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Whistler 50 set for Saturday

Ultra race under new management

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The Whistler 50 Relay & Ultra may be under new management, but runners can rest assured it's in good hands.

Earlier this summer, longtime race director Tom Skinner opted to take a step back and BC Athletics' first thought was to tap the braintrust behind the Whistler Half Marathon, led by race director and founder Dave Clark, to take over.

"When BC Athletics had the opening for the role of race director, volunteer coordinator and the marketing side of things, they approached us and it seemed to be a good fit because we're local here and we know the community well. We know the course well and we know the logistical side of it well," Clark said. "Tom was a one-man show in the past, while we were able to bring our whole team onboard and divide-and-conquer that work into some of our own personal specialties."

Clark also praised Skinner for being available to answer questions and to help as much as he could when the new crew was pressed into action.

Clark said the new era, which will officially begin with this year's race on Saturday, Oct. 13, is off to a stable start.

"Registration numbers are good, very similar to last year on the relay side of things. The ultra numbers are down a little bit, but nothing is really concerning or anything, so that's good," Clark said.

The race underwent a transformation in 2017, with runners or teams completing a 20-kilometre loop, made up of a 13-km section and a seven-km section, four times to get to the 50-mile (or 80-km) distance.

"There was a new course for the event last year, so we're sticking with the exact same one. It seemed to be really successful and worked really well," Clark said.

Though Clark certainly is impressed with those who complete the half marathon, he's enjoyed getting a closer look at ultra racers.

"Anybody who's willing to step up and get to a start line for an 80-km (race) is awesome. It's pretty inspiring to see the people who put themselves through the training to get themselves to a start line and feel confident enough to be able to go out and run that distance," he said. "We'll have a split of people who are veteran ultra runners and we'll have people where this is their first crack at running that kind of distance, too."

At this point, Clark is focused on pulling off the 2018 race, but hopes to start talking about an extension with BC Athletics after the final runners have crossed the line.

"We haven't even discussed the future at this point. We signed a one-year contract with BC Athletics to ensure that a great event was pulled off this year and that's what our primary focus is at this point," he said. "Once it's over, then we can talk about the future. It would make a lot of sense for it to carry on so there was consistency from year to year, but we'll have those conversations post-event."

Inaugural Turkey Trot a success

It's been a busy October for Clark and Co. as he also hosted the first-ever Turkey Trot on Oct. 7. The race featured five- and 10-km distances.

"We didn't really know entirely what to expect—were we going to get 50 people out or was there going to be great demand? We ended up selling out the 150 spots ahead of time," Clark said. "It was a family-centric event getting kids out. We had kids that were eight or nine that were running in the 5-km and we had some younger teenagers running in the 10-km, but they're running side-by-side with their family members."

Clark said participants were a roughly even split between locals and those from elsewhere, primarily the Lower Mainland and a few Seattleites for good measure. He stressed how important it is to have an event that allows for gratitude at this time of year.

"It allows us an opportunity to disconnect a little bit and be thankful for the things that we're able to do in our lives," he said.

Clark himself expressed thanks to the volunteers who braved the chilly temperatures, and to everyone involved in the race, which helped raise over $2,000 for Crohn's and Colitis Canada.

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