On the almost literal heels of the 5 Peaks Trail Race – that is, the very next morning – I participated in the Vancouver Spirit Run. This race, just like the previous day, was unlike any race I had ever run before!
One of my West Van Run teammates – Karin – is a track star. Short distances and sprints are her thing (and not mine!). But when she offered us free registration for this race, how could I refuse? Also, it would be my chance to participate in my first ever cross country race! (By the way, Karin has been featured in the Miles Not Included podcast…which you can listen to here.)
I agreed to participate before I actually knew what a cross country run actually was. I’m a road racer. That’s what I know; it’s familiar. So if you, like me, don’t have a clue – here’s what you need to know:
Traditional cross-country is run primarily on grass in parks or across open countryside, involving multiple laps of a relatively short distance.
— BC Athletics
Armed with that knowledge, I was simply nervous – that, and the fact that I knew the field would be extremely fast, with oodles of incredibly fast short-distance runners in attendance.
I went to Forerunners for package pickup on Saturday afternoon. I had returned from Mount Seymour for a shower and a nap, and decided to venture out to get the goods. A simple bib – that’s all I needed!
Also, I popped over to Foot Solutions on Broadway. Why? Well, since the West Van Run is sponsored by Brooks – and because I’m a race ambassador – I got some new Brooks shoes! I was pretty excited to pick up my new Glycerin 12s!
Sunday morning dawned…windy. Seriously windy. Because the race didn’t start until 10am, I had lots of time for a leisurely breakfast, and a bit of lounging around with an extra cup of coffee.
Finally, I headed out with aim of arriving at Jericho Beach Park by 9:15am. I grabbed a car2go – which, if you’re unfamiliar, is a Smart Car – and nearly blew off the Burrard Bridge. Arriving at the event site, you could see the whitecaps on the ocean (though maybe not in these photos).
I met up with Debra and Sam, and we showed off our West Van Run team spirit!
We were joined by Kirill, Jin and Ben (although Ben had just run like 26km and wasn’t doing the race).
Too soon, it was gun time. Weirdly, we were lined up on the grass across a huge area…side-by-side instead of in corrals like a usual road race. No timing mat at the start, either – so it’s gun time or bust! Incidentally, men and women all started together, but the women were running 6km, while the men were running 8km. Lucky me!
I’ll describe the route, since I ran it 4 times! We headed out across the grass, facing some pretty intense headwinds. This would be challenging for me on each loop. We headed left, and back along the way we had come, with some grassy rolling hills along the way.
Then through some trees, onto a gravel path. One kilometre. A sharp left – and a short but steep hill. The friendly volunteers at the bottom and the top were so encouraging – every time!
The path changed to wood chips, and we were beneath a canopy of shady trees. With the wind blowing, leaves and small branches kept falling on our heads! We burst from the woods into a grassy downhill, and headed back towards the start, encountering runners on their next loop in the process.
Past the start line for Loop 2…
Same as the first, a little bit windier, a little bit worse…
Loop 3 – the lead runners passed me, especially when I had to shop short because my shoelace came undone! Seriously!
And before I even started my 4th Loop, the lead runners were already done! The top 3 finishing times were between 26:07 and 27:23. I could hear them being interviewed as I still had another 2km to go…and most of the women had finished their 6km race by that time too! I also had navigate through a flock of Canada Geese who had decided to settle in the middle of the course!
Finally, the end was in sight! I sprinted past a few stragglers and greeted my team – all of whom had finished before me! Nevertheless, I had completed my first cross country race!
Here are the winners of the women’s 6k and men’s 8k:
Other events of the morning included:
- 2K Girls & Boys – Elementary 12 & Under
- 3k Girls & Boys – Junior High 15 & Under
- 4K Girls & 5K Boys – Senior High 17 & Under
- 1k – Family FUN RUN
- 4 x 1k RELAY – Corporate, Club, & Family Divisions
I didn’t stay, however – I was exhausted from the back-to-back races. Proud to announce, though, that 4 members of the West Van Run Crew competed in the relay, and placed second overall!
Thank you to the organizers, sponsors and volunteers for putting on this fun and well-organized race!
Chip Time: 41:53
Average Pace: 5:15 min/km
Place Overall: 31/46 (men only, since women ran a 6k)
Age Category Place: 13/17 (my division was ‘Masters’ – everyone over 35 years old!)
Have you ever run a cross country race?