Let me start by noting that I love the Portland Marathon. The course isn’t the most picturesque; especially the first stretch through industrial sections, but it’s definitely a marathon you need to run at least once. You’ll get a tree seedling at the finish line and pretty much the best race shirt ever. I love how the entire course is written out on the shirt. How many races do that? With that said, there’s some good competition for our beloved Portland marathon, and in our own backyard. The Vancouver USA Marathon is getting all sorts of attention and I can definitely see why.
Timing. VUM (Vancouver USA Marathon) is early in the season, which means no long runs in the heat of summer. If you’re trying to qualify for Boston, you can get it done sooner and still have some back up options, ‘just in case.’ Keep in mind, June in the Northwest means unreliable weather, or reliably soggy, depending on your perspective. Both years I’ve run VUM, we had some mild misting, but nothing compared to the non-stop rain we had at the Portland Marathon in 2010, the year I refer to it as a 26.2 mile swim. I’ll take mild temperatures over heat any day, even if it means a little rain. The days are longer in June, too, so you don’t have to use a dark port-a-potty at the start of this race. Luxurious.
Crowds. Spectators will love the Vancouver USA Marathon. Larger marathons are so crowded it’s hard to meet up with friends and loved ones at the finish line. With VUM, there are plenty of spectators cheering along the course, but it’s not so crazy crowded. This means the lines for the port-a-potties aren’t so bad. My wait was under 10 minutes and, while they are never ideal, they weren’t completely disgusting from overuse.
Course. Anytime you have a 26.2 mile run, you’re going to have some dull sections. Portland has the industrial section and Vancouver has one too. I thought the industrial section was pretty short with VUM and we spent a lot more time running paths adjacent to country roads. Rural areas can sometimes bring some unique smells and it probably wasn’t nearly as far from civilization as I thought, but it was fun to be running out in the country. Every mile was marked with large signs that you could see from a distance. I’m always looking for the mile markers, but it was nice having them so large, giving you that little bit of excitement with each one. The course is pretty, running down to the Frenchman’s Bar, getting a quick view of the Columbia River and heading back into Vancouver. We continued through Vancouver, running through Fort Vancouver and then along the river for a stretch. I think running along the river is my favorite section of this course, so peaceful. I don’t think it’s quite the flattest marathon I’ve done, there’s a decent climb around mile 21, but I think it’s one of the flattest.
I seem to have good luck at Vancouver. It’s a great course to qualify for Boston and water is provided every couple of miles, which is perfect for me. I will note for my next Vancouver USA Marathon to make sure to pack plenty of fuel. As with any race, the aid stations don’t necessarily stock your favorite flavors, and the majority of the fuel stations at VUM seemed to be closer to the end. I will also remind myself to not get discouraged when Half Marathon runners are blowing by me towards the end. The Half Marathon starts two hours after the full Marathon, with runners of both races utilizing the same course. It’s hard to keep up with them, to say the least.
The finish line celebration is one of my favorites. Runners over 21 have the Brewfest to look forward to, as well as organic chocolate milk, fruit, Jamba Juice and a perfect assortment of recovery foods provided for all finishers. A huge bonus with Vancouver USA Marathon, is that there’s plenty of room to move around and enjoy your post-race food, put your feet up for a bit and relax. Overall, it’s a great marathon, well organized and supported. My biggest regret from the Vancouver USA Marathon is I didn’t get a picture with running celebrity Bart Yasso. I tried to wait until there was a break in ‘announcing’ to go ask for one, but it didn’t happen and another year I missed out. I guess it means I have to run it again and get there early enough to be a crazy fan. Fortunately, VUM offered a discount for all 2014 participants and hopefully more early bird discounts are on the way for people interested in running next year. Keep checking their website, it’s never too early to start planning.