Vancouver Marathon Race Strategy
I took the opportunity on the flight over to Vancouver to study the race course map and figure out some strategy for Sunday.
The race starts south of downtown at Queen Elizabeth Park in the Cambie area of Vancouver. I’ve run this route before, two years ago, so I’m familiar with the course and that helps a lot in terms of visualizing the various sections.
The first few kilometres
The first bit features a little uphill section that’s nothing special, but it should help keep me from going out too fast. I’m aiming to run around 5:15 in the first few kilometres to the turn onto W 49th St.
From about the 5km mark through 8km, the course is downhill and rather than open things up, my challenge here will be to stay on target pace and preserve energy.
The first big challenge of the race comes just before the 9km mark and it has a name: Camosun (pictured right, snapped from the plane coming in). This is “the big hill” everyone talks about in Vancouver and It is indeed a big hill. I’ll probably ease back here and run closer to 5:40, depending on how my legs feel and my heart rate. Last time running mate Kirsty and I defeated Camosun nicely. It doesn’t scare me.
From there it’s another five kilometres or so until the UBC campus. There’s a new little out and back here up Blanca St. that replaces the same kind of thing that used to be found in a parking lot down at Spanish Banks around the half way mark. I think it’s much better to get this out of the way earlier.
The route follows NW Marine Drive around UBC, and it’s here that runners get a first view across the Straight to Vancouver Island. Spectacular.
There’s a big downhill run at about 19-20km that I will bank some time on. I ran about 4:50/km here in 2012 and I’ll probably do the same thing this year.
This marks the halfway point and from here the crowds should pick up as the course heads into Point Grey, Jericho and eventually Kitsilano. It gets a bit twisty here, but I’ve run this section twice now as the new course introduced in 2012 picks up a bit of the old 2011 course.
Get ready for Burrard St. and “the bridge”. It’s the last uphill section and it’s a decent challenge. Quite a few runners end up walking here, but I plan to ease back and roll over the top. The left turn off the bridge onto Pacific St. is really memorable. There’s a huge cheer section here and I’ll pick up some energy from the crowd before making the run down Beach Ave. and eventually onto the Seawall.
32km and just 10km to go. I’ll (hopefully) still be running strong here and after running the route in 2012, I’ll be more mentally prepared for the longish Seawall section.
Last time around I found it to be a bit daunting and it broke my spirit a little bit. This year I’ll be sure to keep up with taking the gels and I should have more in the tank for the last quarter of the race.
The Lions Gate Bridge is a real landmark for me and it comes just past 36km. I find that to be a mental booster. At 39km you pass under the lighthouse and you can finally see downtown Vancouver. This is one of the challenges of the course – you don’t really see the finish until very late in the game.
Coal Harbour and the finish
Two more kilometres to go from Coal Harbour and the crowds will start to pick up again here. The finish is uphill, but I won’t care. Making the turn up Denman and then left on to Georgia, and then Pender will bring the finish line into view.
I’m glad to see they removed a couple of turns here and moved the finish onto Pender St. It means a little less uphill and an earlier view of the finish.
Cross the line, stop the watch. Fist pump for a new PB (I hope).