Promoted as the ‘last great run of the year’, I signed up for the Fall Classic Half Marathon for one reason only…because I wanted to complete 12 half marathons in 2015. With the Laughlin/Bullhead Half just 3 weeks away, I had to fit in one more race to make it an even dozen. Prior to race day, I was skeptical of this race for a few reasons:
- November in Vancouver is notoriously cold and wet; not cold cold, but at least Vancouver cold
- The race route is a double loop. Serious, who wants to do a double loop?
- What makes it such a ‘great run’? I mean, who do these guys think they are?
On Thursday, 3 days before the Fall Classic, I took the plunge and joined my friend and coworker Andrea, arriving for a 6:30am start to run with the #RunVan team. What I hadn’t realized before is that this group is sponsored by the Vancouver International Marathon Society – and they’re the ones who put on the BMO Vancouver Marathon series every year. I was welcomed warmly, finally put a face to the Twitter handle for Cristina Schultz (@cristinaschultz), and enjoyed (much to my surprise!) the early morning loop of Beaver Lake in Stanley Park.
I learned that most of these folks would be running the Fall Classic (various distances), and got a lot of positive feedback on the race itself.
In addition, the #WestVanRun team had multiple representatives participating, so I knew that at the very least I’d see lots of familiar faces on race day! Picked up my bib at Forerunners on Saturday, and prepped my gear for the next morning!
I carpooled several friends out to the start line at UBC. Although the sky was clear, it was windy and remarkably cold on campus. Thankfully, the even had full run of the new Student Union Building, so we were able to hang out inside and keep warm, while taking our pre-race photos.
The half marathon launched at 8:30am, with the 10K following at 10am, and the 5K at 11am. I joined my other teammates in the corral just a few minutes before start time. We didn’t head out until 8:31am, due to a ‘potential bottleneck’ on the course, but apparently they resolved the issue quickly.
Although I wore my Garmin for the race, I made the conscious decision to avoid looking at it no matter what during the race. Fortunately, the long sleeves covered the watch face, so even if I was tempted, I couldn’t simply sneak a glance. Given how much I overthought my pace during the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half (and failed to achieve what I set out to), this was a good decision.
The Fall Classic is not only a loop, it also includes a significant out-and-back portion. In normal circumstances, this would not appeal to me. But something about the course – along the western edge of campus, with peakaboo views of the ocean, and tree-lined avenues – was calming. As I passed runners going out and/or back, I smiled at and cheered for the people I knew, and received the same greetings in return. It was, in short, wonderful.
Back on campus, we traversed the Main Mall right down the centre (reminiscent of the Longest Day Road Race back in June), and then passed alongside the Finish Line – our destination the second time around.
There was a band on course. We passed them four times. I heard ‘I Love a Rainy Night’ and a few other classics, and it made me smile.
The second time I hit Old Marine Drive – around 15k – I felt a sense of peace I haven’t really felt before during a race. There weren’t too many people around, no volunteers or cheering stations, just trees and road and my breath and serenity. I felt strong and content, and like I could run forever. It wasn’t my fastest kilometre, but I think it’s one of my best.
Then it was back to cheers, and faces I recognized, and the band and the Main Mall. And that mantra of ‘don’t let anyone pass you in the final kilometre‘ kicked in and I pushed as hard as I could to the finish line. In the end, not my best time, but not my worst – a good solid time for 2015.
By this time, the 10K was under way (I saw some of the lead runners heading out), so I joined some friends and #WestVanRun crew to wait for the 10K and, eventually, 5K runners to arrive.
In the meantime, we enjoyed free coffee from McDonald’s, and picked up juice, bananas and Old Dutch potato chips (sour cream & onion, yum!).
Once everyone had crossed the finish line, we used the FOOD tickets included on our bibs – we chose pizza, but sushi and chili were other options. And boy, were we glad to have that food!
So all those misgivings I had about this race? The doubts and concerns? Gone! Awesome race? Absolutely!
Chip Time: 1:48:32
Average Pace: 5:08 min/km
Place Overall: 194/931
Age Category Place: 28/86
Forerunners was one of the sponsors of the Fall Classic, so package pickup was at the 4th Avenue store on Friday and Saturday. Quick and easy!
No t-shirt, but we got RunVan gloves – the kind that have special fibres in the fingertips so you can still use your smartphone. Great medals for all three distances, slightly smaller for the 5k and 10k, but bling nonetheless.
Despite the double loop and the out-and-back – beautiful course, fairly flat, scenic and serene. There were several aid stations with energy drink and water. Lots of cheering supporters and volunteers, plus a band. Solid performance!
Everything you would need post-race, including a choice of sushi, pizza or chili – served in the Student Union Building.
Would I Run It Again?
The last great race of the year? It really is! Great because there are race distances for everyone, it’s well organized, and it’s fun. I will definitely run this race again!
Have you ever gone into a race with low expectations, and come out loving it?