KENSINGTON – Brandon Higginbotham entered the Harvest Festival 25K Road Race with lots of advice and a challenge.
He adhered to that advice, the challenge was met and now the Winsloe native is the most recent winner of P.E.I.’s longest-running foot road race. The 23-year-old Higginbotham, who finished second overall to Michael Bergeron of Halifax, N.S., last year, overcame Saturday morning’s heavy rain to hit the finish line in one hour 31 minutes 52 seconds (1:31:52).
“It was funny, earlier this week, I was in Halifax and Michael said, ‘You have to run faster than my time last year (1:35:41),’” said Higginbotham, who recently moved back to P.E.I. for a job in the banking industry. “I just wanted to go out and have a good effort.”
Higginbotham also improved his time by almost five minutes following a 1:36:30 finish in 2017.
“It’s exciting to be able to come back this year and get the win,” acknowledged Higginbotham. “It was on my mind throughout the week, but it’s always nice to be able to go out and execute a good race.
“When you have a good race plan, you have good coaching, it makes it easy to execute.”
Credits coach’s influence
Higginbotham was quick to praise the influence of his coach, Lee McCarron, with the Halifax Road Hammers. Higginbotham, who previously lived in Halifax, still does some training with the Road Hammers.
“Lee has provided great guidance and is a great coach,” said Higginbotham in an interview with the Journal Pioneer at the finish line located at Alysha Toombs Memorial Park alongside Credit Union Centre, the former Community Gardens. “Lee said, ‘Take it out and see what you can do.’
“I’ve improved a lot since last year, and it’s amazing what a year of good training and good coaching can result in. I’m very pleased with the effort (Saturday).”
Mike Peterson of Charlottetown finished second in 1:37:50, and Patrick Bryden of Halifax was third overall in 1:40:18. Peterson won the Dunk River Road Race in Bedeque in July.
“I took it out pretty good,” said Higginbotham, who jumped out to the lead right off the start by the old Church of Scotland in Stanchel. “I was a little more aggressive than I wanted to be, but I just rolled the whole way and felt really good.
“I just kept going and I was like, ‘Why not keep pushing it, and let’s see what you are made of?’”
Higginbotham agreed that the steep hills early in the race and steady inclines throughout the route lives up to its “Killer Course” nickname. When asked how he would rate the course’s degree of difficulty, Higginbotham quickly responded, “11 out of 10!”
Higginbotham admitted one thing he learned from last year that he implemented into his game plan was to be patient climbing the hills.
“I didn’t get caught up with what my pace was going uphill,” said Higginbotham. “Lee gave some good advice earlier in the week, saying, ‘You are going to make the time up on the downhills.’
“I was pretty patient on the uphills and then utilized the downhills. There was a nasty headwind coming back in.”
The next major race on Higginbotham’s calendar is a half marathon in Moncton, N.B., in October.
“This is a really good bench mark just to go out and see what I could do on a tough, hilly course and see what I’m basically made of,” he added.
Most dedicated runner
Daren Kelly received the award for most dedicated runner. Kelly finished tied for 45th overall with Danielle MacIsaac in a time of 2:52:10.
“He’s a hometown Kensington boy, and he said this race was always on his bucket list,” said race chairman Ivan Gallant. “Some of the volunteers look at who may be deserving of this award, and we asked a few of the people who were helping out and we came to the consensus he would be a good choice.”
Harvest Festival 25K Road Race results:
1. Brandon Higginbotham (1:31:52); 2. Mike Peterson (1:37:50); 3. Patrick Bryden (1:40:18); 4. Alex Bain (1:47:46); 5. Spencer Campbell (1:53:44); 6. Jeff MacKenzie (1:54:50); 7. Tony Wilson (1:55:08); 8. Erin Poirier and Dr. Helga Reisch-MacNeill (tied 1:57:53); 10. Leanne Vessey (1:59:31);
11. Paul Burnley (2:00:21); 12. DJ Welton (2:03:33); 13. Peter Hagen (2:06:18); 14. Blair Steele (2:06:49); 15. Peer Walker (2:07:22); 16. John McDonald (2:10:00); 17. Chad MacMillan (2:10:22); 18. Francis Fagan (2:10:30); 19. Sandra Gregory (2:14:14); 20. Wayne Gairns (2:16:30);
21. Alan Easton (2:17:05); 22. Nancy Morris (2:17:19); 23. Michael Irvine (2:18:16); 24. Pam Power McKenna (2:19:18); 25. Peter Moak (2:19:19); 26. Natalie McDonald (2:19:20); 27. Trish Cameron-McDonald (2:19:45); 28. Brooke Gregory (2:20:35); 29. Paul Robinson (2:24:05); 30. Kipp Preston (2:24:38);
31. Jackie Hicks (2:25:21); 32. Charlene Frizzell (2:25:21); 33. Adam Profitt (2:27:33); 34. Dorothy Gregory (2:27:38); 35. Martin Morris (2:27:51); 36. Judy West (2:31:43); 37. Cheryl Jeffery-Landry (2:32:32); 38. Shanice MacDonald (2:33:20); 39. Eric Sproule (2:34:57); 40. Barb DesRoches (2:39:15);
41. Rosie Banks (2:44:22); 42. Monica Higgins and Sarah Higgins (tied 2:47:40); 44. Lynn Anne Hogan (2:49:12); 45. Daren Kelly and Danielle MacIsaac (tied 2:52:10); 47. Paula Pickering and Ronda Bellefontaine (tied 2:55:33).