Part wine tour, part fun run, timing isn’t everything when taking part in the Half Corked Marathon. In fact, timing isn’t even recorded, with the warning that ‘if you come first, you’ve actually lost.’
The most important aspect of this run, you see, is to have FUN. And the organisers make that easy to do, with as many as 19 wine tasting stops along the 19km route through the vineyards of the Oliver Osoyoos Wine Country in southern British Columbia.
If you’re doing the maths, you’ll realise that Half Corked participants run an average of about 1km before stopping to drink some wine!
And better still, the wine keeps flowing at the finish line, where even more wineries await to pour their best.
Copious amounts of wine isn’t the only reason to smile at the Half Corked Marathon. More than 90% of participants dress up in the wildest and craziest costumes to run down the vineyard rows.
It all makes for the most exciting, zaniest and unique events you’ll ever experience. If you’ve been looking for a run that doesn’t take itself too seriously, the Half Corked Marathon is the one!
Published April 2022. We were guests of Oliver Osoyoos Wine Country.
Oliver is situated on the traditional territory of the Syilx/Okanagan and Nlaka’pamux Nations. Part of the running route traversed Osoyoos Indian Band reserve land.
The Half Corked Marathon experience
Our Half Corked Marathon experience started at 7.20am, with a shuttle bus from Penticton to Oliver. About one hour later, I had a small glass of delicious local wine in my hand as I waited at the starting line.
Certainly an early morning for me on both accounts and we weren’t even the earliest ‘wave’ of runners (participants are released onto the course gradually).
Looking around at the other runners in our wave, it was like looking at a daytime Halloween party. Mario and Luigi stood on our right, next to a couple of long bearded Forrest Gumps, some 80’s fitness instructors and two giant bumble bees. Everyone was grinning.
Taking part with my neighbour Ricky, we had dressed as cheerleaders. Not only did we fit in, but we were able to cheer everyone else on!
After a welcome (and no warm up), we were off. It was a slow start as we half ran and half walked down the first bumpy vineyard row. A group of ladies dressed as fish waved their shiny tails at us as they weaved in front of us.
Golden Mile Bench
The crowd quickly dispersed as the road started to climb up to Road 13 Winery. The sun was already warm and the hill was a formidable challenge.
A castle awaited at the top of the vineyard as well as the most spectacular views of the valley. After a swig of Chardonnay and a run back down the hill, things started to get much easier (funny that!)
This set the scene for the rest of the morning. With so much wine to sample and spectacular views to take in, the kilometres passed quickly. Our gregarious fellow runners surely helped too.
Just before the half way mark, we crossed from the Golden Mile Bench to the Black Sage Bench via the highway.
I can only imagine what the drivers of those stopped vehicles thought as a couple of cheerleaders crossed the road with a handful of Dr Suess characters and striped shirted gondoliers.
Black Sage Bench
After running across and alongside the Okanagan River Channel, we arrived at Silver Sage Winery. I’d heard that this winery usually put on a good spread and they had exceeded expectations.
A full buffet of treats with a range to wines to pair with, accompanied by huge shady trees, chairs (!), washrooms and more. The next stop, Nostalgia, delivered in a different way, with a dancing T-rex and tasty apple fritters.
It was a good thing we prepared for the road ahead, which featured the last big hill of the day. And it was a long one. We were rewarded by not one, but three wineries at the top, with a total of six wines to taste!
In a regular race, the last few kilometres can be the hardest. Not true for the Half Corked Marathon. It was all downhill, with five more wineries between us and the finish line. Quite an incentive if you ask me!
After meeting a couple of lovely winery dogs (Bruno and Penny, you stole our hearts) and some new friends from Northern BC, it was time to sprint to the finish.
Welcomed by live music, we picked up our medals (in the form of wine glasses) and a picnic lunch. With more wine samples by our side, we spent the afternoon cheering our fellow participants to the end.
An average half marathon time is around two hours. We spent almost four hours on the Half Corked Marathon course and I can assure you we didn’t come first. A success! I’m already planning my costume for next year…
Half Corked Marathon: Essential details
Inspired to run the Half Corked Marathon yourself? I don’t blame you! Seamlessly blending great wine, beautiful scenery and a lot of laughter, the Half Corked Marathon must be the most entertaining running event around.
Read on to discover all of the essential details you need to know about the Half Corked Marathon.
Please note that the below section refers often to the ‘2022 event,’ meaning the Half Corked Marathon held on 23rd April 2022. Technically, this was the 2021 Half Corked Marathon as the prior event was rescheduled due to pandemic restrictions.
