Ryan Oliver considers himself a cyclist.
That’s why on May 6, when Ryan finished 34th out of 5,000 runners in the BMO Vancouver Martahon, it came as a bit of a shock.
“Yeah, I wouldn’t call myself a runner,” the 39-year-old 150 Mile House resident admitted. “I’m more of a cyclist. I’ve mountain biked professionally and I have a lot of respect for people that run marathons because it is a very long distance.”
On top of finishing 34th overall Ryan finished sixth in the 30-39 age category, which included professional and elite runners from around the world. His completion time was 2:51:20.
This was Ryan’s first time racing a marathon and adding to the significance, he said, was having his wife, Ali, complete the race with him.
“That was the highlight, for me,” Ryan said. “Seeing Ali finish something that extravagant was great. She pulled a training schedule off the Internet and followed the whole thing through.”
The idea to race the BMO Vancouver Marathon came about, Ryan recalled, over a few glasses of wine one weekend night.
“For both of us, we’ve never really tried anything like this before,” he said. “At the beginning of the year we decided to knock this off our bucket list. My other goal was to qualify for the Boston Marathon next year and then go for my 40th birthday.”
Large goals, considering the only organized running either Ryan or Ali had done prior was in the local KidSport Classic 20-kilometre run. That said, Ryan blew his goal of finishing in the top 100 out of the water.
“I beat my [goal] time by 30 minutes so next year we’ll be off to Boston,” he said, and added the marathon runs in April every year and hosts close to 35,000 participants annually.
“There were thousands and thousands of people in Vancouver at the finish line. So if this was 15,000 people I can’t imagine Boston because that’s going to be 35,000 people.”
Ryan’s race strategy, he said, consisted of not burning himself out early. He’d heard from others that is the largest danger when running a marathon.
“I really didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “Everybody’s always talking about hitting the wall and I was really worried about going out too hard and hitting this wall so I really took it easy for about the first 30 kilometres and then picked it up for the last 12 kilometres.”
The BMO Vancouver Marathon began at Queen Elizabeth Park, headed around the University of British Columbia campus, through Jericho Beach into Kitsalano, through English Bay, all the way around the Seawall and then finished at Canada Place.
“I hung behind a guy for the first 30 km and just paced myself off him,” he said. “When he started to slow and I was feeling good heading into the Seawall I knew it was flat so I kicked it up a notch.
“The last five km, though, were extremely hard. I got to the finish line and couldn’t even walk over a curb. I had to go to a spot where you couldn’t go down any elevation.”
Ryan said to prepare he ran around 100 kilometres per week over six days of training.
Now that warmer weather has arrived, however, Ryan’s happy to use his legs to pedal, instead of to run.
“That’s the plan,” he said. “I’ll get back to mountain biking here for the summer and then right after the new year is when you normally start training for a marathon,” he said.
“The Boston Marathon is in April, so if you start training right around Christmastime that will put you at the perfect spot.”