Sunday May 5th: BMO Vancouver Half Marathon 21K – my awesome race day experience!

Almost there!

John at 20.5K – almost there!

My alarm went off bright and early at 4:30AM this morning. I had a good sleep and was feeling very enthusiastic about my race day.

Having worked so hard for 4 months, I was glad that my race day had finally arrived.

I checked the weather on my iPhone first thing. It was already 14C, which was awesome news!

That meant that I would not have to worry about what to wear. Running shorts and a tee shirt were the order of the day.

My wife Marjory rose early with me, but the children were slow to rise. They were going to come with me in the car right down to the start line at Queen Elizabeth Park in Vancouver.

Surprisingly, there were no early sky trains scheduled from where we live to the marathon this year.  So I really appreciated being dropped off right outside QEP!

First, I had a nice warm shower to loosen up my muscles. Then I enjoyed a small bowl of cereal and a cup of tea for my light breakfast. The kids enjoyed a little extra time in bed and they had muffins for their breakfast in the car on the drive down. This helped make the early morning easier for everyone.

We left our home in Coquitlam for the race around 5:30AM and it only took us around 30 minutes to reach the Queen Elizabeth Park. Traffic was pretty light at that time of the morning.

At the start line - ready to go

At the start line – ready to go

We pulled up outside QEP, I gave everyone a kiss and a hug and they all wished me good luck. Then I left and joined a long and seemingly endless stream of runners headed to the start line.

I had some friendly chats with quite a few runners before the start. Everyone was in great spirits and especially happy with the nice weather.

One of the runners graciously agreed to take some photos of yours truly, and I did the same in return for him. It was lots of fun!

The cheerful ‘runners banter’ about training and the upcoming run was suddenly interrupted with the opening lines of  O Canada.

I love singing our national anthem and so I did just that. It was a stirring moment for everyone.

The sun had been up for some time when the race finally started at around 7:15am. I was around the midpoint in the pack of runners waiting to file under the official start line.

I have to admit that I did not actually hear the starting gun or horn, but everyone in front of me shuffled forward and I just shuffled along with them. Eventually, we passed the official start line and I turned on the timer on my watch. It was now official, I was off and running!

We initially headed up a bit of an incline to get out of the park, but then it was a long and steady downhill all the way down Cambie Street to the Cambie Bridge.

Vancouver skyline from Cambie Street

Vancouver skyline from Cambie Street

The first 3K or so down Cambie was absolutely exhilarating. We were all treated to a spectacular view of the Vancouver skyline that got larger and grander as we approached the bridge. It felt great to be running downhill but I took great care not to go too fast.

I was feeing terrific at this time and so was everyone around me!

There were a few runners that got caught up in the moment and went  flying down the hill. I was actually quite concerned for them and hoped that they would be okay later in the race.

Once over the bridge, we soon found ourselves running through historic Chinatown, which is always interesting. To our great surprise, we were all treated to a group of Indian ladies dancing to a Bollywood number on the sidewalk. Not exactly what we expected in the middle of Chinatown, but superb none the less!

Just as we reached the top of the Homer Street hill, there was a great brass band playing a very ‘brassy’ military number. I loved it, so I stopped to take a photo of the band. The conductor gave me a smile and then he motioned for me to come over to him. I was most intrigued.

Then I smiled a broad smile. You’re asking ME to conduct the band! How did you know that it would be a dream come true for me to conduct your brass band. Yes, I would love to, I thought, as I nodded my head. Thank you so much!

Strike up the band!

Strike up the band!

As he handed me the baton, he then gestured for me to hand my iPhone over to him.

You want to take a photo of me conducting? Wow – how neat, I thought.

I then began to swish that baton like I was born to conduct. The band seemed to appreciate the moment and my enthusiasm for conducting. They were terrific!

Not bad, I thought. In fact, this is going quite well!

What a great 60 seconds or so I had conducting the band. Many of the runners let out huge cheers as they went by the scene. It was such a wonderful impromptu moment; I will treasure the memory always

My thanks go out to that very special brass band conductor!

I motioned a fond farewell to the band and I continued my run down Homer until it turned Mainland signifying that we were now running through Yaletown.


Trendy Yaletown

As I ran down those cobbled streets past the many fine restaurants and bars, my mind briefly took me back to a time gone by when I used to live in the heart of Yaletown in a rather luxurious apartment .

I used to frequent many of these fine establishments at the time. The Century Grill was my favourite spot at the time. I had my fair share of oysters on the half shell during my time.

Those were the days, I thought. Lots of fun and great memories, but I’m quite glad to have moved on.

Once out of trendy Yaletown, we turned onto Pacific Boulevard and travelled up a short but steep hill. Fortunately, we were soon going downhill again under the Granville Street Bridge. Then we took a sharp right and followed Beach Avenue until we found ourselves running by English Bay.

