Latest reviews by Karin Femi

(2018)
"Now Renamed: West Van Run Summer 5k & 1 Mile"
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Because I did not want to injure myself and was still feeling sore from an intense track workout, I chose not to race this one, but run it for fun. The course is great for that: people are lined up on the street waiting to see the parade, kids of all ages are signed up for the event, and the course finishes on a downhill and as an overall negative elevation.

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(2018)
"Party until you cross the finish line!"
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The 2018 Big Fiesta Run was, in my opinion, the best race organized by Running Tours so far. It was very well organized, and I did not hear any complaints nor saw any possibilities for improvement in this race.

Getting There:
The race was held in Burnaby Lake. I chose to drive there as the transit options from my home to there are complicated and time-consuming. There was plenty of free parking available when I arrived.

Package Pickup:
I had selected the basic package that included a bib and a flower lei necklace. They had quick and friendly volunteers at the table. I only had to wait for 2 minutes to get my bib and was happy to see that my flower lei included a maraca. I ended up wearing my lei around my wrist and shaking the maraca for the whole 5k to stay in the party spirit.

Bag check:
Back check went smoothly and the volunteer was nice enough to let me do my bag check in two parts by setting my bag aside. They also had sunscreen available for those runners like me who did not expect the day to be so sunny.

Warmup:
This time, the warmup was not led by the race director, but Lulu Chavez-Grajales, a fun and very enthusiastic dance fitness teacher with a contagious smile. She got us to shake, jump, twist, hold our arms up in the air and even to do a conga line! I think it was the best dance warmup I took part in at a fun run.

Music:
DJ Jeremiah FC was spinning some awesome latin party songs that got most of us moving both pre-race and post-race while race director Baxter Bayer played the bongos live.

Race Course:
It got pretty hot by the time the race started (the Running Tours races are held early in the afternoon), so I was very glad most of the race were to run in the shade on gravel trails in the park. The course was clearly marked and nobody got lost. They clearly announced the 5k turnaround point and the volunteer marshals were very supportive.

Race Photography:
I was pleasantly surprised to see a professional photographer on course. Professional-quality pictures were provided to most runners for free. Somehow, I got missed by the photographer or he did not manage to get a good shot. Too bad.

Finish line:
The race finishes with a flat straightaway. My favourite kind of finish line. Race director Baxter was also right next to the finish line drumming some supportive rhythms and giving some high fives.

Post-Race Expo:
Water and juice boxes were available at the finish line. One of the sponsors, Sunlife Financial, also had some candies. Kintec was also there for people interested in trying some shoes or learning about some recovery tools. For the kids, they had a Pinata that included both candies and oranges and my little one grabbed an orange for herself.

Awards and Podium:
I was awarded with a red flower necklace and a $50 Kintec gift card for being the first female to cross the finish line for the 5k. The race is not chipped time, but it is great that they still kept some old-school competitive component to it for those who enjoy the thrill of racing for the podium.

Swag:
Their finisher medal is the best I have gotten so far. I normally do not like finisher medals except for races I finish for the first time. That is why I like that the Running Tours races give you the option to get a medal or not. For this one, I had originally opted to not get a medal, but changed my mind after seeing it. The medal also worked as a bottle opener and I did not have a proper one at home...

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(2018)
"A Great Run to Treat yourself or your Mom"
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This Mother's Day Run has all you would expect and more from the kind of event that would make a great gift to yourself or a beloved mother. It is a race that just keeps on surprising and giving.
Package Pickup
Early package pickup is at the Westin Bayshore hotel. To encourage people to pick their package early, they had a spinning prize wheel with great prices like Champagne, Lindt chocolate, pashmina scarves, gloves, and toques.
Race Package
I must admit the race package is one of the key reasons why I like this race. It included Rocky Mountain Soap (my favourite!), David's Tea bags, Swish candy-flavoured breath powder, lavender essential oil from the hotel, Di Morelli beauty product samples, and various discounts (including a free oil change from Richmond Subaru and a $50 discount card from Hello Fresh).
Race t-shirt
I love how this race changes their t-shirt's colour every year. This year they picked a beautiful deep purple (ultra violet as they called it) for the t-shirt. The t-shirt is soft and made of a good quality technical material. It says "I *heart* mom" on the back and I love wearing it at the gym. I hope one day my little one will also get one for walking the 3k.
Getting to the Race
I took transit to get there and even though there is no bus stop right where the hotel is, I do not mind it as the 10 minute walk made for a good warm up. There was a shuttle bus at the hotel to get runners to the start line and I got to enjoy a fun chat with other participants on our way to the starting area.
Starting Area
I had booked the VIP experience, which meant I could come early and enjoy a full continental breakfast in the VIP tent. Since the little one was still sleeping and I did not want to wake her up by getting breakfast home, this ended up coming in very handy! I got a granola bar, some fresh apple juice and some toasted bread with jam. There were also yogurt, boiled eggs, pastries, orange juice, and hot coffee available. The VIP also included its own porta potty and bag check-in area. The start was also close to the beach’s washrooms and a playground which many parents who were running with their small ones ended up using.
Course
The 5k course starts along the seawall, before climbing up on a short but very steep hill to Stanley Park where it is then very flat and fast. On a hot and sunny day, I enjoyed how a big portion of the course was in the park, shaded by trees. Having checked the course online and in person before the race, I found it quite easy to find my way, but quite a few people were confused by the fact that the 5k was basically the 3k course + 1 loop around Lost Lagoon (a tiny lake in Stanley Park). Some 5k runners ended up running 2 loops, while ended up running the 3k. Because we were all wearing bibs of the same colour, the volunteers could not help in directing us either, unless we had enough energy to ask them out loud where to go for the 5k.
Finish Line Expo
The finish line expo had so much going on, I actually wondered around for a few minutes just wondering what to do. After a while, I remembered that all mothers get a finisher pashmina, so I went to claim mine. It was of a much better quality than I expected, very soft, silky, and shiny. The colour and patterns were very elegant. It is an accessory that I will be able to wear a lot more than a medal or even a race t-shirt, yet it will have the same meaning to me. I love that idea and wish more races did the same. After getting my prize, I met up with friends and we got our pictures taken by a professional photographer at the official race photo booth. The pictures came out very nice. I can see how they could make great souvenir family pictures for the moms who came with their families. I then checked the cool down yoga area, entered a few contests at the sponsors’ booth, but skipped the chance to get a treatment with Di Morelli products as I had to leave for my afternoon Mother’s Day activities: with the family this time.

