This summer has been the summer of road trips for us. So this past weekend when I had the opportunity to run the Kelowna Wine Country Half Marathon, I couldn’t say no to planning a little road trip within a road trip and heading out for this event.
We were already spending our last weekend of the summer with my family up at the cabin so it kind of seemed fitting to me to have my own little celebration to cap off the summer of running. A great half marathon AND wine? Sounds like a perfect way to end the summer to me.
After being banished to sleep in the basement since my alarm was set for 3:00 am, I got dressed, grabbed a coffee and jumped in the car and cranked the tunes. Sadly, it’s a bit of a drive from our cabin out to Kelowna, just one reason I will be planning the entire weekend in Kelowna next year! I made it in good time and jumped onto one of the first shuttle buses that would take us from the Delta Grand Okanagan Resort (host hotel for the event) to the start line at The Vibrant Vine winery.
It was still dark when the bus left but as we climbed up into the hillside, the sky started to lighten and we were treated to our first taste of what the views would be like on course. Beautiful.
It was pretty chilly once we arrived at the winery but thankfully Kicking Horse Coffee was on-site to help keep us warm.
I hear there were also some pre-race wine tastings going in inside the funky Vibrant Vines tasting room (nice touch!) but I kept running into people I knew milling around outside and didn’t have the chance to go check it out! By the time I got my gear checked it was time to hit the start line anyway. Nothing like the energy at a start line to warm you up!
I was really happy to be running with an old friend from the Langley Running Room. Wendy was one of our managers while I was doing a lot of my running there and while we see each other all the time at races, this would be our first time running one together.
We chatted with a few runners in the crowd and then we were off. The first part of the course was so lovely because we basically got to wind our way through vineyards and orchards, all with a sweeping view down to the lake. The sun was out by then too so it was beautiful and sunny, making the whole thing even lovelier to look at.
Neither Wendy nor I had any time goals so we had agreed to just enjoy the run, catch up and not feel bad if we wanted to stop for pictures along the way. It’s no wonder your running buddies always seem to become such close friends, there’s just something about spending a few hours running with someone that keeps the conversation flowing. It was so nice to have that time to catch up.
There are a few rolling hills in the first half of the course but it seemed like it didn’t take long before we hit the long downhill that would take us down towards the lake and the mostly-flat second half. We saw Wendy’s family a few times along the way and just generally enjoyed our run. I haven’t spent much time in Kelowna so it felt like a bit of sightseeing run for me!
Once we got down the hill and headed towards the lake, we entered onto the Mission Creek Greenway which was a nice change from the roads. Still totally flat, this trail runs along the Mission Creek and took us down to Lakeshore Road and our final stretch along the lake to the finish line. It had warmed up quite a bit by this point so it was nice to run on this shady trail with all the recreational runners and cyclists out that morning.
The final stretch of the course took us right along the lake and through some residential areas. It was warm but with the lake, beaches and some really beautiful homes to gawk at, those final few km seemed to fly by nicely. Before long we could see the finish line, hear all the commotion and were running down the finish chute ourselves.
We were handed these great little lunch bags of post-race treats (love it when they give you a bag to carry it all!), were given our medals (these things are crazy!) and headed off to claim our commemorative wine glasses and start the tastings!
Waterfront Park was all set up for the post-race food and wine festival and it didn’t take us long to get into the spirit and into the wine. Various wineries from around Kelowna had booths set up that we could visit and taste at, including Quail’s Gate, Tantalus, Vibrant Vine, Mission Hill and Sandhill Winery to name just a few!
The best part of this, aside from the wine, was that with each booth we visited we seemed to run into and pick up more friends. I’m the type of runner who usually sticks around the finish for awhile to visit with friends but this was definitely a race where the post-race was just as much a highlight as the race itself! The atmosphere was so chill, I could have easily laid in the grass and tasted and re-tasted the wines all afternoon!
What I really loved about this event is that Destination Races took care of every detail in their planning of an entire weekend full of tastings, dinners, winery tours and social events. I’m used to planning trips around the races I run but always love it when the run itself can be the focus of the weekend. I am already thinking ahead to next year and spending my whole weekend in Kelowna to take it all in.
To read more about the Kelowna Wine Country Half Marathon and to start planning your visit to this race next year, visit their website. Or check out their full lineup of Wine Country Half Marathon destinations here. Next up in the Destination Races lineup is Woodinville, WA on September 19.