Organizing the largest half marathon in Vancouver’s history would be enough to create anxiety for any event planner. Follow that up on the same day with staging the largest yoga class in the city’s history, putting on a concert at Brockton Oval in Stanley Park, and operating a licensed outdoor venue with a capacity to serve 3,000 and you’ve got a recipe for a full-blown panic attack.
But former Olympic alpine skier Allison Forsyth appears remarkably calm as she describes what will be one of the more memorable events of the summer. As the event planner for lululemon athletica’s SeaWheeze Half Marathon and SeaWheeze Sunset Festival, she’s eager to describe what she calls “the most fun half marathon in the world” and a concert, featuring headliner Xavier Rudd.
“We anticipate 13,000 people in attendance at the Sunset Festival,” Forsyth tells the Georgia Straight in an interview at Delany’s Coffee House in North Vancouver’s Edgemont Village. “It’s just going to be an incredible party.”
She explains that most half marathons take place on a Sunday. So after runners complete the course, they invariably head home. Lululemon wanted to add a new element by hosting its half marathon on a Saturday (August 10), enabling people to celebrate their achievements afterward with yoga and a concert in Stanley Park.
“It’s a huge undertaking operationally,” Forsyth admits. “We’re very confident in it. Alone, it [the yoga class and concert] could have been the biggest event we’ve ever done, but we’re doing the half marathon five hours before.”
Last year’s lighthearted half marathon attracted 7,500 runners, who witnessed costumed cheerleaders, drummers, and other surprises along a seaside route that crossed the Burrard Bridge. This year, with capacity set at 10,014—in honour of lululemon turning 14 last year—it’s not possible to accommodate all the runners on Cypress Street, which means the route won’t include West 4th Avenue.
“What we committed to was to keep the runners on the seawall and on the ocean as much as possible, so 12 kilometres of the route is still on the water,” Forsyth says.
As one might expect from lululemon, there’s a huge yoga component to SeaWheeze. On Friday (August 9) at noon, trainer Kerri Kelly will host a free yoga class at Jack Poole Plaza. There’s another free yoga class at Kitsilano Beach at 7:30 p.m. on the same day led by Christie Baumgartner. Forsyth predicts that will attract 1,000 people. Then, she’s hoping 5,000 will come out for the Ryan Leier–led main yoga event in Stanley Park at Brockton Oval starting at 6 p.m. on Saturday (August 10); admission is included in the $25 ticket fee to attend the SeaWheeze Sunset Festival. Forsyth says Rudd was chosen to perform because lululemon staff love his music, which has a “very yogic vibe”.
“We just want to be seen as a healthy-lifestyle company that believes in yoga, running, and celebrating,” Forsyth says.
It’s easy to become cynical about Vancouver’s reputation as a yoga centre, but the ancient Indian meditative practice has been linked to positive health outcomes. The Mayo Clinic website points out that yoga can reduce susceptibility to injury by improving a person’s balance, flexibility, range of motion, and strength. It also may have positive effects on chronic depression, pain, anxiety, and insomnia.
Meanwhile, Vancouver physician and author Gabor Maté maintains that yoga helps people who are dealing with addiction because it makes them more aware of their bodies. He suggests that it enables people to calm their mind and face up to the pain that led to addictive behaviour. Penn State University medical professor Dr. Mark Greenberg is another advocate, who says that yoga promotes mindfulness in children, which helps them regulate emotions.
Clearly, Forsyth’s calm demeanour while organizing two massive events on a single day suggests that lululemon’s yoga-loving ethos has had a similar effect on her.