First Half Half Marathon – Race Report



The day started out the way race days should. It was brisk but not too cold, quite foggy with the promise of sun. I brought along my throwaway BMO Marathon gloves and my sunglasses, and wore my First Half long-sleeved race shirt from 2014. Last year was a personal best (PB) in the half marathon distance (1 hour 48 mins 12 seconds) and while I had no expectations that this year would be another, I felt that wearing the shirt might be good luck!

This year’s shirt – which I wanted to trade in for a smaller size

Before I left home, however, there was a bit of a glitch. Without being too graphic…the morning was tarnished by some gastrointestinal distress. Is it nerves? Is it because I shouldn’t have eaten those chips last night? (I shouldn’t have.) Whatever the cause, I popped some pills, including probiotics and some Immodium, and hoped for the best. Since the start line is less than 10 minutes from my place, I waited until about an hour before gun time to head out.

Forerunners – host of my weekly clinic – is one of the title sponsors for this fun and well-organized event. I arrived at the venue, and caught up with a bunch of my clinic peeps.

Me and my running buddy, Lucy

I made a porta-potty pit stop, downed a gel, and then headed to the starting corral. I put myself in the 1:45 pace area – might as well set my sights high!

IMG_6699 IMG_6700

One of my Twitter buddies, Debra Kato, also took this uber-happy photo of me:


We sang the national anthem and then – literally seconds later – the 5 second countdown started! And GO!

I had a few goals for this race:

  1. Try to rely less on my Garmin, and listen to my body instead.
  2. Not go out too fast, and save some energy for the end.
  3. Keep my cadence pretty high (i.e. take shorter, quicker steps – rather than longer strides).
  4. If possible, achieve a negative split. (For the non-runners out there, that just means running the second half faster than the first half.)

The first two kilometres take us from the Roundhouse Community Centre in Yaletown, around BC Place Stadium, and back toward the Roundhouse. My first km was a bit fast, but the second was a bit slow…so I decided to try and find a happy medium. I won’t go into the details, but suffice it to say that I managed to achieve a pretty consistent pace that put me on the right track.

Also, at about the same time, I thought that phlegm guy was back. (Check out my Eastside 10K race report for context!) However, it turned out to be phlegm girl, and thankfully I either outpaced her, or she got control of her sinus issues, because it only lasted a kilometre or two.

Here’s a map of the First Half Half Marathon, to put the course into perspective:

Snap 2015-02-15 at 13.03.05

I’ve gushed about the beauty of running in Vancouver, and today was no exception. As the fog started to burn off, I managed to snap this mid-run photo near Lost Lagoon (around the 7km mark – right where the black dot is on the map above).


As we hit the halfway mark somewhere along the Seawall, I checked my time. Not ideal, but a time with some potential. I picked up the pace a tad. This part of the race is tough – Stanley Park continues to be my nemesis – though I have beaten it down before. On the dark side of the park, the fog was still pretty thick and I could barely see Siwash Rock:


At 19km, knowing that there were a couple of hills in my near future, I kicked it up a notch. My better half was waiting at the top of the first hill at the 20km mark:

Snap 2015-02-15 at 16.42.17

When I crested the second hill, with less than 1km remaining, I gave it all I had. And crossed the finish line with a time that was unquestionably a PB!

Celebration ensued!


I also became a bit of a #fanboi, and snapped a selfie with Dylan Wykes. Dylan is a Forerunners ambassador, and also happened to win today’s race with a time of 1:07:20!

IMG_6704 IMG_6706

In terms of my race goals:

  1. I checked my Garmin on occasion, but didn’t let it control me.
  2. Although I started a wee bit fast, I got things under control and had some power left at the end.
  3. My average cadence was 184spm (steps per minute) – 180spm or higher is said to be optimal.
  4. A negative split! My second half was just over a minute faster than my first half (of the First Half)!

It couldn’t have been a better day! This is my fourth First Half (and my best so far). As usual, the food and volunteers were stellar. And although I had to wait around a bit to get a smaller shirt, someone turned in a men’s small at just the right time! Kudos to the organizers for yet another amazing race!


Final results:

Chip time: 1:47:37 (35-second PB!)
Average pace: 5:06 min/km
Place overall: 723/2082
Age category place: 76/135

Do you have a favourite race? Do you set goals before heading out? Share your experiences!
If you’re not a runner – what goals have you set in terms of fitness or other personal achievements?

