Archive for February, 2014


I WENT TO A RACE AND DIDN’T RUN

02.18.2014
First Half Start 2014

First Half Start 2014

Of course, I didn’t run! It was the First Half Half Marathon and I’ve never run it, ever. The Pacific Road Runners, who put on this fine event, count on club members to be the core of the volunteer group that makes it happen. The last few years I have had the pleasure

MC's First Half - Anjulie Latta and Dan Cumming

MC’s First Half – Anjulie Latta and Dan Cumming

of being one of the Stage MC’s along with Anjulie Latta. Before taking on MC duties, I had the privilege of being Race Director for four years.

My previous post was a preview of the upcoming race, so it seemed I should make a brief report.

Anyone who actually lives in Vancouver or the area knows how terrible the weather was leading up to the race, and I mean the night before, not a few days or anything like that. They also know how it was from about 2pm on in the afternoon of race day. BUT, anyone who was at the race knows how wonderfully the gods of running and weather smiled on the First Half.  OK, there were some breezes out there, but for the most part the 2000 participants ran in sunshine and under blue skies! Temperatures were cool, but not cold and the elites ran ‘singlets and shorts’ just showing that for mid-February it sure wasn’t bad!

Volunteers get post-race food ready while runners run

Volunteers get post-race food ready while runners run

Because I was pretty much stuck at the start/finish area, I took a lot of photographs and posted a First Half Album on Facebook on my personal page. Never tried linking to FB and so far, not so good. Will keep trying to create a working link. I particularly tried to show the ‘before’ ‘during’ and ‘after’ components generally not seen when we are out there running. In every race there are countless generous and selfless people working behind the scenes to look out for us runners. Courses get measured and then set out on race day. Safety considerations like barricades and signage must go out, along with water and electrolyte at the aid stations and the volunteers get out to ‘man’ the marshalling points and those water tables. Food gets prepared at the finish for when we are done, and the First Half DOES HAVE a well-earned reputation for the finish food. Stuff like race shirts, medals and the fabulous waterproof cover up jacket given out at the 25th First Half, must be ordered and received. When the race is done, results must be made available, prizes handed out to the ‘deserving’ and everyone’s accomplishment must be properly celebrated. But, it isn’t over until it’s over, and when the participants head home with their result, finisher medal, and great memories, the clean-up crew is just getting started. A big shout-out to those people because I was standing there when Roundhouse staff (the start/finish venue for the First Half) congratulated the RD on how fabulously we had swept in, swept up and swept out.

Races are what they are and you never know until they are done. I do know a lot of people achieved Personal Bests on Sunday – for some reason that is not unusual with this race, as noted in my last post. Almost everyone had a good race and a lot of fun. There sure seemed to be a lot of happy faces out there as we looked down from the stage. Maybe it was partly because of the amazing batch of give-away prizes we had as a result of race partner generosity. And speaking of generous partners, Variety – the Children’s Charity benefited with another donation of $50,000 this year. It is not my place to single out any of these partners (because there are so many), but it would be wrong not to mention Mizuno, Forerunners and Urban Fare. Mizuno has been with this race for a number of years now working in cooperation with PRR and Forerunners (involved since 1989 and therefore, all of the 25 years the First Half has run). Urban Fare is relatively new to the party, but I was told by race organizers that their inputs have been fabulous. One of my personal favourite partners (maybe because I like the generic product so much) is Ethical Bean Coffee. They haven’t been with the race since the First Half began, but they have been part of the event almost since Ethical Bean began. Coffee for 2000?  Sure, no problem.

Rob Watson - Wins 2014 First Half

Rob Watson – Wins 2014 First Half

The winner on the day was Rob Watson, who was defending champion. It may not have been the time he wanted, but perhaps just as well since he was coming off injury and Rob wound up running much of the race alone, notwithstanding the anticipated competition. Not bad for a guy who was ‘day to day’ prior to the race. The time looked pretty good to me at 1:06:39, and it not only took the win, but made Rob the BC  Half Marathon Champion for 2014. That goes nicely with the fact that he is the current Canadian Marathon Champion.

Natasha Wodak takes the Women's win.

Natasha Wodak takes the Women’s win.

The women’s race was won by Natasha Wodak (1:17:09). She was not defending champ from 2013 but took the win in 2012. The first place finish also makes her the BC Half Marathon Champ for 2014, so not a bad Sunday morning’s work!

I love excellence in almost everything and unapologetically celebrate our winners. However, there were nearly 2000 finishers this year and in their own way, each and every one is a winner, because for most of us it is about the being out there and the doing. I do love to run myself, but taking a turn every so often as I did this weekend to see it all from this other perspective is both enlightening and rewarding.  I have no idea how many first time half marathoners were out there or how many PB’s were run, but I know that those folks had something big to celebrate. Still, it is always personal and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The big advantage I had this Sunday was I got to glimpse the faces of all the winners who took part.

Looking forward to seeing everyone on February 15, 2015. PRR tells me you will need to be watching for the announcements on registration (hint – it will be early November) and that the free community seminar on running will take place October 29, 2014.

GEARING UP FOR THE FIRST HALF HALF MARATHON

02.13.2014

Logo 2014In just a couple of days, a stellar field of elites will line up just in front of 2000 eager and avid runners at the Start of the 25th First Half Half Marathon. Over the years this event has attracted some of our best runners, including many Canadian Olympic distance runners. A good many of them will be in Sunday’s field as well, some even contending for Masters and Age Group glory. It is interesting that there is a tie-in to the Olympics because this is the 25th First Half, but NOT the 25th ANNUAL First Half. That is because in 2010, Vancouver/Whistler’s Winter Olympics displaced the race.

