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Duncan Munro selected to Red Bull team

Red Bull Giants of Rio conquer water, land and air

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It was a friend of a friend who suggested Whistler trail runner Duncan Munro as a candidate for one of two Canadian Red Bull Giants of Rio Team. Munro had heard of the event, but he had no idea he was even being considered until the invitation came out of the blue.

The chance to compete for Canada, as well as an all-expense paid trip to Rio de Janeiro to run on that world famous beach, doesn’t come up every day.

"I’m ecstatic," said Munro. "I never thought in the world that I’d be asked to do to something like this.

"I’m blown away that my running would one day result in being invited to this kind of event. I’ve only been running for a few years, but I’ve been running hard. I guess all of my hard work has paid off."

The Red Bull Giants of Rio team relay competition is an annual race that pits teams of four against one another. It starts with a cliff dive into the Atlantic Ocean, followed by a three kilometre beach break swim off of Copacabana Beach. The second stage is a 45 km mountain bike ride through the city and into the technical trails of Tijuca National Park. The trail ends by the gigantic statue of Christ on the top of the Corcovado, where the next team member takes to air in a speed hang gliding competition to Ipanema Beach. The final stage, which is Munro’s, is a 20 km beach run, with a mix of roads, sand and cobblestone that ends at the famous Copacabana club.

With temperatures in the mid-30s Celsius, it’s going to be a hard slog. Still, Munro is confident that he can handle the conditions.

"It’s not the temperature that worries me or the distance, it’s the sand. It’s supposed to be this really gritty stuff that you just sink into and that gets into everything, although it gets a lot firmer the closer you get to the water. My calves are going to take a beating," he said.

To get used to beach running, Munro plans to make several trips to Vancouver between now and when his team leaves on Dec. 1 to run on the sand. He also went for a 20 km run in the snow last week after almost 30 centimetres fell on Whistler Village.

Local coach Val Burke has also counselled Munro turn up the heat in his bathroom, grab a stationary bike, and lay out a few buckets of water to simulate the heat and humidity of Rio.

"I have to do all of this in a short time to get ready. It’s only a few weeks away, but before that all my training was set to peak for the Haney to Harrison run. When I got the call from Red Bull, I needed to ramp up everything again," said Munro.

"I didn’t mind the extra work this late in the season – this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for me and I’m going to make the most of it."

Jamieson Keegan of Red Bull, who extended Munro the invite, is entering two Canadian teams to Rio, where they will face hundreds of teams from five different continents, and from countries as far away as Russia, South Africa and Israel.

Munro is on the amateur team, or Team East. Shannon Bell, a Vancouver swimming coach Munro knows from his competitive swimming days, will handle the first leg. Mathieu Toulouse of Quebec, one of Canada’s top mountain bikers, will ride up to Corcovado and Chris Muller of Calgary will glide to Ipanema beach.

Team West, the pro team, includes swimmer Dustin Hersee, mountain biker Andreas Hestler, hang glider Brett Hazlett, and Dave Narona, one of Canada’s top adventure racers. All are from Vancouver.

The teams will fly out on Dec. 1 to give them a few days to acclimatize before the competition on Dec. 5.

Munro says he will take a break from competitive running when he returns, although he and his business partner, Scott Whalen, are hoping to offer a snowshoe trail running program this winter to prepare everyone for the annual Yeti race on Whistler Mountain.

During the summer, Munro and Whalen conduct weekly trail running clinics, host hash runs, and go for runs with clients. They also helped with the first trail run on Comfortably Numb, as well the Cops for Cancer run.

Although he knows the competition will be stiff in Rio, Munro says he’s determined to make it a fun race.

"I really do like the competitive side of running, but I wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t fun," he said.

"At the Haney to Harrison run last weekend, I saw these two ladies just racing each other to the finish. They were a little on the big side, and not in the best shape in the world, but they both had big smiles on and the crowd was going crazy. I get the most inspired by people who are just starting to get into running, and that’s what I think about when I’m about to hit the wall when I’m running, or if I’m not feeling great. I just have to remind myself that it’s fun.

"Or that I’ll be having fun when it’s all over."

For more information on the Red Bull Giants of Rio, visit www.redbullgiantsofrio.com.