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TOKYO MARATHON 2016 RACE RECAP

 

WHY/HOW I ENTERED THE TOKYO MARATHON

After finishing the Boston marathon in 2015, I became extremely fond of running BIG marathons.  The crowd and the atmosphere helped me to push from the start to the finish line.  Looking at the World Majors, the Tokyo Marathon would make good sense for travelling afterwards, especially for my little man of almost 3 year old who should appreciate the Tokyo Disney Land and other amusement parks.  I started browsing the Tokyo Marathon website. It seems bizarre that the organization actually makes a new website for the event each year.  So, when I looked early in the year only the 2015 website was available for viewing.  Based on what I had gathered, the event is highly competitive to enter.  The odds are about 1/10 chance.  In the past, about 300,000 + applicants would swamp the site on the first day of registration fighting over 30,000+ spots.  For me that sounds like a very slim chance.    However, when the 2016 official website was launched, I learned two new information that excited me.

The first was that this would be the 10th anniversary.  I didn’t realize the Tokyo Marathon is so new that it only began in 2007.  The other was that Tokyo will be the 2020 Olympic host city. In light of all these, the marathon organizers hope to promote their event and its country on a global scale.

TokyoMarathonSemiEliteHence, a new program called “Run as One” was introduced.  It’s a program for international semi-elites who recently completed any Gold Labelled races (e.g. Boston, New York, & etc) under the time of 2:55:00 for males and 3:40 for females to apply.  The exact number of available spots was not disclosed at the time.  Later, I found out that there were about 192 international semi-elites of about equal mixtures of sexes from 36 different countries and about 1000 Japan semi-elites.   To make the long story short, I applied and was notified my acceptance after about a month.  The organizer claimed that they went through a rigorous selection to choose their candidates.   Other than the marathon time/certificate submitted, I really have no idea what other criteria they determined.  One of the perks of being a Semi-Elite was that I got to know my acceptance about a month earlier than the general applicants.  I absolutely loved this.  I booked my tickets and accommodations immediately.  ANA airline was offering some great deals so I secured my round- trip air ticket of direct flight from Vancouver, BC to Tokyo  for the price only $650 (tax included).

 

EXPO DAY

Tokyo Marathon Expo was held at the Tokyo Big Sight. It’s similar to a convention centre in any major city.  This place was accessible by the Tokyo metro or bus. If you were taking the bus, just make sure you double check with the driver that it actually arrives at the Tokyo Big Sight.  Buses of the same # do not necessary end at the same place. So, don’t make the same mistake I made.  If you are pressed for time, do take the subway rather than the bus because the road can be very congested.  If you wish to see the neighbourhoods along the marathon route, the bus is a good option. 

The location of the expo is remote so it does take sometime to get there depending on where you begin.  A side note, there are multiple stations including the Tokyo Big Sight that run in a loop by a specific metro line.  Within this loop, there are multiple places that are worthwhile for sightseeing.  To name a few,  there are two shopping centres including an outlet that resembles the Caesar Palace of Las Vegas, the Tokyo TV station; and, of particular interest is the Toyota centre that contains many exhibits that are suitable for all ages.  The best thing is that all these places are free ! 

I don’t recommend doing all these in a day because the expo alone can already consume most of your time and energy.  I recommend doing them after the marathon to save your legs.

The expo is mostly open to the public.  They do have many interesting things to see.  The packet pick-up area however is only restricted to runners.

I highly commend the marathon organizer for training a huge number of volunteers to be able to speak variety of languages.  Because of my Asian look, I was greeted in many languages (e.g. Japanese, Mandarin, and English).

 

I also met two volunteers who spoke fluent French and Spanish!

Now for those who are wondering if you’d receive any special treatments as a Semi-Elite, the answer is NO!  Other than being accepted earlier, the other perks include receiving a semi elite bib and a semi-elite wrist band to start at the first corral.  And no, you don’t get to warm up with the Elites. Also, you don’t get your own bottle at the fluid stations.  So, you are pretty much treated the same as the other 30,000+ runners!  Actually, to be fair, you do get recognized a little.  Your name and country of origin are listed on a wall in the Run as One section. So, don’t miss it!

 With regards to the packet pick-up process, it was extremely efficient.  You won’t be lost because the whole process was guided by one volunteer and followed by another. It took less than 10 minutes.

The expo is not as big as I had expected.  It’s certainly nothing like the Boston Expo.  I’d say it’s probably half the size of it?  There are two levels.  The upper  is all about the race and the other World Major marathons.  It’s sort of like an exhibition. Of particular note, similar to the Boston Marathon, it does display a video in Japanese with a live commentator and one in English of the marathon course.

The lower level is similar to any race expo where there are many vendors.  This one is interesting because you get to see a lot of Asian running brands.  Also, for those who love to collect the official apparels, please make sure you grab them first thing you are there.  I was at the expo on the second day .  By then, all the jackets (size S and M) were all gone!  I don’t really like spending money on these expensive jackets (approx $100 US) which I’d probably never wear for any occasion.  The only thing I contemplated buying was the hat with the Tokyo Marathon 2016 logo on it.  In the end, I didn’t but spent most of my money on their souvenir store buying the one of a kind Tokyo Marathon 2016 cookie. It had the logo of the marathon and the course map printed on it.  I figured I could probably find pretty much anything from Japan in Vancouver, so this is probably the only thing that would be meaningful and unique to bring home.  These items went on sale immediately after the marathon!

My advice is to go to the expo two days before the race so that you can see everything inside.  I stayed at the expo for a good 4 hours.

 

RACE DAY LOGISTICS

Tokyo BIB

For most races, I always arrive at least 1.5-2 hours prior to the gun time. For this race, it starts at 9:10am I arrived at 7:15 am and felt very rushed!!!     If you are like me who doesn’t like to be rushed, my advice is to arrive even earlier than I did.  Because of the Boston bombing and the recent Paris attack, the Tokyo marathon’s security is very tight entering the venue.

Based on the info on your race bib, you will be informed the GATE entrance closest to your corral.  The Runners’ Handbook does suggest which subway station to get off for each gate; however, I did not find the information to be the most accurate.  I found most people including myself got off at the Tochomae Station rather than the suggested Shinjuku Station.

