Running the good race

Trent Ernst, Editor

Birgit Sharman.
Birgit Sharman is ready for the Emperor’s Challenge. 
As one of the race’s prime organizers, Birgit Sharman knows most everything there is to know about the Emperor’s Challenge. 
She not only helps organize the race, she also runs the race. “There are only three of us that have done the full race every year,” says Sharman. “Myself, Charles Helm and Kris Swanson.”
The first few years were hard on Sharman, who was not used to running up and over a mountain. “It was by far the farthest I’d ever run. It was a lot more difficult, too. You had to watch your footing. And you were climbing up and over a mountain, so you had the elevation to deal with.”
The course gradually changed over the years, and so did she. Sharman began to train for mountain running, and familiarity with the course gave her confidence. After Peace River Coal began mining Roman Mountain, the route changed to Babcock Mountain. “The start and finish area is the same, which is good. There’s lots of parking for people,” says Sharman. “It’s a really good route.  It isn’t as tough and is a km shorter. But it has great scenery. The summit is at the halfway point and, it’s not as steep as some spots on Roman. The course we had with Matthews Gully, the summit was only one quarter of the way around, so it was very steep going up. The Babcock route is wide enough for people to pass just about everywhere. I really like it. 
One of Sharman’s favorite sections is the last few kilometres to the finish line. “On the way back down, at 15.5 km you hit the road again and it’s just go. Some people struggle with that, but I really like it, because I can turn it up a notch and just go. The summit is another favourite spot, as it is basically downhill from there. Distance wise you’re only halfway, but work wise you’re well over halfway done.”
Sharman says that one of the best things runners can do is to run the course at least once before the race. “It helps to train on it. So many people come out and it’s the first time they’ve run it, and they have issues, especially if they have never run a mountain before. “