This morning I stumbled across a photo from 9 years ago of the finish of the 2007 Vancouver Sun Run. The photo shows little (he was literally probably a foot shorter than me) Soloman Tsige of Ethiopia breaking the tape with me lagging a few strides behind after a furious sprint for the finish line, that also included Richmond native Ryan Hayden. On that day I was ecstatic with my 2nd place finish. It was my first time racing the Sun Run (and my first time in the city since I was a little kid). I ended up with a PB by almost 1 minute and a cheque for $3000 (for finishing 2nd overall and 1st Canadian). As you can imagine I jumped on a plane home that day with a good feeling about the city of Vancouver.
Vancouver was a thing of beauty…I couldn’t believe a place like this existed in Canada
As it happens I kept coming back, at first just to race the Sun Run and then for some training camps and eventually to live and train full-time. For a guy from relatively geographically bland but wonderful Kingston, ON, the city of Vancouver was a thing of beauty. And for a guy who slogged hundreds of miles through snow and slush and windchills of -40C, the mild temps and cherry blossom lined streets on a spring day in Vancouver were a welcome change. I couldn’t believe a place like this existed in Canada.
My first experience of running in Vancouver, outside of racing the Sun Run, was doing some little training runs around Stanley Park. I remember my coach at the time, Steve Boyd, telling me about this legendary spot in Stanley Park called Beaver Lake where Canada’s best distance runners circa 1970-90 (the likes of Peter Butler, Art Boileau, and Carey Nelson) would hammer out 1k repeat after 1k repeat. We didn’t have anything like that in Kingston. It was awesome, and somehow you saw past the 100 or so tourist taking pictures of the ducks that you had to dodge to get around this fabled loop.
Over the years my love with Vancouver has ebbed and flowed. Life changes, you have a kid and think about trying to be a responsible adult, not just a single-minded full-time athlete. You realize Vancouver is the least affordable city in the country with ridiculous housing prices and a daycare situation that even if you can afford to be a part of, you’re forced to put the kids name on a waiting list the second after conception if you want a spot 2 years down the line. And winter hits; the sun sets at 4pm and the rain doesn’t stop, literally for days. You stare out the window each morning and cringe at the thought of how wet and cold you are going to get on your run. I must admit, it can all get a guy down at times.
Running is almost infectious in spring time in Vancouver
But then spring roles around again and the cherry blossoms come out and I scamper down along Spanish Banks and up into Pacific Spirit Park and all of those negative thoughts that I let creep into my brain seem less significant. Running is almost infectious in spring time in Vancouver. I was out for a nice walk in Stanley Park with my wife and daughter last weekend and we literally saw hundreds of runners out running through Kitsilano and around the seawall. Many of them were likely doing some sort of course preview for the BMO Vancouver marathon. There were a few taking their course tours a bit too literally – running down the middle of the street, even though the streets won’t be blocked off to traffic until the morning of May 1. Nonetheless, there is something about seeing swarms of people of all shapes and sizes and abilities out running the streets and trails that is really inspiring. Even as an elite athlete it can be really motivating to see so many people out enjoying the same passion for the sport.
Sadly, I won’t be reliving the euphoria of my 2007 Sun Run this weekend. I’ve been laid up by a nasty virus that has derailed my training and altered my racing schedule for the spring. I already look forward to lining up next year! In the meantime, I’ll be out at this years Sun Run and BMO Vancouver races, getting that ‘high’ through cheering for others that are out there pushing themselves to their limits on the streets of Vancouver.