Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not a morning person. So when my alarm went off at 4:50am today, you can imagine the struggle. Actually, the real struggle was setting the alarm the night before – it truly pained me more than any race. And then the cat threw up at 1:58am, which pulled me out of my restful sleep. That’s how Sunday started.
I hadn’t planned to run the Fort Langley Half Marathon. It was in my calendar as a maybe, I considered it and then dismissed it as too far out of the way, something to save for another time. And then a couple of weeks ago Bob mentioned that he was still trying to figure out how he was going to get there. I said, “Well, if I sign up, I could get a car and we could go together.” And just like that, Fort Langley was a go.
I had my usual oatmeal, and blended up a simple smoothie to bring along. My stomach was feeling a wee bit off, but I tried not to let it distract me. I picked up the car, drove over to Bob’s place, and we headed off to Fort Langley. The drive took almost exactly one hour, and we arrived in plenty of time to pick up our bibs and t-shirts – the line was short.
We lined up for the porta-potty. There were three, and the third was was a bit unstable (Bob gamely took advantage of the fact that it was empty, and I was glad he didn’t tip right over!). About 15 minutes before the race, I took a PowerGel – Kona Punch, which I had been saving since the Honolulu Marathon.
Fellow Forerunners Mabel and Alex were there. Alex wasn’t running, but this was Mabel’s 20th (?) race so far this year, and her 70th half marathon overall! She’s an incredible runner, with energy to spare!
The Start Line was not crowded – Bob and I got up pretty close to the front of the pack. At 7:30, the gun went off.
The race starts out with a one kilometre loop through residential Fort Langley, so we revisited the start within a few minutes. Then we headed out onto a fairly busy road, running along the shoulder which was paved and easy. Course marshals were waiting at each turn to make sure we were going the right direction. Around 4km, there was a small hill – one a race director might describe as ‘undulating’ or ‘rolling’ – but otherwise the course was fairly flat to this point.
Scenery was typically ‘countryside’ – fields, houses, fields. The sky was blessedly overcast and, although there was definitely some humidity in the air, the temperature was fairly cool. I felt pretty strong.
The course description says:
The route will go East on River Road for 700 metres before turning onto Armstrong. The hill on Armstrong will be the most challenging part of the route.
To be clear, ‘the hill’ is a series of three hills, with short reprieves. The photos simply cannot capture the steepness of these hills. (Note the guy in the white t-shirt…he comes into play later.)
My Garmin tells me that the grades were somewhere between 4% and 6.5%. I don’t know exactly what this means, but it felt steep. Whatever sweat I had been saving up along the way showed up during this arduous trek. My pace slowed significantly. Finally we reached a flat stretch at the top.
After turning onto Telegraph Trail, there were twists and turns and a couple of steep downhills. There were cows.
I worried a bit about traffic coming around the bend in the road, but this never ended up being an issue. The busiest stretch was the bit past the Thunderbird Show Track, and then we turned a corner onto another quiet stretch.
With the exception of the first couple of kilometres, I had been essentially alone for most of the race. I could see about half a dozen people ahead of me, including Bob – but once we crested the hill(s), he was out of sight. A couple of folks passed me early on, but I overtook them eventually.
One guy with a fairly heavy tread caught up with me twice, but I ended up scooting past him when he paused at a water stop. I also caught up with Bob at the 15km aid station – he groaned when he saw me and I waved as I went by! I had started to gain on him, and this was my chance to take the lead.
***I will pause here to encourage you to check out Bob’s guest blog post – the NYC Marathon!***
We were now in familiar territory, having completed a loop and returning the way we came. I felt confident and strong, knowing there were no more hills (just that one undulation), and I kicked it up a notch. I passed the guy in the white shirt (from the hills) and received a ‘Good job!’ as I went by.
During the last kilometre, I could see literally no one ahead of me. The Finish Line came into view, I pushed to the end, and the race was over!
I was so pleased to receive a medal! For these smaller (and cheaper) races, you sometimes don’t even get a t-shirt. In this case, the medals were ceramic, homemade, and each one unique. The t-shirts, too, were really cute – vintage style, a really nice blue-green colour. They are cotton, not technical – but a great casual shirt that I’ll wear again.
Bob arrived soon after, and Alex and I cheered as both he and Mabel completed the race.
Took advantage of the food provided – fresh watermelon, bagels with peanut butter – and then headed to a local coffee shop for a caffeine boost with Mabel and Alex. The drive home was quick and uneventful, and I made pretty good time. I dropped Bob off. I took a nap.
The Fort Langley Half Marathon is by far the smallest race I have run, with just 100 runners in the half (there was also a 5k, with about 80 participants). But it was also one of the friendliest, and certainly well-organized. A tough course, and a great experience.
Chip Time: 1:51:36
Average pace: 5:17 min/km
Age ranking: 6/12
Also – happy to yet again link up with Tara from Running ‘n’ Reading for her Weekend Update!
This is a small, local race. Nothing fancy, nothing posh. Just friendly people, a challenging course, and a great atmosphere. I’m glad to made the decision to make the trek to Fort Langley. Totally worth it.
We had the option of picking up packets on Friday or Saturday, but I would have had to drive to Langley, White Rock or Abbotsford – none of which is close to home. But there was race day pickup, and we waited about 5 minutes to get our bibs and t-shirts from a table under a tent. No expo here!
The t-shirt is a cotton Gildan shirt – good quality, great colour, fun vintage look. On the back it says ’12’ – which I’ve been led to understand is because this is the 12th year of the race. I honestly didn’t expect to get a medal, but I was delighted to have this lovely ceramic piece put over my neck as I crossed the finish line. I will cherish this one!
Mostly flat, with about 2 kilometres of significant uphill around 8km. There are a couple of fairly steep declines as well. All of the course is on the road, and only about 3 kilometres had any traffic to speak of. Scenery was typical countryside – lots of fields, cows, trees, fields. The course starts and finishes just outside of Fort Langley, which is a National Historic Site.
There were 5 water stations on the course (plus one that we visited twice), with friendly and encouraging volunteers.
Low-key, but with water, energy drink, fresh watermelon, and bagels (with peanut butter, jam and butter). Only criticism – one of the porta-potties was quite unstable, which should have been taken care of before the race. Thankfully, someone warned us before we tried to get in!
This event is put on by Peninsula Runners. Their website provided all the necessary information, including course description and map. I had one question, and received an email reply right away. Mabel signed up by phone the day before the race. Everything went off without a hitch, and results were posted online by the time I got home (and took a nap). If you’re in the area, it’s a worthwhile race to attend!