The 20th Anniversary “First Half” Half Marathon on February 10th will see the return of many former race champions, including both defending champions and some of Canada’s best distance running talent, and also promises outstanding competition in many of the age groups. A topic of much debate is often which age group performance is the best overall, and the race will try to settle that argument through the presentation of age-graded awards in addition to the regular age group and overall awards courtesy of New Balance and Forerunners.
Last year Richmond’s Ryan Hayden made his half marathon debut at the “First Half” and demonstrated his potential at longer distances by running an event record 1:04:44.7. That time held up as the second best in Canada last year, and Ryan returns with hopes of further improving the record, and claiming the prize money on offer from Mr. Downtown – David Crawford, as he prepares for his marathon debut, possibly later this year.
Also returning is 2006 champion, and twice Royal Victoria Marathon winner, Steve Osaduik. Having recently relocated from Vancouver Island to the Lower Mainland, Steve will be looking for a confidence booster as he prepares for the National Marathon Championship in Ottawa in May.
Charles Bedley adds an Ontario mix to the field this year. Charles was Canada’s quickest marathoner in 2007, running 2:16:26 in Sacramento in December, as well as winning the Toronto Marathon earlier in the year.
Representing Alberta, Nathan Kendrick is another emerging Canadian distance runner. So too are Ken Myers, winner of the Calgary Marathon, and Darcy Bell.
Another returning elite runner, and recent transplant to the Lower Mainland, is Jason Loutitt, a top Canadian mountain runner who finished second to Osaduik in 2006.
Oliver Utting, Craig Odermatt, Derek Vinge, Ian Druce and Will Stewart are others predicted to challenge for top-10 places.
Also expected to be mixing it with the younger runners is leading master Bruce Deacon, a three-time former winner of the “First Half”, former event record holder and overall winner of last fall’s Royal Victoria Half Marathon. The masters’ event record of 1:12:00 is well within his capabilities.
Norman Tinkham, twice a former winner, Anthony Skuce, Richard Lee, and Kevin O’Connor contest the other top masters placings.
An intriguing contest is in prospect in the M50-54 division. Art Boileau, three times former overall winner and Boston Marathon runner-up, will face-off against Dick Beardsley, also a Boston Marathon runner-up. But several other fifty-plus year olds will ensure it’s not just a two-man race, including Guy Smith who has slowed little since first winning the masters division 10 years ago.
Further up the age groups, Jack Miller and Jim Swadling will ensure a close contest in the M60-64 division, with multiple age-best record holder Herb Phillips (M65-69) expected to be right with them.
The women’s race presents an equally stellar field, lead by defending champion Lisa Harvey from Calgary. Consistency might be Lisa’s middle name, as she has won four-times and finished second three-times over the last 8 years.
Tina Connelly from Port Coquitlam set the event record of 1:12:47 in 2004, and won again in 2006. She’ll be back this year looking for a third win.
Two other formers winners are now in the masters’ age group, but that won’t stop them from challenging for the overall win. Coquitlam’s Leah Pells set the current masters record when winning in 2005, and Victoria’s Lucy Smith won the Royal Victoria Half Marathon outright last fall.
Another Calgarian, Lindsay McLaren has been a podium finisher (3rd and 2nd) the last two years, and will be looking to go one better this year. So too will Jessica Hannah last years third placer from Vernon.
Also not to be ruled out are Marilyn Arsenault and Kirsty Smith from Victoria, and Kristina Rody from Whistler, all making their first appearance at the “First Half”.
At the other end of the spectrum, perennial age group winner, and world age group record holder, BJ McHugh of North Vancouver turned 80 last November. Watch for BJ to finish in something close to 2 hours, showing many younger runners a clean pair of heels, and making her one of the favourites to record the best age graded result.
The “First Half” Half Marathon is organized by the Pacific Road Runners with support from New Balance, and is the second race in the 2008 Timex BC Road Running Series. Proceeds from the event benefit Variety – the Children’s Charity, with $40,000 donated in 2007. The race starts at 8:30am on Sunday, February 10, from the Roundhouse Community Centre in downtown Vancouver. The course takes the runners around BC Place Stadium and on a loop of Stanley Park. The event sold out in just over 5 hours when entries opened last October.
For additional information, visit the event website at www.pacificroadrunners.ca/firsthalf.