The official 2022 Half Corked Marathon will take place on 10th September 2022.
How to get a ticket
Running for more than decade, the Half Corked Marathon is one of the most popular annual events in the Okanagan Valley. So much in demand, tickets are allocated by a lottery system.
To enter the lottery, you must be:
- 19 years old or over
- Able to run at least 5km
The lottery is typically open for less than a week and is free to enter. Only one entry per person is allowed, however. Entrants will be drawn from the lottery within one week of the closing date.
Lottery winners are given the opportunity to purchase one ticket and provide the name and email address of a friend to purchase another ticket.
Tickets for the April 2022 Half Corked Marathon were $225 plus processing fee and GST ($245.70 total).
At the time of writing, the lottery dates for the September 2022 Half Corked Marathon have not been announced yet. Keep an eye on the Oliver Osoyoos Wine Country website for updates.
A Half Corked Marathon ticket includes:
- Wine tastings along the well signed run route*
- Small bites at several locations along the run route
- Welcome bag (more details below)
- Shuttle transportation to/from the start and finish from Oliver, Osoyoos and Penticton
- Picnic lunch at the finishing line
- Wine tastings at the finishing line
- Branded wine glass
- Opportunity to wear costumes
- Chance to win costume prizes
*20 wineries were represented in 2022, with 19 offering at least one wine sample. Some wineries offered two or more samples.
Personally, I found the Half Corked Marathon to be great value for a number of reasons. For one thing, the wine tastings were plentiful, both along the route and at the finish line!
Secondly, a similar running route would be very difficult to recreate, and not just from the wine tasting side. The 2022 route traversed some private roads and vineyards.
The party at the finish line was fun, with live music and dancing. Each participant received a substantial picnic lunch, which included snacks from local companies. We also received light bites (fruit, popcorn, apple fritters etc.) at three wineries along the route.
Finally, the included shuttle service is very convenient. Obviously, it’s a great money saver too, especially for participants travelling from Penticton.
All Half Corked Marathon participants must attend the in-person registration the day prior to the event.
After providing a signed waiver and ID, you receive:
- Detailed race information including route map, bus pick-up location and time, wave allocation
- Coloured race bib and safety pins
- Wristband, indicating wave colour
- Welcome bag with discounts, water bottle and other promo items
- Half Corked Marathon Blend wine
In 2022, registration took place at Oliver Visitor Centre on 6431 Station Street. Participants could drop in anytime between 11am and 7pm.
There is a merchandise table for purchase of logoed items.
One of the highlights of the Half Corked Marathon is the colourful costumes worn by many participants. There are three awards up for grabs:
- Best Individual Costume
- Best Group Costume
- Best Skit
In 2022, the judges’ table was located about 6km into the route. We were advised by other runners that it was closer to the starting line in previous years. Prizes are awarded at the Finish Line party.
I would estimate that at least 90% of participants in 2022 chose to wear a costume, but there is no requirement to do so. If you’d feel more comfortable in regular running gear, then go for it!
The Half Corked Marathon running route changes from year to year. It is around 19km in length. Officially, participants should aim to finish within 3.5 hours. Water and washrooms are available at regular intervals.
The 2022 route traversed two wine regions – the Golden Mile Bench and the Black Sage Bench. When looking at a map of the Oliver and Osoyoos area, the Golden Mile Bench is on the western side of Highway 97, with the Black Sage Bench on the eastern side.
The starting line for the 2022 event was located at Rust Winery, with stops at the tasting room locations of Road 13 Vineyards, Intersection Estate Winery, Silver Sage Winery, Nostalgia Winery and Quinta Ferreira Estate Winery. The remaining wineries were represented along the route.
The 2019 Half Corked Marathon was held entirely on the Black Sage Bench, with no highway crossing required. The starting line was at Burrowing Owl Winery.
Other weekend events
Enhance your Half Corked Marathon experience by attending one of the associated weekend events (additional ticket fee, early purchase recommended).
- The Primavera Dinner is an al fresco dining experience with plenty of pre-race carbs and wine, held the night before
- In 2022, Party! At the Finish Line was followed by Dinner at the Farm, a relaxed soirée hosted by Kismet Estate Winery
Other posts you may find helpful:
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One half of the Canadian/British couple behind Off Track Travel, Gemma is happiest when hiking on the trail or planning the next big travel adventure. JR and Gemma are currently based in the beautiful Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada