Party 'Till You Win: Big Fiesta Run Recap

As I am remembering the Big Fiesta Run, I cannot stop smiling.  My initial plan was to run this race just for fun, without a watch and see how things go. The race itself was not time chipped and on trails, so it would not have made sense to chase a PB there anyway. Also, with the Running Tours team putting so much effort in making their events as fun as possible, I did not want to risk missing on any of the fun to be had. In the end, I did not manage to resist looking at my watch but still got to smile and feel like I was partying for most of the run.

Pre-Race Festivities

My little family and I came an hourly early to make sure I would not miss the kid-friendly activities and warm up. The festivities started with the beating of a pinata and a "parade" of colourful costumes. One tall runner wearing a rainbow colored poncho stood out in the crowd. I walked towards him to get a picture for the blog. With his sunglasses and fake moustache, it took me more than a few seconds to recognize it was Vancouver Sun writer and running friend Gord (check out his own review of the race in Fun on the Run).
After taking his picture, I noticed the ladies from the Over the Top Fitness Crew of Langley who definitely lives up to its name with its eccentric costumes. For this Cinco de Mayo-themed run, they chose to dress up as tacos, pinatas, and matadors. As people started gathering around them to take pictures, it became obvious they would win the best costume contest.

With Over the Top Fitness Crew member Kate Mumford aka La Pinata
The Over the Top Crew Dressed and Ready to Taco' Care of Business

Warming up to Bongo Beats

The music started to get more animated and race director Baxter Bayer was energetically playing along with his bongos. A little boy who had recently watched the movie Coco chose to virtually accompany him on the guitar.

The warm-up was announced and a fit lady with a joyous, contagious energy came to the middle of the race expo and called people to join her. DJ Jeremiah started playing some fun Latin party songs and group fitness instructor Lulu Chavez-Grajales progressively led the runners from mild and classic warm-up moves to a full-blown conga line that lasted a few minutes!

If Lulu says shake your hips, you shake your hips (Picture by Gord Kurenoff)
The conga line warm up
Once both and body and party spirit warmed up for the run, I headed to the bag check table, where volunteer coordinator Darla made up for my lack of proper race planning by having some sunscreen available. As I started considering whether to wear the race's official flower lei and maraca or not, I noticed she had wrapped hers around her wrist. She showed me how to do the same with mine so that I would be able to shake to the beat of my own steps.

All runners were then called to all line up behind the start line. There, the drone photography experts from Take Off Eh Photography flew their camera drone above us to capture us all before our costumes fell apart and to record an epic video of the race start.

From Fun Run to Race

I decided to start this race fast, and then settle at a comfortable pace that would allow me to smile and shake my maracas when passing by other runners, volunteers set up and spectators. As we headed towards the wooded area ("Aah, shade!"), I noticed that no other female runners were within view. I noticed a Masters runner in front of me who had a very smooth and well-cadenced stride and chose to follow him and use him as a pacer. He heard my maraca shaking behind his back and started speeding up a little.  As we approached the turnaround point, he started to slow down a little and I noticed a woman catching up with us.

I decided to speed up, pass him, and, as I turned around my watch indicated that I was not running at a course PB pace, but I did not care. I smiled at the woman in 2nd place position as we crossed paths and sped up a little more. As I passed the 5k and 10k runners in colourful outfits going the other way, many of them shouted words of support. "You are doing great", "Looking strong", "You are in the lead!", "Going fast!". I was breathing too hard to be able to say much but kept a big smile on my face, shouted "Thanks" or shake my maraca up in the air. Even the race photographer, who was set up next to the very tempting "Siesta Station" paused to shout some encouraging words.

As we got out of the wood, I started to feel really hot and that is when the run went from just a fun run to an actual race. I had to dig deep inside to maintain my first place position as I remembered the second place runner being less than 100m behind me at the turnaround. I focused on my form, tried to relax my breathing and upper-body, and worked hard at keeping the maraca-shaking at the same beat as earlier in the race. The DJ and Baxter were waiting right at the finish line playing motivating party beats and I managed to smile again as I crossed the finish line straight into the arms of my little Pomchik. Before I could even catch my breath, I was decorated with the winner's Lei and given a Kintec gift card. I did not get a medal because I had not opted into receiving a finisher medal. I normally do not care much for finisher medals for distances that are not new to me. But when I saw this race's medal was actually beautiful and solid bottle openers, I immediately regretted that decision.  Thankfully, there were a few medals left after the race was over, and I received one by mail later.

Post-Race Festivities

Because the little one looked like she was having a lot of fun socializing, trying on various costume accessories, and watching the runners cross the finish line in colourful costumes, we ended up staying until the course was closed. We got to see many inspiring runners ranging from tiny toddlers to seniors and very sweet running families. The DJ kept spinning great party tunes and Baxter kept playing his bongos and giving high fives for another hour. Sunlife Financial had a tent with some treats that were like a magnet to the little one, while I got curious about the recovery tools presented by Kintec. At some point, the kids were called to get treats from the now open pinata and I was surprised to see that my daughter understood the concept of pinata treat grabbing a lot better than she did that of chocolate egg hunting and did not throw the orange she had picked. We then went to the nearby playground to play a little, before heading home to enjoy a very welcomed siesta!