Very early in my running career – way back in 2010 – I teamed up with a friend and entered the Coho Run. At 14 kilometres, it was the longest race I had ever participated in. The day dawned cloudy and miserable, and once the heavens opened – even draped in a garbage bag – I was drenched. Having had very little experience running in the rain, I kept that garbage bag on for several kilometres, until I was so hot I had to tear it off. By the end of the race, I felt bedraggled and alone – being so far behind most of the other runners – but a few stalwart supporters were there to cheer me across the finish line.
Fast forward to 2016 – and Debra (thanks for the photos!) encouraged me to sign up once again for the Coho Run. And the experience couldn’t have been better!
What is the Coho Run?
The Coho Run is a community race organized by the Coho Society – an organization formed to support “the protection and revitalization of North Shore salmon streams and rivers”. The race takes place to coincide with the Coho Festival, held annually in West Vancouver.
This point-to-point race is a great middle distance between a 10k and a half marathon, which is why I chose to tackle it 6 years ago. It’s a very unique ‘beach to bridge to beach to bridge to beach‘ race, as you’ll soon learn!
The crowds started to gather at Kitsilano (‘Kits’) Beach, and I soon connected with lots of familiar faces from RunVan, West Van Run, and others in the local running community. There was such a great community spirit from the start.
And because it wasn’t raining, I knew this race was going to exceed my expectations.
I had ridden over Burrard Bridge on Mobi (Vancouver’s new bike share), but was concerned that the bike/pedestrian lane on the west side was closed. Turns out that strong winds from the night before had blown over the temporary fencing blocking off construction on the bridge…but more on that shortly.
Prior to the race, we were welcomed by a Squamish First Nation representative, who also sang a traditional song. Acknowledging that the race takes place on unceded Aboriginal territory really resonated with me as a runner.
The race began, and boy was it cozy. We did a loop around the park area, but the path was narrow and it was difficult to make progress. It wasn’t until we spread out along Kits Beach itself (at about the 1km mark) that I felt like I could hit a steady pace. We followed the shoreline until we reached Burrard Bridge, and cut up underneath the bridge itself.
Remember that windstorm? Well, turned out we had to run along the east side of the bridge, sharing the narrow lane with not only other runners, but also pedestrians and cyclists crossing in both directions. It was crowded, and a few folks were pretty cranky, but we made the best of a difficult situation. It’s only a kilometre, after all.
We looped around and downhill towards the Seawall. My honey was waiting below the bridge to snap a few shots…
And then the route took us along Sunset Beach and English Bay. The view, as always, was breathtaking and I reflected again how fortunate I am to live in this amazing city. The runners has started to spread out by now, and I was able to pick up the pace.
We passed Second Beach pool and continued along the Seawall to Third Beach…and then began our ascent.
I honestly have no memory of this part of the race from 2010. Perhaps the route has changed. But in order to reach the second bridge of the run, we had to go uphill. We entered Stanley Park and ascended the gravel Merilees Trail going up and up and up. It seemed endless – in fact, it was a kilometre of uphill.
Prospect Point! At the summit, I knew we had just 4 kilometres to go. I managed to keep running the entire way up the hill, and I was feeling strong.
The iconic Lion’s Gate Bridge, linking Vancouver to the North Shore. When I ran this bridge in 2010, the rain was lashing my face and cars were speeding by, splashing me along the way. I swore I’d never cross it again on foot. I kept this promise until I joined the West Van Run Crew in 2015. And now I was doing it once more, but with far more energy and a much better attitude!
Cresting the peak of the bridge, I gathered as much speed as I could to coast down the other side. Honey had jumped on transit to greet me at the finish, and snapped a wacky picture of me running alongside the bus…
Then we turned a corner, and we had reached West Vancouver.
Dogs. And families. Then a few people cheering. Followed by a lot of people walking several abreast, unaware of the runners in their midst – although others had passed before me. Unleashed dogs darting across my path – I nearly, inadvertently kicked a Pomeranian (I wouldn’t have, of course – I would have sacrificed myself). In defence of the general public, there were really no signs along the path to indicate that a race was in progress – this, if anything, would be my one recommendation for change.
This was the final beach – the West Van Seawall weaving along the waterfront to Ambleside Park. I finished the race stronger than I expected I would…passed some cheering supporters from the West Van Run Crew…
And finished in just under 1 hour and 15 minutes. A full 15 minutes faster than the last time I ran this race!
I was proud to cheer on many familiar faces who won their age categories – and then enjoy a well-deserved post-race brunch with friends!
Chip Time: 1:14:48
Average Pace: 5:21 min/km
Place Overall: 86/424
Age Category Place: 17/47
Coho Run 2016 – Quick Review
Social Media: Quite poor, to be honest, but I’ve come to not expect too much from community races. On Twitter, @CohoRun has only tweeted 5 times in 2016, and there was nothing in the 2 weeks leading up to the race. However, we had detailed email communication prior, so that was sufficient.
Package Pickup: Quick and straightforward table pickup at the North Face on 4th Ave. No fuss, no muss.
T-Shirt/Swag: No medal for the Coho Run, but we got a simple black t-shirt with the Coho Run logo on it. The North Face shirt style is a bit boxy for me, but better than the oversized white t-shirt I got back in 2010!
Course: Gorgeous scenery, of course. Beach to bridge to beach to bridge to beach – unbeatable! The slog up Merilees Trail in Stanley Park was challenging, but there was really no other way to do it. I feel like something could be done to improve the congestion at the start, but I’m not sure what. The diversion on Burrard Bridge was unfortunate, but unavoidable. All in all, a pretty fabulous course. There were two water stations, which was just right.
Post-Race: Combined with the Coho Festival, there was lots to do! There was a free pancake breakfast & coffee for runners (although I chose to go for brunch instead), and lots of family activities at the festival. Rather than stick around, we bussed home for a relaxing afternoon.
Organization: Some of the kilometre markings seemed out of whack, but my watch was precisely 14k at the finish, so I guess it was alright…I suppose the last-minute course changes might have had an impact. Overall, a very well-organized smaller community event.
Would I run it again? Probably, although I find that there are a lot of races taking place in the early fall – so I’m going to plan carefully before deciding next year. So it’s a definite maybe at this stage. Still – it’s a great distance and a well-organized run, so I would still recommend it!