The Girlfriends Half Marathon is an annual tradition for me. Throughout the years different girlfriends have joined in, but one constant has remained: this event is outstanding. Sherri McMillan and her crew at Northwest Personal Trainers do an exceptional job setting the standard for a fun, competitive and memorable event, which is why I keep making the trip across the bridge to run this. While the name changed this year from the Girlfriends Half Marathon (which it will always be called that in my head) to the Girlfriends Run for a Cure, the rest of this run remains the same.
Registration is easy and, like most events, the earlier you sign up, the better the bargain. For $65, I got a fun, mostly flat course, re-usable goody bag, water bottle, long sleeve technical shirt and a super shiny medal. I always love to see the swag with this run, one year we got a reflective vest instead of a shirt and I’ve loved the ‘runner’ themed jewelry passed out in place of medals. Regardless of what is in your goody bag, you always get your money’s worth with this run.
Another constant with the Girlfriends Run for a Cure is the atmosphere. Always supportive and encouraging, this event welcomes every level of athlete. The race director, participants and spectators keep the atmosphere and spirit of this run unique. Every year there is a group warm up, an opportunity for the ladies to dance a little, laugh a lot and get the nerves settled a bit. The warm up is followed with a group prayer, not anything awkward or uncomfortable, just an added touch. They care about their participants and want to remind everyone to be safe on the course. You can join in or plug in your earbuds and mentally prepare your own way.
The course is well marked, easy to follow and has plenty of volunteers and spectators pushing you along. Tons of dads with kids in tow along the way always make me smile. The signs are especially heartfelt with this event, lots of strollers and signs with “GO MOM” along the route. Beginning in downtown Vancouver, you run through the Farmer’s Market, along the river and through Fort Vancouver, getting a lot to look at in 13.1 miles. My favorite section is the waterfront, there’s just something so peaceful about running along the river in the morning. You would think it would be anything BUT peaceful with hundreds of ladies joining you, but it most definitely is.
There’s a long stretch through Wintler Park with a small section through an industrial area, all flat. The river and park are highlights for me, but I love the Fort Vancouver stretch for a couple of reasons. It’s pretty and fun to run this historic stretch, but you know you are getting close to the finish line, which is probably most of the reason this is a favorite spot, regardless of one small hill. This year it was especially pretty, the weather was perfect and there were ‘ribbons of hope’ lined along the side, in support of breast cancer warriors.
The fun continues at the finish line, where Firemen are waiting to pass out medals and water bottles. Tons of tables are set up for runners/walkers to relax and get off their feet. With bagels, bananas, oranges and soup at the finish line, it’s nice to grab some food and walk back through the expo tents. I always hear people find chocolate at the finish line too, one of these years I’ll go find it. Chocolate and a post -race massage, I’ve heard both are amazing but have never taken the time to take advantage of either. I’m always in a hurry to go find the nearest shower.
Sherri McMillan and her crew always keep the standard high with the Girlfriends Run for a Cure. They definitely listen to their clients and I love that many of them are hitting the pavement as well. I think it’s fun to see Sherri running out there with everyone else, though she probably gets tired of hearing that every year from me. Regardless, the spirit of this run is one of a kind. Mostly women, with a few guys sprinkled along the course, this run just feels different. The few guys running really EARN a spot with fundraising, and their donors often request some crazy pink attire, which adds to the fun. Totally worth it having the guys run along since The Pink Brigade Guys raised over $25,000 for Kearney Breast Center.
I’ve been a little slow with the name change. Girlfriends Run for a Cure might take me a bit to get used to, I’ve spent years telling everyone about the Girlfriends Half Marathon. Fortunately, that’s the only change. This run continues to impress me with its organization, spirit and competition. Some seriously speedy ladies come out for this one. Walkers and runners all spending the morning smiling, having a good time and supporting a worthwhile cause, there are so many reasons this is an annual event for me, regardless of the name.