Race Report: BMO Vancouver Marathon 2012

I put off writing this race report all day yesterday. It’s so hard to write a report of something that was so long and so emotional. I thought a lot about my race yesterday. I second guessed some of the decisions I made, I thought about the amazing, gorgeous, words-can’t-even-describe-how-beautiful-it-was course, I alternated between being grateful and happy for my race and mad at myself for not pushing harder mentally the last 5K. In the end, I ran a marathon. My second marathon but not my last. I smiled and laughed more than I didn’t. I spent four hours with a new friend who has now become a good friend. And that is all that really matters.

Onto the real report. Let’s start from the beginning…

The night before I laid out all my stuff like always. I had my race outfit, my fuel and everything I would need to use before leaving the hotel like deodorant, sunscreen, body glide and vaseline.

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I was wide awake when my alarm went off at 5:00 AM. I crawled out of bed and got all my stuff ready, made some coffee, choked down a bagel with PB and a banana and tweeted a photo of my race outfit and told people to yell if they saw me. So glad I did this because Stacey, Jackie and Erin all spotted me and said ‘hi’ to me because of this! I knew lots of twitter/blog friends who were running the marathon and it was fun to read all the tweets with the #runvan hashtag before leaving my hotel!

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I left around 6:15 and walked the 2 km to the skytrain station where I was planning to meet Brittany. There was a huge line-up of runners waiting to buy tickets to get on the skytrain. At 6:50 AM there were still a bunch of half-marathoners in the line-up too (their race was at 7 am). Finally someone who worked there just came up and said “just get on, you can buy your tickets at the exit” Thank goodness they did that or a lot of people would have been late for their race. I think it’s awesome that translink was so accommodating to the runners.

Britt met me on the platform and we both got on the skytrain and right away someone said “Amber?” and it was Stacey! We have been tweeting back and forth about our training for a few months now so it was really cool to see her. We all ended up walking to the start together and getting a photo – Twitter friends are seriously the best!

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We saw the half-marathoners starting as we were walking to the start and that was exciting too!

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I also ran into my friend from high school and tried to meet up with two people from my running group but couldn’t coordinate meeting them. It was awesome to see so many people I knew before starting and really helped calm my nerves! Check out the pretty mountain view while we were waiting around.

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Britt and I headed to our corral shortly after arriving at the start line and waited around there. We did a long run together a month before when I was in Vancouver and had both been training for a 4:30 marathon finish so we decided to run together and stick together for as much of the race as possible. Running the race WITH someone was the BEST THING EVER and I’m so glad we did this.

Anyways, before we knew it we were inching our way to the start (which I neglected to take a picture of) and we were off. The course started on a hill and then moved into some rollers and I felt really anxious and “off” at first. It took me a good 6-7 K to finally feel like I was settling into a pace.

Mile 1 – 9:57, Mile 2 – 9:43, Mile 3 – 9:51, Mile 4 – 9:35, Mile 5 – 9:50

We were doing 10 and 1’s (10 minutes running and 1 minute walking) and cruising along when we made it to the hill I had heard so much about.

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While I am glad this hill came so early in the race it was a killer! I had just settled into my pace when we climbed this thing and it totally threw my pace off again.

Mile 6 – 10:47, Mile 7 – 10:40, Mile 8 – 11:01, Mile 9 – 10:16, Mile 10 – 10:27

The next few miles were through the UBC campus and we were on a wide road with huge trees on both sides. It offered some really nice shade and was really pretty! Around mile 8 I sent my first tweet saying we were feeling good. Britt and I were still together and chatting away.

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We had a nice downhill right before reaching the halfway point. And while it felt really good we were conscious to not go too hard and kill our knees and quads.

We reached the halfway point in 2:14:29, which was perfectly on pace for our 4:30 goal. We were both feeling awesome!

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Mile 11 – 10:13, Mile 12 – 10:11, Mile 13 – 9:55, Mile 14 – 10:16, Mile 15 – 10:34

The next few miles were a bit of a blur. We ran along the Spanish Banks, Jericho Beach and Kitsilano beach. This part of the course followed the same route as the Scotiabank Half-marathon (which I ran in 2009) and it was gorgeous with some amazing ocean and mountain views. There were a few tough points in here where Britt and I were basically counting down to our next walk. We kept saying 5 minutes to go, 4 minutes to go, 3 minutes to go etc.