It was a short walk of less than 10mins.  Getting to the race site on Subway was pretty Security Checkefficient and easy.  The train wasn’t packed at all.  However, please check the arrival of your train at the platform. Also, plan for an alternate route to get there.

For example, I initially planned for a route that would take about 40mins of travel time. However, it turned out that the express train would arrive 30mins later than what I had checked on Google.  I immediately switched to Plan B. I ran to another platform and boarded another train of a different route.

RACE SITE

The race site is surrounded by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. This is probably by far the biggest race site I have ever attended.  Everything (e.g. bag check, corral, port-o-let) is far apart.  Once arrived to the designated gate, I was subjected to a series of security checks.  Once the search was done, a sticker was issued to all the bags I brought along. Note: Everything was put into the official clear plastic bag.  Tokyo Marathon Securtiy Check

Tokyo Marathon Pre-Race 2Tokyo Marathon Pre Race

 

Tokyo Marathon Potty Line up

 

After few hundred meters walk, I found myself at the potty line up.  It was 730am and I counted there was about 40-50 people in each line. It took about 2-3mins per person so I estimated it’d be at least over an hour for my turn.   At this moment I really regretted not going at the Subway where there was only about a 10 people cue.  I knew I had to go anyway so it was probably better to stay in line.  By the time I was done; it was already 8:40am.

The bag check trucks were at least another half a kilometer away.  The scary thing was that they stop bag-checking at 845am.  So I was frantically running from one place to another.  I consider that was pretty much my warm-up.  I did however manage to do a few sprints and some drills for about 10 minutes but the 3KM warm up run I initially planned was just impossible.  The next thing to do was to find my corral.  To my surprise, the race actually starts on the 2nd level.  They do check your bib before allowing to enter.  If you want a spot right at the front, I do advise getting there as early as possible.  However, as soon as the corral closes, there is still a good 20-25 mins wait before the gun goes off. So you’d really need to decide if you want that extra few minutes for warming up or that front spot up there!

 

RACE

As soon as the gun went off, things had gotten very chaotic.  Runners were pushing and elbowing to surge out of the pack.  It’d been understandable if it was a 5K race.  To make matter worse, few runners fell face flat beside me and were trampled by others.  No one helped them to get up and I was continually pushed forward by the flood of people behind.  The first few minutes of the first K was a rough game.  It was more like a rugby match than a marathon.  I felt that there were numerous turns in this marathon. The worst of all would be the two U-turns as can be seen on the course map below.  And of course, the two hills positioned at about 37th and 40th KM of the race.  Otherwise the race is pretty much a moderate long incline one way and coming back a moderate long decline on the opposite side of the street.  Tokyo is also a very windy city, so be prepared for hitting the wind both ways.

Looking at the course map and the elevation chart below, please be aware the initial drop from start isn’t as drastic as it appears.  It is certainly nothing like the first 10K at the Boston Marathon.

In terms of weather, the climate for race day was perfect for most runners.  The race started out at 13C and at around noon it was about 18C. The wind was about 20-30km/h.  I normally appreciate a much cooler weather of about 5-7C but I won’t complain.

The aid station is plentiful.  The set up is as follows:  1) multiple tables for elites 2) few hundreds meters apart 3) multiple tables of Japanese brand energy drink 4) multiple tables of water 5) few hundreds meters 6) The same set up happens again on the other side of the road.

FINISH

 

The finish of the Tokyo marathon is in stark contrast to its start. It is situated in a remote industrial area where no friends or family members have access to.  Your last 100 meters sprint or crawl will only be cheered by the race officials or volunteers standing at the end.  Once you crossed the finish line, you will be handed your finisher medal.  After that it’s about a 1K walk to the after-run venue,  once inside you will first claim your bag and followed a variety of options – foot spa, acupuncture,  massage, change area, food (e.g. tomato), Asashi beer, photo booth and Seiko customized official time poster.

I experienced pretty much everything.  The foot spa uses hot spring water and claims to have an therapeutic effect for recovery. For us with a more western mindset, an ice-bath would probably be the best post-race for inflammations.  The massage is not really a massage.  It is more like moving your legs in all sorts of directions to elicit stretching effect.  It did however aggravate my quads and hamstrings into a full cramp! Yikes!  Most races in the North America would hand out bananas as their post-race food; here, they handed out tomato and Asashi beer!  I think it was because these companies were part of the sponsors and really had nothing to do with their culture or tradition.

After all these, I walked for about 15-20mins before arriving the family meeting area.

Post Race Thoughts

The race went by quickly!  I had a lot of expectations getting into this race, which was highly praised by many runners.  To be honest, it was an excellent race but didn’t live up to all the hypes.  May be I am comparing this to the Boston Marathon I had in 2015.  The day I ran Boston it was at its poorest condition (e.g. 50K+ wind, freezing rain, 4c chilly weather) but despite all these the crowd support was still way stronger than the Tokyo.  For both races which are on an international scale the sportsmanship among the runners differed drastically.  This is probably only true based on my first hand experience which could be entirely subjective.  I was in the first wave in both races, meaning people around me were very competitive.  In the Boston race, I was never elbowed nor touched by anyone.  We ran our own race but also supported one another all the way to the finish.  On the contrary, the Tokyo race was like a battle royale.  As described above, the first K was a gong show. It was a showcase of complete lack of sportsmanship in the first wave, especially for the local elite runners.  The local volunteers were the best though!  I was pushed and punched intentionally by another local elite runner towards the finish of the race.  I had a good control of my muscle of not seizing up up until that point where I had lost my balance because of the sudden surge.

Checking into the latest website, the organizer made a huge change!  The course is changed!  It’s great because it ends in a very central area! It’s bad because they’ve added more turns and u-turns.

 

TOKYO MARATHON FAMILY

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FEW THINGS I LEARNED:

1) Do not line up for the port-o-let at the marathon.  Use the ones at the subway even if there is a long line-up

2) If your friends or family members will meet you after the race, please expect a very long line up for security check.  Also, the subway is chaotic on the day.  Please advise your friend/family to budget at least an extra 1.5-2h for travelling.

3) The placement of the hills come at about 37th and 40th KM. If I were to do this race again, I’d consider about running a faster first half.

4) There is no WIFI in the family meeting area.  My suggestion is to stay at the baggage pick up area as long as possible if you need FREE internet connection!

5)  Everything in the marathon souvenir store goes on sale immediately after the marathon.

