Posts Tagged ‘first half half marathon’

first half

It’s been a year since the Vancouver First Half Half Marathon was cancelled due to snow. February 2017 – what a month that was! Anyone who had registered for last year’s race was given both a discount and priority registration for the 2018 race. So really, how could I turn down an opportunity like that?

The First Half was literally my first half in 2018…and despite a case of nerves, it turned out to be a day of fun, sun, and personal success!


First Half Half Marathon

Since I started running in 2009, I’ve completed nearly 90 races of varying distances, in all sorts of weather conditions. When the organizers of the First Half Half Marathon alerted us to the possibility that the race might be cancelled due to weather, I found it hard to believe. But then, mid-morning on Saturday (the day before the race), it became a reality. Because of conditions caused by record-breaking snowfall in Vancouver, the 26th annual First Half Half Marathon was officially no more.

We ran anyway.


First Half Half Marathon

I know that it should never come as a surprise to a Vancouver runner when the rain is falling the morning of a race. I checked my weather app the night before – I knew what I was in for. And I know my friends in eastern Canada are suffering in sub-zero temperatures. But last year’s First Half Half Marathon welcomed us with such ideal weather conditions, I couldn’t help but grumble at the Sunday morning wet.

First Half Half Marathon First Half Half Marathon

Although I have typically achieved a pretty decent time at the First Half, I figured the puddle jumping would be yet another hindrance. Compound that with the fact that I slept quite poorly – anxious about the race? – I had no great expectations for my first half marathon of 2016.

It was also my 22nd lifetime half marathon – so you’d think I’d have it down by now. But I still learned a few lessons…

What I did wrong:

  • Shorts instead of tights – I’ve finally accustomed myself to racing with tights and eschewing shorts; for some reason I elected to go with shorts this time, and they ended up water-logged and thigh-slappy. FAIL
  • No pre-run warmup – I simply couldn’t bear the thought of heading out into the rain before I had to, so I just went straight to the corral; my legs suffered for it. FAIL

First Half Half Marathon

What I did right:

  • Hat instead of toque – I figured correctly that I would overheat if I wore more than a cap, and my fluorescent orange one served me well!
  • Dry shoes – for the soggy Ice-breaker 8k I brought along a full change of clothes, but had to put my dry socks into sopping wet shoes. This time, I came prepared, and was dry and comfy once the race was over.
  • No clock watching – I refused to glance at my Garmin for the duration of the race, and being bound by nothing but my laboured breathing and wobbly legs allowed me to run simply torturously by effort rather than time.

As for the race itself…

The start line is just a 10-minute walk from home, so I arrived early enough to check my bag, chat encouragingly with a number of running buddies, and make a couple of trips to the washroom. My sincere sympathies to the female runners who need to line up for the ladies room…I applaud your patience and perseverance!

Within the first kilometre of the race, my shoes were filled to the brim, my feet cold and squishy, as we thundered through puddles and dodged other runners. I allowed myself to go out strong but not too fast, figuring I needed to keep a fair amount in the tank.

[Tweet “Recap of the 2016 First Half Half Marathon in Vancouver! #fhhm16 “]


Then the curses began. Not my curses, but those of a couple of guys who punctuated their lively conversation with more f-bombs than I am used to hearing, like something out of Trainspotting. Normally, colourful language doesn’t affect me, but I found the banter mentally exhausting so early in the morning. (No, they weren’t cursing at me, like the woman during the Scotiabank Half; I was just being oversensitive.) On the plus side, it gave me motivation to pick up my pace in order to outdistance them, which I soon did.

My own curses came later. Not verbal ones, but the ones in my head. I berated myself for wearing those darn shorts. I mentally shook my fist at the heavens. I felt cold and beaten down.


Bright spot #1: my friend, Rachel, cheering from the sidelines at three different spots along the route!

Bright spot #2: my honey braving the rain to photograph me both going and returning – Happy Valentine’s Day! (That’s where the hearts come in!)

First Half Half Marathon

Coming and going!

Because this was my fifth time running the First Half, I know the route pretty well. The muddy loop around Lost Lagoon was probably the most achingly miserable part of the race. However, the familiar last kilometre, with not one but two hills, always feels like a bit of a punishment.

First Half Half Marathon First Half Half Marathon

The final stretch, breathing hard and legs close to giving out, I hear Coach Carey shout: “Go, Bradley! Sprint to the finish!” Then Kristin is there cheering me on!

As I turn the corner, I see the clock and realize that – against all odds – I’m going to make a course PB. And I do, but more than a minute and a half!

Celebration and dry clothes!

And a few of the faces of the First Half Half Marathon:

First Half Half Marathon First Half Half Marathon

Debra (@debrakato) – my dear friend and costumed photographer – always ready with a themed outfit and a camera. I credit her with not only a lot of the photos in this post, but with getting me out to running events that I wouldn’t normally attend (like last week’s Snowshoe Race)!

