Monday, October 7, 2013

Surrey is Done!

Marathon number 4: check! 

It's been more than a week since the Surrey International World Music Marathon (sorry for the delay, loyal blog followers) and I'm still pretty pumped for the finish. Here are the details from the weekend.

Spot the Five by 35-er!
© Surrey International World Music Marathon 2013

For those not from 'round these parts, Surrey is about an hour from where my husband and I live in Vancouver. We'd planned to stay in a hotel close to the start line, so we could sleep in a bit and save on travel time the morning of the race. But a friend from the area had offered up his place to my husband and I for the night before and as a base for race day, and we were more than happy to accept - particularly since the marathon was scheduled to start at 7:30 am and transit was not running early enough to get full marathoners to the Central City start line in time. 

© Global BC 2013
It wasn't a great day, weather-wise. The entire weekend saw wind and rainfall warnings for the entire lower mainland, which made me very nervous right up until I crossed the start line. Even though it was gusting and cold when everyone started to line up in the race corrals, it warmed up almost immediately, and it stayed that way except for the last hour or so when it started to come down in buckets. I mean, who doesn't love torrential rain?

Having been sick and out of commission for most of September, I'd decided to pace this race quite more conservatively than the other marathons. As a result, I ran a slow race - yes, even slower than usual! - but I finished smiling, so that decision couldn't have been all bad. In hindsight, I think I'd subconsciously set two goals for myself, based on last year's outing in Saint John:

1. Minimize the possibility of mental breakdowns on the marathon route; and 
2. No ugly crying after crossing the finish line.

And I managed to achieve both, so... well done, me! 

The race itself was two loops: an urban run winding through Central Surrey, which took runners through residential districts, as well as green and woodland areas such as Holland Park and Green Timbers Urban Forest. 

Thank you, Garmin data

It was organized well enough. Although, based on my personal experience and the comments I saw on Facebook and Twitter, it seems as though there's plenty of room for improvement - probably not a surprise, given this is only the second year for this fledging event. The best thing about the race, by far, were the cultural stations lining the course. This race is touted as the "International World Music Marathon," and it certainly lived up to that name. According to the event organizer's website, a total of 34 performance stations encompassing 18 distinct cultures lined the course. All of the entertainment was great! And the variety of music, dancing and cultural aspects was definitely something I've never before experienced in a marathon. Well done to all of the entertainers and volunteers at the music stations! (I think Korea was my favourite; their performance was great each time I ran by. The United Kingdom's highland dancers came in at a close second.)

As for downsides, I hate to say it, but there were plenty...

On the communications side of things for runners, the website was awful. I'd registered online months ago through the marathon's official Running Room registration portal, yet there was no way for me to confirm my registration using the Surrey Marathon's website. Each time I emailed about this, the replies I received did not fully answer my questions. Not being provided with a straight answer left me with some anxiety, since I was never assured whether I'd registered properly after I'd already been training for weeks. 

In terms of logistics and deciding on how to get to the start line, months ago - when I'd first registered - the website indicated that organizers had arranged for TransLink to run one train early enough to get runners to the area on time, which was great. But only days before the race, this changed completely; the website updated with an advisory indicating that no trains would be able to get runners to the start line in time. And while organizers announced that a shuttle service would be provided, shuttles ran only between another train station and the start line, which meant that, unless a runner could get to that particular train station, they were pretty much shit out of luck. So thankful that our friend offered to be our shuttle service! But it leaves me to wonder how and to what degree other runners were inconvenienced.

Then there was the course itself. The route was pretty great, I've gotta say. And there were plenty of very eager and wonderful volunteers, pointing runners in the right direction... except in Green Timbers, the second time around (the second of two loops). A few of us full marathon stragglers were left to fend for ourselves in the park, where we ended up off-route because there was no one stationed at key turn off points to say, "That way." Not that getting lost in the woods after running 36 km isn't exciting, but I can think of better ways to get my kicks, ya know? Thankfully, some kind locals noticed what had happened, pointed us in the right direction, and major crisis was averted. 

Because of the dreadful weather conditions, the marathon also decided last minute to move the recovery area, along with all of the water and food from the finish line, to an indoors area at the nearby SFU Surrey Campus. This would have been fine, except after running 42.2 km the last thing I was going to remember was, "Oh yes, that's right. The recovery area is now indoors!" As a result, I didn't get any food right after the race, and only managed to get a hold of some chocolate milk thanks to my husband and friends who took good care of me after I crossed the finish line. I realize this was an entirely situational decision on the part of race organizers, necessitated by Mother Nature, but it would have been nice to see some signage or a few volunteers at the finish line directing people towards the food.

Based on comments provided on the marathon's Facebook page and the Twitter feed for #WeRunSurrey, Surrey locals did not seem very happy about all of the traffic closures, with comments ranging from mildly annoyed to white-hot rage. Not that I necessarily agree with these unhappy people, but even my friend had trouble getting around - and he's a local who's lived in Surrey a long time who had all of the traffic advisory information. It would therefore appear that the road closures could have been made a lot clearer.

So... yeeahh. Despite the inadequate information, lack of transit service, disgusting weather, getting lost in the forest, and the no-food-at-the-end scenarios, it was a decent enough day, all things considered. Would I run it again? Probably not. But it was cool to have the opportunity to run Surrey and to finish another marathon.

But the volunteers were phenomenal - as always. The entertainment was extraordinary. I got a shout-out at the finish line by legendary race announcer and emcee Steve King. And one of my friends surprised me right at the end of the course, at the 41 km mark! Definitely some great things to be thankful for. 

Special thanks to my pit crew: my husband (of course!), and friend who put us up and kept my husband company while I took five and a half hours to finish. Speaking of which, here are my results...

Gun time: 5 hours 32 minutes 58 seconds
Chip time: 5 hours 32 minutes 33 seconds
Pace: 7.53 minutes per km

Race swag... and dinner plate-sized hardware!

I placed 7 out of 10 in the Female 30-34 category (not 35, yet!), 69 out of 91 females, and 170 out of the 180 who finished the full marathon. I certainly brought up the rear on this race, but hey - it's another one for the books, right? And I'm one more marathon closer to the goal. 

Only one more to go: BMO Vancouver Marathon, here I come!


  1. Congratulations! So... thinking about changing the name of your blog? How about Fifteen by 40?

  2. I haven't run five yet! Something to consider, though...