 

 

2015 Long Beach Marathon Race Recap

Image result for long beach marathon

It’s been more than three weeks since my last race, a marathon, of 2015! So why it took me this long for this write up, I guess I finally feel settled and mostly recovered from this major suffer fest! I had a great race in the Boston Marathon this year and that really motivated me for another marathon in the Fall.

 

There were actually some other great races out there including the Victoria, Chicago, and Toronto later in the month of October. The problem was I needed to do this as a family trip with my wife and my little boy. None of these places would match what Disney in California could offer! Hence, I chose the Long Beach Marathon in the beautiful Long Beach of California. The race happened on the same day as Victoria and Chicago. This was my 5th marathon build up and it was by far the most satisfying one for few good reasons.

 

This time I trained with two other Mile2Marathon runners on most of my long and tempo runs each weekend. Kat trained for the Chicago and Sean for the Victoria. We were virtually of the same pace. I did aim for a faster finishing time (sub 2:50:00) but ended up running the slowest among the three . The second thing was I had never fallen ill during this buildup and never missed a day of workout. I think the only day my workout didn’t go well was when I had to do a workout on a Friday after work at a temp of 30oC with very strong head wind. I felt tired and drained going into that workout. I needed to hit 4min/k for 3K for 4 times. That was the only workout that I got side stitches because I couldn’t breath with the sand blowing right into my mouth . Otherwise, my past four months had gone really well. I was en route to achieving another PB for sure!

My wife, son, and I had already flown numerous times in the past year. This current  less-than-3-hour flight should be really a smooth journey. By now, my little guy was behaving much better than our flight to Boston. Nonetheless, the moment we landed and stepped foot at the Los Angeles Airport, I knew the race would not go well. It was like an oven and it was at 38C even in the late morning! Oh well, there was really nothing I could do now but just hope for the best!

 

Race Day Morning

I’ve always woken up at least three hours prior to the start time of my races. This time, it was brutal. The race started at 6am and I woke up at 245am to get my usual routine going. I was most grateful that we stayed at an apartment that was less than 15mins jog to the start. The apartment however was old (over 100 yr old) and by far one of the most filthiest places we had stayed. The floor was so dirty that I felt reluctant to use my foam roller on it and I never did!

I got out the door at 315am for an easy 10min shake-out run to get some blood flowing and calm the nerves. There was a slight breeze in the air and it felt good even though it was already at 21C. Honestly, I was still feeling optimistic about the weather staying cool that way and I’d hit a PB that morning.

Realistically, however, my last run in Vancouver was at 16C and I remembered complaining to myself that it was warm! I sneaked back to the apartment without making a sound to startle my wife or the little man for breakfast, stretching and etc.

I sneaked out the door again at 5am. It was funny the moment I stepped foot on the street I had a guy immediately asking for direction of where the start would be. It turned out that he didn’t want to stay a night at Long beach and took Uber in the morning from LA and the driver was lost. He also just arrived the US from Africa. We chatted a little as we walked towards the start. I had actually planned to run there as a warm up but I figured I’d have plenty of time to do it there anyway.

The atmosphere at the start was great and loud! Many runners, cyclists, volunteers and spectators had already showed up at this early hour. The amount of port-o-lets were satisfying. The wait for one was less than few minutes. As I was in the line-up, I noticed something I don’t normally see in other races. There was a Christian group called the Run Chapel in the middle of the crowd and the pastor was preaching and praying for the runners out there! I joined in to receive some blessing!

With less than 15 mins to the start, I noticed the crowd was getting thicker in the corrals. I knew getting to the front would take me some time and effort so I slowly found my way up there. I was standing at the 2nd row and saw another Vancouver runners there (Jeremy and Sarah Cuff).

I had seen comments on social media that this race in the past had started late and as late as 20mins long. It appeared that this time not all wheelchair athletes were ready for their start. Some of them failed to make it on time to the start-line, causing a delay of  8 minutes. Thousands of runners had to make room for these late athletes. Once that was cleared up, we were all set to go. At this time, the sky was still dark, very little to no wind, and the weather wasn’t too bad (probably about 22-24C).

Now, this race was originally organized to have a 1.5 h staggered start between the half and full marathoners. Three days prior to the race a heat advisory email was issued and the organizer gave an option of early start (same time as the full) to the half runners. It turned out about 7000 people took that option. The half and full shared about the first 15k or so before splitting into two different courses and eventually merged again in the last two miles or so crossing the same finish line. For me, the start was great but the end was horrible. I will explain more later.

The great part about running with the half was that it felt great and motivated to have so many people around you. It  was also good to have few fast ladies to pace me for that distance. Of course, I had no idea who would be running in the half or full until I could see the colour of their bibs (red for half and yellow for full). I realized later that none of the people who “paced” me, however, were in the full. That also meant that after we separated, I was pretty much on my own.
Image result for long beach marathon
The first 15K or so was pretty much looping back and forth in the streets around the start. So, I got to run pass the start line again, only on the opposite street. During this first stretch, I got to run on the road, the bike path, the highway,an overpass and the promenade along the beach. I didn’t like running on the bike path nor the road along the beach at all. I was facing the rising sun the whole time. The path was blocks of solid concrete that were really hard on the legs. It seemed very long and dull. I think this path would be really great for an easy long run, however!

Towards the end of the bike/beach path, I made an U-turn and ran back on the road. I felt relieved. There, in less than 400m, I saw Jeremy working on his own. I caught up to him, gave him a thumbs up, and moved on. This is the part where the two races separated. It became a lonely game from there onwards. I was right on pace. I did try to run a bit more conservatively to conserve energy for the second half. My Garmin had been consistently showing a slower pace than actual and that was the case during the race. I later found out for at least two Ks I was running about 10s faster than race pace. May be it’s time to look for a new watch or even a new brand name? I ran the first half at about 1:24:40. I felt good until I hit 25k. The weather by now was really warm and I felt very drained. I pretty much stopped by each water station and had a small sip since the start. To prepare for this race and its predicted very warm weather, I chugged in three 1L bottles of Gatorade/day since day one I started carbo-loading.