First Half Half Marathon First Half Half Marathon

Lucy (@candyaficionado) – my Forerunners pace buddy and inspiration. She’s a quick and dedicated runner, and I look forward to sharing more of her story in an upcoming blog post! And Kristin, another one of my Forerunners friends, always there with a positive attitude and a word of encouragement.

First Half Half Marathon

Fiona (@f_burrows) – social media connection turned real-life friend – so glad to run into her post-race for a selfie and a quick chat!

FullSizeRender (4)

Rob Watson (@robbiedxc) – my celebrity sighting for the day! Rob was second overall, a Canadian National Champion – and a nice guy to boot!

And to all the other amazing, talented and supportive folks in the Vancouver running community – we did it!

First Half Half Marathon

Final results

Chip time: 1:45:53
Average pace: 5:01 min/km
Place overall: 611/1990
Age category place: 56/120

First Half Half Marathon

Results from 2014 to 2016 – getting faster!

Have you ever had a race that felt like it was going wrong,
but actually went surprisingly right?

Weekly Wrap

Sharing this race report via the Weekly Wrap LinkUp hosted by HoHo Runs and MissSippiPiddlin – stop by and read stories from other inspiring bloggers!

Friday Five Races

Reflecting back on 2015, it was quite a year in my running career. Here are the numbers:

After all of that, 2016 is going to be a more conservative year in terms of racing in particular. I want to focus more on training, on strength, on form, and on recovery. But don’t worry – I’ll still be racing! And here they are: 5 races I’m looking forward to in 2016!

Friday Five 1st Half

First Half Half Marathon

When: February 14
Where: Downtown Vancouver & Stanley Park

Admittedly, I always look forward to the First Half! One of the title sponsors of the race is Forerunners, who I run with on a weekly basis. It’s a relatively small race, extremely well-organized, and the start line is about a 10-minute walk from my front door. The post-race food and swag giveaways are awesome. It sells out every year, BUT they allow bib swaps. Really, it’s everything a race should be.

The First Half also holds a special place in my heart because it’s the first half marathon in which I broke 2 hours, back in 2013. This year will be my fifth time running the race. You can read about last year’s race here: First Half Half Marathon 2015.

Friday Five WVR

West Van Run

When: March 5 & 6
Where: Dundarave Park & the West Vancouver Seawall

If you read my blog regularly, this won’t be the first time you’ve heard about the West Van Run. I am very honoured to represent this race as an ambassador for 2016. Some of the neat things about the race this year:

  • 2-day event, with a 5k on Saturday and 10k on Sunday (I’m running both)
  • 1k Kids’ race offered on both days
  • Variety of team challenges

West Van Run was the very first race I ever reviewed when I started my blog back in 2014. You can read about past races here:

Also, until Wednesday, January 29, you can enter to win a free entry!

Friday Five Platte River

Platte River Half Marathon

When: April 10
Where: Denver, Colorado

I’m really excited about this race for a number of reason:

  • First visit ever to Colorado!
  • We’re visiting a friend of mine who I met in Japan – she lives in Denver with her family. We haven’t see each other in well over a decade!
  • This will be my first race officially representing BibRave! I was pleased to received a free entry as a result of being a BibRave Pro

One of the things I’m nervous about, though, is running at altitude. I live on the coast and I’m used to running at sea level. I’m not entirely sure what to expect – but I’m not expecting a record time!

I am also able to offer 10% off with the discount code: ‘bibrave10

Friday Five SF

San Francisco 2nd Half Marathon

When: July 31
Where: San Francisco!

Why the 2nd Half? Well, the SF Marathon is unique in that it combines a full marathon with two half marathons that mirror – surprise, surprise – the first and second halves of the full marathon course. (There’s also an ultra is your one of those people!)

In 2015, I ran the 1st Half (race report), which took me across the Golden Gate Bridge! The 2nd Half starts in Golden Gate Park, runs through Haight/Ashbury and the Mission District, and ends at the Embarcadero, where I started last year.

Friday Five SF Medals

Also, by doing both half marathons in consecutive years, I’ll qualify for the Half It All Challenge, and get an extra medal!

Friday Five SeaWheeze

SeaWheeze Half Marathon

When: August 13
Where: Downtown Vancouver, Kitsilano & Stanley Park

I got in! Most folks in the running scene have at least heard of the infamous SeaWheeze, sponsored by yoga brand lululemon. Spurred on by a couple of girlfriends, I jumped on the registration bandwagon, and got a coveted entry. Now I’m excited!

It’s interesting to note that less than 20% of SeaWheeze runners are male.

Apparently there are tons of weekend events, so I look forward to experiencing what it’s all about! Stay tuned!



I’m linking up with Eat Pray Run DCMar on the Run, and You Signed Up for What?! again this week. It’s a ‘free Friday’ – but I’ll stick to running!

What races are you looking forward to in 2016?


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