BMO Vancouver Marathon Review

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Pre-Race Stuff

I registered back in December and over the past 4 months, the race organizers did a great job of sharing updates through emails, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc. I prefer races that keep participants engaged – it keeps me energized and excited for the event.

Their web site was also freshly updated with important information like:

• Detailed course maps in both miles and kilometers that included the course elevation, aid station locations, spectator points, etc. They also posted a video of the course, something I always enjoy watching.

• Recommended hotels, each denoting the distance from the Finish Line. This was key in helping me decide where to stay. And each hotel had a discount available for race participants.

• An online chat feature. This didn’t really work for me, but I did email them with questions to which they responded right away.

I did feel like a lot of the communications were geared toward local runners only, however, I have no idea how many of the runners were from out-of-town.

Expo

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I visited the expo twice – first on Friday afternoon, then again on Saturday afternoon. It was more crowded on Saturday, but still not bad at all.

What I liked:

• Upon entering the expo, we were handed blue running gloves from the BMO (Bank of Montreal – title sponsor) booth. I liked the gloves so much that I went back for more and now have 3 pairs. ☺

• The packet + bib + timing chip pick-up process was very organized and efficient. The lines were organized by race (8K, Half or Full), then bib number. If you didn’t know your bib number you could look it up on lists posted on the wall.

US participants had to sign a medical waiver. This was sent to us ahead of time, but if you didn’t bring it with you, they had forms available to sign. The whole pick-up process couldn’t have taken more than 5 minutes.

While the chips were disposable, they weren’t the typical D-tag chips. They were these circular ones that you had to weave into your shoelaces. They also had stations where you could test your chip to make sure it had your correct information. I did see someone whose chip was tagged with someone else’s data so this was key to have.

• The goodie bag were reusable shopping bags that included race info, coupons and a luggage tag. It was sparser than other goodie bags I’ve had, but I usually end up wasting half the items that are in them.

What I Didn’t Like:

• I didn’t think the vendors were that great. Maybe it was because I already owned similar products. However, Lauren did purchase an iFitness belt.

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• The one thing that I did want to purchase was a piece of merchandise from the race, but they were all Saucony-branded and cost more than I cared to spend.

• The full marathoners received a long-sleeve tech t-shirt. While they had gender-specific sizes, they also had a weird 3-point neckline. I don’t really like the way the shirt fits and probably won’t wear it.

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Race and Course

I’m not sure of the exact numbers, but I overheard someone say that the full marathon had 4000 participants and the half had about double that. No idea how many ran the 8K race. As large as those numbers were, they didn’t have starting corrals. Everyone just kinda lined up at he start.

I was a little worried about this, but for the full marathon, it wasn’t a problem at all. I personally didn’t have to do any of the dodging that normally happens in a larger size race. That being said, Lauren did say she experienced that at the start of the half-marathon.

I was also worried about the signage, since it would be in kilometers versus miles. I actually ended up liking it more. Since the kilometers are shorter distances than miles, I felt like I was making faster progress ☺.

The aid stations were phenomenal! There were plenty of them and they were well staffed. They served GU Brew and Brita Water, which were sectioned and labeled well at each station. And I never experienced a back up at any station.

Some aid stations, particularly those that were shared with the half-marathon only had pitchers available. Since I ran with a fuel belt, this wasn’t a problem for me; I just had them refill my bottles. But it was complicated for those who ran without any bottles. I saw some runners having drinks from the pitcher poured directly into their mouths.

Not only were the volunteers at the aid stations efficient, they were also extremely supportive in cheering us on and giving us encouragement when we needed. I can’t say enough good things about them.

The course ran through industrial areas, the scenic Stanley Park (best part of the course), along the beach, over a bridge and through residential areas. You pretty much see it all. It kept things interesting – I liked it.

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{Burrard Bridge - the one we ran across}

There were also 2 out and backs – at the beginning and end of the race. Normally I don’t care for out and backs, but I truly did not mind it this time.

The course also had rolling hills, but nothing too strenuous; it also kept things interesting.

The only thing I didn’t like about the course was all the turns on the return of the last out and back. It seemed like it took forever to return to the Burrard Bridge. However, I did hear that the course is changing next year to not have as many turns.

The race had plenty of spectators cheering you on through out most of the course. Our bibs had our names printed on them so people could call out your name and cheer you on – which they did. It’s a huge pick-me-up, especially on the last few miles of the course.

All in all, this race was a great one to participate in. It was just a fun and happy experience. Two thumbs up from me!