In its eighth year of operation, the Whistler Half Marathon is further expanding from a race into a weekend-long festival.
The June 2 race, held in support of Crohn's and Colitis Canada, is expecting roughly 2,000 participants this year with between 2,000 and 3,000 more forecasted to line the course in support, according to race director Dave Clark.
"We've got one of our biggest registrations ever, so we're super excited about that," Clark said. "We're really excited about having another great big event."
Some of the elite names who are set to return include Abbotsford's David Jackson, who holds the men's course record in the half-marathon, 10-kilometre and five-km distances, and Victoria's Catrin Jones, the women's record holder in the half and 10-km events. As well, past women's champion Care Nelson is returning while 10-time Seattle Marathon champion Uli Steidl is set to take on the course.
Clark said the starting line is made up of both returnees and new runners each year.
"We've got lots of folks that are first-timers, for sure, but also a lot of familiar faces from the corridor and the island and Seattle," he said. "It's great to see new people coming and taking in not just the event, but all Whistler has to offer."
For the second time, the flagship half marathon race will not be the longest distance, as the 30-kilometre event is returning after debuting in 2017. Clark said roughly 130 runners are expected to challenge the course, which he described as a tough one, especially during some of the inclines near Lost Lake.
"It's a solid 30 K. Every time I ride (my bike) through that section, I always think, 'I hope people don't hate me at the end,'" Clark said with a chuckle.
Outside of race morning will be several other events to help foster a love of running in the community. On Sunday morning, the first-ever Dog Jog is set to be held in Lost Lake Park at 9 a.m.
Clark said he and other organizers had hoped to incorporate a dog-friendly element into the weekend for years, and with this fundraiser for Whistler Animals Galore (WAG), are finally able to make that dream come to fruition.
"We were super excited when WAG said they were keen to jump onboard and put this on," Clark said. "To bring in (a charity) that's local is really exciting for us."
Those interested in participating can register on the day of the event at the PassivHaus, near the start line.
Elsewhere, there will be a film festival at The North Face store on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. featuring a number of short films dedicated to running.
"It's stories of inspirational runners, people who have overcome some sort of adversity, or a really beautiful and inspiring place to go running—those are the types of stories that get told in these short films," Clark said.
As well, renowned ultramarathoner Gary Robbins will be in attendance at the film festival and will host free trail-running sessions on Friday, June 1 at 3:30 and 5 p.m. The sessions will start in Whistler Olympic Plaza.
Clark stressed the importance of volunteers to the event, thanking those who have committed to help and adding more are still required to help make the festival a success.
For more information on the weekend, visit www.whistlerhalfmarathon.com.