Spirit Run returns with one-day cross-country event 

Race to take place Saturday at Whistler Olympic Park

The Rio Tinto Alcan Whistler Spirit Run is a traditional cross-country running race, right down to the coaches with whistles urging on students in their school jerseys.

Taking place this Saturday, Sept. 24 at Whistler Olympic Park, the race includes a school and team division, including a University-level competition. As well, there's an open category that anybody can race, and a relay for teams of four.

"(Registration) is looking very, very good - we've got lots of people registered and lots of school teams and clubs are throwing stuff at us fast and furious this week," said race director Peter Diemer. "It's the same every year. It's one of the first major races after school starts and it takes a while to figure out who's doing what."

This is the fourth year for the event, which was created to showcase the venue and bring more attention to the 2010 Winter Games. It's also held to celebrate the life Frank Reynolds, a competitive runner, coach and teacher who was a fixture at running events around the province until his death in 2006. Part of the proceeds from the event will go towards a bursary in his name that supports young track and field athletes.

The day gets underway at 11 a.m. with the Open, University and Masters Divisions, the men running 8km and the women 6km. For the first time there will be a prize purse for these races with sponsor SierraSil contributing $3,000 to go towards the top runners.

"It's a pretty big incentive for races, as well as the fact that the race is part of the Vancouver Sun Run Series and points are on the line as well," said Diemer.

"We think the Callaghan is just a great place to race, and we're looking into one day bringing an international level or a world championship here."

At noon it's the Elementary 12 and Under category, with athletes running 2km. At 12:30 p.m. it's the Junior High 15 and Under category going 3km. Senior High 17 and Under is at 1:15 p.m. with girls running 4km and boys 5km. The family fun run, a 1km race, is at 2 p.m., followed by the 4x2km relay for corporate, club and family divisions at 2:30 p.m.

"The relay race is a big focus for us this year," said Diemer. "We've added a media challenge category... and the Pan Pacific Hotel in Whistler is bringing a few team and challenging other hotels as well. Tourism Whistler is bringing a team."

The relay is more of a fundraiser, with proceeds from the event going to KidSport.

To reward the top relay team this year, the race has commissioned a new trophy by First Nations artist Aaron Nelson-Moody that will live in the trophy case at the Whistler Olympic Park daylodge.

The courses are located at Whistler Olympic Park, starting and finishing at the cross-country stadium.

Online registration wrapped up on Wednesday, but day of race registration is available. The price is $12 to $16, depending on the category, with no penalty for race day registration.



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