Some of the top athletes share their insider info on the Scotiabank Vancouver Half-Marathon course.
Scotia Half is a fun scenic net downhill run but don’t let that deceive you into thinking it’s an easy course. You can definitely have a fast time on the course but it is important that you remain patient for the first 15k and don’t get carried away. The long downhill from UBC can take it’s toll on your legs if you go out too fast and that can make the final climb up Burrard Bridge a long slog if your legs aren’t feeling good. This is a course where you want to be able to pick things up after the Burrard climb and feel strong on the downhill towards the finish.
I always warn first timers not to get sucked into hammering down that lovely hill early on in the race in order to bank a few seconds – whatever time gains are made at that point are invariably lost (plus some!) when your quads go on strike in the latter stages of the race. Enjoy a nice downhill coast but don’t shoot yourself in the foot!
I have run a negative split on this course and my PB. With the downhills in the first half, on this course it is easy to get caught up with running too fast in the beginning. If you hold back a bit in the beginning you hopefully feel good at 10k to feel strong for the second half which has some uphill, the Burrard Bridge, and at this time of year it can start getting hot.
So this will be my first time running Scotia Half, hence, I am looking forward to reading the tips of others! In the past I know it has been quite hot so I think taking full advantage of the water stations from the get-go would be advantageous in the latter stages of the race.
I try to break down 21.097km to several ‘sections’. When I actually run the race, I try to clear them one by one, so that I won’t feel the entire course is too long.
- From start until the ‘turnaround’ on Marine Drive (approx. 3km point): nice & easy on slight and almost unnoticeable downhill. You can grab your good rhythm here, but do not overrate your easy feeling at this point. Do not rocket-start or speed up. Keep the pace steady and save your energy as much as possible.
- After ‘turnaround’ ~before long downhill to Jericho: You may start feeling ‘tired’ suddenly and already! But it’s natural to feel heavy after the slight downhill and it’s a little bit going up. If you are challenging and aiming for PB, expect that you may feel heavy on your legs here but you will recover later for sure. So don’t worry.
- Downhill to Jericho: One of the feature points of this course. Some runners like trying to keep your pace ‘down’ on downhill to reduce the impact, while other runners like ‘running like flying down’ the hill. Believe it depends on how you’ve been training on downhill. If you are not well-trained/prepared for this downhill, you may end up paying back later on if you go aggressive on the downhill (even for ½ marathon distance), so be careful. But if you are confident in training downhill, this is where you can save some time here for PB, so go for it!
- After the downhill ~ Burrard Bridge: ‘Flat’ road after the downhill will definitely feel like ‘uphill’. Small updowns and turning lots of corners just before Burrard Bridge may drag you down, but, try to think that it is ‘natural’ to feel ‘heavy’ or ‘slow’ right after the long downhill, and the half-point has passed . Anticipate, be prepared and plan for the fatigue you will get in the second half of any race. Re-fuel yourself constantly to maintain steady performance.
Try to recover and get your body used to the running on ‘flat’ road.
- Burrard Bridge: Much harder and longer than crossing it by driving, of course.
However, be positive by thinking that the mild downhill is waiting for you toward the end of the bridge, plus, it would only be about 2km left after crossing this bridge.
Prepare for the ‘last spurt’ after reaching the top of this bridge.
- Pacific Blvd to the Stanley Park Finish line: Nice and slight downhill where you can go for the last spurt! Lots of cheering crowd on both sides of Pacific Blvd will help you all the way to the Finish Line! Enjoy your moment!
The best course with wonderful volunteers and great cheering crowds and don’t underestimate Burrard Bridge as things can get interesting there.
10-15k is the toughest part of this course in my mind. Everyone expects to come off the big hill from UBC to Spanish banks and just be able to keep rolling. It hasn’t worked that way for me. Expect to need a kilometre to get your groove again after the downhill. Don’t underestimate the hill around Jericho Park. It stings big time. If you can stay mentally strong through this part of the course, you’ll set yourself up for a good last 6k.
If you have time, I recommend running or walking parts of the course that you aren’t familiar with or that you are curious about. It’s better to know how steep a hill is or how far it seems between points before you’re many kilometers deep on the pain train.
Whether it’s your first half or your 50th, have fun. There are very few opportunities where you get to take to the streets of a beautiful part of a beautiful city with thousands of people without being considered a riot. Make the most of it.
I have run this quite a few times before. My main point about this course would be that most people forget how much uphill / rollers there are. 3-7km are all slightly uphill and the rolling terrain after Spanish banks to Burrard Bridge can take it out of you if you went too hard in the first half. Overall, a fast and great race.