Race Report: 2017 BMO Vancouver Marathon

Another BMO Vancouver Marathon is in the books.

This was my fourth time running in Vancouver and my 11th marathon overall. It went about how I expected it to, with a decent enough first half, and a tough last 10km.

Looking back over my training, it was clear that this wouldn’t be a PB race. I fell running eight weeks before race day and fractured two ribs on my right side. I lost two full weeks of training including two 32km long runs. Even once I could run again, it was more three weeks until I was really back on track.

It could have been worse. I was very aggressive in returning to running and pushed hard to get a couple of runs in the 29-32km range in. In the end, I was about 200km shy of my usual mileage over the 18 week training program heading into the race.

The Start

The weather was perfect with sunny skies and temps around 8ºC at the start. I arrived about an hour before the race began and stayed warm in the sun before heading to the corrals about 8:15 A.M.

After the usual pre-race festivities, we were off. The first couple of kilometres are a steady uphill, so I took it a little easy with splits of 5:21 and 5:05 over the first two kilometres. I felt good. No issues at all with any pains or anything.

From there it’s a bit of a rolling run. Sometimes there’s small uphill sections, and sometimes it’s a bit downhill. My next few splits reflected this with a 4:57, 5:11, 4:53 and a 4:49 through six km.

There’s a fairly long downhill here and km seven was a 4:41, followed by a 4:59 as we head up a bit and towards the bit Camosun hill between nine and ten km.

Camosun, Pacific Spirit and UBC

The hill was no issue. I flipped my watch over to the heart rate screen to make sure I kept things in the 150-155bpm range. I ran the km before the hill in 5:51, and the King of the Hill section in 5:50. The climb continues for a while still and my next few splits reflected that continued effort.

I was running within myself and looking forward to the long downhill to come. 5:18, 5:13, 5:24, 5:04 and 5:09 took me through 15km and on the UBC Campus.

The next four kilometres take you through UBC with different buildings a residences to look at. You also get your first glimpses across to the the Islands. 5:04, 5:05, 5:06, 5:04 took me through 19km. I was in the zone, and running really well here. It felt easy and I was in a happy place and pace.

Down the Hill

At 20km you veer left and start a nice long hill down to Spanish Banks. I opened things up a bit here and let the hill do some of the work. The views to the west are stunning and provide a mental boost. 4:55, 4:48, 5:02, 5:00 through 23km.

There’s another fairly steep uphill to get from Spanish Banks to Jericho. I slowed the pace a bit to tackle it and then got back on track with a 5:31 and a 5:08. My legs were starting to tire, but I was happy to have made it this far without feeling too much fatigue.

The gels were starting to upset my tummy a bit here. I’m not sure why as I normally don’t have any issues with that. I actually felt like throwing up for a minute or two and took some water at one of the aid stations to see it that would help.

Point Grey was out in force again with great cheering and signs. The views across to Stanley Park were mentally helpful. 5:31. 5:08, 5:24, 5:29 and 5:31 through 28km with some signs that the last third of the race would be tough.

Burrard Bridge I Hate You

Oh goodie. The Burrard Bridge was next. I decided that I would run up and over again. She won’t defeat me! There’s a long downhill on the other side and I pledged to run at least to the start of the Seawall section. 5:40, 5:58 got me up and over.

I walked for the first time down the steep section that gets you onto the Seawall. I knew that was it for any chance of a good time, but it was fine. I walked for a short time there just before 32km and again a kilometre later. I was hoping to revert to 10s and ones, but even that would be a struggle. Oh well.

Seawall, Seawall and More Seawall

5:36, 6:17, 6:00, 6:16 and 6:30 through 35km. I was happy with those splits but that Seawall section is brutal mentally. It just goes on and on.

I walked more than I would have liked, but some of that was related to the tummy issues which returned. I had the legs here to at least keep on moving at a decent walking pace. Mentally I was fine and my mood was positive. I would have a decent finish and I was focused on saving some energy to run the last kilometre. 8:00, 8:08, 7:34 and 7:18 took me through 39km with a lot of people passing me. I was around Brockton Point now and the Coast Hotel and Coal Harbour was in front of me.

