Mission Half Marathon – Mission Accomplished!

Posted: November 1, 2017 in My Story, Race Reports
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Mission Half Marathon

When I first saw a post about the brand new Mission Half Marathon, I thought: “Hey! A new half marathon! Maybe I’ll give it a go.” I visited the website, saw the course, and thought: “Never in a million years.” Then, just a week before the race, I was offered a complimentary entry to the race…well, it was offered to a few people, but I was the only one willing and available to jump on board.

The Mission Half Marathon is unique, probably one of the few races of its kind in the world. Curiosity piqued? Let me tell you about the course…a drag race course…and then play it on repeat…

I’ll cut to the chase, so to speak. The Mission Half Marathon is held at Mission Raceway Park, an auto raceway and drag strip in Mission, a city in the Fraser Valley, about an hour’s drive from Vancouver. The raceway is a 2-kilometre circuit, which means that runners need to complete the course a total of TEN times, followed by a finish on the drag strip to complete the half marathon distance.

And you thought double loops were tough!

I was cajoled into running this race by Karin, my West Van Run buddy – who decided to make this her first ever half marathon. Karin is a sprinter – an amazing short-distance runner and coach. Clearly, she’s up for a challenge. We were joined (and chauffeured) by new friend Tibor, and the three of us had a grand time!

Pre-Race

Fortunately, we had a late race start at 11am, which gave us plenty of time to drive from Vancouver. The weather was cool and foggy, which made for some stunning scenery as we headed east through the suburbs of Coquitlam and Maple Ridge.

Mission Half Marathon

We arrived by 9:30am at the Mission Raceway. We got pointed in a couple of direction before parking (due to late gate opening). We wandered towards package pickup, which was only available that morning. And we got our view of the course.

Mission Half Marathon Mission Half Marathon

My first impression – it was smaller than I expected. Online photos make the whole thing look pretty dramatic, but two kilometres isn’t that big when it doubles back on itself a few times. There’s a motocross track in the middle of the course, but all was quiet on Saturday morning.

Mission Half Marathon Mission Half Marathon

Bib pickup was very quick because, well, there were only 37 runners registered! On the drive over, I had expressed concern about being the last runner, especially if the field was small. I didn’t expect it to be this small!! To keep track of our laps, we were given 10 orange wristbands.

Mission Half Marathon Mission Half Marathon

Everyone gathered at the start line for a quick welcome and briefing. And we were off.

The Course

Here’s the map:

Mission Half Marathon

I got to know these curves intimately. We left the start line and veered to the right. Although ‘pancake flat’, there was a slight incline at this point, which became steeper each time around. We curved further and then ran parallel to the Fraser River. It was shady here, sheltered by tall trees on the river bank. A small jog in the course brought us close to the start line, and then away again – halfway through the lap.

Another straightaway to the far end of the circuit, then a sharp right turn around a pile of tires. It was sunny here, but the road covered in fallen leaves. This part of the course felt remote, a bit lonely. A wide right turn, and you could see who was coming up behind you. Eventually, this would be the people catching up with you, who would soon lap you…

The only left turn of the course, and the end of the lap was in sight. There was a repaired crack across the road, maybe 100 metres before the timing mats. At this point, I would peel off my wristband, readying to drop it into the bucket held by a waiting volunteer.

Hit repeat. Only nine more laps to go.

The route was prettier than I expected. I envisioned grey, industrial, bleak. But with sunny skies, coloured leaves on the trees and on the ground, a few weedy flowers still blooming beside the road, and a view of the mountains at the start of each new lap…it actually made for a lovely autumn afternoon.

Mission Half Marathon

I became familiar with each turn, and I tried my best to follow the tangents, to avoid going too wide on the curve. I was able to predict each puddle – one I’m certain got smaller as the sun came out and the race progressed. At the hairpin turn, I always got a bit anxious, afraid I might tumble into the pile of tires. The left turn got my heart racing because I knew it was time to get another wristband ready to go…

And that forlorn little bit of the route? When I felt an odd sense of the forlorn? After the race, one of the runners said it made him feel a bit like he was in The Walking Dead – beautiful but bleak. Without the zombies, thankfully.

A couple of the volunteers were especially enthusiastic, learning the runners’ names and cheering every time we passed the aid station. Huge shout out to Juliane and Misty – you made this thing bearable, and even fun!!

The lead runners all lapped me twice…and the winner actually lapped me three times. On the flipside, I did catch up and lap a couple of other runners. And throughout all of this, Karin and I stayed pretty close together. She paced me, I paced her. And then, on the final lap, she found that kick she needed to pull out in front. And she sustained it until the very end (besting me by one second!)

That last lap. Pulling off the final wristband…and no more loops! Now, it was a straight shot to the finish line near the end of the drag strip. It looked like this:

Mission Half Marathon

And then, just like that, we were done!

Mission Half Marathon

Post-Race

It was a bit of a walk back to the start line, where our bags were waiting. We stood around, musing on the experience we’d just had. Darrell was there, celebrating his birthday.

Mission Half Marathon

Kristin Smart enjoyed her first place female win.

Mission Half Marathon

And Karin and I cheered for her first half marathon!

Mission Half Marathon

Alistair Kealty, who is the brain behind this whole event, deserves kudos for putting together a one-of-a-kind event!

Mission Half Marathon

It was absolutely worth the drive to Mission!

Mission Half Marathon

Final Results

Gun Time: 1:56:58
Overall Place: 16/29

Click here for complete race results (including lap splits).


Quick Recap – Mission Half Marathon

Social Media: For a brand new race, I would like to have seen a bit more promotion and activity on social. The website had plenty of information and the Run BC Events Facebook page posted about once a week. The Twitter feed? Needs some work to build a stronger brand.

Packet Pickup: Only option was morning of, which was just fine given the size of the race.

T-Shirt/Swag: This was a very bare bones race, so no swag EXCEPT for a really nifty medal!

Course: Ten (10) laps of the Mission Raceway, which is just about 2.2 kilometres – followed by a final straightaway on the drag strip to the finish line. Pancake flat. One sharp switchback turn. Would this be a good course to PB on? I’m not sure…I certainly didn’t. But it has some potential! Plus, there’s an aid station every 2.2 kilometres!!

Post-Race: Water and Gatorade. Just the basics. Plus some very accomplished runners!

Recommendations: This race has the potential to be a really solid and fun local event. More runners, a couple of sponsors, some additional spectators and volunteers, and maybe a food truck. A mini-festival! What about a 10k option? That might attract some runners who aren’t prepared to do a half marathon. OH – and a checked flag to wave at the beginning (and end??) of the race!!

Would I Run It Again? The course is seared into my brain, so I’m not absolutely sure I would do it again. However, it was actually a surprisingly enjoyable experience, and I’m really glad I had the chance to run it. Maybe, just maybe, I’d give it another go…

 

 

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