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Whistler Half Marathon hits its stride in ninth year

Return runners dominate the podium of June 1 races
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ON YOUR MARK Runners take off from the start line at the Whistler Half Marathon on Saturday, June 1. Photo by Rob Shaer/Courtesy of the Whistler Half Marathon

Everything was a little bit easier this year for organizers of the Whistler Half Marathon.

The gloomy skies that loomed over the last few editions of the race gave way to sun on Saturday, June 1, volunteers turned up in abundance, and the number of runners remained steady at about 1,770, said race director Dave Clark.

"I think it was probably the smoothest edition we've had so far from an operational perspective," he said. "We've always had that mentality of, 'Things are great and work well, but how can we fine tune and improve our process?' It really feels those nine years of attention to details has paid off. That was definitely a big win. The second big win was the number of volunteers—it was phenomenal."

The podium, meanwhile, was dominated by return runners this year. Victoria's Care Nelson, held on to top spot in the women's half marathon with a time of 1 hour, 28 minutes and 24 seconds (1:28:24)after her win in 2018. (She's also placed in the top three since 2011—the only exception being 2014 when she didn't run.)

"I thought of this one a lot while I was running because she's super fast," she said while holding her daughter, Stella, in her arms after crossing the finish line. "She's doing the kids' race, so every time I got tired, I thought, 'Oh, I have to get back to Stella.'"

Coming in behind Nelson with 1:31:40 was Renee Lane in second spot, followed by Annika Austin at 1:32:44.

Meanwhile, on the men's side, Alexandre Ricard crossed the finish line first in 1:14:07. Having moved from Quebec to Squamish a year ago, Ricard had mostly run five and 10-kilometre races before toeing the line in Whistler. "It's my second half marathon," he said. "I'm starting longer distances. It's nice."

Behind him with a time of 1:16:25 was Seattle's Uli Steidl, who set a course record for the 30-km distance of the race last year.

"I thought, 'I did the 30 K last year and got the course record; I'll try something new,'" he said.

Just 15 seconds behind him was Victoria's Nick Walker. "I've been out to help with the event in the first three years it started," Walker said. "It's amazing. It's definitely a very challenging course, but rewarding as well."

Taking the top spot in the 30K was renowned ultra marathoner Rob Krar with a time of 1:56:28.

Krar, who has won both the Western States 100 and Leadville 100, was invited to the race this year to lead two guided trail runs on Friday, May 31 as part of the pre-race events. "I come from an ultra-running and trail-running background, so this was very smooth, very flat," Krar said. "Definitely the pace was much faster than I'm used to, but I enjoyed it."

The second-place runner, Lukas Fuesselberger, came in less than a minute behind him at 1:57:09, which added up to some fun competition, he said.

"The guy in front of me put a good gap on me halfway through the course. And I caught up to him with just over a kilometre to go and put in a hard surge. It was fun. It brought me back to my road running days, putting on the face and going by quickly," he said.

Michael Stobart rounded out third place in the 30K men's division. Trisha Steidl took first place in the women's division with 2:12:52 while Christina Bauer and Chloe Eaton finished the top three.

That distance marked its third year as part of the race's offerings. It has become a solid challenge for those who are looking for something a little less daunting than a full marathon, Clark said. "The feedback we get from people is they like it because it challenges them more than they expected it to," he added.

In the 10K, David Jackson was the fastest man at 35:08, followed by Luke Armstrong, and Jan Kundoerfer. Catrin Jones topped the women at 39:01, with Lydia Tay in second, and Megan Morrissey in third.

The 5K, meanwhile, saw Mark Klassen cross the line first in 18:30, with Anando Naqui, and Hector Aro behind him. For the women, Marilyn Arsenault finished in 24:37, followed by Emma Elsner, and Willa Kriebel in third.

To see the full results, visit whistlerhalfmarathon.com/results.html.

Meanwhile, an early tally estimated the event raised at least $18,000 for Crohn's and Colitis Canada. "It really solidifies why we did this in the first place and continue to do it," Clark said.