Oliver Osoyoos Half Corked Marathon 2024

Famous marathons like Boston, New York, Paris and even Vancouver bring runners from all over the world to lace up in the pursuit of setting a personal record, achieving a qualifying time and for some, even the big win. But if you have ever heard of the Half Corked Marathon, you know that those goals are not the intention of anyone participating. For this run, the goals are to NOT finish too fast, to dress up in a fun costume, to taste wine and most importantly, to have fun!

Team Barbie celebrates crossing the finish line.

The event was founded by a small group of people, one of whom was Jennifer Busmann, the organization’s current executive director. She was the guest services manager of Nk’mip winery years ago when a customer came in looking for a branded product to wear while running the Marathon du Medoc (MdM). This chance encounter sparked the idea for the Oliver Osoyoos Wine region to start its own version, and thus the Half Corked Marathon (HCM) was born.

VinAmite’s tasting lineup at the finish line party.

The MdM, brought to attention in North America by Anthony Bourdain’s documented participation, is held annually in September. It is an official length, chip-timed, 42.2km long marathon with about 20 wine stops on a route that weaves through the vineyards of Bordeaux. In contrast, the HCM is an unsanctioned half marathon, between 20 and 24 km in length, with 15 wine stops. Other than that, there are more similarities than differences. They are both multi-day events, both encourage costume wearing and entry for both is primarily by a lottery system. Although both geared for runners, a lenient cut-off point allows for a leisurely pace.

Taking in the scenery of the beautiful Oliver Osoyoos wine region.

2024 marked the 16th anniversary of Half Corked. The first event, held in 2008, had 200 runners, while this year set a new record, with 1586 people registered to run. Every year the route is slightly different, not only to give repeat attendees a surprise but also to give exposure to different wineries in the region. The scenery of the vineyards along The Golden Mile and Black Sage benches was an excellent distraction to the burning of the leg muscles walking up the hills and pounding the pavement.

Fruit Looped won over the judges with unique Half Corked Marathon ingredients.

With a different theme every year, this one being “This is the 90’s”, costumes are encouraged to ramp up the fun factor. Prizes were awarded for categories of best costume, best group costume and best skit. There was a prominent rainbow of neon along with multiple versions of  Baywatch, Jurassic Park, Austin Powers, and even Al and Meg Bundy! Some people carried a speaker to share 90’s music along the route. The winner of the individual costume was Fruit Loops, the group costume was the Madonnas and the best skit went to one of the Baywatch teams.

More importantly, 15 wine stops were spread out along the route. They included larger wineries including Church & State, Road 13, Culmina and Inniskillin, as well as smaller brands like Nostalgia and Gold Hill. Samples of wine, cocktails and my personal favourite, a Sangreezie (a freezie from Nostalgia) kept the runners motivated, while water refills were offered to keep up hydration. Silver Sage set up a full breakfast spread with fruit, sausage, bread and baked goods to fuel the runners about the halfway point. The weather was almost perfect, with mostly sunny skies and a temperature between 18 and 24, interrupted briefly by a passing storm that created a ten minute downpour.

Culmina serving a refreshing grapefruit saignee cocktail.

The fun did not end at the finish line. On stage, Rebel Luv not only provided live music but ongoing commentary and encouragement for all of the runners as they approached the end of the route. The Paella Guys were kept busy cooking and dishing up vats of delicious paella (one of their pans was designed to feed 30 people!), while eight wineries, including CheckMate and VinAmite, poured samples of a variety of their products.

Socializing at the finish line party.

Since wave times were assigned for the start, runners began crossing the finish line at 11 am. The atmosphere at the Oliver Community Park was a combination of party and a giant stretching mat, as everyone socialized, danced and took selfies while waiting for the last group to complete the run. Both old friends and new said their goodbyes and headed back to their respective homes, bodies fatigued by the physical effort, but spirits fuelled by the excitement of participation in an epic, bucket list worthy event.

BJ Oudman

The 17th Oliver Osoyoos Wine Country Half Corked Marathon will be held on May 31, 2025.

BJ received a complimentary entry provided by the agency working with Oliver Osoyoos Wine Country. With thanks.

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