambulance there and people already helping him, I knew there was nothing else I could do to help. Another man slowed down next to me and said “Did he fall?” And I told him I didn’t know. I turned my attention to the finish and sprinted the last few metres, feeling triumphant but with a nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach.
The finish and reuniting with Team Crush It
I still wasn’t 100% sure that the runner who went down wasn’t Dan. I kept thinking about Dan’s shoes and second guessing what I had seen. I rounded the corner of the finishing chute and collected my “medal,” which was a flask full of maple syrup from a local syrup producer! I was delighted. I love real maple syrup!
Then I picked up an orange slice, which felt so good to eat after the hot humid run in a kilt. They handed me a wrapped maple candy and a protein bar. I continued through the chute and grabbed my very much appreciated free beer. As I was sipping it and looking for Dan, who I was certain finished before me, it started pouring rain. I made my way into the Crystal Palace to stay dry. I thought of my friends who were still out on the race course. On the one hand, the rain would probably be refreshing. On the other hand, wet kilts are probably not as much fun to run in.
I still hadn’t found Dan and felt that slow dread and panic rising up from my stomach into my chest and into my throat. Dan is usually really easy for me to spot in a crowd so I began to wonder if I was the terrible wife who ran past her husband to get her free beer while he was lying bleeding from his head on the ground. The rain slowed again so I stepped outside to see if I could spot Dan.
After what felt like several minutes of frantically scanning the crowd I went back into the Crystal Palace and saw the back of his BRC shirt sitting on a bench outside. Relief swept through me as I went out to the water (the forgotten by me agreed upon meeting spot) where Dan was sitting on a bench with Sue and Eddie. I’m happy it wasn’t Dan who was injured (he saw the injured man too and only finished a few minutes before me). I hope that his injury wasn’t serious and that he’s ok.
Eventually everybody found us at the bench and we took pictures and shared stories. Everybody finished and we all crushed it! We went back to the hotel and made plans to meet up for dinner.
Some of us wore our kilts out to dinner. We went to Fiddleheads, where they managed to seat us relatively quickly. Dinner was fun and I think we were originally hoping to repeat our pub crawl/food tour Saint John experience. That idea soon fizzled when we realized how tired we were, and that most places were closed by the time we finished dinner. Instead we went back to the hotel and called it a night.The next day we had one last breakfast together and shouted out ideas for our next Crush It race! Nashville and Vegas were a few places that came to mind. I’m hoping some people will join me for STWM in October. We’ll see where and when we’ll all run together again. No matter what, I know it’ll be fun. The Perth Kilt Run was my slowest 8k, finishing in 52:35 (my 8k PB is 44:35 at the very hilly Spring Run Off). I was still happy with the time considering all the people I had to get around, the heat, the challenge of running in a kilt, and not being in racing shape. The race was hard for me but I enjoyed it. I later found out that the Perth Kilt Run has a large number of age category winners. Instead of age groups they do first, second and third place for each age! Because of this, I was pleased to discover that I’d placed second in my age category! I’ve never placed before (and if I was a year older or younger I wouldn’t have) so this was really exciting!
Overall the race was a lot of fun and I would do it again. I’ll just have to make a mental note to look for and line up at Mill Street next time!