More than two weeks out from the Aug. 23 Whistler leg of the 5 Peaks Trail Running Series almost 400 racers have already signed on to take part in both the Sport and Enduro categories.
Kathryn Stanton, the national race director for the 5 Peaks — which has events in Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and B.C. for a total of 20 races each summer — says she expects about 600 racers this year.
“We had a lot of people commit really early in the season to the whole season, but last year in Whistler we had almost 600 runners with race day entries and we expect that we’ll be pushing 600 again,” she said. “The whole series is popular, but the Whistler event is usually one of our biggest.”
One of the attractions is the high alpine course, with both the Sport and Enduro category starting and finishing outside the Roundhouse Lodge on Whistler Mountain. Stanton expects the courses to be similar to last year — a 5.6 km Sport Course with about 355 metres of elevation gained and a 10.8 km Enduro Course with about 1,517 metres gained — but they are looking at other routes, possibly making use of the new High Note trail. There’s also a good chance that runners will encounter some snow on the course.
Stanton says participation is up across the country in Five Peaks events. “Across the country, we’re up almost 30 per cent, and in B.C., where participation was already high, we’re looking at about 10 per cent more than last year,” she said. “It’s kind of refreshing that it’s leveling off in B.C., not to be scrambling with so many new people registering. We’re getting to the point, between 600 and 700 racers, where we’re kind of at our capacity. That’s a lot of people to manage on singletrack trails.”
To handle the crowds, Five Peaks organizers have done away with mass starts and brought in both staggered starts and timing chips.
“It makes it that much easier for people to spread out a bit when running, so there’s more time for people going single file to find their place in the pack when heading into the narrow sections,” said Stanton.
Stanton says she is amazed by the popularity of trail running.
“I think what’s happening is that there was such a huge growth in road running and triathlons 10 to 15 years ago, and now a lot of those people are looking for something else to do,” said Stanton. “Companies like ourselves have also gone out and tried to create that relatively comfortable transition from road to trails. It not extreme adventure running, we have both Sport and Enduro categories, aid stations, course markers, mile markers, first aid… so people won’t be afraid to try it.
“Once they do try it people can see there are more benefits to trail running that just road running, which is why a lot of road runners do it to cross-train. It works your entire body, your entire core, and is also lower impact on your legs and muscles because it’s less repetitive and the ground is often softer. At our races you see a lot of people in road shoes that are training for road events like marathons, as well as people who do most of their running off the road. There are so many more off-road events than there used to be.”
The Whistler race is the fourth of five events in the B.C. 5 Peaks Trail Running Series, following races at Golden Ears, Cypress, and Mount Seymour. The final event of the series is at Buntzen Lake on Sept. 13.
For more information or registration, visit www.5peaks.com.