Back in the late 80s, people that ran were mostly hard-core runners. Running clinics were almost unheard of. The Sun Run was just starting to establish itself as a major event. The only specialty running stores in town were Forerunners on 4th Avenue, Rackets and Runners on Oak Street, and the first local Running Room on Georgia Street. With a few exceptions, most races were organized by running clubs to satisfy the needs of these hard-core runners.
Into this environment had come a young upstart called Pacific Road Runners (PRR). With less emphasis on competitive running and more on fitness and fun, the club was rapidly attracting enthusiastic new members. The club quickly established a reputation for well organized, fun and innovative events such as the False Creek Fun Run 10K and the Twilight Run.
In the fall of 1988, PRR was approached by the Vancouver International Marathon Society, with the idea of hosting a half marathon as a build-up event to the marathon in May. With little hesitation the club agreed. In fact serious thought was given to staging two half marathons, one in February and a second in March. But the club never got around to organizing the “Second Half.”
The club had a number of stated objectives in staging the event:
- To show support for the Vancouver International Marathon, as many members of the club were training for the marathon.
- To provide a competitive opportunity for other members of the running community, since PRR members were participating in events organized by other clubs.
- To support a local charity and demonstrate to the residents of False Creek that PRR is a charitable group rather than just another bunch of runners occupying the seawall.
- To raise operating funds for the club.
- To attract new members, by making the club visible in the running and local communities.
- To attempt to develop a greater level of co-operation from local authorities in the staging of such events.
- To make it an event to be remembered.
These objectives have served as guiding principles for each subsequent race director, and still hold true today. Satisfying all the objectives is a big challenge, but the continuous growth in the popularity and reputation of the event is testament to the club’s success in achieving them each year.
- Many people continue to use the event as part of their training for Vancouver Marathon and other spring marathons.
- The list of winners and participants includes many Olympians and is regarded as a great competitive opportunity for many.
- The original supported charity was Ronald McDonald House. $2,000 was donated the first year. Circumstances resulted in a switch to Variety – The Children’s Charity in 1995. Annual donations from the race have been $50,000+ for each of the past several years; through the 2015 race, Variety alone has received more than $650,000 from the First Half. Sales of “auction entries” starting in 2004 have raised another $17,000+ for other charitable causes through the 2015 race.
- The event continues to allow the club to operate from a sound financial footing.
- Many current club members first learned of the club through the First Half.
- Our relationship with the City, Parks Board and other authorities is excellent.
- The popularity of the event speaks for itself.
Of course not everything has gone smoothly.
- The course seemed remarkably fast the first year, as many participants clocked PRs, until it was realized that the course was over 800m short.
- The third staging of the event nearly didn’t happen. By mid-December a race director had only just been found, no venue had been booked, no course agreed to with the city, no entry forms printed, and no sponsors lined up. Imagine that happening today!
- The 1995 race was run in gale force winds that blew down the finish scaffold, and caused havoc at the aid stations.
- In 1996 we arrived on race morning to find the police had taped off the start area, a body having been found overnight adjacent to the start line.
- In 1997 the race had planned to relocate to the Roundhouse, but at two weeks notice we were told that the new venue would not be ready in time.
- In 2003 someone tried to drive a car off Prospect Point. It was found teetering above the seawall, and was secured in place until the race had passed.
- The “Great Storm” of Christmas 2006 caused an extended Seawall closure that forced a hurried re-routing of the 2007 course up and over Prospect Point.
- And, of course, the 2010 Winter Olympics achieved what Mother Nature couldn’t and caused us to not hold a race that year.
The race directors – Colin Atkinson, Scott Gavin, Heather Moorhouse, Mike Bjelos, Marco Iucolino, Dan Cumming, Nicki Decloux, and David Parker – have each been motivated by different aspects of the event, but they have all voluntarily given enormous amounts of their time to make the First Half such a great race. Thanks also to the collective contributions of many other members and friends of the club, past and present. PRR members put huge energy into the First Half, but the race’s success also relies on the wonderful support of sponsors as well as non-club volunteers who turn out to assist all of the racers, whether they be out to set personal records or simply to be part of an event that has staked out a prominent place in the sporting life and culture of Vancouver.