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(2018)
"This Race Can be Whatever You Want it to Be"
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The race has been renamed The Big Easter Fun Run and their new registration system is the first one I have seen that allows you to pick and chose exactly the race experience you want and to pay only for what you want. Other races from the Big Fun Run series following this one will do the same. I am loving this idea and hope more race directors will do the same. Wit this system, you pay a very low registration fee of $15 to just participate in the race (which includes a bib that can be customized to include the bunny nickname of your choice AND a themed costume accessory) and the following are optional:
- chip timing
- finisher medal
- "fun pack"
- race kit mailout (up to a certain date)

I selected to receive the cute medal (more for my toddler girl than myself), chip time (though I ended up not needing it as I opted to do the run pushing a stroller), and the fun pack.

The atmosphere:
As usual, the Running Tours team did an amazing job at making the experience fun for everybody. They organized an egg hunt after the kid's 1k, had bib colouring stations, fun music and live race commenting, and a race director dressed as a giant pink bunny. The bunny-themed warm up included some hops, carrot eating, and more classic moves that got everybody smiling and ready to enjoy their runs. There were many kids, dogs, strollers and people in costumes around and I really felt more like I had joined a cool kid's bunny-themed birthday party than a race.

The course: I had not trained for a couple of weeks, so I chose to run the race as a casual stroller run. I was a bit worried it would be tough as the course included some gravel paths, but it was only a small portion of the total run and it ended up not feeling too tough. I even ended up with a stroller 5k PB. The only issue was signage and marshalling. A lot of us, myself included, did not understand that we had to follow an arrow that was pointing towards a path going through woods as there was nothing on it mentioning it was signage for the Big Easter Run. There was also no marshall there. The race would definitely benefit from more race-specific signs and additional volunteers.

The swag: I loved that everybody got bunny ears and by flattening them on the side it was possible to make them more aerodynamic while upping the cuteness factor. Themedal and ribbon that came with it were pretty cute and my little one wanted to wear it right after I got it. I was only disappointed by the content of the fun pack. The only part of it I liked was the bubble wand. The rest was just basic candies in bunny-themed packaging like a bunny-nose lollypop and sugar inside a carrot. I expected things that I could use during the race. For next time, I would suggest a bunny tail or bowtie, some ankle bells, or even some fun temporary tattoos. I still have the lollypop today as my little one is too young for it and I am not a fan of lollypops myself.

Post-race Activities: there were a wide variety juice boxes for all runners, tea samples from David's Tea, and sponsor tables who offered some prizes to be won. The egg hunt had been done right after the kids 1k, so it was over by the time I finished my 5k with the little one, but a very kind member of the Running Tours team offered to hide a few eggs so that my little one could still have some fun and earn us a big chocolate bunny.

For more detailed race reviews, visit my blog post: http://looseleafrunner.blogspot.ca

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(2018)
"A Fun and Sweet Race"
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If you like green, Irish music, running in parks, pancakes, and sweet treats, then this race was designed for you! The Shamrock'N Race is a race held on the gravel trails around Burnaby Lake and includes a 5k, 7 mile (a great opportunity for a PB in an odd distance), and half-marathon. Your registration includes a timing chip, a finisher medal, souvenir running socks (your future lucky socks?), race pictures (if the photographer manages to catch you), and a pancake breakfast.

What I liked:
- Flat-ish trails with just a few short rolling hills
- Finishing on trails (not on grass like the last time I ran in Burnaby lake)
- Access to real washrooms about 200m from the start and to porter potties right next to start line
- A fun warm up to Irish folk music led by the November Project
- Fun and cute costumes
- High-fives at the finish line
- Technical socks with lucky 4-leaf clovers
- A podium ceremony with medal awards for the overall winners of each race + podium pictures
- A wide choice of fruits and sweet snacks at the finish line
- A playground at the finish line
- Coverage of the event by Gord Kurenoff of the Vancouver Sun

What could be improved:
- This year's race did not include a race photographer and the video screen shot were quite blurry
- A few people did not notice the arrow pointing to the left at the first trail intersection and continued straight on another path (which ended up being a little bit of a shortcut). It would be best to put up a cone, block access to that alternate path with a rope, or add a marshall at that spot next year.

View mydetailed race recap here: http://looseleafrunner.blogspot.ca/2018/04/aiming-for-podium-at-burnaby-shamrock-n.html

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