During the pandemic, with basically every organized event cancelled for an entire year, running and biking through the Sea to Sky’s trail system became a much-needed escape to normalcy for many people in the region.
And after a year with no events or competitions, and with more runners and bikers on the trails than ever before, excitement levels are high for the return of the Whistler X Triathlon in September and the Whistler Half Marathon in October.
“Super excited to get back to putting on events for sure,” said Dave Clark, race director for the Whistler Half Marathon.
“We thrive on putting on these events to engage with people and hopefully inspire them to live healthy lives and take part in events like this so it’s great to be back in the saddle for sure.
“We took a bit of a hiatus and I think there is a lot of participants that are excited about getting back, but I think there is still a fair bit of caution out there too amongst the public with regards to large gatherings and things. So, we are trying to put on an event that is going to cater to everybody’s comfort levels.”
This year, to adhere to the differing comfort levels of those who will be racing, the Whistler Half Marathon decided to forego its usual set up that had the half marathon, 30-kilometre race and five- and 10-kilometre races all on the same day and instead split the races into three consecutive days with 250 people racing each day on Oct. 9, 10 and 11.
Usually the half marathon, which has been running since 2011, would start and finish at the Olympic Plaza, but this year it will be run in Lost Lake Park “just to accommodate a smaller gathering,” according to Clark.
“The course previously was a mix of roadways and trails … but what we are doing is we are taking it from kind of 50 per cent trail to all trail, so it is a significant change,” he said.
“It’s going to be a new course for people, which we are super excited about because we always had this feel of built environment mixed with natural environment, as far as the area you are running through, and now it’s going to be all focused on the natural environment, which is pretty cool for sure. It’s never been an easy course for a half-marathon distance, and this one will have about 450 metres of elevation over the total distance. And before it was more in the range of 250.”
The Whistler X Triathlon, established in 2019, will also be taking place in Lost Lake Park and will be a fully off-road format for both the running and biking legs. According to race director Dale Tiessen, the off-road format of the race used to be unusual for a triathlon but over the past few years there has been an “uptake of more adventure racing-style formats,” especially in B.C.
“Triathlon B.C. is actually supporting a series of races now for off-road triathlon,” said Tiessen. “There is an event in Victoria and then on [Sept. 12] here and then the following weekend there is one in Cumberland—all off-road format. And really that growth and that type of event is based on the popularity—people are looking for something different.”
Also new this year, the Whistler X Triathlon will be an official qualifier event for the 2022 International Triathlon Union Cross World Championships, in Australia. It will be the only qualifier in Western Canada this year, according to Tiessen.
“If you are first place in your age category in our race in Whistler that will earn you a spot to be able to compete for team Canada as an amateur age group athlete in Townsville, Australia, which is the world championships for multi-sport including cross triathlon next year,” he said.
“There are a whole host of people that would undertake the triathlon as a challenge to themselves and are less worried about exactly how fast they are going, but for the people who are training hard and are competitive in the sport of triathlon then this represents a big opportunity, so I think it will be a draw for competitors from outside of the Sea to Sky area and even potentially other provinces.”
With a capacity set for 300 people, and 220 already signed up as roll-overs from last year’s cancelled event, Tiessen expects the event will sell out fast. The same can be said for the Whistler Half Marathon, according to Clark.
Registration for the triathlon opened on July 15 and closes on Sept. 7 and can be found online at whistlertriathlon.com.
Meanwhile, registration for the Half Marathon opens on July 26 for the general public with advanced registration open now for runners who chose to defer for a year after the 2020 race was cancelled. More information on the race can be found at whistlerhalfmarathon.com,