I felt really, really crappy around mile’s 15 – 17 (25K – 28ishK) and neither of us were talking much other than to say “we’re running a freaking marathon!” “we’re awesome!” “best time ever!” and a few random cheers to get our morale up. I also started counting down until we would see Eric as he was waiting for us at km 32 (mile 20ish).

Soon we were hitting the Burrard Bridge. Another decent climb. I knew we’d see Eric shortly after crossing the bridge but we were both in pretty low spirits by this point so to pick ourselves up we came down off the bridge and started cheering and waving our arms like crazy for the race photographer – can’t wait to see the photo!

Mile 16 – 10:20, Mile 17 – 10:41, Mile 18 – 11:05, Mile 19 – 10:54, Mile 20 – 11:10

Before we knew it we were at the Inukshuk and km 32! I came down around the corner and saw Eric standing there and started waving wildly at him. I was sooo happy to see him!

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Look at those smiles! Can you tell we’re in a bit of pain here? Ha!

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We dropped our water belts with him, I gave him a quick (and super sweaty) kiss and we were off! Only 10 km to go. But I knew from my last marathon that these would be the toughest 10 km of the whole thing…and they were.

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I was excited to enter the seawall as I knew it would be flat and gorgeous. But I was also tired and my legs were getting pretty sore. We were just tried to keep up with our 10 and 1’s and keep smiles on our faces.

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I actually started to feel pretty good about 2 miles after seeing Eric. Unfortunately, Britt was having some stomach issues so after running for 21 miles (33 km) together we said our goodbyes and promised to meet up at the finish line. I plugged in my music for the FIRST time the entire marathon and off I went! I felt really good for about 2 more miles and then it all went downhill from there.

Mile 21 – 11:14, Mile 22 – 10:50, Mile 23 – 11:04

Around mile 22.5 (36ish km) I started feeling really nauseous and off and also had to pee really badly. I told myself I only had 5K to go and I could do this but I wasn’t feeling very mentally strong at this point. Finally when I came up to the mile 23 aid station I decided to pop into the porta-potty. I had been on pace for a 4:30 goal this ENTIRE race but that bathroom break put me about 1.5 minutes behind my pace band and, in a moment of mental weakness I felt really discouraged and just threw it off.

The next 5K were brutal you guys. My stomach was cramping. I wanted to puke. I knew it was only 5K but I just didn’t have it in me to push anymore. I walked a lot. At mile 25 I tried to call Eric and was almost in tears. I was so mad at myself and was being super negative in my head.

Mile 25 – 10:56

I finally got out of Stanley Park and came up around a corner and was heading uphill (meanies!) back into the city again when I saw Karen on the edge of the road cheering! It was so great to see her smiling face and I gave her a hug and said “this is SO HARD” and she was like, “you’re almost there!!!” so I took off again.

I had to go up the block a bit further and around a corner to get to the finish line. At this point I looked at my watch and knew if I kept running I could make it under 4:40 and at least have a time that STARTED with a 4:3x so I got my butt moving.

Mile 26 – 11:40, Mile 26 – 26.2 – 10:34

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Eric was waiting for me at the end and got this photo of me coming in.

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I crossed the finish line and immediately bent over and put my hands on my knees. I was sure I was going to throw up. A medic came over and encouraged me to walk around so I walked down and talked to Eric through the fence but told him I wanted to wait for Britt. I went and got my medal (who I happened to get from a girl I went to middle school with – I knew she’d be there since I saw on Facebook but still small world!)

Once Britt crossed the finish line I gave her a HUGE hug and then we walked out of the finish area to find Eric so she could get her cell phone and call her husband. I immediately started eating some salty potato chips and felt 100x better within a few minutes of eating them. I then felt really upbeat and was super energetic despite the fact that I’d just ran a marathon!

We went back to our hotel so I could shower and then checked out and got on the road, with a quick stop for some very greasy – and very delicious – pizza!

