I’m not exactly sure why I signed up for the Surrey International World Music Half Marathon; especially as my fall goal race, the GoodLife Fitness Victoria Marathon is two weeks away and I should be tapering for it. But when I saw that the weekend’s long run called for a 23K anyway, I thoughts that a half marathon wouldn’t be too bad of an idea as a test run for the big day!
Pre Race Logistics
A few week’s out for the race, I began having doubts as to whether it was such a smart idea. Not because of the race itself, but because of the logistics of getting there. Although the race starts and ends next to a SkyTrain transit station, the line the serves the station doesn’t start running early enough to get there in the morning. Last year the race organizers had made arrangements with transit officials to run the train earlier for runner’s, but nothing similar occurred this year, leaving potentially thousands of runners on their own to get there. After my original ride fell through, I managed to find ride through Craigslist, so the race was saved, at least for me.
As an aside, this may have been a reason that this year’s field was somewhat smaller than last year’s; I knew of several Vancouver based runner’s who decided to drop out because of the logistics of getting there in time, and others who ended up booking a hotel room (Of course the severe rainfall warnings probably also had an impact). I hope the race organizers are able to work something out with TransLink for next year, or push back the start of the race to allow runners to get their in time on SkyTrain.
Package pick-up went smoothly. The volunteers were friendly and willing to help, which was nice, because some were not too well informed about some of the details. I was disappointed that the race shirt wasn’t as high-quality as last years, but this seems to be a common trend among most races. One highlight of the kit was a coupon for a free beer after the race at Central City Brewing Co.! (More on this later in the post)
The Active Living Expo was pretty low-key for an event billing itself as an ‘international’ marathon. The sponsors had their requisite tables, and Running Room had a small selection of merchandise, many of the other vendors were located along the concourse of the mall. I’m assuming that as the event continues to grow and make a name for itself, it will attract some high-profile exhibitors and smooth out some of the kinks.
Getting to the race went smoothly, thanks to Debra, my Craigslist running buddy. One of the nice features of the event was that it was hosted inside SFU’s Great Hall at the Surrey Central City complex. This allowed all the runner’s to keep warm and dry before the race, and have access to real washrooms—a big plus! Also race organizers had talked with several businesses inside the mall and several were open early, including Blenz Coffee for those wanting a pre race caffeine fix. This was also a nice touch.
With 15 minutes to go before the start, the half-marathoners moved outside where we huddled outside in the wet and cold at the starting line. After a short warm-up sequence to get our blood flowing, and the signing of the national anthem we were off! I wore a plastic garbage bag over my torso until the first water station (only a km in as the marathon was a double loop) to get my body temperature up. I found this helped me reach my target pace quickly. One of the cool things about smaller races is the even the start wasn’t too congested and the pack opened up in short order.
Going into the race, I wasn’t too concerned about time. I wanted to test a few things out during the race in preparation for my full marathon in 2 weeks. My plan was to start out at my project marathon pace (5:35/km) to see how it felt and practice dialing in the speed in race circumstances. It felt really good; quite slow, actually, which is how I wanted it to feel as what feels slow at 3K will likely feel quite different at 39K.
During the run there were several Cultural Music Miles (hence the ‘World Music’ in the event title), while they were a nice idea, several of the groups were pretty small and appeared to only be going through the motions, and I didn’t think they added much to the race course. I bet the inclement weather had a lot to do with it, or at least I hope so, because it is an idea with great potential.
After the halfway mark, my plan was to speed up to at least half marathon pace to see what my fitness was like and to simulate running on tired legs. As the marathon pace felt really good, I decided to push it a little beyond my normal half marathon pace to about 5:05/km. By 16K I was still feeling good and calculated that despite my calculated slow start, I was on pace for a PR if I pushed a bit harder. I decided to open things up and go for it.
As the finish line clock was set up for the full marathon, which started 30 minutes before us, I couldn’t see what my clock time was, but my GPS showed 1:52:16, so I was pretty confident that I had broken my previous PR of 1:54:07 When the official times were posted, I saw I actually did slightly better with a 1:52:08, just shy of two minutes faster than my previous best!
After the race, I wandered back to the Grand Hall, picking up the usual bananas, bagels. and cookies. One nice touch was the chocolate milk supplied by MacDonalds—who I thought was a strange sponsor for a marathon. Inside the hall there were two massage therapy clinics offering free massages for runners. Usually post race massages cost money, or have extremely long lines. Neither of these occurred here (benefits of a smaller race), so I decided to climb on a table and get some of the kinks worked out of my perpetually tight calves.
After my massage, I got change and talked with some people I’ve seen at other race comparing notes. One of the nice things about running multiple races in the same city is that you build up a network of ‘race buddies’ to chat with and cheer on. My next step was the Central City Beer tent to redeem my coupon!
When I finished my beer, I noticed that it was about time for some of the mid pack marathoners to come in, including two of my running clinic buddies, Catherine and Vivian, so I made my way out to the finish line to cheer them on and congratulated them on their accomplishment.
Before the race, Debra had informed me that she was looking for about 5:30 marathon time, so I still had an hour to kill. Thankfully, Debra had also offered me her beer coupon, so I went back to the pub and had a second beer, this time accompanied by a burger. Once Debra had finished, and cleaned up a bit we got in her car, listened to some of the live music being performed on the inside stage (steel drums!), and made our way back to Vancouver.
All in all a pretty good day, despite the wet weather and some of the logistical challenges of the race. Given the amount of other nearby races in September and October that I would like to run, I won’t do it every year, but I’d give it a soft recommendation to others and consider it again in a couple of years. It appears that the event organizers are keen on building a high quality race and will no doubt learn from some of the shortcomings of thing year’s event.
Now to start really tapering for Victoria!
Surrey International World Music Half Marathon Stats
10K split: 55:18
Male 35-39: 23/55