From the chopping block to record fields

Jason Simmonds
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Harvest Festival Road Race growing in popularity

KENSINGTON – What was originally a one-year commitment by Ivan Gallant is nearing 20 years.

It was back in 1995, and the Harvest Festival Road Race was without a chairman. With no one to take it over, the event was on the verge of being dropped from the schedule.

A runner himself, Gallant offered to step in at the last minute, and give the Harvest Festival committee time to find someone for the following year. That never happened, Gallant kept staying on year after year and 19 years later the race, usually held on the third Saturday morning of August, has never been more popular.

“It’s races like this that have some historical kind of value to a lot of participants,” said Billy MacDonald, the overall winner of this year’s 41st annual event in a time of one hour 33 minutes 54 seconds (1:33:54). “You see a lot of people come to this one in particular year after year that you won’t see at other races.

“Some of these races mean a lot to the runners, and it’s really important you keep it going for the long run.”

This year’s event attracted a record field of 85 runners. The previous high was 83 in 2012.

The 25-kilometre route, nicknamed the “Killer Course” because of its steep hills and challenging inclines, starts in Stanchel and finishes in front of the Alysha Toombs Memorial Park alongside Community Gardens in Kensington.

“A lot of people like the challenge of running it for various reasons,” said Gallant, who added a successful race would not be possible without a strong group of volunteers. “There is its history and there are more runners running now, so that helps the growth of any race.

“This one, in particular, to get 85 people out, and it’s been going up anywhere from 65 to 85 over the last six or seven years, it’s unbelievable with the amount of people who dedicate themselves to do this on a hot Saturday morning.

“It’s growing big time, and the whole Harvest Festival committee will be pleased with that.”

“A lot of people like the challenge of running it for various reasons. There is its history and there are more runners running now, so that helps the growth of any race. This one, in particular, to get 85 people out, and it’s been going up anywhere from 65 to 85 over the last six or seven years, it’s unbelievable with the amount of people who dedicate themselves to do this on a hot Saturday morning. It’s growing big time, and the whole Harvest Festival committee will be pleased with that.” Race director Ivan Gallant

Along with runners from around the Maritimes, participants from as far away as Australia, Ontario, New Hampshire and the Boston area were part of this year’s field.

 “A couple of (tourists) come just particularly to do the race,” said Gallant.

Youngest runner

The youngest runner this year was 12-year-old Tyler Heggie, who finished a very respectable 31st overall in 2:05:03. Heggie, who is from Brackley, had a goal of finishing in 2 1/2 hours.

“It’s pretty hilly, but it was quite fun,” said Heggie, who recently ran a 50-kilometre ultra trail run at Brookvale and has been invited to a trail marathon in Massachusetts on Nov. 8.

When asked what the most challenging part was, Heggie said, “Probably right at the start, those big hills.”

Gallant was unsure if Heggie is the youngest person to ever run in the Harvest Festival race.

“I know there have been a couple around that age since I started organizing it,” said Gallant. “I know the very first race there was a 12-year-old in it back 41 years ago. . .

“It’s certainly good to see young children take an interest in running. There were a lot of new runners in this race over previous years. That’s good too.”

Twitter.com/JpsportsJason

Fields

Harvest Festival Road Race fields since 1999:

2014 – 85.

2013 – 73.

2012 – 83.

2011 – 79.

2010 – 70.

2009 – 70.

2008 – 67.

2007 – 56.

2006 – 56.

2005 – 65.

2004 – 51.

2003 – 56.

2002 – 50.

2001 – 48.

2000 – 37.

1999 – 36.

Source: www.peiroadrunners.com.

Geographic location: Stanchel, Alysha Toombs Memorial Park, Community Gardens Kensington Australia Ontario New Hampshire Boston Brackley Massachusetts

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