Winter, Cliff top Whistler Spirit Run 

Over 240 people come out for classic cross-country running event

click to enlarge fast startChris WInter (far right)
  • fast startChris WInter (far right)

Over 240 people turned out to the fifth annual Whistler Spirit Run, which took place at Whistler Olympic Park on Saturday, including a few members of Canada's steeplechase team. The course was a series of loops out of the Olympic cross-country stadium area, with a mix of pavement, gravel and dirt.

Vancouver's Chris Winter took an early lead in the men's 8km event and never looked back. He finished the race in 24:42, averaging a kilometer every 3:06. Sean Chester placed second in 25:53, followed by Kevin O'Connor in 26:18. Originally the unofficial results put O'Connor second.

For Winter, a national track and field athlete who competes in the sport of Steeplechase, it was a chance to train and prepare for nationals. Shortly after he earned his podium, and a cheque for $400, he took off running again with women's winner Rachel Cliff, also richer by $400.

"The (prize money) will help me travel to races over the next couple of months and the nationals at the end of November," said Winter, when asked if he had plans for the money.

"In the spring I was over running in Europe and doing a lot of events, and after that I took about a month off to rest and get ready for the fall season. This was my first race back, and it was important to me — Frank Reynolds was my coach for my first eight years of running, he's the reason I'm running track. It's super important to me to be able to do the race this year."

Reynolds, a North Shore track and field coach, passed away in 2006 after training athletes and staging events for almost two decades, earning acclaim like the Sport BC President's Award for his efforts. He came up with the idea of hosting an event at Whistler Olympic Park as a way to promote the Olympics as well as track and field.

Winter said the course was challenging compared to most track events.

"There's a bit of altitude here that you could feel, and that one hill was not easy at all," he said. "By the third lap, which was cut short, it felt like it was uphill the whole time with that hill to get over. But it's a gorgeous setting in Olympic Park, and running past the Olympic rings makes it special."

Winter said he tested the other runners early to see who could keep up, but by the end of the first lap he had a good lead. "I felt good after that, and just had fun and enjoyed the course," he said.

Matt Barry was the top Whistler runner in the men's 8km race in 11th place in 32:54, followed closely by Jon Decaigny in 12th in 32:55. Graeme Fitch was 14th in 34:53.

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