One of the more interesting trends at running events recently has been the performance of female runners as well as junior runners. Women are now running close to par with the top men, while juniors — once a rarity at races — are taking part in greater numbers and contending for top spots.
The annual Whistler Valley Trail Run on Saturday underlined both these trends with female runner — Tara Gorman — finishing a very close second overall, and a junior runner — Liam McDonald — winning the 5km race by almost 15 seconds.
In the 10km category, local Jake Breuer decided to enter the race after hearing about it at the bar the night before. He says he's not a runner, but has had luck in the past going out hard and hoping his lead holds until the end.
"I got out there and tried to hold on, like I always do," he said. "After the first two kilometres I had maybe a 15 or 20 second gap on Tara, and I kept focusing after that on trying to push the lead." In the end he finished just over 23 seconds ahead of Gorman.
Breuer said the race felt longer with the winding trails, but he also appreciated the variety. "It really did (feel longer than 10km) but at the same time it's nice to not have those long, straight stretches and have short-term goals instead — get to the top of this hill, get to the end of this stretch, get to that corner."
Breuer's time was 41:07, followed by Gorman in 41:30, followed by a three-minute gap. Kevin Hodder placed third overall in 44:24, followed by Laura Bestow in 45:24 (second woman, fourth overall). Jon Decaigny was the third male in fifth overall with a time of 45:42, followed by the third female, Karen Ellot, in 45:47.
Five of the top 10 runners in the event were women.
For Gorman, who used to race half marathons in Australia before moving to Whistler, the Whistler Valley Trail Run was her third race in a row. She took part in the North Face Whistler Half Marathon on June 1, where she placed fifth overall out of 404 runners the 10km race and first among women, and the 5 Peaks trail race in Squamish on June 8, where she was the second woman and 16th overall out of 221 runners in the Enduro category.
She said she kept Breuer in sight as long as she could, but ran out of time.
"I could see him just ahead at one point, but he went around a corner and I lost him," she said. "I thought I'd try to catch him but he was too fast."
She kept up her pace, enjoying the course and the views, and didn't see Breuer again until the last stretch heading to the finish line. She also had no idea what kind of lead she had over the rest of the field. "I don't look over my shoulder very much when I'm running, it stresses me out too much," she said. "I usually just go, and not worry about who's ahead of me or behind me, just focus on what I'm doing."
In the 5km category, Liam McDonald, 15, was the top runner with a time of 25:10 and a 14.6 second gap on the next runner.
"It happened pretty quickly, he said. "When I got to the turnoff for the 5km course I was the only one. Near the end someone almost caught up."
That someone was Craig Hill in 25:24.
McDonald is a representative on Whistler Youth Foundation, a fund managed for the benefit of Whistler kids and teens under the Community Foundation of Whistler umbrella. Money raised from the Whistler Valley Trail Run goes directly to the Whistler Youth Foundation.
Third place went to Lauren Doak, racing in the Female 15 and Under category in 25:31. Alanna Kelly, the top open female, was fourth in 25:31.
Complete results from the race are online at www.webscorer.com.