This blog post is Part I of a two-part series about the Rock ‘n’ Roll Vancouver Remix weekend, focusing on the Cunningham Seawall 10K. Visit Part II to read about the Rock ‘n’ Roll Vancouver Half Marathon!
Last year, I ran the inaugural Rock ‘n’ Roll Vancouver Half Marathon because, well, it was new! Rock ‘n’ Roll in Vancouver! An awesome medal! Good fun!
This year, the race organizers took the bold step of making a weekend of the thing – holding the Cunningham Seawall 10K on Saturday, and the half marathon on Sunday. And, along with it, the opportunity to earn a Remix medal on top of the two race medals. How could I resist? A double header, and more bling!
Friday – Package Pickup
My colleague and friend, Susan, signed up for the Rock ‘n’ Roll as her very first half marathon! I was tremendously excited for her – I remember my first half (BMO Vancouver 2011 – just over 4 years ago) very well! Since I was racing the next day, we had to do package pickup on Friday. We headed over to the Convention Centre at Canada Place and arrived just before 3pm – to a massive lineup. Would we ever get our bibs?
When the opened the doors, things flowed fairly quickly. Bibs were organized by number/corral – and fortunately for me, I was in the same corral (i.e. same lineup) for both races. Others were not so lucky. A gentleman from Texas, here to run the Remix, had to line up twice – once for each race. In addition, there were pickup stations on both sides of the narrow hall, resulting in a significant amount of congestion.
I had signed up for the races separately – the 10K wasn’t announced until a bit later – and somehow messed up my birthdate for one of them (reversed month and day, resulting in me being a year older for one of the races!). I lined up at the ‘Solutions’ table and they resolved things for me pretty quickly.
We proceeded to pick up our shirts (blue for the 10K, grey for the half) and toured through the expo. I generally don’t do much in the way of shopping, although I did take advantage of a good deal on nuun hydration tablets, and bought both Watermelon and Lemon-Lime. Then we showed our ID to prove that we were over 21 (!) so we could get our free beer after the race!
Saturday – 10K
The Cunningham Seawall Race has been around for 45 years, and is named in honour of James Cunningham, a Scottish stonemason who dedicated 32 years of his life in the construction of the Seawall around Stanley Park. Although Cunningham never saw its completion (he died in 1963), this race started in 1971 – the year the last stone for the Seawall was laid. Until 2013, it was a 9.5K race – the circumference of Seawall. I ran this race in 2010 (dressed as a fairy) and 2011 (dressed as a mime). It was traditionally held on the weekend closest to Hallowe’en, and therefore a lot of folks ran in costume.
When Rock ‘n’ Roll took over last year, the race was re-routed slightly to make it an even 10K. This year, the race started at the Inukshuk at English Bay.
I had a bit of a panic attack at 7:58am when I took another look at the ‘final details’ emailed by Rock ‘n’ Roll a few days prior. I referred to the Start Line map and saw, to my horror, the words: “START TIME – 8:00am”.
A couple of texts and Google searches later, I confirmed that the start time was – as I had planned for – 9:15am. Crisis averted but still…shouldn’t they have got that right? Debra told me that she had brought this to the attention of organizers, who assured her it had been rectified. (There was a similar issue last year with misinformation about the half start time.)
The start was less than a kilometre from home, and I headed out just in time to see Debra in her pink wig arriving at the foot of Burrard Bridge. I caught up with her, and we jogged to the starting area and snapped a bunch of photos.
Before gun time, I took advantage of the public washrooms at English Bay, avoiding lineups for the porta-potties. Then to the start line!
Since conquering the Seawall last year, it’s become a familiar route. A few weeks ago, I ran counter-clockwise (in the dark) for the Night Race. Today, we did the clockwise route. I still haven’t decided which is better/harder/more scenic. I think it depends on a combination of my mood, the weather, and who I’m running with!
One of the quirky things about Seawall races is that, generally, it’s still open to the public. Although the route had been marked with prominent signs for several weeks, we still encountered a number of runners headed in the opposite direction – looking very determined in the face of thousands of oncoming racers. One girl ahead of me nearly got knocked right into the ocean as a result.
There was only one band mid-route – Unite the Conquerers – set up on the far side of the park. And as we neared the finish line, Elvis was performing and high-fiving runners as they passed (his hand must have been awfully sore by the end). About one kilometre from the finish, a guy pulled up beside me and said: “I want to go faster, but I’m not sure about having that guy in my finish photos.” Who was he referring to? Well, this young man, of course:
I reached the finish line feeling a bit worn out, but soon connected with my running buddies to snap some more photos…
And after picking up my checked bag in order to put on some warmer clothes, lined up for our free beer:
First race of the weekend in the bag!
Final Results – 10K
Chip Time: 49:05
Average Pace: 4:55 min/km
Place Overall: 269/2998
Age Category Place: 40/144
Last year’s packet pickup was so smooth that I expected it to be the same again. It wasn’t. I mean – it was OK – but the layout was poor and it ended up being really congested in the bib pickup area. Plus, many of those running in both races – the 10K and the half – had to line up twice (unless they had seeded themselves in the same corral for both). The expo was fine, nothing especially exciting, but probably held interest to out-of-towners because a lot of local brands and race reps were there.
The 10K shirt is a Brooks tech T in dark blue, with a stylized design representing the Seawall. I got an XS which is arguably a bit too small, but I couldn’t be bothered to exchange it (which had to be done on race day). The medal is a giant, chunky 10K – pretty impressive really. Kind of love it.
What can I say? The Seawall is the Seawall and it’s always awesome – and in this case clockwise. Starting at English Bay and ending in Coal Harbour, the route is flat, scenic and worth a visit to Vancouver. Seriously. I would have preferred a bit more course entertainment – there was just one band plus a dynamic Elvis impersonator – but I understand that there’s not a tonne of space along the Seawall. The volunteers were enthusiastic and supportive, and there were plenty of aid stations if you needed them.
Medals? Check! Bag pickup? Quick and efficient! Beer garden? Honestly, 10:30am is too early for beer, and it was windy and a bit chilly, but I couldn’t turn down a free beer. We huddled together and made the best of it.
Would I Run It Again?
I’m on the fence. I have no specific complaint about the race itself, but there are several (smaller) Seawall races in Vancouver. And I’m not sure if I buy into the whole Rock ‘n’ Roll series hype. But, I would definitely recommend this race as a destination run because it really does tick all of the boxes – pretty well-organized, amazing scenery, great swag…and all of it here in Vancouver!