The Vancouver International Marathon is a major running event in early May that attracts thousands of runners and tens of thousands of spectators.
In 2020 the race was going to take place on Sunday, May 3rd. There was also going to be a Health & Sport Expo on the Friday and Saturday of May 1st and 2nd. However, both events were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The next BMO Vancouver Marathon is scheduled to take place virtually during the entire month of May in 2021.
The Vancouver International Marathon is the City of Vancouver’s only Boston-qualifying marathon (although there are a couple of others elsewhere in the Lower Mainland). It’s also one of the most prestigious marathons in the world and attracts participants from as many as five dozen different countries each year.
The next Vancouver Marathon is scheduled to take place from May 1st until 31st, 2021. The event will be running virtually in 2021 due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.
In this article you’ll find information about the following:
Click any of the above links to jump to a specific topic, or continue reading to learn all about the Vancouver International Marathon.
Vancouver Marathon Event in 2021
In 2020 the Vancouver International Marathon was supposed to happen on Sunday, May 3rd. As mentioned above, the race was cancelled due to concerns about the coronavirus.
The 2021 marathon will be taking place virtually. Folk can register online for one (or more) of the race distances and run any time in the month of May. To promote physical distancing race organizers are not releasing a set map for each race. Runners create their own race course and submit their finishing times online.
New for 2021 participants can choose to run one or multiple race distances during the race month. “Run Happy” combines two race distances while the “Dynasty” category combines the Marathon, Half Marathon, 8K and 5K distances. Runners in these categories receive bonus awards for completing their races.
The event usually features a number of races including the full 42.2 km marathon, a half marathon, an 8-km race, a full-marathon relay and a Kids Run. Most years there is also a street festival on the day near the race finish line in downtown Vancouver.
Participants at the event include some of the world’s most elite runners, but also kids, grandparents and all kinds of fit people of varying levels.
In a typical year as many as 17,000 people participate.
The full marathon is limited to a maximum of 5000 participants age 18+ and it usually starts at 8:30 am. The marathon starting line is on Midlothian Avenue in Queen Elizabeth Park and the race finishes on West Pender Street between Bute Street and Thurlow.
The 2020 Marathon was cancelled and the 2021 event will be taking place virtually. Details are to be confirmed for the 2022 full marathon.
Click Marathon Course for a map of the usual route in years not affected by a global pandemic.
Half Marathon Details
The Vancouver Half Marathon has a maximum of 10,000 runners and is open to participants ages 18+ as well as runners ages 16+ with permission from their parents.
The 2020 race was going to start in Queen Elizabeth Park at 7 am on May 3rd and it would have finished on West Pender Street between Thurlow and Bute Street.
The 2020 Half Marathon was cancelled. Similar to the full marathon, the 2021 half marathon will also be taking place virtually. Details for 2022 are to be determined.
Click Half Marathon Map for a map of the route in normal years.
BMO 8K Details
The 8 km Race usually starts at 9:30 am in Stanley Park near the Ceperley Park Playground on Lagoon Drive. The finish line is the same West Pender Street location as the marathon and half marathon races.
The 8-km event is capped at 2,500 runners and is open to anyone age 11+ (with parent permission where appropriate).
The 2020 8K event was cancelled. In 2021 the BMO 8K will be taking place in a virtual format. 2022 details are to be determined.
Click 8K Map for details on the race route (for when the event is able to take place in person).
2021 BMO Relay Details
The Marathon Relay is a four-person event where the first and second members of the team each run 12 km, the third runs 5 km and the fourth finishes the final 13 km. The start time for the relay is usually around 8:30 am.
The first leg of the race goes from Queen Elizabeth Park through Kerrisdale and Dunbar, the second leg is through Pacific Spirit Park, UBC and Point Grey, the third is mostly through Kitsilano, and the final stretch goes by English Bay, through Stanley Park and then into the city’s downtown core.
The 2020 BMO Relay was cancelled. Due to COVID-19, the event will be taking place virtually in 2021. Details are to be confirmed for 2022.
Click Relay Map for a map of the course in regular years.
2021 Kids Run Details
The Vancouver Marathon event isn’t just for adults – there are events for kids too!
While the marathon itself is restricted to adults ages 18+, the Kids Run is for children ages 5 to 12. Children ages 11 to 16+ can also participate in some of the various other races, depending on their age.
In 2020 the Kids Run was supposed to take place on Saturday, May 2nd, so the day before the other races. However, it was cancelled due to fears about the coronavirus spreading. The 2021 Kids Run will be running in a virtual format.
Up to 500 children participate in the Kids Run which involves a 2.5 km loop around Stanley Park’s Lost Lagoon. Fees in 2019 cost $20.
Click Kids’ Race for a map of the route in years not affected by a global pandemic.
Vancouver Marathon Street Festival
In addition to the various running races, there is also a small street festival on the day of the Vancouver Marathon most years. The event is open to the public and goes from around 8:30 am until 3:30 pm. Admission is free.
Whereas the marathon’s finish line is on West Pender between Thurlow and Bute Street, the street festival takes place just one block away, on West Hastings between Burrard Street and Bute.
At the Street Festival there is music, sports drink samples and both running gear and souvenirs for sale. In most years McDonald’s is there with free coffee for everyone willing to stand in the lineup, and in previous years Stanley Park Brewery has been there giving away beer samples to runners.
The 2020 Marathon Street Festival was cancelled. The event will also not be taking place in 2021 due to concerns over COVID-19. Details for the 2022 festival are to be determined.
Click Marathon Street Festival for more details.
Health & Sports Expo
Related to the Vancouver Marathon is the 3-day Health & Sports Expo that takes place at the Vancouver Convention Centre at 1055 Canada Place. The event features all sorts of running gear for sale and attracts over 20,000 people each year. Admission is free.
In 2020 the trade show-style event was supposed to take place May 1st and 2nd at the following times. However, due to fears about the coronavirus spreading this event was cancelled as well.
- Friday, May 1st, from 10 am until 7 pm
- Saturday, May 2nd, from 10 am until 6 pm
A couple of years ago the Expo was a three-day event and started on the Thursday. In 2019 it ran for just the Friday and Saturday and 2022 will likely be the same.
Click Marathon Expo for more information.
During the Vancouver International Marathon there are usually live entertainment venues along the way. Dozens of local bands play at various locations, which is fun for both runners and spectators.
For a list of bands and music venues, click BMO Entertainment.
For more information about the race see the Vancouver International Marathon website.
For a list of other races in the Lower Mainland throughout the year, click Metro Vancouver Running Races (the largest of which include the Vancouver Sun Run 10K race in April and the Scotiabank Half Marathon in June).
For a list of other events taking place the same month as the Vancouver Marathon, see Vancouver’s May Calendar.
And for a comprehensive listing of major Vancouver events throughout the year, click Festivals & Events.