UPDATE – July 2015:

Added this race report to The Silvah Lining‘s  recap linkup!

The Silvah Lining


  1. MB

    Visiting from the Blog Hop from Skortaholics, but actually read this already earlier this morning from your FB link! Way to set up a plan and execute, and sounds like a great race. Don’t you just love those races that you like to go back to each year, it’s like seeing an old friend!

    • Thanks for visiting again! 🙂 I’m pleased with how everything fell into place. The neat thing about running this race multiple times is being able to compare apples to apples. Since running the First Half for the first time in 2012, I have trimmed 20 minutes off my time – which makes me glad!

  2. Sun

    Congrats on the new PB! Isn’t it great when one happens when you’re not especially expecting it? 🙂

    Going into a race, I usually have a few goals. I like to set a time goal and then also a goal like don’t get passed by anyone after X mile. Goals like that one always make the miles go by fast and seem a bit like a game!

    • Thanks, Sun! Definitely a great day in terms of unexpected success!

      I really like the goal of having no one pass you after a certain distance! I’ve certainly had times where I pass someone and try to avoid letting them pass me again!

  3. Very awesome on the PB!
    I have heard this is a really nice course! Love the foggy pic! Great review, sounds like you had a great time on top of hitting your goals, very cool!!!
    I think setting goals before a race is a great way to start, I do that too, I think the goals are different every time, but it just helps us want to get that extra “push” at times when we need it, because we have more than just the finish to shoot towards!
    Great job Bradley!!!!

    • Thanks, Kristy! I’m just pleased with the way things went, for sure! I haven’t really set goals this specific before, but it seems to have paid off. Guess I’ll have to start planning better in the future!

  4. Ima Mosier

    Congratulations on your PB! I am just trying to break 2:15. Sigh. The pictures are great. Fantastic job on staying in the 180s on your cadence. I am also trying to work on picking up my cadence. Some runs I think that I have had a breakthrough and then the next run I will be down in the 150s or 160s again.

    Great race report and great race time!

    • Thank you! My first half marathon (in 2011) was 2:15:36. I never expected to get to where I am, but I’m thankful for what I’ve managed to achieve. The cadence thing is definitely challenging, but I seem to have got a feel for it. It doesn’t always work out, depends on how focused I am!

  5. Whoo Hoo! Nice work on the PR and on running well against your plan. Negative splits are such a challenge! I ran Lululemon Half twice and the part in Stanley Park on the Seawall was so hard for me. I am not sure why as I have run my personal bests in Central Park (which is a similar run in circles kind of thing!) Love the goals – especially #1. I never race with a Garmin and sometimes I don’t look at my watch except every 5K or so. I go by feel.

    • Thanks Erica! The negative split was not a plan until I realized that it might actually be possible! I’ve never done the Lululemon half, but I know the route very well!! Cool that you’ve done runs around Central Park – someday I’ll get there for a run!! I like having my Garmin during a race, more for the ‘after the fact’ of being able to track what I’ve done. I think I looked at it less than 10 times during this race.

  6. I have a major problem with not pacing myself all that well and then tiring out at the end, so I definitely feel ya on that goal! Great job on meeting all your race goals and having such a great race! Congrats on your PB! :D!

  7. great finish Bradley! I also start out with some kind of a goal in mind. I am numbers person so there must be a number attached 🙂 I have only run one half- so pacing myself is still being worked on! I use my Garmin that helps me stay motivated! Well, it looked like you had a great time and that is just as good as the PB! Cheers!

    • Thanks Mary Beth. I didn’t have a specific number in mind, but I had been thinking about 1:47:47 as a nice time…which I bested! This is now…OK, I had to count…my 11th half marathon! Wow! And it took me this long to figure out my pacing. 🙂

  8. Congratulations on your marathon success! I’m not a runner, but I can imagine the incredible feeling of accomplishment for completing such a feat. Thank you for sharing your experience and your lovely photos – both are quite inspirational.

  9. Shayna

    Congratulations on the PB and negative split! That is amazing! I’m still a new runner and haven’t run anything longer than a 5K yet. But I’m running a timed 10K in May! I’m not planning on trying out for a PB or anything. I just want to finish and see how I do!

