Disclaimer: I received a free entry to the 47th James Cunningham Seawall Race as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!
Leading up to this race, I realized that I actually have never done the traditional James Cunningham Seawall Race. When I ran the race under RnR’s management, the course was changed to make it a full 10k. All the more reason for me to be excited about this race, a true loop of the Stanley Park seawall.
The James Cunningham Seawall Race is the oldest race in Vancouver. 47 years ago, a new running club called the Lions Gate Road Runners created the first official race in Stanley Park, since they realized that it was an ideal training and racing ground for runners. It has since become an annual event. The race distance is unique at 9.5 km and it is named after the man responsible for building the seawall, James Cunningham. Unfortunately, he passed before seeing his work completed but his memory is honoured by the thousands of people who use the seawall daily.
Package pickup was easy and accessible. The Running Room on Denman hosted Package Pickup on both Thursday and Friday from 3 PM until 8 PM. In addition to the bib and a few race flyers, runners received a nice grey v-neck tech shirt with the race logo on the back and LGRR logo on the sleeve. I loved the look of the shirt. Lots of people wore it on race day and it looked really good in action. I also liked that Running Room had in-store discounts for race participants during package pickup. This is a common thing they do. I managed to buy a new pair of my favourite socks (Smartwool) and some Honey Stinger waffles.
In the days leading up to the race, I’ve been glued to the weather forecast. There was a rainfall warning for race weekend. I was hoping that maybe the predictions were wrong. When I woke up that morning, it was dark, gloomy and rainy. For the race, I decided to wear my orange BibRave t-shirt, arm sleeves, BOCO running hat, 2x BUFF® headwear (one for the ears and the other for the neck), cropped pants, and gloves. I also brought along my BibRave hoodie which is so warm and comfy, I didn’t want to take it off.
I took the #23 bus to the West End (English Bay) and from there it was about a 10 minute walk to the start line. The woman on the bus next to me was going to the same event so we got to talking and headed over to Second Beach. Moments later, fellow BibRave Pro and Vancouver running blogger Bradley passed us on his Mobi Bike and we eventually met up near the start line. You can check out his blog on the James Cunningham Seawall Race here.
Seeking shelter was our first priority. There were lots of tents and thank goodness for the awning of the concession stand. Lots of runners huddled there trying to stay warm. While there, Pirate Gord Kurenoff came by to say hi and dished out a few pirate puns. You can check out his blog on the race here. Soon, it was time to shed some layers and we took our bags to the complimentary gear check.
It was great to see our West Van Run Crew friends before the race too! We managed to grab a team photo with almost all of them before we headed off in the rain.
The start was self-seeding and we somehow ended up in the first corral. After singing the national anthem, it was go time.
The James Cunningham Seawall Race course is a counter-clockwise loop of Stanley Park, starting and ending at Second Beach Pool. It’s very flat and scenic, mostly with ocean views. I’m a regular Stanley Park seawall runner so I am very familiar with all the points of interest around the park. It made it easy to divide up the race, section by section. I like to run that way, having mini goals throughout the race so the distance doesn’t seem too daunting. For a visitor, it’s a beautiful run. It’s so peaceful, no sharp turns (except 1 small hairpin out and back at the start of the seawall), and very PB worthy. There’s lots of things to see: the mountains, trees, public art, Brockton Point lighthouse, Lion’s Gate Bridge, soon-to-be-renamed Siwash Rock, and more. Even on a miserable day, you can’t beat this course.
How Did I Do?
I needed to run an average pace of 5:42-5:50/km in order to be in my 10k PB range. The race distance is shorter but I still wanted to push myself to see if I was strong enough to PB by the end of the year. I started off strong, a little fast, but I eventually evened out and maintained a great pace.
What made me feel better was that I kept hitting my landmarks quicker than I did on my previous training runs. That motivated me to run stronger and faster. I remember how much I liked shorter distance races. I ended up with a time of 53:31 with an average pace of 5:36/km. If it was a 10k I could’ve done it in 56 minutes or less! This bodes well for me and now I’m thinking of signing up for another 10k before the year ends.
The first thing all runners received this morning was an email about the medal. We were notified that the medal was re-designed and wouldn’t be handed out at the finish line. Instead, it will be available for pickup once ready or mailed out. Why all this hassle? The original medal design received negative feedback when it came to light that the First Nations-inspired design on the medal was in fact not created by a First Nations designer. Organizers responded:
“As you may have seen from our social posts or the local media, we are changing our original medal to align with the First Nations and we have commissioned a First Nations artist to create the design.”
They hired Coast Salish designer Margaret Briere to create the new medal design and I can’t wait to see it in person. While it’s a bummer not to receive a medal at the finish line, I do understand and appreciate the race organizers’ actions.
There were some post-race snacks available like protein bars, bananas, and energy drinks. What I really craved was a hot coffee. We made a bee-line for the coffee thermoses and then picked up our bags at gear check so we can change out of our wet clothes.
Bradley and I hung around with hopes of winning door prizes. We also caught up with Frank Stebner and Margaret Buttner, president and vice president of LGRR, and told them how much fun we had at the race. Huge thanks also goes out to Race Director Baxter Bayer and all the amazing volunteers for making sure this event went smoothly.
We watched and voted for the winners of the costume contest. With the ugly weather, it’s unfortunate that not a lot of people dressed up or even waited for the contest. Those who stayed (the lions and wizard Judy) were rewarded. While Gord was a very convincing pirate, the clown with the umbrella hat managed to squeak out a win. Next year, Gord!
After the costume contest, they handed out prizes for the overall and age group winners. It’s so awesome to see West Van Run Crew member Renee win her age group! Congrats Renee!
That concludes our day. The rain started again so off we went. I had a great race, hung out with some fantastic people, enjoyed being a part of a long-standing Vancouver tradition, and I can’t wait to do it again next year.
Organization – Despite the roadblocks this race weekend faced (RnR pulling out, postponed half marathon, and medal re-design), race organizers did well with the cards they were dealt. In the end, they still pulled off a really successful race and it showed on everyone’s reactions that day. There were ample signs and volunteers throughout the course and roaming photographers. Communication was ok. They used Facebook and email to notify us with race information and updates. There’s gear check, which is very convenient and lots of bathrooms to change in. The location is also very accessible via bus or bicycle. You can bring your car too but there’s limited parking and they encourage carpooling.
Course – Beautiful, scenic, and flat. It’s a counter-clockwise loop, my preferred way of running the seawall.
Swag – I loved the shirt and the discounts at Running Room. I look forward to receiving the medal and when I do, I’ll be sure to post it on social media and show you all. (So follow me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook 😛 )
Would I Do It Again? Yes! It’s a fun and fast race organized by fabulous people and a Vancouver tradition. It’s been happening longer than the Sun Run and it’s an easier and more scenic course! So sign up for its 48th year in 2018 and try it out!
Here’s to another successful BibRave race experience! I had so much fun covering it with my running twin, Bradley. (I can’t get enough of our matching orange-BOCO hat-grey arm sleeves combo lol!) Again, you can check out his recap here.
My next race will be in Las Vegas for the Rock n Roll Vegas Half Marathon! 3 more weeks!