1. It’s the 40th annual GoodLife Fitness Victoria Marathon

The GoodLife Fitness Victoria Marathon is 40 years old this year and it’s going to be a celebration of racing and running for fitness in BC’s capital city. It all began in 1980 when Alex Marshall and Peter Wheaton from the Prairie Inn Harriers saw the similarities between Hawaii and Victoria as destination resorts, deciding to replicate the successful Hawaii Marathon concept in Victoria. With planning, passion and hard work, they created an event by and for runners that their whole community embraced.

Photo: Matt Cecill

The first race had 700 runners. The combined distances of the marathon, half-marathon, 8K and the kids run now see more than 8,000 participants from every Canadian province and 20 countries.

2. It’s one of the most scenic courses

There are few courses as scenic as this one. The race starts near the beautiful BC Legislature, runs past the Fairmont Empress Hotel in the inner harbour and through downtown with its scenic architecture. The course then winds through Beacon Hill Park, once a burial site for the First Nations Coast Salish people. In the south-west corner of the park is Mile Zero–one of Canada’s most historic running sites. A statue of Terry Fox marks the point where Terry would have ended his legendary cross-country run in 1980, had he not succumbed to cancer half way through his run. The marathon race has views across the Salish Sea to the snow-capped Olympic Range in Washington State. It continues past the Royal Victoria Golf Club, passing twice through charming Oak Bay Village before returning along Dallas Road to the inner harbour. All distances finish close by the historic neo-classical Steamship Terminal.

Photo: Matt Cecill

3. Great events for all runners

In addition to the full and the half, there is the Turkey Trot 8k and a 1.25k kids race. Fun courses, a supportive local running community, entertainment stations, cool medals and swag add up to a great experience for runners of all abilities.

Photo: Matt Cecill

Costume runners love the course. Victoria’s Adam Campbell set the world record for running a marathon in a suit, crossing the finish line in just 2:35. One of the charities in the event’s Charity Pledge Program (there are 21 in total plus three official charities) is the Cerebral Palsy Association of BC. In 2018, Jason Cole and Rand Surbey, who lives with cerebral palsy, ran the half-marathon in giant turkey costumes in 1:34.

Photo: Brynn Featherstone

4. A Boston qualifier

The course is a certified Boston Marathon qualifier (the only one on Vancouver Island). The course is undulating, but the overall change in elevation is only 74 feet. In 2018, 15.9 per cent of finishers qualified for Boston.

5. An exciting elite race

Many elite and masters athletes make Victoria their home. These events also attract competitive runners from all over North America, many of whom return year after year to compete, and occasionally to defend their titles. The marathon record was set in 2013 by Lamech Mokono of Grand Prairie, Texas at 2:13:42. The women’s record was set in 2011 by Lucy Njeri of Toronto, at 2:37:56. The 2018 winner, Daniel Kipkoech, claimed the win for five years in a row. Cindy Rhodes won six times between 1991 and 2000. Kelvin Broad won five times between 1994 and 1998. Thomas Howard, Phil Nicholls, Steve Osaduik and Suzanne Evans have each won the Victoria Marathon on three separate occasions.

The masters champs are Jim Finlayson, who set a masters marathon record and a Canadian M45-49 age group record here in 2:25:29 last year, and Lioudmila Kortchaguina of Thornhill, Ont., who ran 2:39:37 in 2015. The half- marathon records were set in 2002 by Jon Brown of Victoria 1:02.32 and Natasha Wodak of Vancouver, who ran 1:11:45 in 2018. The 8K records were set by Gary Barber of Victoria at 23:23 in 1989, and Ulla Marquette of Victoria at 26:24 in 1991.

Photo: Matt Cecill

6. Victoria’s ideal running weather

With an average high of 15 C and low of 7 and more sunny days than rain days in October, Victoria offers some of the best fall running weather in Canada. Come and enjoy a race that has a great chance of offering perfect running conditions. You’ll see why Olympic gold-medal triathlete Simon Whitfield, Rowing Canada, Rugby Canada, Triathlon Canada, Athletics Canada, Swimming Canada and the Canadian National Mountain Bike Team base much of their training here.

7. Fun pre- and post-race celebrations

The Carbo Gala Dinner at the Fairmont Empress Hotel is a spectacular event with a gourmet buffet and speaker. The expo is full of exciting running products and services and has inspiring speakers, which in the past have included runner and singer Dan Hill, marathon pioneer Kathrine Switzer and legendary racer and writer Dick Beardsley. Be sure to book a post-race massage.

Photo: Matt Cecill

8. Victoria is a fabulous pre- and post-race destination

Beautiful architecture, seaside views, fun neighbourhoods and great restaurants and a growing craft brewing industry make Victoria a premier tourist destination. Ancient forests, whale-watching tours, views of the Olympic mountains, wild coastlines, wineries, spas, scenic golf courses and the legendary Butchart Gardens are all within easy driving range of the city. It’s the perfect place to rest up before the race, and to recover in scenic beauty with great food and a well-deserved rest.