The “new” BMO Vancouver Marathon: my one and only for 2015

So, I finally did the “new” Vancouver Marathon. The last one I did was in 2009 (full, the most recent one) and before that, in 2006 (half). I’ve meant to run it again because of the route change (as early as 2010) as well as the “new” branding. I liked the “RUN | VAN” slogan with all of the typographic art that showcases the neighbourhoods we pass through. I registered last December, just ahead of the early bird deadline.

My training was just horrible. I joined the Running Room Sunday run club once back in January and swore that I would return the very next week but I didn’t out of some laziness and unwillingness to exert myself and increase my distance at the pace they were. I essentially averaged one treadmill session per week with duration of 35 minutes. I walk to work often (30 minutes) but the frequency has been diminishing even as the weather gets better. I’ve done on average one barre fitness class per week. Since my last half-marathon (September 2014), I have gained about 30 pounds, about twenty of those due to my “medical condition”.

So my expectations were really low and I thought I would know (finally) what it’s like to rock the walking pace. Small wrench in things was that for the past few months, I’ve had a niggling “injury” to my right foot. Every several or ten steps, I’ll feel a sharp pain kind of across the top of my ankle, kind of from my heel. It is mysterious and unpredictable and occurs when walking (not running) and I’m in flat shoes or runners but not in heels. So, I couldn’t run for long and I couldn’t walk either without a visible limp for a few steps every so often. Wonderful.

It didn’t have to be this way. I had envisioned (but apparently not hard enough) being a rock star and superfit while I filled out so much. But I’m not surprised I got caught up in travel and work instead for the last six months. Not surprised at all.

On Friday, I went to the new Vancouver Convention Centre where there packet pick-up and expo was being held. It was a brilliant afternoon inspiring you to play hooky the rest of the day and leading into a beautiful weekend and the area was abuzz with two cruise ships docked for the day. I thought with the great expo venue, the surrounding area (my favourite in downtown) and cooperating weather, Vancouver was so nicely showcased to marathoners visiting from elsewhere.

The question I wanted to satisfy at the expo was the paces of the pace bunnies for the half. Who could I hang out with in the worse-case scenario? I wandered around the clothing and souvenir section and finally asked the cashier of the Running Room kiosk and found myself unexpectedly welling up. I didn’t get an answer and dashed to the closest thing resembling a private corner to bawl my eyes out. I messaged NPY with this turn of events and wondered if in an unaware moment after a stressful work week, my hormones were stronger than my will. I tried to recall and I do think that there has been a past expo or two where I’ve felt overwhelmed as well. I so very much want to be involved. For example, I stopped at the Fairmont Mother’s Day Run for which this year is the inaugural year. I wanted run 10K but “haven’t a reason” but I’ll do it next year. The girl manning the booth told me there were volunteer positions still available and I found myself almost registering (the plum spots are filled and only floater ones left). Part of my desire to volunteer is admittedly laced with wanting nice swag and the other part is wanting to be involved in some way if I’m not going to run.

What was I to wear on Sunday to look at chic as possible? I pulled out black tech shirts from my closet and compared them on their hangers searching for the longest hem one – none of them are tunic length but the longest was also the latest one one (Vancouver Rock ‘n’ Roll last October). Pair with black capris, I had an all-black outfit with blue accents throughout and I’d wear my hair under a blue hat with a braided ponytail. I readied my gear including a big water bottle on a nylon handle and my phone with earphones. Uh oh, I hadn’t carried either my phone or water on any recent run. How was I to manage that?

It wasn’t too hard to get up and ready at 5:30 in the morning. My “breakfast of champions” was a heaping bowl of Sally’s Cereals version of Count Chocula (yum) and I had tucked a Gu gel and bag of Sportbeans into my water bottle pouch for real race nutrition. The Canada Line had started running before 5 a.m. and every occupant of the two cars were runners. It wasn’t packed like that time I was in Montreal for their marathon. All runners were given a Translink ticket good for one-way travel and people from the ‘burbs could take a free shuttle on a first sign-up basis. I quibbled about the one-way ticket because I was surprised (was given an all-day pass when I volunteered but…) and the volunteer said that it’s not necessary because I was downtown … but I don’t live downtown!

Anyways, upon exiting King Edward Station and feeling the crisp cool air and the intersection every person in sight at that hour (6:30 a.m.) was runners and supporters and some cars transporting runners. I thought I might tear up again – I’m so lame. I followed the group that went east on King Ed as we walked 13 blocks from the station to the start line. I quibbled about that in my head, too.

I planted myself behind the corral that I was assigned because I knew my finish time would be slower and at the back of my corral as well. I asked the 2:30 pace bunny if she was doing 10-and-1s and should have remember that it says so on her shirt. With the wave start, my corral was off at 7:15 while the elites got the biggest send-off at 7:00 a.m.

