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Race into History!

Published: August 2013

It's that time of year - race weekend. No matter where you are there are road races for runners to compete in. Whether you're up for the 5k, 10k or full marathon of 42k you're bound to find one near you. That said there's a lot to see along the routes other than the athletes. Whether you're participating or cheering from the sidelines make sure to take a look at the historic places along the way. If you've ever run or watched a marathon you'll know that some wander through the countryside while others go up and down city streets, and there are plenty of historic sites in both settings. These particular marathons include stunning views, water features, bridges and lots of historic places!

If you happen to be running in the Niagara Falls International Marathon you've chosen an extra special year. This year marks the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 and three of the sites you'll pass on your run are related to the conflict.

The first historic site you'll pass is the Danner-Sherk House. It was the home of Ulrick Strickler and his family who built the property in 1805. By 1812 war had broken out and Strickler's crops were seized by troops in the area on numerous occasions. Amazingly enough, his property was the only one in the area not to be burned down by either American or British troops during the war. Today the historic house is home to a bed & breakfast - but this isn't the time to think about rest or food! Keep running, the finish line and a few other historic places await...

Navy IslandThe next site you'll come across is the Battle of Chippawa National Historic Site. Although there are no visible remains of the battle that took place here in 1814, a monument has been erected to mark the site. You won't have time to read it during the race but look to your left as you pass by for a glimpse of it and the green space around it. The majority of the marathon route showcases the natural beauty of the area with a tree-lined parkway and the Niagara River to your right.  In the middle of the river you should be able to catch a glimpse of Navy Island National Historic Site (left). Situated in the Niagara River between Ontario and Grand Island, New York, the cairn marks the location of the first British shipyard that served the Upper Great Lakes. The site was also home to William Lyon Mackenzie's exiled government during the 1837 Rebellions. Today the only way to access the island is by boat but it's a still a popular spot for campers, bird watchers and fishermen.

We know you're almost at the finish line now but before crossing Chippawa Creek take a look down Bridgewater Street to the Laura Secord House.  Laura Secord, know recognized as a Canadian heroine because of her daring actions during the War of 1812, didn't live here during the war but the home is among many in the area recognized for their links to the conflict. This particular house was actually built long after the War of 1812 in the midst of another conflict - the Rebellions of 1837. Remember that Laura Secord walked 19 miles through the wilderness to warn the British of a surprise U.S. attack - that's over two thirds of the distance you've covered today so stay strong and finish the race on a high note!

To the east, the city of Saint John, New Brunswick hosts the "Marathon by the Sea" offering runners magnificent views of the coast as the route winds through the city's parks and historic districts. As you jog along Crown Street take a peek down Orange Street and you'll see many historic buildings that are a part of the Orange Street Heritage Conservation Area. One of these buildings is Paul Residence, a three storey Italianate residence that survived the devastating fire of 1877 during which much of the city was destroyed. There are numerous designated buildings along the street - if you have time you can check them out after the race.Furlong Building

The historic heart of Saint John, known as Trinity Royal, is featured in the next leg Furlong's Liquor Store (right) at the corner of Water and Princess streets. Although built in the same Italianate style as Paul Residence, this building was built after the fire of 1877 and symbolizes the city's rebuilding efforts.  Built of brick rather than wood, it demonstrates the will of merchants and citizens to protect their buildings from future fires. Although it was a popular stop for beverages in the past you're going to have to keep going today - but don't worry, there's a water stop coming up!

As you jog down Main Street you'll pass Fort Howe National Historic Site (below). Even though you won't get to see the beautiful view from the lookout you'll know where it is for next time you're in the area.  The fort, of which there are no extant remains, was built in the late 18th century to help protect settlers from attack. Today you'll probably be safe to run by without a second thought - but make sure to save some energy for the return loop.

Fort HoweBefore you get to the finish line you'll run through yet another historic area of the city, this time on Douglas Avenue. There are multiple designated properties but make sure to take note of the W. A. Chesley Residence as you go by. Built in the Second Empire architectural style, the building has been home to successive generations of Chesleys from 1875 - 1922. The Chesleys were involved in the ship building industry, local politics and other business ventures in Saint John and abroad. Best of luck finishing up the race - we'll be waiting for you at the finish line where you might want to take a dip in Lilly Lake!

No matter where you're racing this season there are bound to be historic sites along your journey. Although race day isn't the day for a visit, take note of their location and come back soon. Historic places might not even look 'historic' - they might just be a part of the streetscape. Remember that while some are open to the public and operate as historic sites, museums etc., others are operational institutions like schools or banks, or even private family homes. History is well and alive across Canada - but we'll leave the marathon running up to you!