When the inaugural lululemon SeaWheeze 1/2 marathon was announced earlier this year, I wasn’t sure if I should sign up or not. It is difficult when a new race hits the scene to know if they’ll be able to pull off the pre-race and race-day logistics on their first go at it seeing that you even see large races with experienced organizers experience logistical challenges. When I started seeing how fast the race was selling out and from how far people were travelling from to run this race, I knew the opportunity to run in Vancouver in a race that was sure to embody community and celebration had to be seized.
The race had a total of 7,500 registrants, which is a lot for an inaugural event with one race distance. As opposed to larger races (where the longest distance is on the Sunday), this race was on a Saturday, allowing only for one full day (Friday) for the Expo. The Expo (located at the start/finish area at the Convention Centre) consisted of race kit pick up and a Showcase store; there were no outside vendors as there would be at most races. Overall, it was well organized – short line ups to get our race kits, directing us to a line for our SeaWheeze edition Native Shoes brand flip flops, another to get our chips activated. The Showcase Store was a lululemon pop-up store selling only exclusive SeaWheeze lululemon run gear. As it was open to the public, the line up to get in was long and it would be great to have a runners’ access line in future years.
Other pre-race activities included the luon lounge, where there were guest speakers throughout the day and where runners could get free pedicures, massages or take a yoga class.
The registration for the SeaWheeze was $128 CDN which a lot of people initially found pricey for a half marathon. This ‘higher’ price tag was due to the fact that it included a piece of technical lululemon gear that was sent in advance (if you signed up by a certain date) for runners to train in. All runners also got a training schedule (the race attracted a lot of runners running their first half so this was a useful feature) and both the app and the website had a lot of extras including videos on dynamic conditioning and yoga for runners.
The drawstring bag race kit at the Expo included SeaWheeze flip flops (as mentioned before), and a lot of samples from Vega. There were no bibs – instead you got a runner’s bracelet that allowed you all-inclusive access to the activities and post-race festivities. The only drawback to this was that it meant no official on-course photography that you could be identified in for purchase, if that’s your thing.
More swag? Indeed! Some of the partner hotels had a SeaWheeze code to enter online when you booked; lululemon then had little pamper care package for runners at check-in, which included hair bands, epsom salts, blister bandaids, sunscreen, lip balm, and black Essie nail polish to match any black toenails procured on the run!
Pre-race logistics is where race organizers dropped the ball a bit. Even with an hour + buffer to check bags, the bag check line-up was looping out the doors of the Convention Centre and moved slowly. As race time was approaching, volunteers and race organizers seemed to understand that the issue was tagging bags and were handing out pens and labels in the line up to avoid bottlenecking at the desk. This accelerated the process and it would make sense for lululemon to include a label in the race kit to speed up the process next year.
If you weren’t stuck in the bag check line, you did have the option to participate in a pre-race dynamic stretching session before heading to the start line for a 7:37 am start.
The corrals were self-seeded and because of the inexperience of many of the runners, it meant a lot of maneuvering around to get to the right spot before the gun. People looking for pace bunnies wouldn’t have found any; this race had pace beavers – representing the coast – and while they didn’t have tall ears or signs, they had the brightest neon shirts on so you could distinguish them on course. The first few kilometers were narrow so organizers were staggering the start times though it wasn’t clear how they were deciding what wave left when and who the waves were composed of.
The route started through the downtown core – Gastown, Yaletown, taking a big dip downhill before heading towards the Burrard Street Bridge into Kitsilano. For anyone who has run in Vancouver – the BMO Vancouver Marathon specifically – the Burrard Street Bridge incline is known to send a few people cursing as they cross over it. We were greeted with some lovely hills up and over the bridge, in Kitts and then what happened? We turned around to be greeted to the Burrard Street Bridge all over again. Luckily, the inclines were out of the way early and the route continued through along the waterfront to the Sea Wall, overlooking oceans and mountains, and up through Stanley Park all the way up (yes, incline again) to the finish at the convention centre.
There were some amazing cheer stations along the way – the race organizers ensured that the community came out, made creative signs and were part of the race. SeaWheeze definitely had the spirit!
A finisher’s medal tied together by shoelaces and proudly boasting one of the lululemon manifesto sayings proudly hung around the runners’ necks at the finish line, where there were a lot of people cheering on friends and family. From here, runners headed towards the brunch station, which I have to say was the best post-run meal I’ve ever had. No stale bagels and bruised bananas here! The SeaWheeze post-race brunch came complete with waffles, fresh fruit, quiches and granola. If you wanted more pampering, there were massages and yoga sessions being offered.
After showers and rest, runners were invited back to the Convention Centre for an afternoon concert (again, open to the public but with a runners section). The concert featured Hey Ocean and Fun. If you had the privilege to get BFD (Big Friekin’ Deal) passes, you got to watch the concert from a VIP area that included hammocks, comfy couches/chairs, a premium view of the concert, tasty food, and refreshing beverages.
And if that wasn’t enough, to book-end the day, runners were invited to a sunset yoga class, held at 7:37pm, on Kits Beach. Over 1,000 runners and yogis came out to stretch their hamstrings and open their hearts and to end a day of accomplishments and celebration.
There is one thing about the race that wasn’t surprising and something that can be addressed for next year — race etiquette. It was a lot of people’s first half marathon (possibly first race). There was a definitive lack of awareness and etiquette on course and that can be frustrating but most importantly, dangerous.
In addition, for those more competitive runners, there was no elite category. While there were some faster runners racing, as the race was composed of more recreational runners, the average finish time was considerably lower than most half marathons, at 2 hours and 20 minutes.
But overall, the key word is that it is a really FUN race. It showcased a beautiful city, included a party day from sunrise to sunset and all the extras and special touches are what made the race unforgettable. For a first time race organizer, most of the logistics were well handled and with a few tweaks, all will go off without a hitch in future years.
About the Author: Alice Toyonaga is a yoga teacher, runner and bureaucrat. She is best described by her friends as a goal-setter with seemingly limitless endurance and a gift for multi-tasking. Convinced she sleeps in plank, her friends also know that in order to see her socially, they either have to join one of the many run clubs she is a part of or attend her challenging yet grounding yoga classes.
Follow Alice: Twitter: @toyonagaga FB: Yoga & Running with Alice Blog: www.ChatterRunGirl.com