Credit to Author: Gord Kurenoff| Date: Sun, 15 Sep 2019 22:01:35 +0000
Before we discuss Saturday’s weather, the “bunch” of banana-costumed dudes peeling through Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside with impressive “split” times, Evan Esselink’s sub-30-minute winning time or Susan Miller’s new Team Trash, we need to examine the words engraved on the back of the impressive Under Armour finisher’s medal: “In, For and With the Eastside.”
Welcome to one of Canada’s poorest neighbourhoods, where life is anything but the norm, and survival is a daily goal. Debate all you want how people got here — addiction, poor choices, bad luck, mental health, poverty, family breakdown, etc. — but judge and tread carefully. There is still a lot of pride among the people with this postal code, a number of whom are working every day to make life better for all. Like runners, they don’t quit when the route gets tougher (hello Templeton Drive!).
• FOR SATURDAY’S RESULTS, click HERE
• FOR MY RACE DAY PHOTOS, click HERE
Some of those dedicated groups — Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre, PHS Community Services Society and YouthCo — were the charities of choice for this year’s UA Downtown Eastside 10K, and several residents helped out along the race course, while hundreds more cheered on the 2,500-plus Canada Running Series participants as they navigated their way through the streets and past tent city and the many signs about the homeless and lack of affordable housing.
This is a pay-it-forward race, one that leaves a positive footprint in the community and this year was no exception as the morning rain stopped just before the 8:30 a.m. starter’s gun and held off until everyone crossed the Cordova Street finish line. Some, like Esselink, didn’t take long to do it.
The young Vancouver runner won Saturday’s race in a blistering 29:50, eight seconds faster than Calgary runner-up Trevor Hofbauer. Benjamin Preisner of Milton, Ont. was third in 30:06. The women’s winner was Malindi Elmore of Kelowna in 32:42, followed by Kinsey Middleton of Boise in 33:14 and Leslie Sexton of London, Ont. in 33:29.
Now slipping back to those bro-nanas — Thomas Ungerer and Steve Johnson — laugh all you want about the bright yellow costumes, but Ungerer finished in an impressive 40:12, 32 seconds ahead of his appealing sidekick who slowed down to pose for photos. Fruits of fame, eh?!!!
This year’s race featured awesome racing shirts, brilliant medals, a superb Under Armour pace team (including pacers for slower runners), post-race party area and all kinds of food-drink products. And yes, lots of bananas!
Here are a few other fun highlights from the morning exercise:
Nutrition expert Susan Miller, whose mud bath Dead Sea poses and amazing camel rides in Egypt attracted all kinds of envious responses from her social media followers, attracted more attention Saturday morning when she arrived at the Eastside 10K starting line wearing a smile and a garbage bag.
“Hey, I thought we were going to get wet,” laughed Miller, after I suggested “Team Trash was in da house” and that as a bonus we get to hang with the garbage gals for a smelly run. As it turned out, she ditched the “costume” before the race, and by the third kilometre was adjusting her ponytail to beast mode. And instead of wet weather she had to contend with dry humour!
Miller, who just turned 65 but looks much younger in a bag (smile), hopes to trim more time off her 10K performance when she laces up for the North Van Run on Sunday, Sept. 29.
“Now that I’m a senior, and move up in a new age group category, I might have a shot at a podium one day,” she smiled. Well, as we all know, she has a bag to take the extra medals home!
Delia Visscher of Vancouver, who finished second overall in her 85-89 women’s age group at the Forever Young 8K race last week, didn’t take much time off to celebrate her Richmond podium appearance.
Delia took part in the Eastside 10K Saturday and was thrilled to be a part of the morning excitement. She finished fourth in the 75-plus group — “a lot of younger competitors to worry about this time,” she joked — in a respectable time of 1:49:12.
The reason she didn’t win her age group at the Richmond Olympic Oval? Gwen McFarlan of the Forever Young Club posted a 53:59 in the FY8K, an unofficial world record for women in that category.
No word on what Delia’s doing next, but she kind of liked the idea of the flat, inaugural Rainforest Trail Run in Burnaby Central Park on Sunday, Sept. 29.
She’s part of the Mile2Marathon Running group, and makes every race day better with her upbeat energy and smile.
Lei-Lani Harmon, a humble lady with a huge heart, paced this writer to his first sub-40 5K in a West Van Run four years ago. She kept telling me if I want to get in the 30s I had to stay in front of her and to quit snapping pictures of her butt (I entered a not guilty plea, citing a big hill when I slipped back!).
Ever since that great view … I mean race … we’ve exchanged hellos and fun shots whenever our paths cross. On Saturday she came up to our 70-minute pace group and gave me the “gun show,” flexing her Wonder Woman muscles while promising to wait for me at the finish line!
