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Over the weekend, 10,000 runners from across the globe made their way to Vancouver for the Lululemon 2018 SeaWheeze Half Marathon. Marking its 7th anniversary, the brand’s annual event included three days of yoga, seminars, running and an after party in Stanley Park headlined by internationally-renowned DJ Diplo.
This year, I packed up my running shoes and headed to the Pacific Northwest to experience the run and its weekend festivities firsthand. Although touted as an international race, SeaWheeze is very much a hometown event, with 55 percent of its runners hailing from the North American country. From the border patrol agent at the airport to the staff at the Fairmont Pacific Rim and everyone we met on sidewalks, dining in restaurants and in line at stores—it was clear that locals love this race and have a sense of pride in being able to cross its finish line.
Unlike last year, however, runners hoping to participate in the race weren’t guaranteed entry just by signing up. The 2018 run featured a lottery system which only allowed entrants to apply online from January 25 at 10 a.m. until January 26 at 10 a.m. (when registration closed). That same evening, the 9,500 runners who were picked in the non-guaranteed drawing would receive an email with a link to complete their registration and pay the $173 CAD fee by January 27 at 11:59 p.m. Those who did not do so in the time allotted would have their spots rescinded and a new eligible entrant would be chosen.
In previous years, Lululemon utilized Eventbrite for their registrations; which entrants found to be problematic. The ticketing site was unable to handle 10,000 sign-ups, which led to long wait times and registration malfunctions. The brand’s change this year was in response to user frustrations, and based on feedback from participants, it was a much-appreciated update to the process.
On race weekend, runners can pick up their bibs and race kits at the convention center on Friday while making a stop into the SeaWheeze Showcase Store which sells limited-edition apparel only available there. Like previous years, the space was filled from wall-to-wall with guests frenetically in search of the perfect tops, bottoms and gear to add to their closets. The most popular items were the brand’s reflective apparel which sat in the center of the room and had the longest line of the day and the most expensive price tags. With items selling out quickly, it wasn’t long before shoppers could jump on the internet and find those coveted pieces being sold on eBay—for much higher prices.
Outside, runners can participate in free yoga sessions on the grass, check out products from local vendors or try various healthy snacks while browsing the area’s bevy of other free samples.
While previous years have brought sunshine and warm weather to the event, this year’s race was plagued with clouds, chilly temperatures and rainfall, making for a very different (albeit quintessentially PNW) race. Yet, even with the unideal conditions, 8,513 runners crossed the finish line on Saturday, September 22.
On the course, participants were cheered on not only by roadside spectators but volunteers setup within 22 activations including a boxing ring, 100 cyclists on spin bikes and a karaoke stage with singers belting out their favorite tunes. Along with plenty of cheering squads along the route, six of the 13.1 miles wind alongside the Pacific Ocean. So if the lively spectators aren’t motivation enough to push through any pain you may be experiencing, the scenery will be.
Although there are no winners for the race, the top three finishers by gender included: Justin Kurek (1:14:52), Inaki Gomez (1:17:52) and Michael Olzinski (1:18:21) on the men’s side and Sarah Elliott (1:18:54), Polly Moody (1:22:29) and Kim Anh Nguyen (1:22:35) on the women’s side.
After finishing, runners are treated to free swag (hats, water, bars) and brunch to celebrate their achievements. Pro Tip: Prior to your trip, book a massage at a local hotel and spend the afternoon getting pampered and sitting in a hot tub to rest your tired legs. It’s well worth the added weekend cost, and your muscles will thank you later while walking around during the Sunset Festival.
With the race out of the way, it was time to freshen up and head to Stanley Park for an evening of more yoga, dancing and plenty of poutine. Festival goers are also encouraged to bring a mat and don athletic wear for a group yoga session in front of the stage. This year’s workout was led by Janet Stone, a San Francisco-based instructor who not only got the crowd posing in Warrior 1’s during torrential downpour, but also shaking their hips and dancing to the music in the background. Local DJ Felix Cartal later got the crowd ready for headliner Diplo who performed an electrifying and intimate set complete with light-up rubber balls floating in the air and fireworks behind the stage.
If you’ve never experienced SeaWheeze for yourself, it’s a destination race worth checking out. From its scenic waterfront location to the course’s mostly-flat route and the city’s locals who make everything just a little bit better, the race is a fun one to do whether it’s your first 13.1 challenge or 15th.
For those hoping to attend next year, here are a few tips to consider:
**Pack a set of race day clothes for warm-weather as well as a set for rainy-day conditions such as a waterproof shell and hat.
**Sign up for an early in-line time for the SeaWheeze Showcase Store if you’re hoping to grab some goods. Items sell out quickly, so the later it gets, the less of a chance you’ll have at getting something in your size.
**Once you finish the race, you have two options: Join the crowd in line for the free brunch or to head outside of the roped-off race areas. If you choose the latter, don’t walk up the ramp toward the complimentary swag, instead head up the stairs to your right to the main street level. The brunch line is long and hard to get out of once you’re already in it.
**Hydration vests are not necessary for the race but we’d definitely recommend them. While others are slowing down to grab water or sports drinks, use these opportunities to speed past the stations and drop down your overall time.
**Bring a pair of rain boots for the festival. If it turns out to be a wet weekend, the ground will be muddy.
**There are shuttles that transfer you from the Convention Center to the Sunset Festival on Saturday evening, avoid driving to the fest by taking one of these buses that come and go frequently—Uber is non-existent there.
**Order the poutine—always. get. the. poutine.