The Pacific Road Runners First Half Half Marathon is a Vancouver classic. It is intended to be a ‘runner’s race,’ targeted at serious runners. Or at least those of us crazy enough to sign up for a half marathon in February and train through the wet cold winter months.
When I signed up for this race back in October, it was a motivation to keep training after my first marathon. To help keep on track, I joined a half-marathon clinic at the Cambie Running Room. I’m glad I did, as—although Vancouver has had comparatively great weather this winter—there were a few wet Tuesday evenings and cold Sunday mornings that I probably would not have gone out for if it wasn’t for the group.
At the beginning of the training cycle, my ‘A’ goal was a 1:45 and my ‘B’ goal was a sub-1:50 PR. However, as race day neared, a 1:45 looked like it would have to wait for another race. Although I was pretty consistent in my training, the cold and wet weather meant that my overall training intensity wasn’t where I wanted it. As well, due to some hiccups in my professional life, I wasn’t able to run the overall mileage I had anticipated.
Despite a gloomy forecast, complete with a winter storm warming, the weather was pretty amazing for a February race. The rain held off during the morning, with even a few sunny periods! There were only a few kilometres of the course where the wind picked up.
I arrived at the starting area about an hour before the start time to meet up with my fellow clinic participants and warm up. While waiting for the race to start, I ran into my friend Janet and we found out that we had similar pacing goals, so we ended up running together for most of the race.
The route is a Vancouver classic. Starting at the RoundHouse Community Centre in Yaletown, it heads out on the Seawall, past English Bay, around Stanley Park and back again.
Janet and I wanted to run a 5km/8 mile pace to meet our A goal of a 1:45 finish time. I figured I would try and hold on as long as possible and see what happened. For the first several kilometres it felt pretty good. However at the 10K split, we noticed that our pace had dropped a bit and we needed to pick up the pace.
One thing that was a bit frustrating, especially for a relatively small field, was the congestion of runners along the route. I didn’t notice it last year (maybe because I was a further back in the pack 😉 ), but we were dodging other runners for most of the race.
As we rounded Siwash Rock, the wind began to pick up and for a bit, making for a tough few kilomtres. Then we reached my least favourite part of the course—a loop around Lost Lagoon. The combination of the gravel trail and the ‘detour’ from the Seawall took a mental toll on me and i had to dig deep to keep up my pace.
At about the 19km mark, I git a side stitch, and could barely breathe, let alone run. I lost sight of Janet, and reduced my pace to a slow walk for a couple of minutes. As this was the first time it had every happened to me, I was unsure of the best way to deal with it. I tried raising my arm and stretching things out a bit, and took a few deep breaths. While this didn’t completely alleviate the pain, it allowed me to continue running, albeit at a much slower pace.
The pain lasted for about a kilometre or so, until I crested the last hill under the Granville Street Bridge. At this point there was less than a kilometre to go, and it was all down hill. I decided to salvage the race as see if I could still break the 1:50 mark and make a PR. Digging deep, I managed to cover the last 800 meters in about 3 minutes, crossing the finish line just as the clock hit 1:49:00. My chip time ended up being 1:48:34. Despite fall apart over the last 3 KM, I still managed to get my PR!!
As I mentioned earlier, the event is a ‘runner’s race’ and there were a lot of familiar faces to congratulate after the race. I caught up with fellow blogger Rickie and got a chance to congratulate Zahida on her recent engagement.
This is an extremely well run race. As it is organized by a local running club they know how to treat runners right. The course is stunning (although I could do without the Lost Lagoon Loop!) And, after my frustration with some of the volunteers at the Fall Classic, it was great to be supported by knowledgeable and helpful volunteers.
One of my favourite things about the race, however is the post-race coffee and soup. I must admit that the thought of a warm cup of soup got me through the tough last few KM of the race.
I’m already looking forward to next years race!
Vancouver First Half Marathon Stats
Time (gun/chip): 01:48:58/1:48:34
Pace (min. per km): 5:09
10K split: 52:26
Male 35-39: 67/114