I dragged my wife and two friends up to Vancouver, BC to run the inaugural RnR Half Marathon a while back. The race was run on October 26. After a week of miserable spitting rain and bitterly cold weather, the sun came out for the race and seriously bolstered our moods. My wife ran the 10k and the rest of us lined up for the half.
I was unsure of what to expect from this race. Reports of previous RnR events were mixed at best. Some people loved the party atmosphere while others despised it. I wasn’t really looking to blaze the track, but I was eager to tour Vancouver. I had never been there and I hold that there is no better way to see a new city than to run it. In the days leading up to the race, I had run several routes around Stanley Park and in the city. The only feature I was concerned about was the hills. Vancouver is far from a flat town, but I think that’s part of the fun.
Before the race started, I huddled with a large group of runners warming up at the Starbucks by the starting line. I bought a large coffee just to have something warm to wrap my hands around. I didn’t drink a single sip of it and dumped it in a coffee bucket just before the start of the race. According to the volunteer nearby, that’s what the bucket was there for. Apparently purchasing warm beverages and then discarding them is a frequent occurrence at these frigid early morning events.
I went out fast in this race. I started next to a pacer, but didn’t look at the sign he was holding until well into the race. At mile 7, the pacer finally started to pull away from me and I realized I had been moving at a 1:50 pace, which is well faster than my expected time of a flat 2 hours. Throughout the race, I felt an ebb and flow. When the sun was shining through the clouds and the landscape was especially beautiful or interesting, I sped up. When I was running through parking lots or under highways, I slowed. I didn’t notice this fact until after the race when I reviewed my GPS results.
The crowd was great the entire time. Many cheering folks with cowbells in hand made even the most remote areas of the race feel welcoming and encouraging. Perhaps my favorite moment came around mile 11.5 when I was starting to fade. A wild man dressed like a deranged yellow superhero with a cape came rushing past me. He was holding a little stuffed monkey up and talking to everyone he passed. When he reached me, he held up the animal and said in a high-pitched cartoonish voice, “Hey, I hear there’s gonna be bananas at the finish line!” Maniacal. I was happily distracted for a short while watching him say random things to the others he passed.
The last mile of the race outlines Stanley Park and the water. It’s a beautiful place to run. The home stretch was teeming with cheering people. Vancouverites were out in force and their support was greatly appreciated. I pushed my pace for the last mile and wound up finishing at 1:55:26, with a pace of 8:49/mile. It wasn’t my best half marathon effort, but I was quite happy with it. After the race, I found my wife and enjoyed the post-race activities. Our friends had started in another wave and shortly they joined us for a photo.
Cabs were scarce, so we wound up walking back to the hotel. There were dozens of people looking for taxis. If you do this race, plan ahead to have a gear bag with warm clothes or some arrangement for transportation. I was freezing after the race and the walk did nothing to keep me warm. I made the mistake of showing up in shorts and a t-shirt and didn’t bring anything to keep me warm after the race.
All in all, this was a great event. It was a fun way to see the city and I enjoyed the music along the way. The other runners were all very friendly and I’m excited to see more of Vancouver and Canada at large. I wouldn’t rule out running a marathon here in the future. Also, I highly recommend checking out Lynn Canyon Park and the beautiful suspension bridge and creek there.