The first time I was exposed to the Pacific Road Runners First Half was last year when I looked out my patio door and saw hundreds of runners rounding BC Place and heading west along Expo Blvd. At this point, I was still a relatively new runner and had not run any half marathons yet. I vowed to join the masses in 2016, but I thought I was going to miss the opportunity to. This is a popular race and has been known to sell out quickly. It just so happened that I was in the middle of travelling, on the day registration opens, so I thought hope was lost. Registration day arrived and Cuski and I had just landed in London. I realized hmm… it’s 6:30 AM back in Vancouver now… I wonder if registration is open. Luckily for me, it was, so I was probably one of the first to sign up… haha! This race timed perfectly with my marathon training schedule too so that was a bonus.
View my run on Strava.
Package Pickup and Swag
The First Half has been going on for 27 years and counting (2017’s date has been set already btw… save the date: Feb 5, 2017). The website is fantastic and very informative. Everything I needed to know was easy to find and clearly written. I loved that package pickup was open late on Friday (until 8pm). I easily hopped on a bus to Forerunners on West 4th and Collingwood to not only pick up my bib, but to also find a new base layer. 2 birds with 1 stone… Bib pickup was quick and painless, just know what your number is before you go. I received my bib, safety pins, a race shirt (embellished with hearts since the race was on Valentine’s Day) and a really cool fridge magnet that looks like a digital clock and you can peel off pieces so you can put your time in (scroll down to see what it looks like). Really cool idea, guys! Love it… I just wish I was more proud of my time but I did it anyway so I can look at it everyday to stay motivated.
The First Half is a fast course with not a lot of hills. It starts off at the Roundhouse Community Centre in Yaletown, which is easily accessible via the Canada Line (get off at Yaletown-Roundhouse). You head east on Pacific first and loop around BC Place before getting on the seawall underneath the Granville Street bridge. Follow the seawall and the south Lost Lagoon path and start making your way around the Stanley Park seawall counter-clockwise. Before heading back to Yaletown, you take another detour around Lost Lagoon, this time on the north side and around, heading back towards the seawall, where you follow the same course back to the finish line. The problem areas were mostly around Lost Lagoon as it’s a little more uneven, made of gravel (around the water), and muddy. The hill underneath the Granville Street Bridge at the 20th km was also a killer as it’s steep and by that time you’re already pretty tired. The good news is that the finish line is just a downhill sprint away. That was my favourite part of the race. It was fun just flying down the road for that last kilometer. There were ample water stations throughout the race and also included the option to grab sports drinks. Everything was nicely marked and the volunteers were so great, standing out in the rain for hours waiting for us to pass through. Thank you all! Having nice weather would just be the icing on the cake for this race.
I was greeted by a volunteer straight away and she put a medal around my neck. It’s cute and has a heart motif as well. It’s hanging proudly on my medal rack right now 🙂 People were staying warm inside the Roundhouse where there was a little expo with booths for other upcoming races as well as a photo wall, announcers giving out prizes and results printed and projected on a screen. Just outside, there was an array of food: bananas, oranges, yogurt, coffee, and soup (chicken noodle and vegetarian). I got a banana and a cup of soup which really helped warm me up. Recycling was a big deal, they really put a focus into keeping this event very eco-friendly, with bins for everything including compost, and volunteers telling us where to put what. There were also photographers at the finish line and inside by the photo wall so if you’re lucky, your photo could be posted on their Facebook page.
How Did I Do?
I have been working with a coach (Karin Femi of Ready 2 Run Training) for the last 4 weeks and the First Half fell upon the last day of my training plan. She basically gave me two options: go for a PB or use this as a training run. Knowing that the course was flat and fast, I wanted to go for a PB so I decided to try for the first 4 km. Honestly, I wasn’t feeling it… I was in the middle of marathon training, I ran a 24 km the Sunday before to cap off a 44 km week, no tapering, it was not a recipe for success. So I slowed down and decided to just try to keep a pace of 6:30/km for the duration of the race. I’m happy to say that I did just that 🙂 I did stop a few times to eat my gel or try to get chews out of my pocket, but I made up for those short pauses. I pushed it but I didn’t push it, and thank goodness my coach thought that it was a wise decision too. I ended with a 2:18:46… it’s worse than my BMO time, but better than my Fall Classic and Scotiabank Half. It was 4 minutes over my PB at the Seawheeze but whatever… that day at the Seawheeze was perfect so… I need to try this again with fresh legs. Maybe next year 🙂
Would I Do It Again?
Yes! I need to do better and perhaps run this course during perfect weather. The race was organized really well, no problems. The best part was that transfers are allowed (for a fee). So no worries if you’re sick or for some reason, can’t make it. You have an option to transfer your bib to someone else. The course was nice and flat except for a few parts but mostly not too challenging. There was no delay at the starting line, as soon as the gun went off, I crossed the start line within 20 seconds. Gotta love a small field.
Thank you for the support and the awesome photos, as usual, Cuski <3
Less than 50 days until Paris…
Photos by Carmen Marin and Jeannine Avelino