The BMO Vancouver Marathon is billed as one of the 10 most beautiful that you can run. I have decided that I am not running a marathon this year so instead I ran the half distance while my girlfriend ran the full distance.
The Good: Expo, Crowd Support, Favorable Course, Location of Finish, Transportation to Start Area
The Bad: Start Area, Platinum Package ($99), Accessing the Start Area, Race Start Times
My girlfriend was looking for a race to run her first marathon and since she has family in the area, we decided to run Vancouver and then vacation for a number of days afterwards. The Vancouver marathon has a “platinum” package that will grant you priority lines and other benefits, so as an addition to her first marathon we both signed up for the package.
We arrived on the Wednesday before to try to acclimatise to the time change and stayed at a private residence.
On Friday we went to the expo in the morning to avoid the masses of people that would no doubt arrive Friday evening and Saturday. There wasn’t a line-up and we received our bibs quickly and without any problems. As part of the platinum package we could have bypassed the lines to our own bib person if need be, a benefit to be sure if you find yourself running late but it didn’t make a difference to us. We wandered the expo, purchased a few race items of race gear and chatted with John Stanton. It should be noted that I thought that the types and variety of gear was better in Vancouver than I found in Chicago last year. Included in your race kit was a free ticket to access the “Canada Line”, the elevated mass transport system of Vancouver, to get to the start line on Sunday morning.
My half marathon started at 7 am while the marathon started at 8:30 am, a strange reversal of normal times, which I believe tries to reduce the influence of the higher number of runners in the half because they run down a main corridor of the city. To access the start area in Queens Park, we had to take public transit, hence the free ticket. We walked from our downtown hotel to a station, then rode the train for about 10 minutes to our stop. However, the walk from the station to the park took a good 10 minutes on it’s own, which was never mentioned and subtracted valuable time from my warm-up and general race preparedness. Outside of the park there were numerous UPS trucks charged with brining your checked bags from the start to the finish. Here the platinum package was helpful because we had our own truck which we accessed within seconds. To get to the truck however was a bit of a trek as we had to completely cross through the race area to access the platinum only tent. The access to the tent, while noted on the web page and maps, was VERY POORLY NOTED, IN FACT THERE WEREN’T ANY SIGNS AT ALL. After crossing the area we checked our bags, leaving me with 15 minutes to get into a race mind-set and warm-up. Again the placement of the tent didn’t seem to be well thought out because there really wasn’t much space to take a warm-up run so I ended up starting the race more or less cold. I was assigned a bib number in the back of all the corrals but with my platinum bib I joined the corral just where 1:50 and 2:00 were separated. It was spacious at the back of the corral but no one questioned us about our corral placement or even sought to verify our right to be there.
The race weather was perfect though with sunshine, cool temperatures and light winds. After the singing of ‘O Canada’ which I really liked by the way, we were off!
It starts with a little uphill then there is a LONG downhill down Cambie street, then you cross over the Cambie street bridge. The bridge is not very elevated so it’s more of a speed bump. After that you perform a switchback near the Olympic village then head through Chinatown, then the Yaletown district before you head towards Stanley Park. Sadly Chinatown was kind of boring, closed and it contained the only hill downtown. Once in Stanley park you run flat for a bit, double-back and then climb one of the two hills on the back 10.5 km, in fact the hill started at around the 14 km mark. Checking out my splits I had run too fast from 2 km until about 10 km and I was starting to feel winded, hence when I hit the hill I had to walk, which made me mad and embarrassed, I ran again and managed to run the second hill in the park and even got a bit of a boost when the 2:00 pace bunny passed me but I couldn’t sustain it. At that point I decided to dial it back a bit, take in some of the beautiful Stanley Park vistas and enjoy the last 3-5 km. I picked it up over the last 1-2 km but when we exited the park there was a small but stiff hill which lead up to the street and a longish, straight finish. I hate these small hills at this point, they always piss me off when they are included there and if I was a race director I wouldn’t include them….But that’s just me. I trotted to the finish in a time of 2:05:48, not horrible but well off my goal time of 1:55-1:57.
Race Profile from Runkeeper: Vancouver Half
I was/still am disappointed but tomorrow is another race day. I finished unhurt, with another nice medal and another half marathon completed; my 11th. The inclusion of musical bands along the course is always touted as being an energetic lift when you pass them but I found them to be pretty horrible and it was only a band near the exit of Stanley Park which made me smile. I didn’t use any of the water/fuel stations as I carry my own but they seemed plentiful and well spaced. There were supporters along the streets, even with a 7 am start, so I salute the residents for their support.
After the race I hugged my fellow Fredericton runner Stephanie and then started walking to the back of the finish chute, I was looking for the platinum signs because it was there that I could pick up my gear and grab a sandwich and a beer right next to the finish line. When I double-backed to the finish line I found the sign and a woman who directed me up one floor in the Coast hotel to collect my things, there was an escalator up to the floor but not one back down; an oversight. I headed to the platinum section, grabbed a couple of wraps, had a beer and watched some of the finishers. I would not qualify the food or the beer as anything special, certainly not worth paying extra for. On a side note, when my girlfriend finished her marathon around 1:30 pm she discovered that there wasn’t any food or beer left; certainly poor planning, poor execution and more or less a theft of registration money. The finish line is nicely located from most of the major hotels in the downtown core and took me only minutes to get back to my hotel.
Both the half marathon and in particular the full marathon course are pretty, with good support and can lead to PB’s. I would not recommend a purchase of a platinum package unless some major changes, additions are made: 1) add a free massage 2) transportation to the start area from a downtown hotel of your choice 3) ensure food/drink throughout every race 4) better location of bag pick-up.
I would recommend the race for the general runner as it also includes a nice medal, good course and isn’t too crowded.
The start area in my opinion needs better signage and more volunteers to answer questions, also an estimate of total travel time from downtown hotels to the start area, including the walking, should be supplied.
Next Up for Me….Bluenose 10 km, Sunday May 17th in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Thanks for reading!
One foot in front of the other