Image result for long beach marathon course map
The course was described as a very flat course. I didn’t find that so. The biggest hill came at 18mile in a college campus. After seeing few cheerleaders at the entrance, the place seemed very deserted and no support was found anywhere therein, whatsoever. The temperature at this time was probably reaching close to 30C.  I was sweating excessively and began to feel my calves to seize up at times.  It was definitely a terrifying moment. I ran at an easier consistent effort up the gruesome lonely hills before finally reaching the top and cruised down a long stretch of steep decline.

After leaving the campus, the course was pretty much around the residential streets (which I liked very much) and later moved onto the unforgiving unshaded main roads.  At this point of time, I had no idea how I was ranking.  I remembered passing about 3 marathoners with one that was already walking and calling it a day.  I could only imagine everyone was taking a big toll from this brutal weather physically.  And, I am no exception.  From here, my calves began to seize up every K onwards.  The word “quit ” came across my minds a million time!

My ultimate goal for this race was to run sub2:50 and I knew this was not possible even before this race had started.  My secondary goal was to run a PB (any time less than 2:53:45) and with my calves seizing like that, I knew I’d need to fall into my next goal.  The 3rd one was to run sub2:55 and my 4th would be to run a sub3. The last one is DON’T QUIT and finish the damn race!  I had a strong feeling that I’d have to resort to my final goal today and it was a sad feeling.  With all these goals in mind, however, they kept me going.

As I reached the last 5 ks of the race, my fear for a full cramp was growing immensely.  I was on survival mode at this point of the game.  I could maintain a certain stride and rhythm that would prevent me from seizing up.  As mentioned earlier the two races merged again, and here it was the worst part of the marathon.  As I reached the last stretch of the race, there were thousands of walkers/slower joggers from the half marathon on the course.  I had to both dodge and yell out to find my way through.  Few times my strides was interrupted and a cramp on the calves followed.  For that reason, I had no desire to stop by any water station even when I knew I was dehydrated.Runners head west on Shoreline Drive at the start of a Long Beach half marathon in Long beach, Calif., Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013.

I ran my slowest splits in this last stretch (e.g. 4:37’/K) and just really wanted to get home.  The next confusing part was that there were two paths of the finish for the races.  The full was on the left and the right for the half.  I ran only on the opposite street while spectators kept telling me I was on the wrong side. Boy! was I frustrated!

 

 

With less than 500m to the finish line, I squeezed out the last bit of juice in me to finish off the race strong and with a brave face on.  It was 2:56:32! The finish for the full was just adjacent to the half. The atmosphere between the two however was drastically different.  People were loud and cheering at the half side and volunteers were handing out finish medals and towels to the runners.  The full side, on the other hand, had not support whatsoever.  I just picked up my own medal laying on the table.

Post Race

Actually, the moment I stopped running I could also feel that my body was about to collapse. So, thank God for that table because my body was shutting down and I was about to black out.  I stood there for couple minutes before I could carry on.  Thank God, there were buckets of ice cubes and towels.  I took some and placed them on my head.  That was awesome and I felt an instant relief.  As I walked down the finish chute, I found a beer tent offering free beers!  This is something I don’t do normally and had never done so.  I chugged a full cup of beer and that was awesome!

My ‘family’ vacation began literally immediately after the race.  We were all over LA venturing all the theme parks.  My tired marathon legs endured few more days of strenuous activities including waiting hours and hours under the unforgiving Sun at Disney and chasing after my little man who would often run away from us!

In retrospect, I am very happy that I completed the race and never quitted.  This race humbles me and also motivates me to know I am strong enough to endure in this extraordinary tough conditions.  The moment I left the race site I asked few spectators to check for me of the current temperature and it was 90F (about 32C).  That’s insane!  When I got back to my apartment, I realized I actually came in 15th place overall and 2nd place in my age group…not too shabby at all!

Thanks for reading my race recap and onwards to my next marathon in Tokyo 2016

 

 

2015 Inaugural VanRace 30KM Race

VanRace Logo
 The inaugural 2015 VanRace 15/30KM was an absolute blast, a great race that was meticulously planned and created by a group of dedicated runners of Vancouver.  It’s hard for me to fathom the amount of work and hours these great people had contributed to making this great event alive! Special shout-out to all the volunteers and event organizers in the VanRace! Great job!
The race course is where I normally train daily, so I know very well of each twist and turn and even where GPS signal might fluctuate. In short, the race begins at the Jelly Bean at Charleston Park, the 30K runners first go west on the Seawall towards Granville Island, turnaround, and continues around the Stanley Park.  The course continues to part of Coal Harbour before looping back onto the path beside Lost Lagoon and eventually leading back to the start.
So, with about a month to go before our (Mile2Marathon training group) big marathon and probably the last race of the year, Coach Dylan suggested us to do this 30K race as a marathon simulator/tune up tempo run.  Kat will be doing the Chicago, Sean the Victoria, and I the Long Beach, Ca marathon.  The plan for us was to go progressively faster but nothing too brutal.  We aimed to run the first 10K at 4:15‘/K, second 10K at about 405-10’/K and the last one at 4:05‘/k or faster.  None of these paces prescribed were at race pace, however.
I knew this was going to be a training run and should take it lightly.  Nonetheless, I still got up at 4am for a shake-out run as if this were the actual marathon.  My race at the Long Beach, unfortunately, starts at 6am so my shakeout run will likely be 3ish…yikes!  I still got the nerves as I normally do in other races.  So it was a good 5,6,7 times of washroom visits before the actual race commenced.
 VanRace FinishLineEmpty
 From my race shoes and race singlet to my 6 Power-gels, I actually put on virtually everything I plan to run with at the Long Beach Marathon. The only thing I was reluctant to wear was my compression sleeves as the weather might become too warm.
 VanRace Start Saucony
Race morning was beautiful.  It was slightly overcast with very minor drizzle at 630am (1 hour prior to gun time), and almost no wind. I must say that was the most ideal race condition.  The temperature was at about 12-15 degree Celsius.
My body always acts weird within race week.  I thought this time would be an exception since I knew this was a practice run but the same fate continued.  The night before race day my left calf became so tender that it was sore even to touch for no apparent reason.  I was worried that it would cramp up during the race.  When I saw my training partners at about 7am, our conversations took these worries off my mind and allowed me to focus on getting the workout/race done.
VanRacetheGang
The race began promptly at 730am.  My conversations with others took me off guard and when I heard the countdown it was only less than 5 seconds to go.  I was like…okay…let’s do it!
The first 5K was fun and felt easy.  I had conversed too much which led to some minor stitches.  I met the running juggler, another runner who will be running the Berlin Marathon in less than a month, and few other people. By 15K in, I started to remember my tender left calf as it was feeling a little tighter than usual.  I wanted to let Kat and Sean know to go ahead if I do cramp up.  Thank God, that conversation never happened.  It was great to have my training partners with me as my Garmin was constantly showing a slower pace than others.  Without them, I’d be running faster than I should.  I stuck with them and stayed relaxed for a good 20K.   Our pace was going well as prescribed.
VanRace1
As we headed into Stanley Park, we caught up to the 2nd runner Allison Tai! I’ve seen her name many times on MeetUp but never had the opportunity to get acquainted.  It was an interesting experience meeting up with someone in midst of a race.
VanRace HalfWay
I grew slightly impatient after the 20th K and began running slightly faster leaving my training partners behind. I was pretty much running solo from this point onwards.  David Palermo ran past me at about 24th K and gave me a shoutout! I was motivated and started to pick up my pace in the last 5k.  I probably ran a little too hard as I went in few KMs 15-20s faster than the prescribed pace. Oh well! I didn’t realize I was working that hard until later when I had a chance to look at my splits on Garmin Connect.
VanRace 2nd place
I past the Jelly Bean and saw the finish line near in sight.  I raised my hands up and tried to put on a big smile crossing the finish line.  Euan, the race director, came up and gave me a firm handshake!  To my surprise, I came in overall 2nd place with a time of 2:02:37.
The finish area was situated on a park where tents of various sponsor were set up.  Great drinks and refreshments were offered and in abundant supplies!
The only suggestion I wish to make here is that when I was running along the path beside the Lost Lagoon, I was slightly confused as to where to go because before me was three different paths that would all lead back to the seawall with various distance.  It’d be great if the right path was indicated so I didn’t have to guess.  Thank God, I picked the right one.  There were of course few minor ones like that along the course but at least I was able to ask a volunteer stationed at those points.
VanRace Me Finish
It’s been five days now since the race. My overall impression for this race is a very positive one.  I’ll definitely add this race onto my 2017 race schedule!

