The Vancouver Sun Run: Fitness and Fun in British Columbia
A Fun 10k Run, Walk, and Wheelchair Event
The Vancouver Sun Run in British Columbia, Canada, is an annual ten-kilometre event for wheelchair competitors, runners, and walkers. It's a fun and scenic event with a route that starts in downtown Vancouver, travels through part of beautiful Stanley Park, and ends at BC Place Stadium. The run is associated with the Vancouver Sun newspaper and is the largest 10K event in Canada.
The Sun Run is exciting for participants and the celebration held after the event is very enjoyable. The real value of the run is that it encourages people to become healthier and fitter, however. Completing the run or completing the course within a certain time limit is a great goal for people to achieve and can provide a wonderful sense of accomplishment. Many people train for the event individually, in groups, or in training clinics, becoming fitter as they do so
I've participated in the Sun Run for many years and always enjoy it. In the past I've run the whole distance, but in the last few years I've alternated running and walking intervals or power walking and walking intervals. I took all of the photographs in this article during the event.
Although the Vancouver Sun Run is referred to as a "run", walkers are very welcome. You may not be able to come to Vancouver for the Sun Run, but there may well be a community near you that holds a similar event. Community runs and walks are popular in many parts of the world. They are sometimes used to raise funds for charities.
The Vancouver Sun Run
The first Sun Run took place in 1985. Today between 40,000 and 50,000 people participate in the event every year. They range from elite runners to recreational walkers. The participants start in waves in an attempt to avoid congestion on the route. Each wave contains people with approximately the same projected finishing time. The fastest wave begins first and the slowest wave is the last to start. So many people participate in the event that the last waves start when the first ones have finished.
Some people like to challenge themselves to complete the route in a fast time and train seriously in the months leading up to the run. For others, the event is a non-competitive and enjoyable way to experience a healthy activity with their family or friends. Some participants run in corporate or school teams. Some raise money for charities or wear costumes while they are running or walking. A 2.5K Mini Sun Run is held for children and their escorts on the same day as the main event.
Waiting to Start
The Sun Run starts on Georgia Street in downtown Vancouver. The official start time is 9:00 am. (Some elite competitors start earlier.) Even when I run I move quite slowly and never have a fast time, so I'm used to waiting for my wave to begin.
Musical entertainment is often provided for the people who are waiting. Participants sometimes talk to the people beside them, even if they don't know them, which helps to pass the time. In addition, fitness instructors often lead a warm-up. Even if you can't see the exercise demonstration you can hear the instructions over the loudspeaker and see what the people in front of you are doing.
Some people arrive long after the official start time because they know that their wave won't start for an hour or more after the first wave begins the event. The main disadvantage to a long wait if you're in a slower wave is that it can get cold, so outer clothing that can be easily removed and carried when the run/walk begins is necessary.
The fastest runners deposit their warm-up clothes on the side barriers at the starting area or throw the clothing on the curb during the run. (The discarded clothing is collected and given to charities.) Most runners and walkers can't afford to lose clothing like this, so lightweight jackets that can be wrapped around the waist are a good idea. Some walkers carry backpacks.
An Overview of the Event
On the Route
The Sun Run route is closed to vehicle traffic. The scenery is lovely, making the event very enjoyable, as long as the participant dresses for the weather. Run day is often sunny. There have been a few Sun Runs on grey days, but while I've been participating there haven't been many rainy days. One advantage of running or walking through Vancouver in spring is that the beautiful cherry blossoms can be seen.
Water stations, washrooms, and entertainers can be found on the route as well as people to cheer us on. The washrooms are handy, but they are in great demand. Lining up to enter them means that a person will have a slower finish time in the run. Medics on bicycles and ambulances parked beside the route are available in case of injuries or emergencies.
Some people prefer to participate in the Sun Run as volunteers rather than as runners or walkers. Many volunteers are required to make the event run smoothly, especially as there are almost 50,000 people navigating the course.
Scenes From the EventClick thumbnail to view full-size
Stanley Park and Burrard Inlet
The first part of the route goes along Georgie Street to Stanley Park. It then travels through part of the park. Stanley Park is a beautiful area of almost a thousand acres. It was opened in 1888 and is named after Lord Stanley, who was the Governor General of Canada at the time.
