It’s been called the most scenic marathon in Western Canada, but the GoodLife Fitness Victoria Marathon, Sunday October 7, offers more than dramatic ocean views. The route runs through much of Victoria’s history, through historic neighbourhoods, each with their own unique culture and heritage. Those participants running the Marathon, Half Marathon or 8K are probably not focused on their surroundings and the landmarks they are passing–why should they? They each have their own goals whether to finish or to set a personal best. With that in mind, I thought it would be a fun idea to break down the Marathon into segments and explain what 12,000 participants every year, are actually running by and through.
We will start with the first five kilometres, Menzies at Kingston, right beside the B.C. Legislature, at The Fairmont Empress. We don’t have the space here to write a history of this magnificent 106 year-old building, designed by Francis Rattenbury, but as everyone who has visited Victoria knows, it is one of our famous landmarks. Heading south, then taking a left at Michigan we can see the bustling shops and coffee houses that are so James Bay. Past the Michigan Street Allotment Garden to Government St. If you go right for two blocks you will see Emily Carr House, the childhood home of the famous Canadian Painter. But we don’t today, we go left running down to the Inner Harbour with the Leg, pronounced “Ledge,” (as we Victorians affectionately call the Legislature Buildings) on our left and the Royal BC Museum on the right. Home to thousands of B.C. archives, the museum has many permanents exhibits, but check out the Dinosaurs: Ancient Fossils, New Discoveries exhibit and Cecil Beaton’s Queen Elizabeth II: A Diamond Jubilee Celebration exhibit, as part of the Diamond Jubilee–they are only here until September.
Just around the corner to the museum’s right, not on the race route so don’t check this out on race day, is Helmcken House, which is claimed to be the oldest house in B.C. and open to the public. With the Inner Harbour on our left and The Fairmont Empress hotel on the right we run towards Wharf Street and the one kilometre mark of the marathon. Past Bastion Square , turning right up Johnson, we enter a bustling shopping area that comprises ethnic stores and unique restaurants bordered by Market Square and Chinatown.
Once on Johnson we have a gradual hill climb for a kilometre reaching Cook Street at three kilometres. Half way to Cook, at Blanshard, is the Atrium Building that takes up a nearly an entire city block. Check out the eclectic restaurants on the ground floor, this is becoming a trendy place to eat and meet. Right on Cook and then we see a change in scenery. Car dealerships lead to small local retail stores and then from Rockland, apartment buildings.
At four kilometres we enter a favourite place to many locals–Cook Street Village. How many coffee/breakfast eateries can you have in one area? Well it seems a lot and all have their own loyal customers. But you can’t stop yet and enjoy. However, you can pick out a spot for your post run treat. At Park, take a right and we are now bordering on Beacon Hill Park. As I write this I can just see the Victoria Lawn Bowling Club through the trees, all decked out in their whites. Established in 1909, the club is open daily from April through to October and features tournaments and leagues for all ages. They even have Saturday tea days. How civilized!
Run up Park to Heywood and right again until Pendergast and we are done. Five kilometres down, 37 to go. Interested in more? Keep checking back for updates and new posts by me, Louise Hodgson-Jones!
Photo credit: Simon DesRochers.