The BMO Vancouver Half Marathon
In February/March of this year I caught wind of some terrific deals from round trip flights between Toronto and Vancouver. I’ve got a great friend who lives out there, also a runner, and though we’d never run together we’d occasionally talked about doing a run sometime – this seemed like the perfect opportunity.
I already had a couple of runs schedule for this year, so wanted to do the half marathon. That wasn’t on the cards for him, but he was up for the 8K. Carmen, who has been running for the last year or so was also up for the 8k – to date it was further than she had ever run – so it seemed perfect. We’d fly out a few days ahead of the race, see some sites, hang out with Chris and his family a bit, and then they’d run the 8K while I did the half.
Carmen has never been to Vancouver so we tried to pack as much into the couple of days we had as we could – there will be another post with some of the things we did and places we ate. I haven’t been there in ages myself and what a fantastic place Vancouver has become for vegans! So many restaurants with clearly marked menus. Anytime I opened the Happy Cow app we were literally surrounded by places to eat.
Ok, so it’s Sunday morning, the day of the race.
The half marathon is scheduled to start at 7 and the 8k at 8:30. I figure I need to get up about 4:30/5 to eat, take care of business in the washroom (got to lighten the load), and get myself down to the start line with time to spare. Carmen and I were not only starting at different times, but different locations as well, so she had a bit more time to lie in.
The 8K was run mostly through Stanley Park, coming out at the end to run to the finish line, the half marathon started about 13K south of there, with the final 8 running the same route as the 8K.
We arrived on Wednesday and to date I hadn’t adjusted to the time change, basically waking up between 4 and 5 Vancouver time pretty alert each morning.
Except for this morning. I guess the time change finally started to catch up with me. Regardless, I got up at 4:45 – not as spritely as I had the past few days, but I was moving. Overnight oats and banana, followed by a few trips to the bathroom and I was good to go.
Though they had given us subway passes to get close to the start line I opted instead to Uber. It was simple and easy and one less thing for me to think about in the morning – forgot about that surge pricing though – oof!
Hang on a minute.
I got to the start area about 6:30, and there must have been 10,000 people there already. The weather was a little cool. Prepared to run for a couple of hours – and my internal furnace that would soon start to fire – I was ready in t-shirt, shorts, and ankle sox (didn’t want sweaty ankles like last week!). At 10 to the hour I went to find my corral and snuggled in next to a few thousand fellow runners.
Then it was five minutes to 7.
Then there was an announcement: “there is a police action on the route, we’re waiting for word from the police before the race can start”.
10 minutes became 20 minutes, became 40, and we were all starting to get pretty cold.
On the Vancouver police twitter we saw that there was an overturned car not far from the start line – and among tweets of “hope everyone is alright” there were lots of “any update update on the start, we’re freezing here!” posts.
And We’re Off
We finally got going at about 10 after 8. I was in the third or 4th corral and they let us go in waves about every 5 minutes. We were pretty darn cold, and I had a faint urge to pee – though I figured it was nervousness or the cold, it wouldn’t be the first time I started a race with a faint urge that eventually evaporates.
It’s a nice run: starting through some residential areas, then down a monster hill from which we could see the city and the mountains in the background. It was pretty quick too, and I tried to keep myself from going too fast so as to not run out of steam later. Still, it feels good to be passing people while running fairly comfortably.
Around the 6K mark it became evident that my urge to pee wasn’t evaporating, it was becoming more intense.
As we approached Science World the first set of porta potties came up but there was no chance I was using them. There were a lot – maybe 20 or 30 – with a line up of 3 or 4 people for each one. I held it and kept going. Somewhere between Chinatown and Yaletown the next batch came up – less portapotties, but only one or two people waiting. I took my chance, lost a bit of time, and unloaded an inordinate about of pee. I have no idea where it all came from but I’m sure the walls were shaking from the force of my stream.
Still, I finished that 8th km just under 7 minutes, so it wasn’t too bad.
The beginning of the end
Soon after though, things start to come apart. My average pace for the first 10K is 5:58 – that includes my voluminous pee stop.
During the 11th k I find myself running out of gas and the flow of the other racers reverses – instead of me passing runners, runners start passing me.
I ask Siri to start playing Metallica’s Hardwired – this is usually my push for the finish music – its fast with a beat count of 180bpm – but in this case it didn’t really help.
Next the pacers started passing me as well – 2:10, 2:20 (pacers run long races at consistent speed, holding up signs with times on them. If you run next to the 2:10 pacer, you’ll finish in 2 hours and 10 minutes).
The last half marathon I ran was Toronto in 2019, and I had run it in 2 hours and 3 minutes (avg pace of 5:38m/km). I was hoping to beat that time with this race, but it became pretty clear that it wasn’t going to happen.
My pace between kms 11 and 14 ranges between 6:40s and 6:50s, after that it goes into the 7s and never comes back down, except for maybe the last 60 seconds when the finish line was in sight.
This was the first race I’ve ever run that when I finished I actually had to take a knee. I was thoroughly spent.
I finished in 2 hours and 21 minutes, with a pace of 6:43min/km. Clearly not what I was hoping for.
I can’t complain about the scenery though, it was a beautiful run: from the start down in Queen Elizabeth Park, across the Cambie bridge, through Chinatown, Yaletown, along the water and through Stanley Park.
I’ll definitely have to come back and do it again. I also want to rerun the one here in Toronto. Am I just slower than I was a couple of years ago, was it the difference in the course – Toronto is pretty flat – or was I just having a bad day? Maybe we overdid it in the days leading up to the race.
Carmen and Chris Rocked It
Carmen and Chris had a great time as well. They met up at the beginning of the 8K, stood around waiting a bit as their start was delayed as well, and then took off.
It was Carmen’s first time ever running 8K, and she did great. I managed to stick around by the finish line long enough to catch her coming through the finish line.