Family mattered at the 23rd annual Whistler Valley Trail Run on Sunday, June 15, as a few dozen runners braved stormy skies and celebrated Father's Day by taking on the event's 5K or 10K course.
Several participants either ran the race with other family members, or had family awaiting them at the Spruce Grove Park finish line, as the clouds parted for just long enough on Sunday morning to splash some sun on the trails.
That included Marek Ujejski, who had two of his sons out to support him as he ran to the top local time on the short course.
"They were up and at 'em this morning nice and early to come out here," grinned Ujejski, who finished the 5K as the runner-up in 23 minutes, 38 seconds.
The top women's 5K finisher, Nicki Murdoch, crossed the line alongside dad, Brent, in 32:57. And the overall winner, Seattle's Matthew Jackson, also had his father there cheering at the finish, and his mother out running the event herself, as they visited the resort on a family vacation.
"We came up here yesterday and were looking through the newspaper and said, 'Wow, there's a run tomorrow — we better go do that,'" said Jackson, 14. "It was a challenging course but it was fun to do."
Whistler's Marian Treger was the fastest runner in the 10K, finishing in 42:44, while fellow local Johnny Adams (44:57) was second across the line.
"It went better than two years ago when it was first time here, but my goal was to beat 40 (minutes), and I was like, 'Where is the end?'" laughed Treger, who was happy to be back out on a race course just eight days after finishing the Whistler Half Marathon.
"I'm a person who likes to compete, so I take every chance. I like to push my limits."
The women's 10K ended up being a close finish, as winner Valeinna Dimma (53:15) was just four seconds ahead of runner-up Leni Reichos.
"I turned around and heard her behind me and I'm like, 'Oh my gosh, she's right there!'" Dimma said, as Reichos laughed from within earshot. "I don't think I would have ran that fast if she wasn't right behind me. She was hot my heels and it was definitely a sprint to the finish."
Even though Sunday's run didn't draw the same kind of turnout it did in its heyday, race director Wanda Chalk said the event still raised several hundred dollars for the Whistler Youth Foundation.
"We used to get up to 200," said Chalk, adding that the gloomy skies early Sunday morning may have scared a few runners from registering on race day.
In fact, weather conditions just two hours from the start were ominous enough that Treger said he nearly stayed in bed.
"This morning, it was funny — I woke up at seven and it was pouring, and I thought, 'Hmm, I don't want to run this one,' so I slept again," he said. "At 10 to eight, it stopped raining... so I said, 'Let's do it.'"
Even last year's Whistler Valley Trail Run saw nearly 100 runners competing in one distance or another, but the resort's summer schedule keeps getting more and more packed
"Whistler's getting so popular for events, and running in general," she said. "There are just that many more events and... it's hard to find a date that doesn't conflict with others."
But no matter the numbers, the locals who ran Sunday said they continue to hold an appreciation for one of Whistler's longest-running races in any sport.
"It's nice to come out and be with the community and support a good cause," said Ujejski. "I love running the Lost Lake trails, too. It's all good."
BESTOW, OSADUIK TOP COMFORTABLY NUMB RUN
Another Whistler race with a rich history also returned Sunday, and Langley runner Steven Osaduik took the title in this year's Helly Hansen Comfortably Numb Trail Run.
Osaduik finished the 25-kilometre route along one of Whistler's toughest trails in two hours, three minutes, 20 seconds, enough to hold off runner-up Chuck Cosman by 57 seconds. Vincent Pagot placed third, while Mike Conway and Jake Breuer rounded out the top five.
Whistler's own Laura Bestow earned a convincing victory in the women's race, clocking in with the ninth-fastest overall time at 2:15:46. The 28-year-old was more than 10 minutes ahead of all of the 43 other women in the field. Cara Williams (2:26:31) was the best of the rest, while third place belonged to Jennie Sprigings.
Kevin Hodder posted the fastest time by a runner in the 40-49 age group, crossing the line in 2:17:22, while the top 50-plus competitor was Russell Henry (2:26:32).
On the women's side, the first finisher in the 40-49 group was Natasha Pulfrey (2:32:29), and Vicki Romanin notched the top 50-plus time at 2:56:34.
Results for both of Sunday's races are posted at www.webscorer.com.