Saturday, April 26, 2014

Vancouver Sun Run Guide 10km (Tips / Review)

This might be a bit of a deviation from what I would normally post, but I guess if you are in Vancouver, the Sun Run is a must do. Not only is the Sun Run the largest 10k race in the world (and this year (2014) because it's the 30th anniversary, the record is definitely going to be broken again).  Personally, I've been running in the Vancouver Sun Run for about 7 years now. This is going to be my 8th year at the run and there are things I discovered over the years that I wished someone would have told me, that I would like to share with you. I've organized it into sub-sections, if you are just looking for tips on race day, please skip "Registration" and "Preparing for the Run" Section

Everything starts with registration. If you have more than 10 people that you would like to run with, you can choose to sign up as a team. That said, each person will still have to pay the individual fees. What I recommend is signing up early because there is an early bird rate that you can get.
  After you finish registration, about 3 days prior to the Sun Run. An event called the "Sun Run Fair" will be held. Where if you have signed up as individuals, you must go to pick up your race package/t-shirt. The Sun Run fair is usually held at BC Place (if you signed up for the Youth/School or teams, you must pick up your package from the team captain).
  At the Sun Run fair, the sponsors are usually there with freebies that you can grab and also some information about their products.

Preparing for the Run
   If this is the first time you are running in a 10km race, I would like to say welcome. If this isn't your first time, still, welcome :D. First and foremost, before starting a new exercise routine, check with your doctor if you are suitable for running. Specific conditions to be aware of is if you have a history of heart problems, fainting spells, I would recommend checking up with you doctor before hand. Running is a very heart healthy, but heart stressing activity, so it's a good idea to always do a health check before hand (better safe than sorry right?). That said, when it comes to training, there are usually really good training manuals online, and I would say one of the best is found here on the Sun Run site:
   For locations to run, please visit my sub blog "Journey to a Marathon" (Please note this section is still undergoing construction)

Day of the Run
   Even though 10km is not very long (compared to things like a marathon which is 42.2km), it is still considerably difficult, depending on your fitness level. One thing to keep in mind is to make sure you have a good night's sleep before the run.
   Because the Sun Run is such a big event, the streets are usually jam packed with people. If you are with a group of people, be prepared to lose sight of your group. What is a good idea is to define a point, like maybe a location at the finish line where you can all meet. It is a better idea to meet at the finish line as everyone's pace is different, and also the finish line is a location that everyone must cross, so it's likely not to be missed.
   Everyone will meet at the start line, which spans West Georgia Street. The racers are divided into waves depending on your estimated finish time during registration. They have to do this to avoid having too many people running across the start line at the same time (with 66,000 people wanting to cross the start like all at once can be a scary sight).
  Personally, I don't think there is a difference about getting to the starting line/start section earlier because there are so many people and it's so packed that often, it's difficult to find a spot. The real thing that matters that the timer starts once you cross the start line and stops once you cross the finish line. So really, there is no point in trying to push your way across walls of people in the start section to just get a head start. The start will be the same for everyone and it's relative to when you cross the start line.
  Make sure you pack light or not bring too much stuff with you. Running with alot of things can be uncomfortable. One year, I brought my entire backpack with stuff from school and while I was running with it, I literally felt like a camel in the desert. They do have a $5 bag check service for people that would like their things transported to the finish line. But... I would still recommend saving that $5 and just brings less things (also with less things you are less likely to lose stuff).
  Before the run begins, there will usually be music and people leading stretches on stages. Stretching maybe a good idea before starting the race, but it depends on personal preference. Personally, I find that when I stretch before a work out, my muscles aren't warm enough so the stretching doesn't really have much impact versus stretching after the work out.

During the Run
From the Vancouver Sun Run's website
   One of the biggest mistakes that I find people doing is usually at the beginning, once they cross the start line, they will run as fast as they can and then burn out at the 2-3km mark. They hit the point where lactic acid builds up in their legs, and then the rest of the 10km feels like a drag. What I recommend is to pace yourself at the beginning.
    Somethings that you can also do is run in intervals (if you aren't accustomed to running the full 10km distance), where you run for something like 2 minutes, and walk for one. The course will start off with a down hill from the start until you reach the turn on Denman street. It's very easy to run too fast here because you are going down hill and you feel invincible with the wind in your hair.
   The route will turn and continue on the boundary of Stanley Park. Once you turn onto Beach Avenue, the scenery is very nice as to one side you have trees and the other side you have English Bay. The route down Beach Avenue may feel abit long because you will see over a kilometer ahead of you with no turns.
    The most difficult part about the Sun Run is the 20 meter climb from the Beach Ave to beginning of the Burrard Street Bridge. When running this part, you might feel like you are not moving anywhere (but you are). The sweet thing is that this part is very short, and once you are up the bridge, you've made it past the steepest climb of the route.
    One the bridge, you will be able to get a stunning bird's eye view of everyone running on Beach Avenue. I would say this is a picture worthy moment! The rest of the route will navigate through the West Broadway area, and passing by Granville Island on the way. There will be lots of people cheering you on. You will continue all the way until you reach the Cambie street bridge. The end is near, and you can see the finish line at BC Place. Here, if you still have the energy, many people will speed up for the finish line. Last year when I ran, I kept a steady pace (because the Cambie Street Bridge will still have a climb (to get on the bridge)), until the ramp down from the bridge. Then I sprinted across the finish line. It is your own preference as how you would like to run, but besides being safe, it's also a matter of not feeling bad after the run because you pulled a muscle or cracked something.

    Throughout the route, there will be many water stations too. The thing about water stations is that you won't need to bring your own water bottle (you can if you want because everyone's need for water is the different, and you may need more). One thing I have to caution about is over drinking water and causing an imbalance of electrolytes in your body. This is a very serious problem that is often over looked. Many people think "I'm running alot, so I should be drinking tons of water to compensate". It's very hard to tell if your body has too much water or not enough, but usually when you are thirsty, it's a sign that you need water. Hence if you are not thirsty, don't go chugging gallons of water. Also, know the signs of hyponatremia (symptoms include (but not limited to): feeling dizzy, confusion, fatigue and etc... for more info, please visit:
    That said, many sport drinks are offered at the run too. These sport drinks have alot of sugar content and not to mention artificial colouring and calorie count. I would recommend being conservative when drinking these sport drinks. They do contain electrolytes that you need when you run, but you obtain electrolytes from food or even just adding pinches of salt to water.
After the Run
   When the run is finished, give yourself a pat on the back. You've accomplished something that is not easy to do. That said, be aware too. Make sure you don't just stop at the finish line and you have let yourself time to cool off (it's better for your heart). This is also a good time to stretch as stretching will help reduce muscle fatigue on the next day.
   Here, there will be food and things to eat inside BC Place. I would caution about eating too much because many people, after running, will think "Because I have burned all these calories, I can eat as much as I like". In fact, depending on your speed and finish time, you may burn as little as 400 to 700 calories during the run. They will give you food like protein bars, bagels, and fruits at the finish line. But things like bagels usually contain a large amount of carbohydrates (which you need but not in excess). It's important to eat, but becareful about overeating. I think I read in a book that this is called "compensation eating", and you will gain weight as a result.

Most Important thing of all of these tips is to have fun, and enjoy yourself!
   Anyway, it's back to studying for my exams for me. I am not a professional runner, but I've done the Sun Run a few times and is training for a Marathon so I hope my insights can help you have a better Sun Run experience.

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