At 7:15 a.m., Vancouver bus routes were busier than usual for a Sunday morning, transporting some of the first of 39,744 runners into the downtown core for the 33rd annual Vancouver Sun Run.
“I’m always early,” said Jill Jackson who hopped off the rerouted #2 bus, at Granville Street and Georgia.
She surveyed the empty streets, where volunteers were still adjusting fencing and tying up the rainbow balloon archways, and laughed. “This year I’m even earlier than usual.”
This was Sun Run number four for Jackson, who quickly set out to find a coffee to fortify herself with before the race. “I love the atmosphere, how many people are here, and how joyful it is. I love it.”
Jackson’s love for the event was a widely shared sentiment. Even though it was a clammy overcast day, the Sun Run had 41,924 registrants, including kids for the mini-sun run, making it the largest running event of any kind in Canada.
Participation was slightly down from last year said Sun Run co-chair and race director Tim Hopkins, something he attributes to the poor weather leading up to the race.
The rain that had dogged organizers throughout the night abated and held off, the streets quickly filled up with musicians and runners, walkers and the stroller set, all sorted into categories by coloured bibs.
Even Premier Christy Clark was among the crowd, deep in the middle of the green bibs, surrounded by members of her Liberal team, waving for the cameras. Clark ran the first five km of the race.
Colourful signs held by supporters along the route were half the fun: “Run like United Airlines Wants Your Seat!”, “If Trump Can Run, So Can You,” and near the nine km marker, “You’re on Cambie Bridge, Now Get Over It!”
Even without rain, some of the elite athletes found the weather conditions today challenging — wet underfoot, and windy. Joseph Gray of Colorado Springs, who led the men’s field, and won with a time of 29:38, said that he would have preferred to run a faster race, but had to fight a strong wind shortly after the five km mark, when he turned off the Burrard Street Bridge. “I wasn’t expecting that, so it caught me off guard.”
Gray, a renown trail and mountain runner, said this was his first Vancouver Sun Run. Accustomed to the quieter distances of mountain running, he was buoyed by the energy of the community that showed up to cheer the racers on, and the feeling of having tens of thousands gathered to make their way along the streets. “The energy, you can’t beat it. Coming through some of these areas, you can hear people cheering you on, and even though you are tired you get a surge of energy. It’s pretty sweet.”
Catherine Watkins, of Vancouver, who won in the women’s master’s division with a time of 35:43, said the wind slowed her down a little too. “As soon as we went off the downhill and turned east, there was a headwind pretty much the whole way.”
Watkins said the Sun Run is one of her favourite races to run, and it’s a kick off to her training season. “I just love this race, I love how it gets the community together. I love that they have the elites and everyone else, it’s a big celebration.”
Emily Setlack who finished fourth overall, and as the third Canadian woman, with a time of 33:44 said the music and the participation of the community makes this one of her favourite events, but said she is most inspired by the Sun Run’s commitment to helping youth.
“Bringing school groups out and helping kids from lower socio-economic backgrounds participate that might not be able to afford the fees is a really powerful way to support the community,” said Setlack.
Jay Sneddon, 24, who ran 34:04, close to a personal best, is an elite runner who got his start 11 years ago on a family day at the Sun Run. Sneddon said he was diagnosed with high-functioning autism at the age of two, and, because he enjoyed sports as a kid, his aunt convinced him to come out on the Sun Run at the age of 13.
“My aunt is my hero,” said Sneddon. “The first Sun Run was just a casual run, I was doing it for fun. I just kind of kept it going.”
Sneddon now races on the professional circuit and trains with the Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club. “Running made me more sociable, more outgoing and more independent,” said Sneddon after the race.
Sun Run co-founders Doug and Diane Clement, whose unmistakable flame-red hair and huge smile is a familiar sight on the Sun Run route, were honoured after the race.
“This is about my 25th time,” said Diane Clement. “I just love it. All the people, all the love, all the community. It’s uplifting. This just gets better and better every year.”
Source: Vancouver Sun