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Final Stats:

Chip time: 4:39:07

Age place (19-24): 68/102

Gender place: 1126/1838

Final Thoughts:

I’m not going to lie. I’m disappointed I didn’t hit my 4:30 goal time. I know if I’d pushed harder that last 5 km I would have done it and while I was battling nausea and stomach cramps I also didn’t push myself mentally at all. I would say the last 5 km of this marathon were equally as hard as the last 5 km of my half-marathon in October where I ran sub-2. The difference was I dug deep mentally during that half-marathon and I didn’t during my marathon.

However, I smiled and laughed A LOT this race. I had a little bit of trouble miles 15-17 and then didn’t really feel crappy again until mile 23. The course was beautiful and it was so well organized with tons of aid stations and porta-potties. And we literally could not have asked for better weather. It was truly a great day.

What went wrong with my stomach? I’m not really sure. It was a warm day out there, about 17 C, and the sun was bright and hot. I took three GU’s, two packs of shot bloks and drank A LOT of gatorade in an attempt to stay well fueled. I think I may have OVER-fueled and the sugar wreaked havoc on my stomach. I also might have been lacking in sodium considering how amazing those potato chips tasted by the end. I took water every aid station so I’m pretty sure I was well hydrated, but it’s hard to say for sure.

I’ve tweeted with a few other runners who missed their goal time as well and the general consensus was that it was a warm day and that was hard on the runners for a variety of reasons. Also, while this is considered a FAST course (lots of downhill) I would not call it a FLAT course at all. There are plenty of rollers out there to beat up your legs.

All that being said, I LOVED the course a lot. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that I will run it again one day. This was a brand new course for Vancouver and the organizers did an amazing job showing off the best parts of a very beautiful city. I cannot recommend it enough. Especially if you’ve never been to Vancouver and want a destination race.

I have a 4:30 in my legs and now, after this marathon, I know I have it in my mind. I will be running another marathon in 2012 (stay tuned for details!) and that 4:30 or faster goal will be at the forefront of my mind and training, whereas this time it was just to finish injury-free and have a good, fun race (which I did)!

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I loved running into so many twitter/blog friends and having Eric there was the BEST THING EVER! It really was a wonderful, fun day.

A huge, huge thank you to Britt. I have never ran almost an entire race like that with someone before and I loved it. It was so great to have someone by my side to chat with and scream with and yell “WE’RE RUNNING AN F-ING MARATHON!” with while chugging up hills!

And thank you to all my readers and twitter followers. I was overwhelmed with tweets, facebook messages and texts of encouragement. They meant so much!


54 Responses

  1. Kelly says:

    So glad Karen found you! We were trying to figure out what time you’d be there via twitter and I was doing a terrible job with race tracking (I later found out it was because they weren’t going to tell me til you hit the half but I didn’t get that at first).

    I’m so glad you did so well 🙂 I understand how you feel not meeting your goal, I missed mine by a bit during the tri and I thought I was going to hit it so I was pushing through mentally but I didn’t time my transitions and in the end that was my downfall I guess- but the thing is I really think if it weren’t for blogging we might not even realize that people have goal times for these things and we’d just be happy to DO IT, especially a marathon which is more than impressive on it’s own!

    It’s definitely more fun to do a race with someone so I’m glad you had that!

  2. Andrea says:

    Congrats on a great race! I’ve been looking at the course maps for this race and it looks amazing. Having just been to Vancouver for the first time a couple of weeks ago, I’m sure it was beautiful.

  3. I’m so glad this one went better than the last! Sorry you didn’t hit your goal, but you are SO CLOSE!

    Congrats on the finish! And enjoy the down time… 🙂

  4. Great race report. It’s so hard to not meet your goal – I know that will sting for awhile. But sometimes our bodies just get in the way of what we want to accomplish. It’s especially tough to battle stomach issues… Don’t beat yourself up too much! You wanted to cross that finish line feeling healthy and smiling and that is what you did!

    Looks like a gorgeous course!! I’d love to run Van one day!!

  5. AshleyD says:

    I loved this report! I almost cried reading the part when you saw Karen and told her it was SO HARD. I remember so many moments like that from my half! It’s such a mental challenge, but you did amazing!

