The Vancouver ‘First Half’ Half-Marathon on Sunday was cancelled after heavy snowfall swept through Metro Vancouver. The cancellation was announced on Saturday morning amid safety concerns for the participants. It was the first time in 28 years that the race has not gone on because of weather conditions.
More than 20 cm hit Metro Vancouver over the weekend making parts of the race course unstable. The race begins in Yaletown and loops Stanley Park via the seawall under areas of tree cover, which race director Terry Bushnell cited as a concern when making the decision to cancel the race. The race also cuts below the Lions Gate Bridge, which adds another element of concern with the possibility of falling snow from the bridge. “We get different snow on the west coast,” he says. “When it accumulates in the trees, branches comes down. There are steep cliffs along the seawall. There’s a lot more to it than just simply running in the snow.”
Thank you to our sponsors for their generous donations. 2000 cups of Olympic dairy yoghurt have been donated to the food bank! #fhhm17
— First Half (@VanFirstHalf) February 5, 2017
Shortly after the committee decided to cancel the race, the Vancouver Parks Board, which the race director says went “above and beyond” in an attempt to clear the snow, informed the race that their permit was revoked. Options B and C, both of which involved alternative routes, fell through. The decision has spurred a lengthy discussion on Canadian Running‘s Facebook page. It should be noted that Vancouver generally does not receive as much snow as other parts of Canada.
“I just wanted to thank all the positive people for the feedback,” Bushnell wrote on Facebook on Sunday. “It was not an easy decision by any means. Our race committee is made up of a dozen people who between us have hundreds of marathons, ultras and Ironman races. Any race would be lucky to have one person on their committee with the experience that every one of our committee members have. We don’t need to justify our decision to the rest of Canada; anyone in Vancouver at the moment understands that. All I know is, we did everything possible to to make it happen but at some point you have to cut your losses before someone gets hurt and your insurance coverage thinks you’re liable for putting people in harms way. Insurance companies don’t understand pride, just stupidity and they are quick to hold you accountable. Not a risk I was willing to make, not to mention the Vancouver Parks Board. Sometimes, Mother Nature wins. The outpouring of love and understanding has been incredible and made the huge investment of time invested to organize the ‘First Half’ worthwhile. By median times, we are Canada’s fastest half-marathon so come out to the west coast next February and test your mettle.”
The race was scheduled for 8:30 a.m. on Sunday. Bushnell estimates that two-thirds of registrants picked up their race medals, T-shirts and finishing jackets as race kit pick-up was open this morning. Two groups of 20-30 people also decided to run parts of the course from the Roundhouse Community Centre. The event was a sell-out with as many as 2,000 entrants.
Pacific Road Runners will be offering “all our registered runners a discount for our 2018 race as well as priority registration.” An email will be sent out in the next week confirming details. Forerunners, a race sponsor, will be holding a 21K run in the coming weeks, hosted by Olympian Carey Nelson, where more shirts will be handed out.
In an interesting development, the Hypothermic Half-Marathon in Vancouver, a Running Room event, still went on as planned on Saturday. Approximately 70 per cent of the 223 registrants braved the conditions, which was run along Jericho Beach and Spanish Banks. None of the route was held on roads that required closure, however, making the situation different than that of the Vancouver First Half.