Where: Kelowna, BC            When: Oct 6-7, 2018

For the last 3 years, my wife and I have left the kids with Grandma and Grandpa and gone on a Runcation to do a Rock ‘n’ Roll race: Las Vegas, Vancouver, and then Las Vegas again. This year, we decided not to fly away without the kids because we are saving for a family trip in January. No races, just beaches. Anyway, I still wanted to do a full marathon this year and Kelowna didn’t look too far away on the map, so I booked it. Google Maps told me it was a 10 hour drive, but travelling with 2 kids and a dog and pulling a trailer, it took 14 hours.

We headed into Kelowna on the Friday to pickup our race packages and wander the grounds and the city. It was our first time going to Kelowna and the city is wonderful. The package pickup and expo was setup in a large tent at City Park and the kids loved the playgrounds and seeing fish in the Marina.

This is a big event put on by the Running Room and offered 5K, 10K, Half Marathon, Full Marathon and an ABC kids run with pre-activities. While I was signed up for my second ever full marathon, my wife and 10 year old daughter chose the 5K, and my 8 year old did the kids event.

The events were broken up over 2 days, with the 5K and kids race on Saturday and the other distances on Sunday. I love this format because I get to see my family enjoying their events. So often I miss seeing them because they are running at the same time as me. Also, this is fun for some people who want to maximize their medals by running in events both days. Maybe one day they will offer a special “Ogopogo Double” medal for people that run both days. Hey Running Room! What do you think? (Ogopogo is the mythical dinosaur like creature legend has it lives in the Okanagan Lake).

Saturday: We arrived early enough at City Park for the kids to play at the park (they loved the zip line) and then my wife and daughter got ready for the 5K start. This race had a big showing and there were many competitive runners putting up amazing times. The course was setup so that the runners ran by the park once around mid race and then came back and finished in the park where they started so there were plenty of photo opportunities. They had post race refreshments, a drum line band, and announcements of the runners names at the finish. It was very well put on. My daughter turned on the jets and beat mom at the end.

Next were the ABC Kids events. They had a pumpkin colouring station for anyone and then a series of warm up running activities for the young runners. They also had a few bouncy castles. This was followed by the 1K kids race. Even if you are not a runner yourself, it is great to bring the kids down for these events. They learn about being active and get to celebrate with a medal for their accomplishment and post run snacks and drinks. They truly treat the kids as the stars by giving them their own day.

Sunday: Time for my race. We arrived early so that I could stretch and use the porto-potties. The line ups were short. I had 3 gels with me and a bag of sport beans and my handheld water bottle. I lined up in the start corral and saw an old co-worker who retired a few years ago so I said hi and wished him a good race. Then count down and we were off. I started at my regular half marathon pace. This is only my second marathon and in my first I held back in the first half to make sure I had energy for the second half, this time I wanted to see if I could hold my regular pace for the long haul. I felt good and the weather was great. I had planned on the map with my wife ahead of time and was expecting to see them at the 22K and 30K points.

The course was mostly flat with a few sloped grades and we hit the first water station just after the 3K mark. We then headed around an industrial section and past the Sunrype plant. Fitting as they are the headline sponsor of the race now. I was still running well as we passed the 6K water station and headed back along the water front. I took my first gel around 7K and then grabbed water from the 9K station. We ran past the marina and around the water side of City Park. I smiled for the cameras and there were plenty of cheering supporters. I kept telling myself that I was doing fine. This is just a warm up, the race starts at 20K. As we came out from under the big bridge there was a small hill up to the south end of the course. I took it easy up the hill and then we headed into some residential streets until we reached the 12K station. I was sticking to water for the first half although they also had Gatorade.

From 12K to 19K we ran along streets and sidewalks with sparse spectators but all road crossings were controlled by police and volunteers. I made sure to thank them all as I passed. I ate my sport beans in this section and we passed the most enthusiastic water station after the 16K. Right around 19K I passed a guy who said, “hey, are you from Edmonton”. I said yes and he told me that he was too and that he has seen me at other races before. That was kind of neat. Now settled into our paces I didn’t see many new people. I passed someone, then they passed me. It was neat seeing the leaders as they came back toward us. I have a habit of counting the lead people in my head; “that guy is first, second, third, fourth, oh, lead female”.

We came back under the bridge and I pushed a little on the down hill and then saw the sign, half marathon left, full marathon right. Well, it doesn’t happen often for me, but I was headed right. They had a sign with a clock at the halfway mark and I tried to take a picture but it was pretty blurry. I finished the first half in a time I would have been happy with if I was doing the half. Hey, half way there!

Right on queue I saw my wife and kids at the 22K mark and they were cheering me on. My daughter handed me another package of sport beans and a gel. I shouted thanks and kept on going. I had a gel soon afterward and felt that I was ready for this second loop. I knew the course now and knew that I had no hills to fear. The runners were fairly spread out now and I was running pretty solo at this point, although there were a lot of Half Marathoners and 10Kers coming back toward us. I shouted a few words of encouragement as I passed them. Things were pretty quiet now on the north side. My pace fell a little but I was still doing ok and not in any pain.

Back along the water front I saw my wife and kids again at the 30K mark and gave them some high fives. I stopped briefly at the 30K water station to refill my water bottle. The volunteers were very helpful to get me on my way and I only had to stop for 10 or 15 seconds. The second time through the south section became more difficult and I could feel pain from a blister on my right big toe. I could only imagine how big the blister would be but I didn’t want to stop so I just pushed through the pain. Slowing still more, I ran behind a girl who had her boyfriend or husband or friend riding a bike beside her encouraging her. I was on the same pace as her so we swapped positions a few times but stayed near each other for a long while. When we passed the 40K water station I chugged a Gatorade, grabbed a gel and put it in my pocket for post race recovery and picked up my pace. I passed the girl with the bike supporter and one other and then picked up the pace even more coming down the hill and under the bridge. I was holding back tears of joy/pain as I ran hard for the final 500m past the cheering supporters. I waved to my kids who were cheering right near the finish corral and I turned down the final stretch and gave it all I had left as I crossed the finish.

I got my medal and then got down on my hands and knees to take the pressure off my feet. The finish line folks asked if I was ok and I told them that I was and that I just needed a minute. I got up and was handed a bottle of water and then met the family and stretched a little. Then we went into the big tent for Sunrype Sparkling Tea, cookies, and banana halfs. I ran a good race and felt proud. I downed a hot chocolate and then we headed back to the car.

Thank you Kelowna and the Running Room for putting on such a great event. It was only my second marathon but I was 2 minutes faster than my first. Any day you make a personal best, is a good day.