2015 I WILL RUN Mid-Year Report

2015 May-July Run Clinic 

I Will Run - logo squareThe 2015 May-July Run Clinic was excellent !  We had a total of 16 participants with 8 in the Immediate group and 8 in the Absolute Beginner group.  Unlike previous programs, this one was conducted entirely on the track such that everyone’s activities was monitored carefully with ease.  This approach and its outcome was definitely a success.  It really allowed runners of different levels and abilities to be able to learn and run simultaneously on the same ground with only one instructor.

The immediate group comprised a good group of dedicated runners, most of whom had run at least a 10K race and few others half marathons as well as full marathons. Three runners ran and completed the tough Scotia bank half marathon on a very hot day. One participant  who was running her first ever half marathon and had only completed one 10K race recently at the Vancouver Sun Run finished at an impressive time of 2:00:07. Breaking that 2 hour mark should not be a problem for that runner who would run again on a day with better conditions!

PointGreyTrackIn 2014 the program drew a big group of stroller parents enrolled in the Absolute Beginner group. This year, however, we had a good group of men, most of whom are well over 200 pounders and some are dealing with health issues that might limit one’s physical abilities.  Big Kudos and Super Congrats to all of these participants for completing the 2 months program.  Their strong determination, high commitment, sweats and efforts have all turned into many fruitful outcomes such as an improved overall health condition, a deeper appreciation of running and exercise, and an increased awareness of a proper posture for both running and normal daily activities.  It was a great joy that everyone in this Absolute Beginner group completed the clinic without any complaint of injury during the process. A very careful and incremental approach was designed for this group of runners.

The focus in the beginning sessions was to activate and develop the running muscles (e.g. glutes, quads and hamstrings) that were often less or not utilized in non-runners.  Exercises and drills such as squats, lunges, and lateral movements were introduced and performed. Fast walking was encouraged in lieu of running.  Once everyone had a good grasp of these drills, they were introduced to instructions and drills with the aim to adopting a proper running bio-mechanics.  In the end, virtually everyone was able to complete at least four sets of 400m run, 100m sprint and five drills (e.g. squats, lunges, extended lunges, lateral squats and single leg hops).  I’m extremely proud of all of their accomplishments in such short time frame!

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With regards to the program’s mission in making a positive impact in the community, a total of $600 was raised and donated to Mission Possible in supporting their good works of empowering the less fortunates living in Vancouver downtown Eastside.

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On the personal note, I had focused the majority of time in the beginning of this year training for the Boston Marathon.  Special thanks to my Coach Dylan Wykes in training me well to stay on top of my game.  Race day was tough with strong head wind and cold pouring rain but I was strong and persevered to the end finishing in the top 5% that day!  Please read my post here.

Another highlight to mention here is that I ran another great race at the Vancouver Scotia Half Marathon two months after Boston.  I came in 29th out of a good 4000 runners on a pretty tough hot day! I Thus far, I have completed about five races and five more to finish off the year!  And yes, a marathon is set in place for this Fall! Stay tuned!

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Lastly, a Big Thank You to our proud sponsor Skechers Canada Performance Division for all their supports in my training and the run clinic!

Vancouver Scotiabank Half Marathon 2015 Race Recap

Race Morning
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The moment the alarm went off I dragged myself out of the bed for a quick easy shake-out run. My mind was willing but the body was still in limbo mode.  It was 415am and the first thing I said to myself as I headed outside was “Uh-Oh”.  It was very very warm and muggy even at this early hour.  The weather forecast was right as it predicted the first heatwave would hit Vancouver on the weekend.  I just didn’t expect it to be so warm.  I normally find myself racing optimally at a temperature between 2-8oC.  My mood was definitely dampen slightly by what might lie ahead later.  I was also feeling extremely lethargic few days leading into the race.  The same feeling remained on race morning.  I waited for the first bus to UBC (race site) at 6am and I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw it approaching with a bus full of people (mostly runners).  I am extremely grateful to be able aboard as the driver decided to skip the next few stops without picking up anyone.

