New Balance Fall Classic, Vancouver- Race Report by Neasa C. Posted December 1, 2011 by Kyle McLaughlin


The further west we drove in Vancouver, the more snow I saw on the ground. Grateful that I’d traded Calgary’s coldest weekend yet this autumn for a balmy, just-above-freezing Vancouver run, I was starting to regret not bringing a toque.
I was in town for the New Balance Fall Classic, running the half marathon after a year of very little training, no speed work, and lots of running-for-mental-health-and-life-balance. It was a last-minute race entry and a seat-sale trip to see friends and family while taking advantage of a final run of the season.
Based at UBC, the half marathon consists of an out-and-back 11.1km course through campus and along Marine Drive, followed by a similar 10km out-and-back – also run by the 10km participants in the event. I had three goals in mind: first, have fun. Second, don’t go out too fast. Third, finish before those 10km racers! (The 10km race was scheduled to start an hour after the half-marathon).
The event was supporting the Heart and Stroke Foundation of BC & Yukon, through online donations and funds raised at an exceptionally efficient bag check. With use of both the Student Union Building and the Student Recreation Centre at UBC, there was ample indoor space to warm up, change your mind about your race layers, and use the (plentiful) washrooms. Both the announcer and a countdown start clock had everyone on time, although the front of the pack was timid to toe the line. It was about +2°C, calm, and overcast, with no precipitation in the forecast – a perfect November morning.
With mitts on and my hair band doubling as an ear warmer, I set off at a reasonable pace, winding through a maze-like first kilometre. I was noticing significant downhill terrain, so I focused on holding back and holding steady. As we turned onto Marine Drive, the pack had dispersed into singles and pairs, and I could see two women runners ahead of me. A break in the trees to my right revealed grey-blue sky and a vista of the Pacific Ocean, which was a treat to take in for someone who rarely races outside of Alberta. It also provided a little mental rejuvenation for the fairly long, significant hill that I was now facing. Again, I told myself to hold steady. I rounded the top, grabbed a sip of gatorade at the aid station, and then set out for the turnaround point that I could see in the distance.
As I watched the pack coming back towards me, the men looked in great shape, as did the first woman runner. I was gaining on the gal in second place. I told myself to start pushing at 7km. At 10km, we were back at the UBC campus, and a fourth female runner and myself passed the second place woman. I was fortunate at this point to have my former running mate and peppiest-person-I’ve-ever-met, Heather Gallagher, cheering from the sidelines. I felt comfortable, but made a conscious decision to keep running with Allie, the runner who’d caught up to me. We stuck together until the 14km mark, after we’d again rounded the turnaround point and were on the homestretch. I felt good – I was breathing easily, my stride felt light, and so I pushed the pace. Allie dropped back, but to my left Katie had appeared from further back in the pack, and she was running strong.
I wear a watch when I run but I never know why – I rarely look at it. With 6km to go, I took a peek at the time and realized that the 1:30 mark might not be attainable today. I quickly told myself otherwise. I was going to make it happen. Although I felt I was tired and faltering – and wished I’d planned ahead to have some fuel with me – running side-by-side with Katie encouraged me to keep up the pace.
At 19km I gave it my all, and overtook Katie until I rounded a corner to a small-but-steep hill on the final push at UBC. She flew past me up the incline and although I was hot on her heels, I couldn’t make up the difference – she ran a better race. I didn’t let up until I crossed the finish line, in a gun time of 1:29:15, ten seconds behind second place and just over a minute behind first.
I congratulated Katie and cheered Allie, in fourth place, through the finish line. I was delighted with my race. It was fun to be running side-by-side with other women, pushing each other to run at our limits. For myself, I was happy to have kept working through to the end, rewriting my previous experiences of bonking halfway through the 13 miles. I left that finish line with a huge smile on my face.
I cheered my sister-in-law to her 10km finish and congratulated my brother on his run that day – both novice runners who could hardly contain their enthusiasm. As we headed out for post-race brunch, I took a moment to reflect on how rejuvenated I felt about running, training, and racing. I was ready to put my heart into this again. Although I didn’t see any Mitocanada jerseys on the course that day, I look forward to wearing mine at my next race, and making the run that much more purposeful.

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