Writing My Running Future
Several years ago I wrote adcopy about the Vancouver BMO. It included all the juicy details about being listed as one of Forbes top 10 marathon runs in the world (top 10 again in 2014) and the beauty of running through a towering urban rainforest, fresh salty ocean air and snow-capped mountain tops…it was the first I’d heard of the BMO Vancouver Marathon and as I researched the event, I was sold; the BMO Vancouver truly seemed like a spectacular international run.
Fast forward to last summer, I ran my very first race since high school. It was excruciatingly hot but I finished the 8 km without heat stroke and managed to finish in the top three for my category. I kept running all winter with my dogs, squeezing in a ten km run on weekends.
Peter (my husband) has been training for a 1/2 marathon and a full marathon (42.2 km) all year, with the goal to run the Boston Marathon in the next year or two. He decided the Vancouver BMO Marathon would be his first full marathon race. I jumped on board to try out the 8 km. The BMO Vancouver race I wrote about years earlier was suddenly my reality.
The BMO Vancouver Marathon Experience
Racing in Vancouver was a little intimidating; I’d never raced outside my home city. We gave up our downtown hotel and moved to a hotel in Richmond a few days prior to the run (as I wanted to tour the historical fishing village of Steveston, BC). The new hotel was far away from the race and the hotel sheets smelled strongly of bleach; this caused my asthma to act up and made it difficult to sleep.
Race day required super early wake up and subway ride to down town. Peter’s race start was at 8:30 a.m. (an hour earlier than mine) and at a different city location. My race started at 9:30 a.m. in Stanley Park. I needed to get downtown with my daughters by train and then find a shuttle bus that transports racers into Stanley Park. From the bus drop off it turned out to be another 10 minute walk to the race starting line.
We lucked out on racing day: Vancouver weather could not be more beautiful. The sun was shining bright and there was no wind.
The intercom instructed fast racers to be at the front of the starting line. Unsure if I was a “fast racer” amongst the thousands of racers, I joined the line near the front but behind a few hundred people. The race started and I was full on adrenaline. I regretted not being at the front of the line as it was difficult to weave my way through the many slow runners ahead of me. This was my first clue that I was a “fast racer.” The other difficult obstacle was that some of the slowest 1/2 marathon runners were still on the course and clogged up the eight km run—weaving in and out of them cost me time.
Stanley Park smelled heavenly: my lungs inhaled the scents of fresh cedar. I was grateful for the towering beasts of trees; they provided much-needed shade. I don’t handle the heat very well so shade is my best friend on a run. There were many hills but I’ve been training on steep mountain hills so I enjoyed them and passed a lot of people on the hills. I felt my pace was strong for most of the race, at six km my asthma inhaler fell from my sports bra (where I store it as I run). I had to back track to pick it up (I run with it incase a sudden burst of cardio intensity triggers an asthma attack—as is the case if I accelerate suddenly rather than at a steady pace). Lesson learned: I will run with inhaler in hand in the future. My lungs at this point really started to burn from the recent asthma brought on by the hotel sheets (but no attack so all was good). The last two km were in full sun in downtown Vancouver. The heat hit me hard and fast and I felt my pace slow. The last 100 m I sped up as fast as I could and held the pace to cross the finish line.
Downtown Finish on West Pender Street
The BMO Vancouver Marathon is one of the biggest races in Canada and a top international race destination. I had almost no expectations except to finish the race. I placed 7th out of 128 in my category. It’s inspired me to train more and try another race, perhaps edge my way into a 1/2 marathon.
I was thrilled to leave the athlete’s area and find my three daughters, sister and nephew waiting for me in downtown Vancouver. We had a few more hours until Peter crossed the finish line so we all hung out downtown and waited for the marathon runners to trickle in.
Peter finished his very first marathon with a great time. He admitted it was more difficult than he thought it would be—his quad muscles stiffened up and made the last 5 km or so painful. However, he’s already planning for the next marathon, determined to quality for the Boston Marathon asap!
I learned much from putting myself out there, in an intimidating place both mentally and physically. More than anything, it’s the adrenaline that takes a while to come down from (I need a day or so to rid my system of the adrenaline my body produces leading up to race day).
Races are a little addictive—it’s something so exciting that makes me feel connected to humanity at a more global level. When I’m on the course with all the other runners, I have this overwhelming sense of community; in my mind, I actually say: come on, we can do this race.