The park is located on a peninsula near downtown Vancouver. It contains an undeveloped forest made of tall, evergreen trees. It also contains beaches and areas with cultivated plants as well as tourist attractions like the Vancouver Aquarium, restaurants, and horse-drawn carriage rides. A seawall path travels around the park and offers wonderful views of Burrard Inlet and the ocean. The path is popular with walkers, runners, and cyclists.
After the journey through Stanley Park, the Sun Run route travels over the Burrard Inlet via a bridge appropriately called the Burrard Bridge. The route then goes along roads bordered by buildings. Eventually it reverses course and travels over the Cambie Street Bridge towards the finish area at BC Place Stadium.
The event is enjoyable, but the route can become congested in some areas and in some waves. Slower participants are asked to stay on the right, which doesn't always happen. (Participants don't always register in the correct wave.) Some zig-zagging when gaps appear is required for anyone who wants to move faster. This doesn't spoil the fun for me, but if someone is very determined to finish the course within a particular time limit, it might be annoying.
More Scenes From the EventClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Vancouver Sun Run takes place in April. Runners can register for the run up to and including the day before the event. If someone knows that they want to participate in the event, registering early is advisable in order to save money. Information about the run and about registration can be found on the Vancouver Sun website.
The Finish Line
Reaching BC Place Stadium at the end of the run is an exciting moment for many people. The time on the finish line clock is unimportant, since the waves all start at different times and the clock starts with the first wave. We all have chips which are "read" by a timing mat at the start and finish of the run. This enables us to receive an accurate finishing time. In recent years, the timing chip has been built into our race numbers.
At the finish line, a photographer takes everyone's photos from a high vantage point. People can order these photos later if they wish. There is an atmosphere of celebration as tired participants head into the stadium for the post-race party or to look for their friends and family.
The day after the Sun Run, every participant's finishing time is published in a supplement to the Vancouver Sun newspaper. The newspaper also contains information about the race and an announcement about the winners. Runners and walkers can check their results on the Vancouver Sun website as well in the newspaper.
The video below is a humorous look at the 2016 run. A new trend for the run seems to be coloured shirts. They used to be white.
A Sun Run 2016 Story
The Post-Race Party
The post-race party takes place inside the BC Place Stadium. This stadium is famous for its retractable roof. Bananas, oranges, bagels, and water are generally available in the stadium. If we're prepared to line up we can sometimes get free PowerBars, juice, milk, and—occasionally—yogurt. There's always a performing band and people often dance to the music. Medals are presented to the winners, but I never make it to BC Place in time to see this event. There is a "Walkers Pit Stop" on the route which provides snacks and washrooms specifically for people in the main walking wave. The stadium has washrooms, too.
One serious consideration about a huge event like the Sun Run is the amount of waste that's produced. The water stations provides paper cups, which are discarded once people have drunk the water. Orange and banana peel and juice and milk containers are thrown away in the stadium. I'm glad that the run organizers have established a recycling program.
According to the Vancouver Sun, the 2018 event achieved a 98.2% "waste diversion", which means that waste was recycled instead of being deposited in a landfill. This is an impressive percentage. Recycling bins are present on the route and in the stadium.
After people have stretched, eaten, danced, and socialized in the stadium, they leave. The crowd eventually thins, knowing that in the next year there will be another Sun Run to look forward to.
With the help of Green Chair Recycling, Vancouver Sun Run produced over 6,271 kg of recycling and compost and just 190kg of garbage in 2016.— Vancouver Sun Run Website
The 2018 Event
The 2020 Run and the Coronavirus
Unfortunately, some people looking forward to the next run may be disappointed. The 2020 Vancouver Sun Run has been cancelled due to the current problem with the COVID-19 coronavirus infection.
Health agencies are recommending social distancing as a strategy to reduce the chance of infection by the virus. This strategy would be impossible to follow at the run. People are crammed together at the start as they wait for their wave to begin. As mentioned above, in some waves crowds are present on sections of the course as well. These would likely be ideal situations for the virus to spread. Anyone who has registered for the event should go to the Vancouver Sun Run website to get more information about the cancellation.
There are other Vancouver events during the year that welcome both runners and walkers, but none are so big or have quite the same atmosphere as the Vancouver Sun Run. I think the decision to cancel the 2020 run is good, however. We need to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Hopefully the problem will soon be solved or at least greatly improved. I'm looking forward to the next Sun Run, whenever it occurs.
© 2012 Linda Crampton