Inside the Most Exclusive Half Marathon in the World, Hosted by Lululemon

Photo: Lululemon
Having recently undergone hip surgery, Sarah Maloney had her doubts when she entered the lottery for Lululemon’s SeaWheeze Half Marathon. Not because of the necessary rehab it would take to prepare for the 13.1-mile race through Vancouver (a good portion of which takes place next to the Pacific Ocean)—the city which houses the brand’s headquarters. But because she was one of 28,000 people vying for one of 10,000 available bibs in what is arguably the most exclusive half marathon in the world.

When she snagged a spot, the Cleveland native booked her flight ($465) and accommodations (about $500 for the weekend), becoming part of the 88 percent of runners who traveled to British Columbia from out of town for the SeaWheeze experience.

Experience is an understatement, actually. The Saturday morning race, which dates back to 2012, is only part of the weekend’s festivities. Runners are offered yoga and meditation classes, a post-race carnival called “Sunset Fest” toting everything from a funhouse and a ferris wheel to a concert performance, and—for the first time this year—vision and goal setting sessions similar to the ones that Lululemon corporate employees experience upon accepting a job with the company.

And then, there’s the gear. At 7 a.m. Friday, the showcase store (essentially a large pop-up Lululemon shop), opens to runners only. Inside is exclusive SeaWheeze limited edition product and admittedly, some chaos. Hundreds of people are vying for tights, crops, shorts, sports bras, backpacks, tank tops, and hats toting a holographic splatter-paint pattern, many of which sell out in 30 minutes or less. And when the general public is allowed entry at 11 a.m.? Well, it’s pretty likely they’ll have to go to eBay if they want the good stuff (a pair of their limited-release Speed Tight is currently listed for $575, originally selling for around $230 USD).

“We want to make each year memorable for every one of our 10,000 runners, so the amount of excitement garnered from the limited-edition product, both by runners and our guests, constantly inspires our creativity and vision for future events,” says Michelle Davies, Lululemon’s Vice President of Athletes and Influencer Programs. “SeaWheeze is never the same event twice—each year there is a brand-new theme and exclusive product created specifically for our runners and guest experience is always one of our top priorities.”

It’s that high-level attention to detail that keep racers like Annelisa Polk coming back year after year. In Vancouver for her sixth SeaWheeze, she estimates that she spent around $4,000 altogether on travel, lodging, food, and gear for the three-day trip. “It’s the most fun overall half marathon experience there is,” she tells me. “I love going to Vancouver. I love traveling with my group of friends. And the programming provided by Lululemon is like any other race out there.”

Let’s not forget to give credit where credit is due, though. The course has got feel-good vibes galore—thanks to cheer stations galore where runners are greeted by everything from 100 people on Spin bikes to a full-size boxing ring, plus views for days.

“When creating the route, we knew we wanted to showcase our hometown and the beauty of the Pacific Northwest,” says Matt Jackson, Lululemon’s Director of Global Events. “The course runs along Vancouver’s celebrated waterfront—through downtown, Stanley Park, and the community of Kitsilano, where Lululemon began.”

SeaWheeze will be next August, which gives us all plenty of time to start prepping (details to come as to when the 24-hour application lottery will be.) Start with these helpful tips on how to squeeze marathon training into your day and the get advice straight from a run coach on the dos and don'ts of training.

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