  6. Lauren says:

    Congrats on your 2nd marathon!!!! The course looks beautiful, and I can’t wait to see what other marathon you’re going to do this year. I’ve been loving all these motivating race reports, and they’re definitely getting me excited for my first marathon in 19 days.

  7. Heather says:

    I am so proud of you and so happy for you! I hate that you didnt get yoru goal, but you pushed through so many obstacles, I think that deserves a TON of credit. Amazing job!!

  8. Ris says:

    Congrats Amber!! You should be so proud of yourself! And hey, I consider any race where I didn’t end up in the medic tent a good race 🙂

  9. Lindsey says:

    Great job! Way to push through too 🙂 I always thought that those last 8km would be the easiest from adrenaline, but boy was I wrong, when I ran my full they were tough!
    Stomach issues are the worse, I was super lucky and never had in any my full but know way too many people that did when it had never been an issue before. I wonder if it is just a combo of everything then the anxiety and anticipation on top of it all?
    And another full!? You go girl! haha Ok, I sounded lame there… I hope to run another full one day but right now running is on the back burner for me.

  10. Anais says:

    Amazing race report!!! I actually got teary-eyed :)I know it’s disappointing to know you had it in you to do 4:30 but I’m glad you’re focusing on all your amazing accomplishments 🙂 And it’s so nice that you had Brit to run it with you! It’s true that it is a lot of fun… I had run half of my marathon with someone and I see a big difference in how I felt with that person and without…

    Anyways, as you know, I think you did absolutely awesome! I hope we can run a full together one day 🙂 that would be really fun!

  11. Leigh says:

    Great race report Amber! I think it’s great that you and Britt stuck together for so long even if you weren’t talking to each other at points, at least you knew she was there for support. Another marathon in 2012 eh? Can’t wait to hear the details!

  12. Carrie says:

    Congrats!!! I really enjoyed reading your race report. It sounds like you definitely had some challenges that made things difficult. But you know what, smiling and laughing a lot during a marathon definitely sounds like a huge win in my book!

  13. Bronwyn says:

    Amazing race Amber! 😀 Congrats. And such nice weather to boot!

  14. abbi says:

    Great report and congratulations on the 2nd marathon! I know it didn’t go quite like you wanted but you still had a good race and it’s a great accomplishment. Rest and recover well!

  15. Sherry Sim says:

    Can’t wait to hear all about it on Thursday! You should be SO proud of yourself…., you’ll get the 4:30 next time and you have achieved twice only what 1% of the population have done. Ran a full marathon!!! Loved reading your blog and following you along.

  16. Britt says:

    I am so proud of us. Would not have been the same race without you!! I’m nearly in tears reading your recap – what an emotional day. I’m writing mine tonight. 🙂

  17. Caroline says:

    Congratulations, Amber!! I’m so proud of you : )
    I don’t think you should be hard on yourself for not digging deeper mentally and making your goal time – it’s SO much harder to stay positive in the last couple of miles of a marathon than a half (I think). You ran a great race, injury free – which is really most important!

    What are the chances that 2012 marathon is NYC? Cause that would really just make my day…

  18. Fact: I ran an 8k the same day, and the heat got to my stomach too. It was a sunny, warm day and we haven’t had much practice running in that kind of weather yet.
    Also, you did an awesome job Amber! Congratulations. 🙂

  19. Stephany says:

    I’m sorry you didn’t meet your goal but HOLY HECK GIRL, you did awesome! You had a crazy-good PR and you had FUN during the race. That was one of your goals as well so YAY. Hills are brutal and when your body is protesting? It makes it even more tough. The fact that you kept going is amazing to me.

    Congrats on an awesome second marathon!

  20. Sometimes we have to look at our goals for a race and decide whether they’re truly attainable. And, sometimes, we really don’t know until after the race whether we could achieve everything or not. I think it’s a huge victory that you were able to train and race injury-free. Weather is that one stupid variable we have no control over, but plays such a huge role in how we race. Honestly, you completed a marathon, raced most of it with a friend, did so without injury and smiled most of the time. I call that a huge win, even if you feel the clock says otherwise.

