Long distance runners in Whistler are set for a new event that will put competitors through the toughest organized running event Whistler has ever seen.
On Sunday Sept. 2, Meet Your Maker will take individual competitors and teams over an 86-kilometre (53.5 miles) course that will include a ride on the Peak 2 Peak Gondola. The course starts and finishes at Whistler Olympic Plaza. In between, competitors will run along the eastern shore of Green Lake, climb up Blackcomb Mountain, descend Whistler Mountain, swing by Function Junction and traverse the Flank Trail on a return route to the finish line at the plaza.
Event organizer Chris Colpitts said close to 95 per cent of the race is off road and 80 per cent of the course is on singletrack trails.
"It is not too often you get a roundabout route with the ultra marathons," Colpitts said of other 50-mile events.
He was quick to point out that Meet Your Maker is the only event that he knows of in the world featuring a gondola ride.
"It is not unheard of to have boats and things to cross rivers but definitely the gondola is a unique aspect that we've got here in Whistler," said Colpitts. "It is a very unique race."
Registration for the event was cut off last Saturday and Colpitts said about 90 per cent of the people entered were from outside of Whistler. The majority of the competitors are from the Vancouver area.
"A team from Lillooet is coming and the farthest is a solo guy from Pennsylvania," said Colpitts.
One of the world's largest ultra distance running events is Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB), which started Aug. 27. The European race continues through the weekend. Some of the keenest ultra distance athletes from around the world are competing in that 166-kilometre event. The course spans three countries — France, Italy and Switzerland — and hits competitors with a 9,400-metre climb in one section.
Colpitts said 5,800 people expressed their interest in doing the European event by entering their name into a lottery. Only 2,400 were chosen to take part in the race.
The goal of Meet Your Maker was to pick up some of the people looking for a similar experience at a destination event who didn't make it into the European event, said Colpitts.
The marketing of Meet Your Maker was consistent with the way 5 Peaks events are promoted and this year the main push was to get the message to the local market. The plan for marketing the 2013 race is to put more emphasis on reaching out to the international market and the ultra marathon community.
"Salomon is extremely supportive of the event and committed and they're bringing in a couple of relay teams, as well as one of the lead management guys on the Salomon team," said Colpitts. Salomon's Phil Villenueve will compete in the race and get a first hand experience of the event then take his thoughts back to the company.
Colpitts said he would love to have a multi-year commitment for Meet Your Maker so that it can grow into a true international destination race. He said Whistler Blackcomb, Tourism Whistler and the Resort Municipality of Whistler have all been helpful in supporting the event.
The event will start on Saturday with a mandatory racer meeting at 6:30 p.m. and that will be followed the next morning with a racer briefing at 5:45 a.m. for a 6 a.m. start time. Along with the solo competitors, teams of up to seven people will participate in the race.