Vancouver streets came alive last Sunday morning with almost 50,000 people running, jiving, sashaying and walking to the beat of 18 different bands spread out over 10 kilometers at the 28th Vancouver Sun Run.
On a cool day under overcast skies, they came in all shapes and sizes and from every demographic to be part of what is now more of a cultural happening than a footrace. It is the largest 10 km in Canada and one of the largest road races in the world. For the vast majority of participants, it will be the only 10 km (or any other distance) they do this year. Only the top 300 or so runners will race in a variety of events throughout the year.
So what makes tens of thousands of first-timers and one-timers decide to go for it? “It’s the place to be!” was the answer given by several out of town participants. For locals, it’s a chance to see their names in print, as the Vancouver Sun newspaper prints the names of everyone that crosses the finish line. For elites from across Canada, the U.S. and far away as Kenya, it’s an opportunity to fine tune for upcoming marathons, while going for broke trying to win $21,000 in prize money up for grabs. For many, it’s simply the camaraderie of training together for a common purpose – finishing the race and enjoying the sense of accomplishment.
It is 8:30 and I am already standing in my wave among thousands of other yellow bib numbers. It was so exciting to be here waiting for the nine o’clock start, soon to be carried along with so many people running in the streets that are usually filled with cars. Think of sardines in the can trying to swim out. It had the effect of the Pied Piper leading us all to the finish line. Bands and smiling faces everywhere made the run more enjoyable. The scenic course starts on West Georgia Street making its way through the West End, over bridges to the finish line at BC Place Stadium, where popular race commentator Steve King announces the runner’s names as they cross the finish line. It’s a great feeling to finish and then meet up with friends inside the stadium.
The first Sun Run began in 1985 with approximately 3,700 participants and has slowly morphed since then into one of the biggest days on Vancouver’s calendar. Now, only the Peachtree 10k in Atlanta, with 55,077 finishers last year, is a larger 10 km than the Sun Run. The largest road race in the world is the Sun-Herald City2surf 14km in Sydney Australia, with 68,929 finishers in 2011.
In a Monday phone interview, I chatted with 22- year-old Kelly Wiebe, from Regina, SK who was the overall men’s winner in 29:13. This was Wiebe’s first Sun Run and only his second road race. He was surprised by his victory, out kicking Kip Kangogo of Lethbridge, Alberta to the line. “I enjoyed running the course, running beside the ocean and the many spectators along the course. The scenery is unbelievable.” Wiebe happily said, “I think it will take two weeks for me to let it settle in,” adding, “I will come back next year if I can; The organizers did an unbelievable job and were great in taking care of the elite runners.”
The Women’s overall winner was Natasha Fraser, 30, from Port Moody with a time of 34:12. It was Fraser’s first win in her 7th Sun Run. “It was an overwhelming feeling to win,” Fraser said Monday, “as I didn’t have any expectations. I was so surprised and happy.” Both Wiebe and Fraser will compete in the 10,000 meters at the Canadian Track and Field Championships in Calgary in June.
For those of you that put the Sun Run on your “bucket list,” time may be on your side. Just ask Eleanore Cross of West Vancouver, who won the women’s 95-99 division in 2:25:54. Meanwhile, Bernard Lotzkar, from Richmond, B.C. breezed home in 52:49 to easily win the men’s 80-84 division. Clearly, people are getting the hang of it!