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Celebrating 50 Years of Vancouver’s Only Full Marathon

.Health, .Wealth, .Wisdom, 2022, Interview, Q2 | 0 comments

Written by HWW Staff Writer

May 1, 2022

Fifty years, something to be proud of

On May 1st, the BMO Vancouver Marathon celebrated its 50th year as one of British Columbia’s premier running events and Vancouver’s only full marathon.

The BMO Vancouver Marathon offers an opportunity for everyone. Elite athletes can compete for prize money, including $3000 for top Canadian, and there is a 1/2 Marathon or even an 8K so that anyone can participate.
There are also prizes for wheelers and Masters open (40 plus) but for most of us; the run is not about winning prize money; it’s about community, setting personal goals, and just improving our overall health.

The BMO Vancouver Marathon is run by RunVan (Vancouver International Marathon Society), which organizes several races/runs: Including the Granville Island Turkey Trot, 1st Half, and the Great Trek, formerly called the Fall Classic and takes place around the UBC campus. All of these runs have spell-binding scenery.

Vancouver’s only Marathon began in 1972 when Tom Howard of Surrey BC led a handful of marathon runners on a five-loop journey around Stanley Park which to this day it is part of the run.

“We began with 32 runners”, says co-founder Jack Taunton. “So we only needed a few organizers. Today’s Marathon is a well-oiled machine.” It has to be. Each year thousands of participants from over 65 countries participate, making it the largest Marathon in Canada.

The physical and mental benefits of running are well documented, but I was made aware by RunVan that there is also an incredibly benevolent component to the run. The charitable arm of RunVan is operated through Run4Hope. Together they partner with organizations such as local food banks like The Vancouver Foodbank, SHARE Family and Community Services, and the Surrey Food Bank, reaching communities in Vancouver, Burnaby, North Vancouver, Coquitlam, Port Moody, Pitt Meadows, Port Coquitlam, Maple Ridge, Surrey, Cloverdale, and Delta. They also raise funds for the BC Children’s Hospital and Variety, the Children’s Charity, and the ALS Society of BC.
Since 1996 Run4Hope has raised over 16 million dollars. None of this would be possible without the support of the nearly 4000 volunteers that help every year.

Tom Howard won the first three Marathons with exceptional times. In 1974 he came within
80 seconds of the all-time record, which still stands as the second-fastest winning time ever. This is despite advances in training and equipment since 1972.
Over the past 50 years of the race, Canadians have won the full Marathon 10 times on the men’s side and 15 times on the women’s side.
The men’s record was established in 1980 by Australian Garry Henry with a time of 2:13:14, and the record for a woman was Argentina’s Claudina Camargo, who ran it in 2:35:50 in 2007.
Bank of Montreal has sponsored the event since 2006. It was previously known as the Adidas Vancouver International Marathon.

There have been a few controversies over the years. In 2016 there were concerns about runners’ times because the local police were making people wait at traffic lights, and in 1983 it was known as the long marathon when runners were misdirected, adding 561 yds to the race, making it over 26 and a 1/2 miles for the 1st and only time.

In 2022 the race start times were delayed due to a suspicious device that had been placed near Science World on the half-marathon route. The race was delayed about half an hour while police rendered the device inert.

It is easy to see why it is ranked by Forbes, CNN and USA Today as one of the World’s top destination Marathons. Vancouver is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and this course showcases that beauty, including its beaches, its parks, and of course the Sea Wall, the world’s most extensive uninterrupted waterfront path.

In the same way that I was surprised at the amount of money raised by the various VanRun events ($16 million, but who’s counting?) I was also surprised by the sheer breadth of BMO’s sponsorship outreach.
I had no idea before writing this article that BMO supported: The Calgary Stampede, all three of Canada’s pro soccer teams (Toronto FC, Vancouver White Caps FC and the Montreal Impact FC), a 24-hour bilingual kids helpline, The Stratford Festival, The BMO International Film Festival of South Asia in Toronto, plus the Toronto Argonauts, and Montreal Alouettes; and that’s just to name a few.

Our whole team here at HWW has taken steps (literally) to participate in this year’s event. Since it was my first time, I set a personal best in the 8K, but more importantly, we were all impressed with the incredible energy and feeling of community at this event.
After two years of Covid, it was wonderful to see so many people participating safely in such a beautiful event.
The team at RunVan did an exemplary job, and as always, the countless volunteers were the unsung heroes, making it all possible and putting a smile on everyone’s face.
Here’s to 50 more years of Canada’s Premier Marathon and all the runners who step up
every year.
HWW will be back next year as well!

Dayna Pidhoresky flies to a new course record in 2:34:30, surpassing local Kim Doerksen’s 2:37:00 from 2014. Olympian Lanni Marchant also dipped under that old course record in 2:36:42. Chris Balestrini claimed the overall win in 2:23:56!

Chris Balestrini & Dayna Pidhoresky

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