Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Rave running in Stanley Park!

Today was a nasty winter day in Vancouver.  Wind, sleet, rain - it was that humid west coast winter cold that just bites you and hangs on.  And of course....I went for a run.

A few times a week, I break up my workday by going for runs mid-day.  It is quick, efficient, and gives me an opportunity to run with friends and colleagues that work downtown.  It enables me to enjoy a shred of daylight on long work days, and puts me back in the office for the remainder of the work day with a clear head and happy heart.   I am also so very fortunate, because one of the best places to run in Vancouver just so happens to be within striking distance of my office.  Stanley Park!

The ubitiquous seawall run is a pancake flat 8.8k...NOT 10k as many people think.  So if you are ripping around the 'wall in 45 minutes and then shocked to realize your 10k race time is actually well in the 50's, well, this would be why :)  And while the seawall certainly has its charms, particularly on sunny and calm days, you are missing out if you've never sought out what else Stanley Park has to offer.

It is amazing to me that so few people know how much of a gem Stanley Park is for running.  For the past two years, I have done every kind of run workout imaginable in the park....and still surprise myself at the versatility of its trails.  Here are some of my secrets!

Hills, hills and more hills.  You want to get stronger?  You run hills.  And there are some lovely ones in the park to choose from.  The last section of Bridle for repeats is fantastically evil.  Do 6 x Bridle and your legs will be begging for mercy.  Prospect Point on the road is also character building - up one side, down the other.  Rinse.  Repeat.  Want to practice descending over rolling terrain?  Try Merrilees.  And there are also nice gentle inclines, like North Creek and Rawlings.  Whatever your fancy, you can find a great location for hill repeats.

The trails that criss-cross the park are perfect for low-impact, recovery runs (like today), and particularly when the weather is nasty, you can find an oasis of calm rainforest inside the park.  Don't know where you are going?  Not a problem.  There is water on three sides of the park...eventually you will land on a trail that will lead you out!

Even the dusty, gravel track at Brockton oval can serve as a place for a speed workout in a pinch (I have been known to run 400's at noon here).  However, there are two better and more unique places to do speed work that can put a bit of variety into your routine.  The circumference of Beaver Lake?  One kilometer.  The circumference of Lost Lagoon?  One mile.  You got it - fantastic places to run repeats!  Last week I did mile repeats around Lost Lagoon under the watchful guise of Hank the Heron and his harem of ducks.  Just be careful and don't step in any goose bombs!

The tourists do tend to look at you a bit funny after the fourth or fifth time you've passed them in a full-out sprint (as they feed the raccoons timbits...grrrr), but it is all part of the fun.  If they ask what you are running from, look them straight in the eye and tell them bears.  Big ones. ;)

With a little ingenuity, you can pretty much fashion any kind of run workout within the confines of the peninsula. So the next time you find yourself aimlessly running the seawall....take the first turn into the middle of the park.  You'll be pleasantly surprised at the running wonderland that awaits!

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