Well, she posted a comfortable 51:37 and “waited” in a compression suit while I checked the calendar portion of my Garmin out on the challenging course.
I took her post-race photo and she said “nobody will ever see this, right?, knowing (and fearing) that flashing “the guns” to a blogger with a camera before a race might have some consequences!
Hey, at least it’s not a butt shot.
Her name is Susan Schmitz, a fun Richmond runner who for 69 minutes on Saturday had a new nickname.
She was in the 70-minute group — led by the beautiful UA pacers Jeannine Avelino and Aleya Trott — and kept everyone around her calm and loose.
After a few jokes and one-line zingers thrown her way, Schmitz started calling me “Wings” because of the signature memorial wings I have on my shoes, given to me by the good folks at Clif Bar bar after my younger brother died two years ago. I called her Sweet Chocolate because her shirt was from a chocolate run.
“Do you always stare at women’s shirts and then give come up with nicknames?” joked Trott (love that name for a runner) as we tackled the Powell Street overpass. It was tough to answer because a.) we were going up a hill and I could barely breathe, and b.) Susan Miller was right next to me still asking where the Team Trash thing came from!
Kelvin Wong looked like he got the short end of the stick on Saturday.
“Not sure why this happened,” laughed the 65-minute pacer who, for some reason, was given the shortest stick of all the pacing signs in the race.
“Maybe it’s because I’m short, or because it’s lighter to carry. I really don’t know,” said Wong, who smiled when one runner said the “maybe I’m short” theory made no sense.
“If you’re short you should get the biggest stick so the runners can see the sign,” said the runner, who had his more serious than most game face on.
Walter Downey, a Vancouver athlete who has never met a race he couldn’t crush, was pretty excited during Saturday’s warmups, but not about the 10K he was about to blaze through in 39:01.
“Two more weeks, Berlin,” smiled the classy Vancouver man who lost last week’s Forever Young 8K race by two lousy seconds after leading for 7.80 kilometres. Downey will do the 2019 BMW Berlin Marathon on Sept. 29, then the Chicago Marathon, the New York City Marathon and the California International Marathon. And, when he’s at home, you’ll see him on the local race circuit, too.
On Saturday he finished first in his men’s 55-59 age category, and looked ready to do it all over again after he got his medals.
He’s a great photographer and a kind man who believes in paying it forward.
And sadly for him, Pat Singh Cheung pretty much runs my pace which means we often pass each other on the racing circuit and joke about our suspect training programs/progress and the many “gifted” who make us eat dust on the busy Lower Mainland race circuit.
Cheung, coming off a strong performance in last week’s Forever Young 8K, posted a 70:19 on Saturday and finished with a winning smile. I mentioned that we, unlike a lot of the frontrunners, fully respected the “Slow Down, Nanaimo Street construction ahead!” sign. That’s got to be worth something, right?
What’s special about this event is Cheung has often volunteered in the DTES by serving food to the needy and doing other things to help people who really need it. And he does it all without seeking attention, which is pretty cool in this social media world.
Finally, Jonathan Peacock and wife Jackie, who tackled the world famous 10-mile road race from Winnipeg Beach to Gimli, Man. this summer as part of the Islendingadagurinn festival, was stretching at the starting line Saturday when he said he had “extra motivation” to run fast and get home.
Turns out he and Jackie had a hot dinner date to celebrate their wedding anniversary and he wanted to make it a special night, but didn’t define special!
He asked me what I would do to impress the better half, which turned out to be good timing as my wife (Lisa) and I mark our 24th anniversary at the sold-out Campbell Valley Wine Run on Sunday (Sept. 22) in South Langley.
“Does she like running?” Peacock asked.
“Not really,” I said. “But she loves wine and I like running, so it’s perfect for both of us. She also likes diamonds and expensive stuff, so the Wine Run is the safest/cheapest option if I want to keep buying running gear!”
Peacock, who seemed shocked by that answer, then ran the Eastside 10K in 45:54, which is very fast for a guy married a long time … just saying!
FINISH LINES: Having determined I’m not good on hills, in the cold, on steep trails, in the heat or hard pavement, I’ve signed up for Friday’s Michelob Ultra Night Run at Stanley Park. My thinking is if it’s dark nobody will actually know where I place and Debra Kato or Margaret Buttner can’t post pictures without light! … As mentioned, the Campbell Valley Wine Run 5K, 11K and 15K goes this Sunday in South Langley. … Took part in the annual Terry Fox Run in rainy Langley on Sunday morning and will have a special blog on Monday, along with some weekend leftovers and fun photos. … And finally, Happy Birthday to my now 74-year-old father-in-law Dennis Hill, who set a personal best last week by doing the Forever Young 8K in 68 minutes. The impressive and inspiring dude now his eyes focused on the 2020 Eastside 10K, and my new Under Armour Eastside shirt! Family, eh?!
Gotta run …