The SeaWheeze Experience: Canada’s must-do half-marathon
CANADA’S MUST-DO HALF-MARATHON
Vancouver is one of the greatest running cities in world. Each summer, it plays host to the Lululemon SeaWheeze, a weekend festival dedicated to fitness and wellness. The event is capped off by an extraordinary half-marathon, run mostly along Stanley Park ’s Seawall. Canadian Running’s web editor Sinead Mulhern headed west to experience it for herself, along the way peering behind the Lululemon curtain to see how their innovative apparel is made.
When Canadian Running picks the best spot to run in Canada each year, Vancouver’s Seawall is automatically thrown into the mix. While our country has too many picturesque places to narrow the “best” down to just one, the Seawall is an obvious choice. Kilometres of uninterrupted running, Pacific Ocean views, scents of fresh pine and like-minded individuals to share the path with…its a runner’s paradise. That’s what I’d heard anyway. Last summer, I ran there for the first time at the SeaWheeze Half-Marathon, hosted by Canadian active-wear brand Lululemon. Vancouver, for me, is a cit y of f irsts. En route from Toronto to the West Coast hub, it dawned on me that the f irst time I remember being on a plane was on a trip from Edmonton to Vancouver when I was four years old. Then, I was there for a dance competition and felt satisf ied when I got my tiny hands on a shiny silver prize medal. It ’s possible t hat t hat ’s also around t he t ime when I developed my competitive personality. Who would have known that it would be 20 years until I’ d be back in the cit y, ready again for new experiences. Running on the famous Seawall left an impression that will last. I woke up on Saturday (race morning) before 5 a.m. and dressed in the SeaWheeze-inspired gear specially designed for the race. I did my checks: race gear sorted, shoes secured, reporting tools ready to go. I was fed and fuelled and I hoped that my body would carry me through the 21.1k without error. Speaking honestly though, I was worried that a minor foot injury would resurface or that my sometimes questionable right calf muscle would seize up or that I’d hit the wall way too soon and have to drag myself through to the finish. How many of us come up with these wild, unrealistic scenarios before getting to the start?
About 10,000 runners showed up to run the course. Like me, most of them travelled here. Unlike me, many of them came from much farther away – Australia, New Zealand, South America, Europe and parts of Asia.
Destination races have exploded in running culture and having sampled a few of these bucket list-type events in the past year, I understand why. This is a great time to be a runner. Where in the past, marathons and half-marathons might have brought forth only the most competitive speedsters in the pack, now we have these races that draw us more for the tourism value they offer. Time bets are off, if we want them to be.
“About 10,000 runners showed up to run the course. Like me, most of them travelled here. Unlike me, many of them came from much farther away.”
As I weaved from downtown Vancouver – past sail boats and along the breezy sea-side boardwalk – I realized that for those who travelled to Vancouver to race SeaWheeze, the high point of the vacation has been designed already. The people who planned this race know the area inside-out. They know Van City’s most f lattering views. Consulting maps and finding your way has a time and a place. Sometimes though, it’s nice to have others plan the experience for you. That’s what SeaWheeze does.
Halfway through the race, I stopped on the bridge to cheer on runners as the Spice Girls boomed in the background (yes, that was me filming you on our Facebook Live feed, sorry). On my first time running the Seawall, I saw lush tree-lined pathways, mermaids in full costume, clean and clear waters, mountains off in the distance and my favourite: paddle-boarders enjoying a Saturday morning exploring the waters surrounding Siwash Rock – a towering rocky piece sitting in the salty water just off the path.
None of my pre-race fears materialized. Instead, I coasted through the course and was so busy revelling in the experience that before I knew it, I was at the 18th kilometre marker. This course begs runners to let go, so for the first time, I actually ran a race watch-free and with no competitive intent or any idea of my pace. I even forgot to check my finish time until someone asked. In that regard, the medal I received afterwards has a different meaning than the ones I got at my dance competition in this city two decades ago. This one proves that sometimes it’s better not to take yourself too seriously and to just enjoy the moment.