Immediately off the start line there is a hill and I fell back from the 2:30 pack trying to cope with fresh air and a real incline. I ran the first kilometer then walked the next and rejigged the strategies that were running through my head:

  • strategy 1: run 3o minutes as i have on the treadmill, walk the rest
  • strategy 2: try to keep up with the 2:30 10:1s pace bunny
  • strategy 3: run every second kilometer, i.e., 7-8 minutes at a time with 10 minutes walk
  • strategy 4: walk all of it, run downhill if it twigs too much to walk downhill – just get off the course asap!

After running kilometer 3, strategy 3 was off the table as well. It was going to be a long one.

“You are stronger than your excuses” was on one of the earlier placards I saw and it stuck with me. I know I am stronger than my excuses but I’m not stronger than my training this time. Worryworts told me to be so careful and I had a feeling in-laws would be shocked and mortified by my exertion, they are so old-fashioned. I worry the most about exertion leading to breathing problems on my part so that is what I paced above all. I saw a ton of stomach-churning aphorisms on placards in Stanley Park printed with footers reading

There was a fit and upbeat group of walkers you could identify with their walking poles who come from the Ironwood area of Richmond who looked like they were going to finish in 2:45. I couldn’t keep up with them.

For my part, I worked on hitting a stride or technique that would avoid the twinge in my right foot and for the most part – although I cannot articulate it – I found it and I was pain-free in my foot with the exception of it creeping back when I hit downhill patches. For this, all-encompassing music with strong beats like Vita Chambers’ “Fix you” were good for setting my pace.

I thought I might try to slide in under 3 hours but knew that was dashed when I hit 16K with 5K to go and it was 2.5 hours. Given my foot thing, I wanted to be walking through the finish, not limping or crawling. My left hip flexor became really sore in the kilometers but I was managing with my hand pertly and uselessly pressed upon it. I crossed the finish line despite well-wishers urging me to run through and after I picked up my medal, a pain in my left glute flared and I couldn’t take a step or shift my weight or anything without aggravating it. I thought I might be sidelined for days but after taking a name and some rest, it has all subsided to the usual gimpiness. Since I was walking and measuredly to not encounter pain, different things hurt from ever before, like the back of my right knee as if I’d hyperextended it. Weird.

The third time I felt like tearing up in three days was when the lead cyclists came through and had the half-marathoners keep to the left to make room for the lead 8K runners to run on the right side of the shared course. The lead runners (and any other 8K runner who wasn’t walking) were so jaunty compared to how I felt and my current limitations it made me emotional. Being sidelined right now is not something I am accustomed to and makes me fear it could be a permanent circumstance for some reason or other. It’s not 100% sheer laziness that I knew that I will be back to normal form next time out, it is entirely feasible. I decided that I want to volunteer and be part of the Bike Crew and wear a fancy long-sleeved BMO-blue cycling jersey. The most elite of the Bike Crew, of course, are the lead cyclists (a group of about eight or so) who clear the course of straggler runners for the lead pack for the marathon, half-marathon and 8K races. It is ambitious and would motivate me to get so much better at cycling should I be accepted as a volunteer. Next year?

The sheer and painful irony is that as much as I’ve liked the “RUN | VAN” brand, it’s just a little painful to know that my shirt and medal say “RAN | 21.1 KM” and “RAN|VAN” and that wasn’t the literal truth. :(


For my playlist which I only got through 2.5 hours before my phone turned off due to low battery, consisted of my Beat the Blerch playlist (where some of the tunes have lost their meaning but there’s no time to fix all that!)
– Jessie J’s “Wild” – never really liked this song
+ Lorde’s “Team” – I added this after Blerch (September) for Vancouver Rock ‘n’ Roll after really hearing it for the first time during a night out in St. John’s
+ Kelly Clarkson “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” – a second song called Stronger / sure, it’s about being strong without a relationship but it’s still empowering
+ David Klinkenberg’s “Toss the Feathers” – David’s version has so much better energy than the Corrs/original version; I am on a first-name basis because I’ve met him in person, ha! The YouTube video is from four years ago and he looks so much younger.
+ Vita Chambers “Fix You” – was introduced to this song years ago – Can Con!
+ Charli XCX “Boom Clap” – this song grew on me
+ Ellie Goulding “Love Me Like You Do” – I would usually eschew such sappiness and “50 Shades” but this songs just wraps you up
+ Imagine Dragons “Radioactive” – after hearing that Hyundai commercial ad nauseum, should be a Power Song
+ Maroon 5 “Animals” – a second song called Animals / I usually think Maroon 5’s sound is so derivative but like this song a bit better after the highly contrived “private concert on the beach” in the 2014 Victoria’s Secret fashion show
+ Hozier’s “Take me to Church” – NPY really liked this song after hearing an acapella version of it on The Sing-Off
+ Lana Del Rey’s “Young & Beautiful” – hauntingly beautiful and NPY especially likes the SYTYCD piece to this

All the stats:
Chip time: 3:22:49.0
Overall: 6,346 / 7,850
Amongst females: 3,643 / 4,576
Amongst females 35-39: 495 / 624
Split 1 / 5.4 km / 44:00
Split 2 / Halfway (5.1 km) / 45:45
Split 3 / 5.1 km / 50:12
Split 4 / 5.5 km / 59:52

On this day..