  21. Amy says:

    I’m so darn proud of you. And IN AWE. Way to go, Amber.

  22. Awesome recap, Amber! THat is so fun that you two ran it together. Definitely makes those miles more bearable and a little bit fun. That course looks amazing and I love the “Ran/Full” on the medal. Rest up this week!!

  23. Shaun Planiden says:

    You’re probably right about the Gu-Gatorade combination being the reason for your upset stomach. Something to iron out during your next training cycle.

    It was a beautiful course, but I wouldn’t call it fast by any stretch of the imagination. Checking the results, there were a lot of runners with significant positive splits. Not only that, but despite the course having too much downhill to be considered an Olympic qualifier, nobody who ran the course (not even the Ethiopian and Kenyan winners) would have qualified for the CANADIAN Olympic team… not by a long shot.

    Hold your head up high. Learn from your mistakes, and NAIL the next one. (I’m trying to do the same.)

    Congratulations on finishing your second marathon!

    • MissAmber says:

      Ya I trained with the GUl/gatorade combo but never that much of either. I was trying to stay well hydrated and fueled and overdid it I guess. Oh well, live and learn! I had heard that it was a fast course but definitely didn’t feel that at all. All the rolling hills were definitely a bit killer. Interesting to hear about all the runners with positive splits!

      Either way, I still loved the course and would definitely run it again! Thanks for your comment 🙂

  24. J says:

    Congrats on the marathon! You did so well. I don’t even know what to expect for mine. I think marathons are just a whole different game entirely. Can’t wait to see which marathon you are going to run next!

  25. LG says:

    Yayyy! Nice work, Amber!!! What an amazing journey. And SO nice that Eric would watch and support you – yay Eric!

  26. nicole says:

    amazing amazing job girl! i’m so proud of you!!! a PR is awesome even though its not what you wanted! I thought of you during my race this weekend and thought i saw your twin! HAHA! 🙂 great job!

  27. You ran a fucking marathon!! 😉 Congratulations, I’m glad this was a fun race for you!

  28. Kyria says:

    Great job Amber! Congratulations for finishing your 2nd and NOT YOUR LAST marathon! Woo Hooo!

    I think that’s a lot of gu/gatorade etc! Did you use that much during training? I found that gu in large quantities definitely makes me feel sick. Even with water. I think it’s just too much stuff sometimes! Have you tried salt tabs? I wonder if they would be better/help?

  29. Katie says:

    I know I’ve said this already, but I just wanted to say how great it was to give you your medal! Even though you didn’t get to the 4:30 mark that you wanted, you still finished and you looked great. I saw a lot of emotions at the finish line, and not all of them were happy ones, so the fact that you managed to have fun on the race, and that you were able to finish with a smile on your face says a lot!

    Congratulations again!

    PS I’ve been quietly reading your blog for the past few years, so I feel honoured that you mentioned me 🙂

  30. Meg G says:

    Congratulations!!! I saw you at the start I think, I’m sorry I didn’t say hi! We were both moving quickly past each other. Your photos from the race really show what it looked like out there, it was such a gorgeous race. I’m another one who didn’t reach my goal, womp womp. BUT we did it! We ran the inaugural new route, the biggest Marathon in Canada, and that is way awesome. You are way awesome. Can’t wait to see what you’re up to next!

  31. Congratulations girl!!! Even though you didn’t hit your goal time, you still ROCKED a marathon! I am proud of you 🙂

  32. KL says:

    Great story, brings back memories of my own experience of the marathon. Hope to see you there next year!

  33. Adam says:

    Finished Vancouver as well; incredible 26.2 mile course. Similar to you, I almost enjoyed those potato chips at the end too much… Very cool blog report. Great memories, and lessons to take-a-way. Best of luck in your upcoming wedding, and future marathons!

  34. You did so great out there! How fantastic. You’ve got a sub-4 marathon in those legs. one day it will happen.

  35. AH! Congratulations, Amber! YOU DID IT! This is awesome and definitely makes me want to think about doing a marathon one day. 🙂

  36. Meghan says:

    Congratulations Amber. You are ttruly amazing, and a source of inspiration. Proud of you, ladyfriend. xo

  37. Joe says:

    Nice race report. I’ve been following your blog a bit over the last few months which has been great.