Pre-Race
Even at 630 am (an hour prior to gun time), the race site was already quite crowded.  There were already huge lineups entering the parkade. I quickly bag checked, changed into my race gear and slowly jogged my way to the UBC track for a good warm up.  I did a good 10-15min easy jog and felt terrible as there were no strength in my legs.  I was running at least 90s-2mins slower than my race pace and I was already feeling tired.  The heat really put an extra toll on the body.  I followed my coach’s advice to go through the regular drills we do at practice.  Man, I was so exhausted that I barely went through them and had to skip some. While I was at the track, I was happy to see Felipe Edora, a runner that I met last year and had since then saw each other at almost every major race.  We are virtually identical in our race times but the only difference was that he used to beat me each time!  He is sure one tough consistent runner! It was great knowing that he would be running with me that day! With about 20mins to gun time, I slowly ran back to the start and found myself a nice spot just behind the elites.
Race

The Guide to Boston Marathon (4): Getting Ready for the Trip

RECEIVING YOUR CONFIRMATION LETTER 

The registration happens on the first week of September and the specific day is based upon your qualifying time.  I registered on the 2nd day for runners who ran more than 10mins faster but less than 20mins for their age/gender category.

I received the confirmation letter on Oct 30. An email confirming my acceptance was sent to me immediately the following week on Sept 14.

Between the time you received your confirmation email and race day,  you shall receive at least 5-7 more newsletters from the Boston Marathon Association informing on various subjects about the race.

 WHAT TO PACK FOR YOUR BOSTON TRIP 

I’ll mention only running specific items that I packed for the trip.  Two weeks prior to my flight, I made a Google excel worksheet of my Boston Trip To Bring List.  Whenever I thought of something to pack, I’d add it in to this list.  The column for running-related items conjured to 35 things!  It was indeed a handy document to have when it came to time to pack.  So here are the things I’ve brought along!

Running Items Quantity
Race shoes 1
Walking shoes 1
Training shoes 1
Race socks 1
Training socks 2
Compression sleeves 2
Compression 3/4 recovery tight 1
Massage roller 1
Oakley Sunglasses 1
Hat (training, waterproof, race day) 3
Race tights 2
Race shorts 1
Skechers Race Singlet 1
Body Glide 1
Skin shaver 1
Garmin Gps watch 1
Gps charger 1
Band-aid 4
Gels 14
Bread 3
Old clothings 3
Old Jacket 1
Old pants 1
Gloves 2
Arm sleeves 2
Beanie 1
Vaseline 1
Fuel-belt 1
Nike belt for training 1
Yoga Belt 1
Roller 1
Towel 1
BREAD (breakfast)  4

 

One awesome tip that I learned from Meb is that NEVER pack your race day items (e.g. race shoes) in your checked-in luggage.  Always, bring your race day gears with you in your carry-on.  You’d never know if your checked-in luggage might get lost or got sent to another part of the world!  It’d be a shame to find a new pair of shoes at the expo to wear on race day.  We all know how catastrophic that could be for a runner!  I’ll talk more below under Race Day about what to bring and what NOT to bring.

Please continue reading PART 5

The Guide to Boston Marathon (3): Flight and Hotel

BOOK YOUR TICKETS AND ACCOMMODATION ASAP

I’d say if you have BQ’d at least 5 mins faster than the stated qualifying time for your age/gender category and you are determined to run the Boston marathon, you should book your air tickets and accommodation ASAP!   A whooping surge of 30,000 runner plus their friends and family members will swarm Boston on the week of the Boston Marathon.  The later you book, the higher the price you will pay.  The average cost of hotel/night around the finish line in Boston was about $500.  The earlier you book, the cheaper it shall be!  For example, I booked my air ticket from Vancouver, BC to Boston for about $220 plus tax =~$300 Canadian.  Most people I know who booked later were paying at least over $400 and some were over $600.

WHERE TO BOOK YOUR HOTEL

If you are financially sound, then of course by all means save yourself all the troubles on race day and stay as close to the finish line as possible or somewhere near the Boston Common where you’ll board the official bus on race day morning to the start in Hopkinton.

For those like myself who are tight on cash, you might want to look at the above subway map to book your accommodation somewhere along those stations that will lead you to the Green Line at Boylston Street Station, the Green and Red Line at Park Street Station, the Orange Line at Chinatown Station, the Orange and Red Line at Downtown Crossing Station, and the Orange and Blue Line at State Station.  You will certainly save up more by staying away from Down town.

One thing to bear in mind though while you take the T (subway), they are old, extremely slow and have limited access to an elevator. I did however find the subway to be quite safe in general.

For more details, please visit http://www.mbta.com/riding_the_t/marathon/

Which stations are closed during the Boston Marathon?

To accommodate large crowds in the Downtown Boston area, Copley Station is closed during the day. Additionally, South Street, Kent Street, and St. Mary’s Street Stations on the above-ground branches of the Green Line are closed between 10 a.m. and approximately 6 p.m. on Marathon Monday.

Please continue reading Part 4

Boston Marathon 2015 Race Day

Vicar Finish Line

PRE-RACE

Things didn’t go as smoothly as I wished prior the big day!

1. I was coming down with a sore throat two days prior to take off. It’s funny that I still have the same  soreness with less intensity now as I write this post. I don’t know what it is because it just stuck and hasn’t worsen.

2. We flew a red eye on Friday and arrived on Saturday at 6am ET. It was a horrible plan which deviated drastically from my original wishful thinking. My little guy wouldn’t sleep until 4am ET and sang “Happy Birthday” non-stop for hours on the plane. In the end we slept for only 2 hours that night!

3. Carbo-loading was probably slightly over and out of controlled as our hosts brought us to restaurants that were too delicious and tasty. I might have gained like 7-8lbs.

4. Travelling with the entire family and some enthusiastic hosts isn’t easy, I had probably walked too much around town! The pre race dinner was interesting but I wouldn’t do it again. The wait was horribly long with too much standing on the feet!!!

5. The night before the race I somehow got too nervous and wouldn’t sleep until 1am and woke up at 4am.

Race Kit

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RACE DAY MORNING 

weather boston marathon

I got up at 4am and went out for a 10min shakeout run at 415am. I think I’ll do this for my future runs as it calms the nerves!

I am very grateful for how the whole day turned out but I did find the pre-race arrangement a painful ordeal!  First, the weather was horrible on the day with ~30km/h of head wind, cold rain and a temperature of about 5-6 degree celsius.

