Disclaimer: I received a free entry to Gunner Shaw Memorial Cross Country as part of being a WestVanRun Ambassador. Don’t forget to register for the West Van Run (5k / 10k) on March 4 & 5, 2017. Use the code ‘bradley‘ for 15% off!
*Also, special mention to Debra Kato for many of the photos in this post – she kept the camera snapping throughout the whole course!
Although I’ve run a lot of races, I still get butterflies the night before each event. But my stomach was a bit more fluttery than usual in advance of this year’s Gunner Shaw Memorial Cross Country race. Previously, I had only run one other cross country race (the Spirit Run last autumn) – which was fun and challenging. However, there were a few reasons why I was a bit more nervous about Gunner Shaw:
- Last year’s weather – I wasn’t there, but it was pouring rain, windy, and (based on the photos) absolutely brutal weather-wise
- This year’s weather – Vancouver has been having a rainier AND colder than usual autumn…and snow was forecast
- Clothing – what the heck does one wear to this type of race?
- The puddle (more details below…)
I had originally registered for the 10k (2 laps), but ultimately elected to stick with the single lap 5k.
And it was one of my favourite race events of 2016!
The Gunner Shaw Memorial Cross Country race is organized by Lions Gate Road Runners, under the leadership of Race Director, Mark Williams. Margaret Buttner was this year’s inimitable Hospitality Director, a role she embraces with aplomb!
2016 was the 32nd anniversary of the race, which started in memory of Brian ‘Gunner’ Shaw. Gunner Shaw was a well-known and well-loved local runner, who was killed in a car accident in 1984. I had to do a bit of Googling to find information on him, and found a great article on Gunner Shaw, The Man. It’s worth a read.
It didn’t snow. Or rain. In fact, it was kind of one of those perfect mornings for a run. I parked nearby, and wandered toward the Jericho Sailing Club, where we were meant to pick up our bibs and would later be able to have showers and warm up after the race. I greeted some of my team mates!
But the Jericho Sailing Club was closed. The bib pickup was at tables in the parking lot. The reason? A body on the beach.
Despite this unfortunate setback, things went forward – I got my bib, and then socialized – there were lots of familiar faces, including representatives of the West Van Run Crew!
The Gunner Shaw is a 5k course – with the option to do a double loop. I had chosen the 5k – which ended up being slightly shorter due to the rerouting prompted by the police incident. Here’s a satellite map of my run:
We all started together, 5k and 10k folks, across the grass and along the road, and then passing back by the start line to the cheers of enthusiastic onlookers. Rather than running the beach behind the Sailing Club, we simply cut in front. Following the gravel path, you’ll notice from the map that we then hit the beach.
Have you ever run on sand? Wet sand? It’s not easy. Each step feels like you’re being pulled a wee back backwards. It’s a fair amount of effort for little reward/movement forward. And it was fun – and the scenery was gorgeous.
We veered up from the beach, and then hit the mud. Squelching, soggy grass, foot-sucking puddles – and then a small stream that you could leap over…but still land in mud on the other side.
Loopy trails – some wood chip, some gravel – all wet and mucky. A tight corner and a short but surprisingly steep hill. Another turn, and downhill. It was one of those downhills where you could try picking your way in the slippery mud and end up on your butt, or let the momentums carry you along and reach the bottom in a few bounds. I took the second approach, and fortunately stayed upright!
And throughout the race, I was running with fellow West Van Run member, Sam!
And then there was THE PUDDLE!
The puddle is the most infamous part of the Gunner Shaw course. With nearly 60 straight days of rain leading up to the race, there was no shortage of water…but the rumour is that it gets ‘topped up’ to ensure the complete experience. Depths of up to at least 12 inches, about 20 metres long, and the full width of the path. Can’t go over it, can’t go under it, can’t go around it…
…gotta go through it!
Cold? Yes. Soaking wet? You bet. Incredibly fun? Most definitely! The smile in that photo – not just for the camera. What a blast!
It was just another kilometre to the end. There was some more mud in store, possibly the grimiest section of the course. And then we were ‘sprinting’ across the grass to the finish line (with Sam on my heels!)
Mud was our friend today.
Waited around for more of the team to finish – both 5k and 10k racers – and West Van Run conquered with a team win (in the 10k…my involvement didn’t impact this success!). Karin finished her first race post-giving birth to her beautiful daughter! Congrats, Karin!
Post-race pizza and hot soup (vegetarian – hooray!) – despite the fact that we didn’t have access to the Sailing Club or any kitchen facilities. The soup was heated up on portable burners. The pizza was heavenly.
And my bathtub has never been dirtier.
I have nothing but great things to saw about the Gunner Shaw Memorial Cross Country race. Never done a cross country race? Give it a try! So much fun, such a great community event, well organized and oh…did I mention fun? Thanks to the volunteers, the organizers – Lions Gate Road Runners, Race Director Mark Williams – and, to shout out once more – Margaret Buttner for the win!
Gun time: 25:47
Overall place: 30/49
Place in age category: 3/5 (in 40+ age group)
Quick Recap – Gunner Shaw Memorial Cross Country
Social Media: The race itself doesn’t have a Twitter handle, but the Lions Gate Road Runners (aka Margaret?) kept up some lively social media activity leading up to the event. There’s also an active hashtag – #GunnerShawRace. The Facebook page is also well maintained – and has all of the free race photos!
Package Pickup: I wasn’t able to make the Friday afternoon/evening pickup, so I just did day of. Thankfully the weather was good, because the indoor alternative was unavailable. It took seconds to get my bib from the friendly volunteers. Done.
T-Shirt/Swag: None. No bling. But the muddy legs are a badge of honour worn proudly. That’s what this race is about!
Course: My description hopefully does it justice. To summarize – grass, mud, sand/beach/ocean, mud, wet, trails, mud, GIGANTIC PUDDLE, mud. Repeat.
Post-Race: Pizza and soup! Brilliant. And normally there would be the option to shower and change. Given the circumstances of the day, and the fact that it wasn’t raining – I simply donned a sweatshirt and a dry BUFF and I was good to go. Fun just mingling with all the local folks.
Organization: Excellent! Last minute changes through a wrench into the works, but you honestly wouldn’t know. Smoothly executed. Two thumbs up!
Would I run it again? Yes. I’ll do the 10k next time I run it! Bring it on!!