For trail runners it doesn’t get any more challenging than the Knee Knackering North Shore Trail Run. From end to end the course is 48 km, following the Baden Powell Centennial Trail from Horseshoe Bay to Deep Cove. From start to finish runners climb and descend over 2,400 metres of extremely technical trail over Black, Cypress, Grouse and Seymour mountains.
Very little of the trail is on flat ground, and the ground can be steep and technical — most runners have to use their hands to get up and down some sections, and many come to the finish line with some sort of injury from a fall.
Whistler Secondary teacher and guidance counselor Kevin Titus returned to the field Saturday, July 14 with the goal of setting a new course record for the 50 to 59 age category. Titus set the overall course record in 2003 with a time of four hours, 42 minutes and 37 seconds, smashing the previous record by almost three full minutes.
Despite the growing popularity of long-distance trail running — just eight people competed in the first Knee Knacker in 1989, while more than 400 entered the lottery to get into this year’s event — nobody has come close to Titus’s record. This year the field was deep, with Mark Bates, a six-time Knee Knacker champion in the running, as well as past record holder Peter Findlay, adventure racer Kevin Vallely, and marathon champion Oliver Utting. Organizers called it the strongest field in the race’s 19-year history.
Despite the added competition, Titus pretty much ran his own race on Saturday. The other runners kept up on the first climb, but by the time he reached the first checkpoint at Cypress Bowl it was Titus’s race. Titus had the lead coming into all four stages of the race, and at one point had a lead of 6:20 over Mark Bates. Bates picked up his pace in the last stage to close the gap slightly, but Titus was too far ahead to catch.
Titus won the race in 4:52:49, smashing the previous Men’s 50 to 59 record by almost 15 minutes.
Bates was second in 4:56:46, followed by Vallely in 5:09:21.
On the women’s side, women’s record holder Suzanne Evans of New Westminister had no trouble holding onto her title with a time of 5:26:10. Nicola Gildersleeve was second among women in 5:48:26, and Patricia Jensen third in 6:05:53.
From Whistler, Duncan Munro placed 18 th overall in the race in 5:56:32. It was slower than his previous race in 2005, where he finished ninth, but he was happy with his time given the calibre of runners this year, the changes to the course as a result of Olympic work at Cypress, and the damage caused by fallen trees.