For us Wave 1 runners, we’d need to board the school bus from Boston Common at 6ish and be dropped off at Hopkinton at 7ish until 905am before being marshaled out for a mile walk to the start.  For two hours, 7000s of us were all cramped in the tents. Some later comers were left to stand outside in the rain. Even worse for the unprepared, they were already in their singlet freezing. I was put on several layers of clothings and still shivering.  There was absolutely no time and space to stretch or do any form of warm up.  The good part, I was with Ben and Yuki (who flew from Tokyo with injuries and later walked a 5h10min to finish!)to pass time and later bumped into Katherine at the potty line up!

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From Start to 10K

start line 2015

The road was narrow and it was packed! I ran easy at about 4:10’/K.
The pack thinned out after 10k or so.  Running here was easy as my body was still warming up and settling into a good groove. Finding a good pack to run with in this race was easy.

11k to 25k

I felt slightly impatience after seeing too many times my pace was far from goal pace. I sped up a little and latched onto faster groups. I blame my Garmin for showing a slower pace.

The course was great and the crowd was loud and supportive. As you can see in the splits I attached I ran few Ks under 4’/K.  I knew this was the stretch to push just a little.

The weather fluctuated often with strong head wind and cold heavy rain, I knew it wasn’t the day for the original 4’/k pace. I just stuck with a group that ran at about 4:05-4’/k pace and felt pretty good most of the way.

25k -32k

I ran well in the last 10k or so and knew the upcoming big drop was up and more so the series of terrible hills.  I ran easy down the steep hill and cruised slightly under 4’/k.  I lost a gel at the start and took one of the Cliff gel from the event. It was by far the worst thing I have ever tasted. It was so thick you couldn’t imagine!

The first Newtown hill was long and kind of steep. I ran with an easier effort and just focused on the people in front of me.  I did the same with the following hills.  I think after running the hill before Heart break I felt something funny with my quads and my left calf.  I changed my stride and gait a little.  It felt like a long stretch between that hill and Heartbreak. I probably asked more than few runners if we had run it already. The crowd at Heartbreak was huge and very loud.  I knew it was my last grind. So many runners faded and walked there. I passed Katherine there as well.  I slowed down to about 4:30pace and knew it was ok as long as I didn’t hit the wall.

33-37k

There were signs everywhere held by spectators at the top of the hill saying it’s time to go all out! I slowly eased back into a faster pace and latched onto a Black Lungs runner. We ran at about 4:10-15pace.

At this point of time, I just focused a k at a time. My mind was feeling tired at 37k but I reminded myself to be strong and pushed through it with the last 5k or so. My calf acted up few more times but never went into a cramp, thankfully.  I think throughout the race it was my forearm and fingers that actually cramped up a little…funny and weird! Good thing I didn’t need these muscles too much to run fast!

37-42.2k

Finish Line

The last five Ks was hard on the mind. The weather was still horrible with stronger head wind and heavier rain. I just made sure I was with a pack the whole time and wouldn’t run alone.  It was unfortunate to see numerous runners to drop out at that point of time.

Once I reached Boylston St, I knew the end was near. I sped up slightly. I think at 40k or so my time was 2:40ish and doing a quick math in my head even if I ran 5’/K for the last 2k I’d still PB.  So I ran without paying too much attention to my Garmin.

In the last 500m or so, the crowd was deafeningly loud. I just roared and held my hands up to the finish! It was a strong beautiful end! Viola! It was a personal best of 2:53:45 and ranked in the top 5%!

Volunteer at Finish Line

Finish Medal

27th mile

runners walking back

Funny, the toughest stretch of this Boston Marathon was the final stretch of more than a mile walk  back to the gear check at Boston Common. Few runners collapsed and required medical attentions. I stopped in the middle of the road because my foot was cramping up. The medics were concerned and ready to offer me a wheelchair! It took me a good few minutes to continue. Everyone cussed and cursed big time. It was actually quite funny. Everyone looked so pasty like a zombie. The weather was probably at its worst since the day began.

Please also read my post on “The Guide to ‘Everything I know’ About the Boston Marathon” if you plan to run the race.

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EASTSIDE 10K 2014 RACE REPORT

