With a tougher test from the rest of the field and a new record time, winning twice was extra nice for David Jackson at The North Face Whistler Half Marathon.
The Abbotsford runner won the 21.1-kilometre race for the second year in a row on Saturday, June 7, becoming the event's first-ever two-time champion.
Meanwhile, Vancouver's Anne-Marie Madden, the women's half-marathon runner-up in 2013, grabbed first place to herself this year.
And in the 10K race, Catrin Jones claimed the women's title after winning the half-marathon distance last year, and local exchange student Yannik Gerland was the men's winner.
Jackson reached the Whistler Olympic Plaza finish in one hour, 11 minutes, five seconds on Saturday to beat the old course record he established last year by 19 seconds, and earn another nameplate on the Prior ski that serves as the event trophy.
"It feels good," Jackson said of becoming the Whistler Half's first repeat winner. "I really enjoy coming here, it's obviously a very beautiful place to come, and it's a challenging course.
"It's always nice to win, that's for sure."
Jackson ended up with a comfortable margin of victory over runner-up Jevin Monds (1:13:57) at the finish, and wasn't challenged much over the last half of the race. But Jackson said it was an early push from Monds on the course's early, hilly sections that forced him to find another gear.
"I had (Monds) with me until about seven kilometres in, and he was running really well," said Jackson. "There was a little more competition than last year.
"I think my time was a little bit faster than last time, probably because I was pushing a little bit more in the first half of the race."
Aiden Lennie (1:21:12) ran to third place among all men's finishers.
Monds, a former middle-distance runner from Alberta, said the hilly sections in the first half of the course started to take their toll on him by the time he reached the halfway point. But Monds, who used to run for the High Point University Panthers in North Carolina, was thrilled to place second in his first appearance at the Whistler Half Marathon.
"It's a good day, and a beautiful course... but a hard run," he said. "Overall, I'm pretty pleased.
"My specialty used to be the 1,500, but over the past couple years I've moved up to 5K, 10K, and now I'm trying to tackle the roads and, one day, a marathon."
At 1:20:33, Madden was the third-fastest runner overall on Saturday while winning the women's race. Her triumphant time put her nearly three minutes ahead of White Rock's Lisa Brooking (1:23:15), while third place belonged to 2012 winner Karen Tulloch (1:25:15).
"I wanted to try and pace well to not crumple on the second half of this course," said Madden. "It's pretty easy to fry your legs and then pay for it. But I think it went OK.
"(In 2013,) I had raced in Colorado on the Monday (before) and was definitely hurting last year, so it felt nicer to be a bit more fresh."
Madden and Jackson picked up $250 apiece for their respective victories.
Brooking said she treated Saturday's race as a training event for the Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon later this month, so a second-place finish was a bonus.
"This race is very humbling because it's a challenging course," she said. "I don't ever expect a personal best on this course, you just have to fight it out.
"I didn't taper for this run... so I knew I wouldn't have fresh legs, so I was hoping a miracle would happen. But that's OK — I just enjoyed the race, and I love coming up here," added Brooking, who has done all four Whistler Half Marathons.
The quickest Sea to Sky finisher was Brenden Rosser of Garibaldi Highlands, who was the fifth-fastest man on the course at 1:23:49. Pemberton runner John Teitzel was seventh among men at 1:25:41, and Whistler's Dean Eggleton was eighth by reaching the line at 1:26:53. Top 20 men's finishes also belonged to Sea to Sky residents Brendan Rivison, James Newby, Marian Treger, Gary Martin and Jeff Thompson.
In the women's race, Whistler's Tara Colpitts was the top local, crossing the line in 1:32:02 to rank seventh among all female finishers. Also from Whistler, Karen Ellott stopped the clock in 1:38:01, finishing 17th, while Alexa Harder finished 20th.
JONES SETS SECOND COURSE RECORD
Jones, who hails from Victoria, dropped down to the 10K rather than defend her half-marathon title because she's been recovering from injury. Still, she won the race on Saturday's short course in 41:16, and is now the Whistler course record-holder in both the half marathon and 10K.
"This is maybe my 10th run of 2014," said Jones, who's been dealing with an ailment to her hip and pelvis. "Literally, my first walk-run was May 2.
"It was nice (to be back). I love this race, I love the event... and I just wanted to be part of it — if I could pull off a run, then great. I had no idea that I'd be able to run decently... so I was pretty conservative the whole way."
North Vancouver's Nikki Knapp finished in 43:22 for second place, while the final podium spot went to Quebec's Marie-Danielle Synnett (44:34).
Seventeen-year-old Gerland, who's visiting from Germany as he attends Whistler Secondary, won the men's race in 36:47, beating the old 10K course record by a full minute. The Grade 11 student outlasted Whitehorse's Logan Boehmer (37:16) for the win, while Squamish runner Eric Goodwin (39:18) placed third.
"(Boehmer was) a pretty good competitor," said Gerland. "(We were close) the whole way. After Blueberry, when it goes downhill, I ran a little bit away, but he came back after Alta Lake, and it was pretty close until we came into the village."
Gerland added that he had spent plenty of time training for the race, but the difficulty level went up a notch on Saturday.
"In a race, it's so hard," he said.
Whistler's Chris Bowen finished one spot off the men's podium at 41:22 and had the fifth-fastest time overall. Whistler's Don Schwartz finished ninth among all male finishers and topped the men's 40-49 age group at 43:16. Rounding out the men's top 10, Hunter Sones from Squamish finished in 43:39.
Whistler runner Rhys Stuckey earned top local honours on the women's side, placing fifth in a time of 46:56, while fellow resort resident Stephanie King (48:02) finished seventh. Squamish's Caroline Walter finished ninth.
Visit www.racedaytiming.ca to view full results for both distances.
EVENT PRAISED, FUNDS RAISED
On top of the three new course records set Saturday, overall participation was unprecedented for the fourth edition of the Whistler Half Marathon.
Race director Dave Clark said more than 1,600 people took part in either the half marathon, 10K or Little Rippers Kids Run, eclipsing totals from 2013.
"It went great. Obviously the weather was amazing, and that helps a lot," said Clark. "To see participation growing, not just in numbers, but in the number of destinations people are coming from, is pretty cool to see, too."
Nearly all of the top finishers praised the event, its volunteers, the scenery or a combination of all three in their post-race comments.
"It's very encouraging and nice to hear when people who are at events every weekend are saying ours is a good one and well organized," Clark said of the positive feedback. "We're fortunate to have a supportive community and a dedicated group of folks at the core of it all."
Clark added that expanded weekend programming, including a seminar series on Friday and a recovery run on Sunday, drew strong interest. Saturday's run also raised $11,500 for Crohn's and Colitis Canada, bringing the total donated over the past four years to $58,000.
The fifth Whistler Half Marathon is set for June 6, 2015. See www.whistlerhalfmarathon.com for more details.