The 24th “First Half” Half Marathon in Vancouver on February 10th, which additionally hosts the 2013 BC Half Marathon Championship and is the third race in the 2013 Timex BC Road Race Series, has attracted another very competitive field, featuring manyof the top runners from the Pacific Northwest. Starting and finishing at the Roundhouse Community Centre, the route includes a circuit of the Stanley Park seawall.
Olympian and event record holder (1:04:22) Dylan Wykes will not be returning to defend his title. Nevertheless, the competition will be intense, with no clear favourite for the men’s race.
Rob Watson ran 1:03:29 in New York last March, before relocating to Vancouver from Ontario. He has qualified to represent Canada in the marathon at the World Championships in Moscow later this year, and will also be racing the Boston Marathon as part of his preparation, looking to improve his 2:13:37. Joseph Gray from Renton, WA is more at home on the trails, where he has represented the US on multiple occasions, but also has a half marathon best of 1:03:41.
David Jackson of Abbotsford was BC’s quickest 10Ker last year (30:34), was 2nd at the “First Half” in 2011, and won last week’s Icebreaker 8K. 2009 champion Richard Mosley of Vancouver returns after some time away with injury. From the Island, Matt Clout placed 5th at last year’s Canadian Half Marathon Championships. Representing Calgary, Jeremy Deere returns for teh first time since winning in 2005. Also in the mix will be Victoria’s Jim Finlayson, who turned 40 last fall, and will likely threaten the M4044 age group record of 1:08:47 set last year. All have recent performances suggesting times around 1:07.
Others expected to contest the minor placings include Victoria’s Kris Swanson, Vancouver’s Ryan Huff, Burnaby’s Dylan Gant and Oliver Utting, and the Yukon’s Shane Carlos; together with other top masters Graeme Wilson and Craig Odermatt, and former winners Bruce Deacon and Colin Dignum who could challenge the M4549 age group record of 1:11:53. Two more past champions entered are Norm Tinkham, and Neil Holm.
Last year’s women’s champion, Natasha Fraser from Port Moody, will be the clear favourite if she runs, and could put the event record of 1:12:47 in danger. Fraser won the 2012 Vancouver Sun Run, and the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Half Marathon, and most recently was crowned North American and Caribbean Cross Country Champion. However, she is preparing for the World Cross Country Championships in Poland in March, so may elect not to run.
2011 champion Ellie Greenwood from North Vancouver will be back. Better known for her exploits at longer distances, including winning the 2012 BMO Vancouver Marathon and a former 100K World Champion, don’t count Greenwood out if she gets a scent of victory. Several other women with best times under 1:20 will also be in contention, including Vancouver’s Anne-Marie Madden, Calgary’s Pauline McLean, Quebec triathlete Magali Tisseyre, and representing Vancouver Island Catrin Jones, Erin Burrett, Melissa Ross and Care Nelson.
The top masters will also be right in the mix, led by three former “First Half” champions, including event record holder Tina Connelly from Port Coquitlam. Lisa Harvey, from Calgary, has a remarkable record at the “First Half”, having placed first or second in all but one of the last twelve editions, including four victories. While Lucy Smith, from Sidney, and Connelly both have two victories to their credit. Also, don’t rule out the 2012 Canadian Masters Cross Country Champion, Catherine Watkins.
In addition to the M4044 and M4549 records, several other age category records for the “First Half” may be under threat. Mark Bennett, who set the M5054 records of 1:13:47 last year, will return hoping for further improvement. Jim Swadling, who already owns the M6064 record, will have his eyes set on the M6569 record of 1:23:20. And Rod Waterlow and Roger Roufosse may push each other under Roger’s M7579 record of 1:48:53.
On the women’s side, Lucy Smith will have a shot at the F4549 record of 1:18:56. And the F5559 record of 1:36:59 is in serious jeopardy from Miriam Zderic of Bellingham, who ran 3:03:27 at the St Paul’s Marathon in 2011.
The oldest competitor will be 85 year old BJ McHugh, who has been running the “First Half” regularly since its’ inception, and is holder of all “First Half” age group records from F6064 and upwards. She only has to finish to establish an F8589 record, but BJ is also a multiple world record holder, and can set another world best performance at this year’s “First Half” by running quicker than 3:23:06. Her time last year, at age 84, was 2:27:02.
The race gets underway at 8:30am, with a loop around BC Place, before heading out to Stanley Park. The race sold out all 2,000 entries last November, and has attracted entrants from five Provinces and seven States.
Proceeds from the event benefit the Variety Telethon. Last year’s contribution brought total donations to Variety, the Children’s Charity to over $500,000 since 1995.
Additional information on the event website: www.pacificroadrunners.ca/firsthalf