By Karen McCullough
In its short, five-year history, the Eastside 10k has become my favourite race of the season. With a field of just under 2,800 runners this year, and dry, warm weather in forecast, I am really looking forward to this year’s race. The last two years have been plagued by torrential rain.
I’ve been a runner for over 20 years and have run countless 5k’s, 8k’s, and 10k’s, 8 half marathons and 6 full marathons. Though my husband is also a runner, he is less serious about it than I am. He never really trains for races and just goes out for his once-a-week run of maybe 12k with one of our dogs, if even that.
Until the last year, we’ve never been able to run together. He’s always been too fast for me. But after breaking my arm, needing surgery to repair it, being off work for three months and gaining 20 pounds, I made a concerted effort to lose the weight and get back into shape. Now, my husband and I can actually run together without me asking him to slow down! The added bonus with me faster is I’m catching up to him in the 10k distance. Last year, he completed the Eastside 10k in 49:25 and I in 55:59, a new personal best for me after not being able to beat my PB 57:05 obtained in 2005. This year, I’m looking to close the gap between us even more.
It’s a perfect day for a race! The sun is out and it’s 14 degrees Celsius—a huge improvement from the last two years’ torrential rain.
As with every race I run, I was nervous before the start. But I see the East Van Run Crew (EVRC), which I started running with last month, gathering for a group photo.
This year, the Eastside 10k has a new title sponsor in Under Armour and a new route that starts and ends in Gastown. It travels east through the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, which is known as the poorest neighbourhood in Canada. However, the charity component is quite big in the Eastside 10k, with runners encouraged to fundraise and support the charity partners: the Vancouver Food Bank, the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre and PHS Community Services. I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling more likely to run a race where a charity benefits, rather than one that is just for profit.
The race is under way and my husband and I start running together, but as with previous races, he’s going too fast for me and we part company around the first kilometre. That’s alright, I’ll just run with the 50 minute pacer.
There was some great entertainment along the route too. If I’m not mistaken, there was a band with a singer just singing, “Running” over and over again, just not an actual song. That was hilarious! She sang words of encouragement on my way back—“You got this! Keep going! You’re doing great!” Exactly what we all needed to hear.
Around the halfway point, the course goes onto an overpass and we start climbing…and climbing…and turning…and climbing…and turning. I did not account for this. I thought it would be one major hill and I’d run that many times in training because it’s not too far from my house. This is where I lost my mojo. My pace slowed from 5:02/km at the halfway point to 5:14/km during the 1.2 kilometre hill climb. I don’t think I’m going to make 49:30. See ya later, 50 minute pacer.
However, what goes up, must come down, and once I made the turnaround, it was going to be a fairly long downhill and then the course would flatten out. I knew I could pick my pace up again and I started to enjoy the race. And how could I not enjoy the race? I kept seeing friends all over who hadn’t made the turnaround yet. Every time I saw someone I knew, I’d shout their name and they’d yell back encouragement at me. What a great way to put a smile on your face when you feel like hell!
The finish is coming up and I give it everything I’ve got. The hill may have cost me my goal time of 49:30, but darned if I was going to not get a new PB! With a finish push at the end, I complete the race in 51:43, good enough for a new PB by 13 seconds.
What I love about the Eastside 10k is that with the relatively small number of runners, you are bound to see people you know. I’ve made so many amazing friends through various running crews, run clinics, through mutual running friends, and my involvement with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training and Team Finn for the Ride to Conquer Cancer. There are so many run groups in Vancouver and in the last two or three years, the running crew has really taken off. It doesn’t matter how fast or how slow, or how long you’ve been running. You are going to find someone you can run with and, though you might not be fast, you will make friends fast.