The Finish

A 7:06 and 8:13 for kilometres 40 and 41 show I was still walking more than running, but when I hit the 1km to go sign, I decided I would run it in. That uphill finish is killer, but at least you can see all the way up to the line. I ran up at a decent pace and enjoyed the atmosphere.

My Garmin was tracking about 300m long throughout so my last full split was 7:33 followed by a 600m split of 3:21 or 5:12/km pace. Turned out I had some strength left in those legs after all.

I crossed the line in 4:04:11 but that really didn’t matter to me. I got the stunning medal from a volunteer and took the quick exit for the Prestige Club members that gave me easy access to the Coast Hotel.


To be back up in the room within five minutes of finishing is a real treat and it makes the Coast Hotel ideal. I called Mac and Ginny and showed off my medal.

Average Time, Great Day, Personal Awesome

I love this race. It’s really the best marathon around. Getting to run it for the fourth time was a great treat and I’m super thankful that I have the financial resources to do it, along with the support of my family.

I thought a lot about the marathon during this run, and considered making this my last one. Maybe it will be, and maybe it won’t. Whatever the case, I’ll be easing back on the running for the rest of the year and working in some strength training and stretching as well.

Deep down inside I know I’ll probably run 42.2km again. When? Who knows. But not for at least 51 weeks.

Vancouver Bound

I’m at 34,000ft on WestJet 707 to Vancouver. It was pouring rain when we left Toronto, but we managed an on-time departure anyways. Assuming all goes well, I’ll be in Vancouver just after noon PDT.

The weather out there looks rainy today too, but the weekend forecast looks absolutely perfect. I’ve run Vancouver three times so far, and two out of the three has had similar weather to what is expected for Sunday.

Looking back, thinking ahead

This flight out always provides a good opportunity to think about how training went, and to plan out how to approach the race on Sunday.

This was a bit of an odd 18 week cycle, mostly because I missed a couple of weeks in the middle after I fell running in Hilton Head Island, SC.


Usually I’m up over 200km each month…two missed weeks in March are obvious.

Two broken ribs sidelined me completely for two full weeks, and once I started running again, I had to build back up to the big distances over the course of three weeks. Things were super sore for those first runs back and I was super aggressive in coming back as soon as I did.

They are still not completely healed, but thanks to some twice-a-week physio and some good luck in terms of where they were fractured, it wasn’t all that bad.

The net result of that fall was that I missed two 32km runs, and one 29km run. I got in a 29km and a 32km before the taper started which was a good confidence booster considering that in March I was questioning whether I’d be able to make it to race day even close to ready to run.

Race Expectations

I had never intended to push for a good time in Vancouver. It’s a tough course over the first half and I don’t think it’s conducive to a PB for me given how I tend to fade in the latter stages.

With less training under my belt, I’ll be happy to come in under four hours on Sunday. I’ll probably go out with the 3:40 group and see how that goes. The weather looks great, and the back half of the run is flat. I’ve run a 3:48 on the course before, so that would be a nice number to try to beat.

Whatever happens, I’ll be happy with a good run and a decent finish in this one. It’s been too long since I’ve run a strong marathon, mostly due to hot weather on race days.

Words to Live By

The months of training are done, and the marathon awaits in three days. How do I measure success? It’s not how I do in the race…it’s how I did in training. And the words I try to live by during the ups and downs of a long, 18 week marathon training program come from Emil Zatopek.

If one can stick to the training throughout the many long years, then will power is no longer a problem. It’s raining? That doesn’t matter. I am tired? That’s besides the point. It’s simply that I just have to.

– Emil Zatopek

I missed a few runs because I broke two ribs in a fall. But that’s how it goes. Not once did I say, “Screw it…I’ll run tomorrow.” Because that’s not how it works.