VANCOUVER. June 28th. Reid Coolsaet and Lanni Marchant both cruised to comfortable wins on a hot morning at the 17th annual Scotiabank Vancouver Half-marathon, in 65:40 and 71:08, respectively. Temperatures were between 20 and 25 celsius under bright blue, sunny skies for the 4,400 runners who took off from UBC to run the 21k down to Stanley Park, along the Pacific shores, in one of the world’s most-scenic urban road races. Another 2,150 ran the accompanying 5K that was held entirely within the park, around Lost Lagoon and the stunning Stanley Park Seawall. Combined, the 6,500 participants were drawn from 8 Canadian provinces and 29 countries.
The men’s race got off to an ambitious start with the first kilometre covered in 2:55, and the second in 2:59. A group of four broke away immediately; Matt Loiselle and Sami Jibril from Newmarket Huskies High Performance group in the Greater Toronto Area pushing the pace, with Kenyan Bernard Ngeno and Reid Coolsaet of Guelph’s Speed River TFC tucked in behind. After settling into a couple of 3:08 kilometres, the pace began to slip. Reid Coolsaet moved to the front to pick things up, and Ngeno and Jibril were immediately detached. Coolsaet and Loiselle then ran together out of the UBC campus area, and down to Spanish Banks, passing 10k in 30:26. In a 2:55 12th kilometre, Coolsaet broke clear. He extended his lead after the sharp hill up from Jericho to West 4th, and cruised for home.
“I felt good and am happy with my race,” said Coolsaet. “It seemed a little quick at the start. I mixed it up in the pack for a bit. Matt and I ran together ‘til about 10k, then I pushed on. It was hard on my own, but I wanted to go hard. It was a hot one! I’m just glad there was no-one pushing me on the Burrard Bridge hill today!”
The battle for the places was perhaps a little more interesting as Loiselle faded to 3rd (66:58), with 21-year old American collegiate runner Arya Bahreini from Edmond, Oklahoma finishing strong to take 2nd in 66:34. Jibril kept going for 4th (67:14), with Rob Watson the first Vancouver man home in 69:02 for 5th. Watson is putting in some 200 km weeks currently, in preparation for the Men’s marathon at the PanAm Games in Toronto on July 25th, where he will race for Canada. “It was hot, the legs were tired, and the body took a beating,” said Watson.
The women’s race featured two intriguing contests: Lanni Marchant, the country’s #1 ranked marathoner and Natasha Wodak; and top Masters’ athletes Lioudmila Kortchaguina of Toronto (still the Course Record Holder with her 70:50 from 2003) and Catherine Watkins of Vancouver’s BC Endurance Project. Wodak bested her friend and sometime Asics training partner Marchant, 31:41 to 31:46, to set a new Canadian 10,000m track record at the Payton Jordan Invitational in May. Since then, the road-race specialist Marchant has got the better of Wodak at the National 10K Road Championships in Ottawa and the National Half-marathon Championships in Calgary. Like Watson, Watkins will also be representing Canada in the PanAm Games, in the women’s marathon on July 18th. With Wodak also running for the VOKRA cat rescue charity, wearing cat-like face make-up, the duel with Marchant was also billed as the “Catfight in Vancouver”!
“Natasha and I were together for about 12k,” said Marchant. “She was more aggressive on the downhills. My hips don’t like the big downhills! I knew if I just stayed with her and relaxed, once we started climbing (at 12k and 18k), I’d be ok.” Lanni was ok, and retained her road supremacy, crossing the line in a very impressive 71:08, given the conditions. Natasha was 2nd (72:31), while Lioudmila won the Masters battle taking 3rd overall in 77:33, with Catherine Watkins 4th in 79:04. Both Marchant and Wodak will also represent Canada in the 10,000m in the PanAms next month, and then go on to race the same distance at the World Championships in Beijing in August.
While the warm weather proved a challenge for racing, it was conducive to a great post-race party in Stanley Park, with March Hare playing “live” on stage. And 83 Vancouver area charities went home smiling! Impressively, some 30% of the 6,500 participants ran for one of the official charities in the Scotiabank Charity Challenge, raising almost $1 million for the community.
Full results available at http://www.canadarunningseries.com/svhm/svhmRESULT.htm