The water on the bay was sparkling in the sunlight. The view was beautiful, but not as beautiful as the sight that I was about to see.

As I looked forward down the road, there standing by the roadside, bearing huge smiles and cheering, was my dear wife Marjory and our two children, Ian and Megan.

My cheering section - Marjory, Ian and Megan

My cheering section – Marjory, Ian and Megan

It was quite a moment. We had a quick hi and how are you. The I got some big hugs and kisses. They said that they would see me again at the finish and wished me good luck. Then I was off and on my way again.

It was around this time that I became aware of some pain around my left groin area. It was the same pain that I had experienced periodically over the past three weeks on my long training runs

I was still determined to remain optimistic that this injury would not get worse and that my race would go well.

Never the less, I did take the Extra Strength Advil that was in my waist pack and swallowed it with some water from my hydration bottle.

My optimism was rewarded because the pain did not get any worse and was not much of a factor in my race at all, thank goodness.

Soon we left Beach Avenue and English Bay and headed into Stanley Park, the jewel of Vancouver.  My journey though the park was both spectacular and demanding, especially around the 17K mark.

It's a little warm out here!

It’s a little warm out here!

Although I was quite confident that I would get to the finish line, a general body fatigue was now setting in.

I had now been running for over 2 hours and longer than I had run during my entire 4 months of training. In fact, it was now my longest run since I ran my last full marathon about 8 years ago, right here in Vancouver.

I managed to run the last three kilometers but did take a few short walking breaks along the way. I was totally okay with this. Time was not a major factor.

By now I was quite warm and had sweat running into my eyes so I took the time to rinse my eyes and my forehead with water at each of the remaining  water station.

About 500M from the finish line, I saw Marjory and the kids standing by the fence that now lined the road. What a site for sore sweaty eyes.

I stopped for more kisses and hugs. Marjory took a few photos. Then I ran on slowly and deliberately towards the finish line.

I glanced to the side of me as I ran, and there were Ian and Megan running with me. It was a touching moment.

I’m sure that they would have run right to the finish line with me but for the security fences around the finish.

Crossing the finish line was an emotional moment for me. It was not my longest race and it was far from my fastest.

However, it was my most satisfying and fulfilling race.

Mission accomplished!

I did it!

Finishing the half marathon felt like a tremendous achievement for me. It’s my first race since my accident and injury in October of 2010 and finishing the race marks the completion of four long, and sometimes challenging, months of training and running rehabilitation.

Although I was physically tired, at that moment, I felt strong mentally and fulfilled spiritually.

After spending about an hour cheering on lots of other runners as they approached the finish line, we decided to go for lunch at The White Spot, which was just across the other side of Georgia Street.

Fortunately we got a table right on the deck so we were able to continue to watch the marathoners as they ran up Georgia from the park towards the finish line. It was a lovely lunch!

Just before we left to head home, I found myself alone with some time to contemplate.

These were my innermost thoughts in that special moment.

First, I gave thanks for the most amazing half marathon race day and also for my past 4 months of training and running rehabilitation. It has been awesome!

Although I may not understand the real purpose of this experience right now, I know that I will understand it at some point in the future.

Time to relax and celebrate!

Time to relax and celebrate!

I acknowledged that I must continue to be patient and accept what is and what will be. Then, when the fog clears a little more, I should be ready to take on the next challenge on my path to wellness – the next piece of the puzzle, so to speak.

I also reminded myself that I should not try to find that next piece of the puzzle.  It will find me!

When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.

I enjoyed my moment alone. Then my family rejoined me, and we decided it was now time for us to go home and enjoy the rest of the day!

And now it’s time for me to bring this story to a close.

Thank you for being a part of my journey thus far. I hope that my story has been of interest to you and also helpful if you or someone close to you is personally living with concussion.

As for the future, I am planning to blog on a different topic soon. Please see below for more information. I have also posted a few more race photos too. I hope that you enjoy them.

Bye for now, and I will look out for you on the trails.




For those of you that might be interested, I hope to soon be blogging on another personal area of experience and interest – Chronic Pain Self-Management.

Currently a volunteer Program Leader with the University of Victoria’s Centre on Aging,  I regularly facilitate 6-week Chronic Pain Self-Management Program workshops. Held in various locations across BC, this workshop is available free of charge to adults living with chronic pain issues.

For more information on the University of Victoria’s  Centre on Aging and our complete Self-Management Workshop offerings, follow this link to our website:

Thank you!


Here are some more photos from the BMO Vancouver Half Marathon.

'Boston strong' in Vancouver

‘Boston strong’ in Vancouver

Almost home!

Almost home!

It's a walk in the park

A stroll in the park

The beat goes on

And the beat goes on

Underneath the arches in Chinatown

Underneath the arches in Chinatown

The quiet before the storm

A quiet moment before the start

Running in the city

Running in the city


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