(By Jennifer Copley, Last Updated 14 March 2016)
Description: MEC puts on a series of affordable, beginner-friendly races each year around the Greater Vancouver area, with 5k and 10k options (3 and 6 miles), and a half-marathon option on a couple of the races as well. I recently did the Pacific Spirit Regional Park 10k race, which was my first MEC event. The course took us through a series of beautiful Pacific Spirit Regional Park trails, with one loop for the 5k runners and two loops for the 10k race.
Cost: The MEC races are among the least-expensive races that still have a good level of organization and support. You can enter individual 5k and 10k races for $15, or pay even less per race if you buy a pass to all seven races.
Time: Times are quite variable, depending on ability and trail running experience. 10k times for this race ranged from 38:23 to 1:25:33, and 5k times ranged from 19:42 to 1:19:49.
Difficulty: Pacific Spirit Regional Park is particularly good for new trail runners, as there are no difficult technical trails and the worst obstacles we had to overcome were giant mud puddles. There was the odd root or rock to avoid (one runner sprained her ankle), but this was the easiest trail race I’ve done so far, and it was a very low-pressure event as well. Some participants walked portions of it, and there were a few parents running with their kids (one impressive father-daughter team went blasting past lots of other runners during the final few kilometers).
Required Equipment: Trail running shoes are ideal, but the terrain on the Pacific Spirit Park course is so easy that regular running shoes are sufficient. Bringing your own water isn’t critical, as they have aid stations with fluids, but they do ask that you bring your own water bottle to avoid using disposable cups (many of the races have become more environmentally friendly in recent years). You might also want to bring a snack or energy gels, as I didn’t see any snacks at the aid stations, though there were granola bars, fruit, tea, and coffee at the finish line.
- The race was well-organized, with highly visible markings at every trail fork, so there was no possibility of getting lost.
- There were plenty of friendly, supportive volunteers, and the event had a laid back, relaxed atmosphere.
- Despite the low cost of entry, they still provided chip timing, portable toilets, aid stations, and after-race snacks and beverages.
- There was beautiful forest scenery throughout the course.
- Given the low cost of the event, they don’t give out medals to everyone (there were awards for the top male and female finishers only) or race swag. You get your race number with the timing chip, and that’s it.
- In any race where racers are fed into a narrow trail near the start, a bottleneck forms, so you can lose some time at the beginning trying to get around slower runners.
- If you pick up your race package at MEC, you get a 10% off voucher to use that day, so plan your gear shopping to coincide with your package pickup and you can end up saving more than you paid for the race.
- For more information about the MEC race series, see the MEC Vancouver Race Series Package page.
For more races and other fun things to do in and around Vancouver, see the main Activities page.
*Conditions and prices may have changed since the time of this writing.