    It’s pretty great having someone to run with during the race, isn’t it! It made a huge difference for me. My partner and I had a deal to run together for the first 21 km, see how it goes until around 30-32 km, and after that it was an open race. We definitely helped each other to keep to our pace the first half (it was hard not to want to run too quickly!). At 31 km he was struggling and I had to leave him behind to finish it myself. So like you, didn’t plug the earphones in until Stanley Park…

    I absolutely loved the course and everything about the race. I don’t know about you, but I did find it tough going along the Seawall. As beautiful as it is, it was a lonely place to be right during the hardest part of the race. I really could have used a bit of that cheering during the second half of the Stanley park section!

    I’ll be back next year though for sure…

  38. Page says:

    CONGRATS on your finish! I know you’re bummed about not hitting the goal, but it’s all part of the journey. Sometimes we don’t hit our goals, but then we pick ourselves back up and try again.

    Glad you had so much fun!

  39. Heidi says:

    I just got back from vacation and couldn’t wait to read your race report, congrats!!!! 🙂 Awesome job! It must feel like such an accomplishment !!!

  40. Raquelita says:

    Amber, I have been traveling and am behind on blog reading, so I’m just now reading your race report. Many belated congratulations on finishing the marathon! Even if you didn’t quite hit your goal time, completing a marathon is no small accomplishment! Great job, and you’ve made me want to do the Vancouver Marathon sometime in the relatively near future!

  41. Kristen says:

    just catching up – congratulations amber! i’m sorry you missed your goal but congrats on a good race and having fun while doing it. hope you’re recovering well!!

  42. Becky says:

    Okay I am super super late to this post, but I just wanted to say how proud I am of you!

  43. Lindsey says:

    Congratulations!! I’ve been following your progress for a few months now, and I’m so proud of you! You totally inspire me to keep going in my own running journey 🙂

  44. Shoshanah says:

    I know I’m a few days late commenting here, but I just wanted to say congrats! And reading your post really is inspiring that it makes me want to start running more, not a marathon though, at least not yet!

  45. You did it – marathon #2! Congratulations, Amber!!! You may have not hit your #1 goal time but you finished strong! 26.2 miles is a long way, no matter how you look at it. Great job, girl!

  46. Congrats on another 26.2 down! The second one is just as hard as the first – you’ve learned a lot, but still have a lot of questions and tricks to figure out. Spring races can be so random, too, because the weather is anyone’s guess and you’ve been training through mostly cool temps. Either way, it’s awesome that your mind is already on a goal that you’re ready to tackle!

  47. You did an awesome job!!! And I’m so glad I got to be there to see you on your way to the finish line! 🙂

  48. Liz Byrnes says:

    Thanks for this race report Amber. I’ve been telling my California running buddies that after Boston (yeah 2012! Did it!) that I wanted to run Vancouver as a destination race. I’m glad I found your blog. Told me exactly what I wanted to know. I’m close to twice your age, but I think we share a lot in training, running (10-1) even length of engagement time 🙂 That was pretty amazing. All the best to you and Eric. Maybe see you in Vancouver 2013!

  49. […] loops around the Seawall in Stanley Park, and ends at the Convention Centre. I’ve read a few race reports from last year, and consensus seems to be the course is extremely beautiful with lots of […]

  50. […] for me also as I have the Vancouver half-marathon this weekend!!! How has it already been a year since I did the marathon? Craziness. I am so looking forward to this weekend. I know SO MANY people running and three […]

  51. […] Ran my second marathon in Vancouver on the most beautiful course I have ever been on for a race (and ran the first 32K with Britt – so much fun!) […]

  52. […] running the marathon than anything. I cannot believe it has already been an entire year since my marathon in Vancouver and an entire FOUR YEARS since my very first half-marathon in Vancouver. Time really does […]

  53. […] for the first time back in 2009 and it was my first race, and first half-marathon, ever. I then did the full marathon last year. I absolutely LOVE Vancouver and I LOVE this race. It is really well organized and a wonderful way […]