On Sunday, May 5th, I ran the 8K race at the BMO Vancouver Marathon. The race was scheduled to start at 6:30 AM, with shuttle buses leaving to take us from Burrard & Cordova in downtown Vancouver to the start line in Stanley Park starting at 5 AM. I walked down to where the buses were supposed to be, and it was 5 AM but there were few people and no buses. More people started arriving and then some race officials. The first bus arrived, but there was no baggage check yet, which we all needed to hand our bags into before heading to the start.
When at last we were able to check our bags at about 5:20, we filled up the first bus and headed to the start line. It took less than 10 minutes to get there, and the first thing most of us realized after we got off the bus was that it was a lot warmer downtown than it was here by the water. Those of us just wearing a singlet felt it the worst, but after awhile I did my warmup, and the cold was bearable after that.
There was a delay getting everything set up for the race, so we didn't get started until about 6:55. Finally they sent us off from the road by the Second Beach pool, and we ran along North Lagoon Drive with Lost Lagoon on our right for over a kilometer. There were 2 guys on the starting line near me who I recognized from other races and thought might be in my age group. I kept up to them for a couple of hundred meters, but then realized their pace was too quick for me to sustain so I let them go ahead.
The sun had risen and was in our eyes sometimes, but for most of the run our vision was unimpeded. As we ran up Pipeline Road heading to the 3K mark there was about a 40 meter gap between myself and a guy in front of me running by himself. I soon had some company, as a big guy who looked to be in his 30s came up and ran beside me. We came to a point where there was a road on our left going downward, and I heard him say "Which way?", and then we decided to keep going straight when we saw people running ahead of us who had done the same thing.
The end of Pipeline Road was also the 3K point, and we made a sharp turn right and were now running along the seawall. It was already starting to get warm, and I sped up and surged away from the big guy, but a few minutes later I heard heavy steps and breathing behind me, and he pulled up beside me and then ran past! I stayed behind him, and after we went by the 5K marker and I surged ahead of him again.
The fellow ahead had opened up about a 200 meter gap on us at one point, but we were now reeling him in. With a kilometer to go we exited the seawall and then the park, now running along Georgia Street toward downtown Vancouver. We could already hear race announcer Steve King at the finish line, and this seemed to cause everyone to speed up. We veered left onto Pender Street, and there were now only about 500 meters to the line! The cheering was loud from the people lining the route, and I sped up as best I could, closing in on the guy we'd been following the whole race.
He managed to stay ahead of me however, crossing the line a couple of seconds in front of me, and the big fellow came in right behind me! After we received our finisher's medals I went up to him and said "Wow, for a big guy you sure can move!" He said thanks and we shook hands and gave high fives to the people who'd finished with us. As I was coming up to the line Steve had announced that I'd won my age group, as another Gordon, Gordon Carscadden, had won the 55-59 category. I'd only expected to hopefully squeak out a third place medal, so I was pretty ecstatic about winning gold.
They had bottles of water and bananas and fruit bars to eat, all you wanted apparently but that was it. I grabbed one of each and went to look for the bag check. On my way there I ran into the fellow who had been running with the other Gord, Tim Nixon, and he was in the 44-49 age group, so he said we'd split it up nicely, winning an age category apiece. I got my bag and headed back to the finish line, stopping at a results table with volunteers armed with laptops. I just wanted to confirm that I had heard Steve right, and sure enough I had!
I went back to the finish line armed with my camera, but I only took a couple of pictures before my batteries died.
I saw Jimmy Hinze from my club who's a race official, and he asked how I did, and when I told him he gave me a big high five. I was hoping to welcome Pavani when she finished. I'd finally met her in person at the Expo the day before, where I was helping to staff the B.C. Athletics booth. I'd run into her in the morning at the start too, and she said she was sure she'd see me on the podium, but I said I didn't know about that, there were probably some fast guys in my age group in the race.
After awhile I was told I had to move out of the area though, as the first half marathoners would soon be coming in. I was wondering where the awards ceremonies were going to be, and walked a street over and asked about this at the info table. One of the volunteers told me it would just across the street in the square, but she wasn't sure just when. I ran into Ingo, who'd finished second in his age group. His friend Christine Blanchette, who was a pleasure to meet, was third in hers, so we would all be getting medals. Her friend Bob, out for support today, but who had obviously been on the running scene a long time as he was very knowledgeable, arrived and waited with us.
I'd seen a stage on the street beside the square, and it was all fenced in, but now it was being opened up and they were getting the mike working. Soon afterward the 8K awards began, and we went up and happily received our medals, which as always at the Marathon were beautiful. At least we thought so anyway!
The only thing we didn't like was when they read out our times, as the concensus was that the course was at least 400 meters too long, thus the slow looking times. One theory was that we were supposed to have turned downward at that fork, but c'est la vie! As far as we were concerned it didn't much matter now.
We'd been up super early, myself at 3 AM, so it was time to head home now, and I said goodbye to Christine, Bob, and Ingo, and we wished each other good running and vowed to stay in touch. Ingo took Christine's picture with her medal, which I promptly stole off of her facebook page.
I stopped at the Burrard Street IGA to get a few things, and was just checking out when I heard "Hi Gord!" It was Ellie Greenwood, who I'd had the pleasure of staffing the B.C. Athletics booth with the day before. She's one of the top ultramarathon runners in the world, and a delightful person! She asked how I did and then congratulated me when I told her I'd won my age group. Ellie had won the marathon the year before, and I asked how she'd done. She said she'd had to drop out at 30K, but it was the right thing to do. Ellie wasn't bummed about this at all, and in fact was heading back to the finish to cheer in the marathoners. I told her I needed to go home and get some sleep, and wished her well in the Comrades Marathon in South Africa. She's the defending champ and it was coming up in a few weeks.
I got home and had a google message from Pavani, she was walking back to Stanley Park and had seen a Gingerbread Man sprinting toward the finish line, and thought "That must be Tilman!" He'd done it again, running this half marathon in that suit, and with the weather getting hotter and hotter, in a chip time of 1:43:48!
The official results show me as 19th overall out of 729, and 1 of 19 in my age group, with a time of 35:29.
Alan Benson from my club, who finished 12 of 119 in his age group in the marathon, and ran a great race after doing the same thing in Boston, emailed to congratulate me on my finish, and this was part of my reply to him.
I was walking home over the Burrard Street Bridge afterward, wearing my medal, and I was suddenly humbled and a little in awe as I watched the never ending stream of full marathon runners. They were at the 30K mark, struggling in the heat with still a long way to go, yet persevering no matter what. All seemed to have that same look of determination on their faces. It was "relentless forward progress" collectively personified. I was happy with what I'd accomplished, but knew that what these people were doing was on a whole different level entirely, very inspiring and a great testament to the human spirit.
My next race was the 5 Peaks Golden Ears 8.8K Sport trail race, on Saturday, May 11, at 9:15 AM in Golden Ears Provincial Park.