“I ran my eyeballs out!” Kevin O’Connor shares his best Sun Run Stories

I know a few of us are missing the Sun Run this past weekend. With 50,000 runners on the start line – it still gets me excited. I hope for a great run each year. So, let’s celebrate the race. Which years have you run? Was it as a run club member or with work colleagues? Maybe with friends or just an individual challenge? What are your best memories?

One of my best Sun Run memories is after arriving in Vancouver 24 years ago (with a single suitcase filled with a few clothes and my whole CD collection). I had run the Steveston 8k in preparation to toe the line a few months later at the Sun Run. Because I didn’t have a work visa, I was a carefree runner and in phenomenal shape – memories of my ponytail bouncing in the wind filter through my mind.

Sun Run 2019 Photo: Ryan Allderman

The race begins and I went through the 1st mile in 4:52 and then proceeded to run a 14.48 at the halfway 5km mark. The course was different than now down. It used to run down Georgia street into Stanley park, over the aquatic center hill, up Pipeline Road, around lagoon road onto Beach Ave, uphill under Granville Street bridge then the long stretch down Pacific boulevard to the same finish location.

I finished in 30:06 for 6th place. My grinning face lights up on the jumbotron with words “1st Canadian finisher.” Most of the faster boys were in Sacramento chasing the Atlanta Olympic standards.  I quietly told the announcer I wasn’t Canadian. But he simply replied, “You live here, don’t ya?” I told him I did, and he (feeling satisfied) told me that it was good enough for them and presented me with the trophy.

I watch the awards ceremony each year with feelings of nostalgia. Each year, I see my name and time proudly engraved on the trophy (even though I was the slowest ever 1st Canadian finisher since the inception of the race!)

My other favorite memory of Sun Run was running 31:31 as a master’s athlete for 11th place overall. I ran my eyeballs out the whole way! Sun Run has always treated their athletes so well. Once after winning the masters race, I was given a chaperone after the race. It was like being back at school. I was so well taken care of – complete with personal chauffeur back to the hotel. If you win the master’s you receive a limited-edition framed print of that year’s Sun Run flags/poster by the artist.

Trying hard at The Longest Day at UBC. Photo: Bryan Andrews

But I haven’t always been guts and glory. Sun Run is a tough race and when you take risks, sometimes they don’t all work out. I have dropped out of a few races. I remember one year, going over Burrard Bridge and seeing Bernard (another club mate) walking. So I immediately thought, “If Bernard is walking, so can I!” (That was not a good decision in hindsight.)

Ellen – my partner – reminds me this was the first time we actually spoke. I feel bad because I was not in a good mood! It took me ages to walk back to my clubmate Bernard – only to find out he was walking because he was injured. I kicked myself for dropping out. If I had kept going, I wouldn’t have gotten so cold and could have been in the pub by the time I finally got to the finish line!

Club mate Katie and Kenny Muir’s wedding Photo: Chris Thorn

These highs and lows are what make the sport so great.

I am interested in your stories if you want to share – the good, bad, or ugly!

-Kevin O’Conner

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