    • Thanks Shayna! Honestly, the whole experience was unexpectedly positive! Being a new runner is very exciting – very proud of you. And the best thing about running a new distance, like a 10k, means that you automatically get a PB! I’m thinking of doing a 7 miler in March – which would be a distance I’ve never done before! 🙂 Good luck on your next race!

  10. Sue @ This Mama Runs For Cupcakes

    Congrats on an awesome PB!! And that course? OMG, that looks amazing. I’ve never been to Vancouver but I’m sure it is gorgeous!!

  11. Congrats on your PR, Bradley! Sounds like a fantastic race 🙂 As far as a favorite race – I’m partial to runDisney races but I really enjoyed the whole Portland Marathon experience too.

  12. Sounds like you had a great race and met all your goals. I too set some personal goals before my races though they’re usually nutrition related. And I too have an equivalent to your phlegm guy/girl but mine is grunting man. And he’s usually at all the local races and I somehow always find him. I’ve even run into him at a race a couple of hours away! But, like you, it helps pass the time to obsess over him 🙂

    • What types of nutrition goals do you set for races? That’s probably the one area I’m weakest.

      Hilarious that you have a grunting man. It certainly adds an element of the ridiculous. 🙂

  13. Congratulations on the PR! I don’t know if I’ve done enough races to have a favorite race, so far there haven’t been too many that I want to do over and over again. I think I get bored of courses too easily. I like to set out race goals as well but right now I don’t have too many goals in mind.

    • Thank you! Part of my plan this year is to try out some races I’ve never done before. I guess one of the things I like about doing these local races over and over is that I know how to strategize and improve the next time around.

  14. I’ve never run a marathon before so I have no idea how one approaches it. Do you always have a strategy going into each one? Also, is it best to start out slow and then speed up towards the end or does it depend on the length? My goal this year is just to try and work out 4 days per week consistently.

    • Very good questions. Honestly, I think I was more strategic about this one than usual – and I may have articulated more goals a bit more clearly in hindsight! 🙂

      I think it depends a lot on the length of the race, the type of training you’ve done, and what your goals are. Starting out slower and speeding up at the end is not necessary recommended (or even possible) – but somehow I made it work!

      The goal of working out 4 days per week is excellent – I think consistency in whatever you decide to do is key! 🙂

  15. Way to go, Bradley!! That’s a great PR. I

    I like the look of that course. It’s like the old BMO Vancouver Half, with the Seawall subbing in for the terrible hill in Stanley Park. I may have to do that one in the future!

    I always go into a race with a goal, even if it’s just to run at an easy pace. When I started running, my goal with every race was to PR. Now I know I can’t PR every race, so I vary my goals based p my fitness and long-term goals.

    • Yes, this course is awesome because there are honestly no hills at all. That old BMO Half course was terrible! They’ve improved on it, for sure – will likely give it a go again this year.

      I sometimes set a PR goal, and then have a secondary goal in mind. Honestly, I didn’t expect this race to be a PR, but it seems that the combination of goals I set really panned out!

      Thanks so much!

  16. Wow! Awesome job and congrats on the PR. You rock! Love the photos you took. I like how one of your goals was to rely on what your body is telling you than your Garmin. That’s a good idea, we all get caught up in numbers so often. Sometimes it’s just best to listen to our bodies instead.

    • Thank you! I was so excited! Although I love my Garmin for what it can tell me, it’s often more for tracking and ‘after the fact’ than at the time. I feel like this race was a great learning/training experience for me.

  17. Tricia Johnson

    That’s so awesome! It sounds like you did a great job sticking to your goals for the race. Given the way your morning started, it sounds like things went really well for you! Nice work!

  18. Kristin J.

    Funny, reading this post reminds me (due to my creepy elephant memory) that in 2013 (I think) when you were still a newbie runner, I ran into you in the roundhouse after the race and you’d surprised yourself with an awesome PR that day too. I think this is your race. Dylan better watch out next year :p

    • Elephant memories are good! Mine isn’t so great, so blogging keep a record for me! I have actually PR’d in this race a few times…so perhaps it IS my race! Ya, Dylan – watch your back!

  19. Mike (

    Way to absolutely rock it! It sounds like you followed your race plan to perfection. I enjoy reading race recaps like these!

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