What it's like running BC's bucket list Half Corked Marathon

May 30 2023, 10:20 pm

We know what you’re thinking: wine and running? Maybe not the best match.

The event that combines the two, the Half Corked Marathon, might appear confused in theory but is wonderfully weird in actuality.

Take it from us — we just ran it.

The annual booze-fuelled, 20-kilometre fun run through stunning Oliver Osoyoos Wine Country just wrapped its 15th weekend of events.

From the Primavera Party the night before the run at Tinhorn Creek VineyardsĀ to the Party at the Finish Line with eats from Vancouver favourite, the Paella Guys, there was no shortage of events over the three-day celebration.

In addition to those, the Dinner On The Farm at Culmina Family Estate Winery, which takes place in the evening the day of the run, and the Food Truck Brunch Showdown at Nostalgia Wines the following morning, rounded out the must-hit meals that made the weekend a filling and truly memorable one.

But back to the run itself.

What started out with 75 participants in its inaugural year has grown to offer an unforgettable experience for over 1,100 lucky people in 2023.

We say lucky because typically, thousands of hopeful attendees enter the lottery each year for the chance to come to the event. It’s a hot ticket to snag.

In 2019, as many as 8,000 entered, to give you an idea of its popularity historically.

Keeping that in mind, you can imagine the overall vibe among the crowd on run day as they gathered to start their journey was one of great excitement, and in our case, maybe a wee bit of a hangover mixed with nervousness on top of that (that Primavera Party wine will catch up with you — we blame Tinhorn for being so good at making it).

The anticipation was palpable. We spoke to many individuals who had waited up to five years to win the general lottery in order to get the opportunity to be here.

It was around 8:30 am and we were at the starting line at Rust Wine Co. We confidently said, “hangover who?” and downed our first vino sample before things commenced.

Does fake it ’til you make it work for long-distance runs? We’d soon find out. At least we already had some liquid courage in us.

Just like the event it was inspired by ā€” the legendary Marathon du Medoc in Bordeaux, France ā€” this run encourages costumes, big time.

Because of this, you’ll encounter what might be the best people-watching situation ever at the starting point of your heat. This year, the judges of the costume competition had their work cut out for them, although, it’s an open secret they accept bribes. Namely wine.

Dinosaurs, giraffes, Snow White and her dwarfs, The Paper Bag Princess, and a giant foot were just some of the creative getups we spotted before heading out on the dusty trail.

There were also many ’80s-inspired neon spandex-clad participants and dozens of variations of iconic throwback characters Marty McFly and Doc, all perfectly fitting for this year’s theme of “Back to the Future.”

After some instruction from organizers and another sip of wine, it was time to hit the vineyard, so to speak.

We were off and there was no turning back. From there, it was kilometre after kilometre of weaving through vines and valleys in the dry Okanagan Valley heat with the spectacular BC sunshine upon us.

In addition to cruising by mountain ranges, rivers, and lakes, we hit up all 13 winery stops along the route, which turned out to be much-needed pauses from running, in our case.

Half-Corked Marathon

Phantom Creek’s Wine Stop (Hanna McLean/Daily Hive)

By the way, if you don’t consider yourself a “runner,” don’t let that deter you from joining the fun. Plenty of folks opted to power walk.

There was even an optional bus to take people down a stretch of sun-soaked, uneventful highway this year, something organizers implemented to ensure all participants could make it to that party at the end while music was still pumping and paella was still present.

The bus, many water stations, and bathrooms along the way were just the comfort blanket we needed to lean into this wacky and wonderous experience.

Each winery stop had its own unique element for runners to enjoy. Whether it was a gorgeous sangria with refreshing frozen berries or an entire photo stop with ’80s-themed props at Hester Creek Estate Winery (think Tupperware, boomboxes, and retro-sized cellphones), each spot offered something different for participants.

They all, however, offered wine in some form. That was a guarantee.

Half-Corked Marathon

Daily Hive

Something we weren’t expecting was the halfway point “snack” station, which included fresh fruit, cubed cheese, sausage, bread, and Rice Krispie squares.

We’re telling you… you’ve likely never seen an organized run quite like this before.

Naturally, it wasn’t all rosĆ© and delightful marble cheese cubes. As with any physical challenge in the great outdoors, there was a lot of sweat, dirt, and walking up the steepest hills to preserve some energy.

What we saw most during our journey to complete the Half Corked Marathon were genuine smiles and a ton of laughter.

Mothers and daughters, long-distance friends, colleagues, couples, you name it — they came to this destination to celebrate and soak it all in.

The feeling of bonafide togetherness with a huge group of unfamiliar faces seems to be few and far between these days. Life can just be so damn serious.

But not during the Half Corked. Strangers don’t feel like strangers here, we were all here for one goal: to keep the legacy of this fantastic event going and tick it off our bucket lists while we did that.

Oh, and we all had permission to rock the wildest ensembles while day drinking, which helps with the communal sense of comradery. That, plus the endorphins.

In addition to celebrating good company, wine, and food, we all applauded the winners of the costume contest, the hilarious troupe of flashers who donned trenchcoats and hairy chest one-piece bathing suits.

If you’re not exactly sure what we mean by the latter, maybe give it a Google.

So now, when people ask us if wine and running mix, the answer is wholeheartedly yes. At least during this event in this magical part of BC, they definitely do.

The author of this article was hosted by Destination BC and Oliver Osoyoos Winery Association.

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