As a former Race Director of this great Vancouver event, it became the decision of my 2010 Race Committee and me to cancel rather than cobble together a race. Instead we decided it was best just to celebrate the Winter Olympics with everyone else. I mean, our start-finish venue was at Ground Zero of Olympic celebrations!

IMG_3514 (800x431)The First Half began in 1989 on a very different course that started on Granville Island, near where the organizing club, Pacific Road Runners, held their regular running sessions – and still do. Since that very first year, Forerunners has been the sporting store race partner. Peter and Karen Butler have been a mainstay of the operation of this race. Younger folk may feel that this has always been a 2000 runner sell-out race, but that is not really so. For one thing, in 1989 (got to be careful here) running was a more ‘hard-core’ thing – no value judgement, it just was. To run a half marathon, you needed to be pretty serious about your running. There were 380 registered competitors and No. 1 among them was no other than Peter Butler, at the time, one of Canada’s top distance runners. In fact, and until just recently, Peter was our second fastest ever marathoner, less than a minute slower than Jerome Drayton, who despite the efforts of many young Canadian runners, several of whom have run the First Half, including a couple in Sunday’s race, is still our fastest marathoner. The current #2 marathoner, Dylan Wykes, has won the First Half twice setting a new record each time. Although he will not be running Sunday, it is his record that they will be gunning for and the race at the front end should be exciting regardless of whether Rob Watson (defending 2013 race winner) or Kelly Wiebe go for the speed or the win (ie they run a strategic race). Based on PB’s it should be highly competitive, but we all know the PB just sets the stage. It is what happens on the day that counts.

At time of writing (as I have been the past three years, I am the stage C0-MC) I do not have the final line-up of runners. However, I know that a good many former winners have registered and are expected to run. Included in that list of First Half men’s greats are: Bruce Deacon, Carey Nelson, Art Boileau, Jeremy Deere and Colin Dignum.

We are going to be treated to some fine running on the women’s side too, with Natasha Wodak returning, to do battle with Dayna Pidhoresky and former First Half winner, Ellie Greenwood. On paper at least, the talent is there to threaten Tina Connelly’s 2004 record time of 1:12:47. Again, many things will factor into how the race is run, but however they go about it, there is a good chance it is going to be entertaining!

Both Natasha Wodak and Ellie Greenwood are recent winners, and still able to contend. In addition, just in case any of these women really think they have a shot at Tina Connelly’s record, well, they will be able to discuss that with Tina herself as she, Lisa Harvey and Lucy Smith will be there Sunday and looking to make their own statement as (sorry ladies) Seasoned Runners.

If anyone, female or male, should break the existing record, there will be a little extra for them in the form of a $1,500 record bonus. That should buy a nice lunch, not that it will be necessary with the great food spread that awaits everyone at the finish.

The age group running will be of a high caliber as well, with a long list of speedy locals contending for age group honours. Every category, right out to the 75+ group will be fiercely contested. In fact, at least seven age group records stand to be broken on Sunday if everything is right, and of those seven, if the record goes it will almost certainly be a Canadian record. Lucy Smith, Jim Finlayson, Mark Bennett and Greg Meiklejohn are the runners in that stellar group of four, while Miriam Zderic, Bruce Deacon and Rod Waterlow round out the seven. Can’t help giving a shout-out to Rod as we have run a good many events together and both lead pace groups at the Forerunners clinics. Rod is particularly thrilled that the First Half has added one more age group 75+, so he no longer has to race those young 70-74 whipper-snappers (although he generally beats them too). Rod has previously written for Running in the Zone (blog) and over the years numbers among one of the most frequent First Half competitors.

All of this said and done, it would be a very small event if only these elite and ‘competitive’ runners were the only ones taking part. The First Half is very much about the personal goals and efforts of all 2000 runners who will start the race at 8:30am, and then later cross that Finish Line. Whether it is someone’s very first half marathon, or a PB attempt by a seasoned runner, everyone has his or her own story. For some reason, the First Half has given a lot of people a great story to tell. It is a fast course, being mostly flat, but it is also February and you would think not ideal for fast running, being early in the season and a wee bit cool in relative terms. Still, a LOT of people do record PB’s and the winning and record times are among the fastest times for BC half marathons. It may be partly that the race has an inspiring reputation that brings out our best, or maybe it is the fact that runners have taken a bit of a rest over the Christmas/New Year time and are coming to the event refreshed and well trained.

Maybe it is the fantastic volunteer crew helping runners to achieve their very best. Maybe it is the quality of the food and festivities at the end, and not wanting to miss a bit of it, that spurs runners on to a great time! Whatever, the race does bring forth some remarkable results.

MC's First Half - Anjulie Latta and Dan Cumming

MC’s First Half – Anjulie Latta and Dan Cumming

As one of the MC’s I know of some special stuff that will be on tap for participants, this being the 25th Running and all. Not giving anything away now though. Everyone will just have to wait until Sunday!

If you didn’t nab an entry, and aren’t already signed up to volunteer (one of the things that makes this one of Vancouver’s best), come on out and watch and cheer. Everyone appreciates a crowd cheering them in, and trust me, the closer you are to the back the more that counts! I speak from experience on that point. Once again, race partners have been extremely generous in their support enabling the First Half to make another donation to Variety – the Children’s Charity, in the 10’s of thousands. With the 2014 donation, the total to Variety alone is now over $600,000.

Having been associated, one way or another with the event, for over ten years I am still excited to be participating. Come see us at the stage on February 16 and say ‘Hi’! I will be up there with co-MC, Anjulie Latta.