With expectations soaring high, this year’s VRPro Avella Chilly Half Marathon is set to attract over 3500 enthusiastic participants, turning Burlington’s waterfront area into a sea of determined runners.
Last year the event brought runners from the U.S. and as far away as Vancouver and Europe. VRPro Race Director Kelly Arnott says, “It’s the first race of the year and very popular because elite runners who are training for a spring full or half marathon use the Chilly Half Marathon as their last hard run. It’s a good training race for elite athletes who are training for a marathon in the spring.”
Olympic marathon runner Reid Coolsaet used the Chilly Half Marathon to springboard the marathon qualification process. In 2015 he set the course record, while in 2020, he set the Canadian Master’s record. The Chilly Half is also popular with running groups. One group from Toronto brings 400 members to the event on buses.
Beyond the personal achievements, the Chilly Half Marathon also serves a greater purpose. The event partners with Joseph Brant Hospital and so far, $12,000 has been raised to support Joe Brant, with this year’s goal being $20,000. Over the years, the Chilly Half has raised about $400,000 for the hospital.
The race starts at 10:05am from Burlington City Hall. The course takes runners across Lakeshore Road to Burloak Drive and then back again to downtown Burlington, where it ends at City Hall. Arnott says, “This is a fast, flat, and certified course and many runners have performed their personal best on this course.”
The line at the start extends about four blocks back and it can take about 7 minutes for all runners to cross the starting line. Arnott adds, “The first 200 runners are elite runners and fast. It’s really exciting to watch. The first runner crosses the finish line in about 1 hour and 4 minutes. The course will be open for 3.5 hours and all runners must complete the race in that time.
Don’t let the winter race date deter you. Kelly Arnott says, “If you look at the average over the 28 years, it has usually been a sunny day with the average temperature being about 2 degrees. There have been snowstorms, ice storms, and minus 30-degree weather, but that’s only happened 5 times in our 28 year history.”
One-of-a-kind finisher’s medal
The finisher’s medal is an incredible keepsake. Designed by Kelly Arnott and a graphic artist, each medal is about quarter inch thick and made up of 80 tiny chili peppers in iridescent opal.
She says, “I was so excited when we came up with this idea. It took me about 2 months to get it to the final stages and when the sample arrived, I was ecstatic. I took it to Niagara Falls and was taking pictures of it in front of the falls.” There is also an additional medal awarded to the top three runners in each age category.
Burlington businesses and residents eagerly anticipate the Chilly Half Marathon each year, not only for the spectacle of the race but also for the sense of community it fosters. Local hotels are booked with race participants. Five area hotels are offering Chilly Half Marathon discounted rates to participants.
Downtown restaurants open early to accommodate the runners. Arnott says, “For this particular race we’ve taken 2,000 cans of Stagg Chili to the 8 participating restaurants where it will be served free of charge to runners who come in with their bibs. It’s fantastic for the restaurants, the runners, their friends, and family members.”
The 8 participating restaurants are:
- Joe Dog’s Gasbar Grill
- The Coop Wicked Chicken
- Radius on Brant
- Black Swan Kitchen Hub
- Bocconcino Bakery & Market
- The Port House
- Squires Public House
- Jake’s Grill & Oyster House
VRPro will also provide a warm-up and recovery area for elite runners and VIPs at black Swan Kitchen Hub. City Hall will also be open for indoor warming and washrooms. The Burlington Performing Arts Centre will be a hub of activity. In addition to being a pre-race warming station and providing baggage check, massages will be offered. Musician Anthony Tullo will be entertaining the crowd. The Performing Arts Centre is also the location for the awards ceremony.
Race Kit Pickup
All registered runners must arrange to pick up their race kit before race day. If someone else is picking up the kit, they must present a copy of the runner’s registration. If they can’t make the race, under no circumstances can they give their bib to another runner who is not registered.
Race kit pickup locations are:
- Sunday, February 25th Kingsway Running Room 3065 Bloor Street West, Toronto (10:30am to 4:30pm)
- Tuesday, February 27th Kingsway Running Room
- Wednesday, February 28th, Kingsway Running Room
- Saturday, March 2nd Burlington Running Room, 3300 Fairview Street, 10am to 3pm.
Free shuttle bus service:
The shuttle bus to the race start line will run from 7:30am to 9:30am in the following order.
- Quality Inn – 950 Walkers Line
- Admiral Inn Burlington – 3063 South Service Road
- Best Western Inn – 2412 Queensway Drive
- Burlington GO Station – North parking lot, 2144 Queensway Drive
- Burlington Performing Arts Centre – 440 Locust Street
The return shuttle will run from 11am to 2pm in the reverse order.
A unique aspect of the Chilly Half Marathon is the mix of elite athletes and everyday runners. This event has firmly established itself as a highlight on marathon runners’ calendar, embodying the spirit of community, competition, and charity.