gastown
After a month of training since my last event at the Summerfast 10K on July 19, I raced again this past weekend at the Eastside 10K by the Canada Running Series.   I have had some decent training in the past month with Coach Dylan helping me to speed up my pace.  I had high hopes of doing well at the Eastside 10k but the reality was I probably needed more training to be more solid and confident at the pace (~3:35-3:40) I wished to persist in throughout the entire race.  
This is the 2nd year of the event. It commenced in 2013 and its inaugural event had brought some special meanings to me.  First, it was my first race coming back as a young father. Second, I ran as a Skechers Sponsored Athlete, though not entirely official at the time. Third, it was an event that runs through the toughest DTES neighbourhoods including their supporting NGOs (e.g.Mission Possible, one that I have supported and collaborated with for many years).  
For 2014, the Eastside 10k sets a year milestone for my training with Coach Dylan Wykes, a father of 17months and a year working with Skechers.  All is great! 
Let’s find out how I did on the day…
RACE DAY
The weather was beautiful with clear skies and of about 12-15oC. I do find it a little warm but not going to complain too much here. I arrived at race site around 7:30am about an hour prior to start.  It was great to see many familiar faces already there. Trying my best to minimize too much conversations with others,  I quickly got changed, bag checked and got into my warm up routines. 
I realize this year’s elite listing wasn’t as exhaustive as last year’s.  I suspect few were succumbed to injuries and others might be at other events. Among the elite guys, there were Kelly Wiebe (the eventual winner andCR breaker @29:20) and Rob Watson as the favorites.  For the elite females, there were Natasha LaBeaud (the eventual female winner) and Lioudmila Kortchguina (last year’s winner). 
The RACE
 Eastside10K_20140913
I lined up at the 2nd row just behind the elite pack at about 15mins before gun time.  At this point, the race directors were having some fun with us runners by messing with our minds about when the gun would go off.  It was within a minute or less before everyone dashed off. 
Coach D advised me to run easy for the first two Ks and race against others in the remainder.  I went out easy and felt controlled at a good comfortable effort.  Given the first K was a quick decline, my pace (3:39/K) was slightly faster than I wanted to be.  I think within 800m into the race, there was a swarm of people went past me including a senior (80?) runner.  It certainly never feels good when so many have past me but I knew it was just the start. 
Once the initial rush was gone, most runners found themselves going up a slight incline before hitting a sharp short hill.  I kept at an even pace and effort going up those hills and began to weave through many of the runners.  My pace for 2nd K was at 3:46/K.
The race itself is not only of rolling hills but also quite twisty.  By 3rd KM, I was surprised to see few runners from the elite pack were walking.  I knew my best strategy to run fast was to latch onto a fast group. For the following few Ks I kept my pace by  moving up to different groups.  I actually ran pretty well up to the 8th K.  My splits were: 3:45@3rd K, 3:38@4th, 3:37@5th, 3:39@6th and 3:43@7th.
The course itself is sort of an outback.  The route coming back isn’t identical per se but was on a street parallel to the one in the first half.  All in all, the first half was like a mirror image of the second half.  In essence, however many downhill we did in the first, there goes the same number of up-hills to grind in the 2nd half.  There were also few ‘obstacles’ like rail tracks and pot holes that I had to look out for during few of the rougher stretches in the race. 
eastside-map-lg
By the 8th K I was probably in the top 20s, I found myself in a no-man’s land.  Without anyone or group to latch on, my mind goes weak.  My pace slipped to 3:48/k.    At the 9th K, I finally saw three runners about 400m in front of me.  I picked up my pace and hoping to catch up.  At this point, there was a guy (Alec Smecher) who turned out to be one of my running buddies cheering with a duck call standing outside of his house with his family in the Strathcona area.  I was too tired to wave back and knew I had to be focused grinding up the last two hills before crossing the finish line.  I caught up with the small group of guys.  Two of them were actually chatting. It wasn’t a conversation about the race but more like what they will be doing in the next week or so.  I tried my best to stay with these guys.  At the final stretch,  I found myself in some trouble to maintain a good pace while running up the sharp ramp back onto Dunsmuir Viaduct.  The guy (Cody Callon) picked up the pace to about 3:30/k and I probably made a dumb move by sticking with him.  I was able to keep that pace for may be 500m before started feeling to collapse.  I slowed down so much because my legs were heavy and my diaphragm was in pain.  
At this point, the two guys behind me had past me.  I felt terrible!  I cleared up my head and tried my best to run the last few hundred meters.  This was probably the only race I didn’t finish as strong as I could.  I simply struggled at the end.  I was so exhausted that I didn’t hear Coach D was cheering loud for me at the side.  I must say I am not completely thrilled with my time but after all it’s still a PB@ 37:29 ranking overall 31st.  It is almost 2 minute faster than last year and over 20th place ahead!
Thank you all for reading my post and special thanks to Skechers Canada Performance Division and Coach D for their invaluable support! 
medal14_lgVicar Eastside 10K 2014
 
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I WILL RUN 2014 Mid-Year Newsletter

Greetings Everyone!

I Will Run - logo squareThis mid-year newsletter highlights few exciting things happened at the program in the past six months and how we have continue to uphold our motto: “Learn to Run for Free, Make a Positive Social Impact,and Live a healthier Life”.

First of all, A BIG THANK YOU to everyone for raising over $1100 to missionPLogo4support the good works done in the DTES community by Mission Possible, an agency that “transforms lives by helping those challenged by homelessness and poverty achieve a renewed sense of dignity and purpose through meaningful work”.

 

Our Sponsor: Skechers Performance Division

Another BIG THANK YOU to our program sponsors Skechers Canada Performance Division and their awesome western Canada representative Alex Strote for conducting Skechers Demo Day with us and giving out free Skecher shoes to our program participants draw winners.

 

running-with-strollerIn the past six months, I WILL RUN has conducted two complimentary running programs including two beginner clinics and two immediate Ran10/21k groups.  In total, we have attracted 47 participants and of those nine were kids under the age of five.  It was certainly a great success and  joyful experience to test drive our new “stroller moms/dads” in the beginner program.   For me, it was amazing to have witnessed the commitment and enthusiasm expressed in these young families . No matter what the weather was like, baby crying or fussing, they just simply showed up at the clinic.    This has certainly helped many, including myself (a new dad of 15months!), to remove the deep rooted stigma that family with newborns or young children cannot exercise as a whole unit.  It was exciting and fulfilling to see that some of these parents have adopted running and walking since the program started as their daily routine.  Many have attested that the health benefits derived from running were significant enough to make positive impacts in their overall well being.

poing grey trackThe Ran10/21K group comprised some great dedicated runners this past season. Everyone was diligent to show up on time for our 8am clinic.  In 2014, the program re-focused primarily on the running basics.  A special 6- weeks program was in placed to re-evaluate proper running forms and bio-mechanics.  This was done in an effort to minimize any running related injuries owing to improper running forms.  The result was significant that many participants began running more efficiently while complaining less on their past injuries.  In conjunction with form building, basic speed workouts were also introduced.  As a result of all effective training, many have achieved their personal best for 10K and half marathon events in 2014.

boston marathon logoOn the personal note, I have participated in 8 races thus far in 2014 ranging from the distance White Rock Race 1 (3)of 5K to full marathon and with three more in the upcoming future!    With the continual support from Team Skechers Canada Performance Division and the invaluable coaching from Olympian Dylan Wykes, I have made some major accomplishments.  In May, I ran the Vancouver BMO Full Marathon at a time of 2:58:06 ranking in the top 70s, which enabled me to obtain a personal best, enter the “sub-3 marathon club”, and qualify for the Boston Marathon in 2015.  Recently, I have also run a great 10K race at the BC Championships Series Summer Fast with a finishing time of 37:31 ranking in the top30s among a very competitive field. This has further allowed me to qualify as a seeded athlete running with the elites in the first pack at the Vancouver Sun Run in 2015.

IWILLRUN2014-03Starting in the first Saturday of August, we will begin our FINAL beginner program of this year.  This 7 weeks program is suitable for those wishing to learn to run their first 10K.  Sign up Now!

In mid-August, we will also have our final Ran10/21K program to train for the upcoming Vancouver Rock’n Roll Half Marathon in late October. Stay tuned!

That’s it for now.  We are half way through 2014 and it’s not too late to start running again! Stay active, lace up and see you out there!

Your running buddy,

Vicar

Run to Inspire and to be Inspired.