EMPEROR’S CHALLENGE

As the excitement is winding down about the Emperor?s Challenge, and runners turn their thoughts to the cross-country season, it may be worth considering some of the interesting facts and figures about the race, which has become a prominent feature in the summer calendar of the Peace Region. Birgit Sharman has taken on the role of race statistician, and many of the following items are provided by her.

2007 was the ninth Emperor?s Challenge. Special celebrations are planned for the tenth race, on August 9th, 2008, including a commemorative book and a DVD.

Sixteen athletes will be eligible for their ?in perpetuity? bibs in 2008, if they complete their fifth Emperor?s Challenge. Special awards will be presented to those who have completed all ten (regardless of whether these were the adult race, the kids? race, or a combination). Only three athletes have completed all nine adult races so far: Kris Swanson, Charles Helm and Birgit Sharman. Four kids have completed a combination of nine races: Daniel and Carina Helm, and Natalie and Laura Sharman.

The steady rise in number of participants is interesting: 1998: trial run with ten invited runners 1999: the first real race ? 65 – 2000: 84 2001: 57 2002: 98 2003: 160 2004: 142 2005: 216 2006: 190 2007: 280

Where do they come from? In 2007 Dawson Creek contributed 25% of participants, closely followed by Fort St John with 20%. Tumbler Ridge managed 13%, Chetwynd 9%, Prince George 8% and Grande Prairie 6%. International runners just represent a few percent, but add to the attraction: Germany, England, Denmark, South Africa, USA etc.

How old are they? In 2007 26% were in the 40-49 age group, 23% in the 30-39 age group, and 23% in the 19-29 age group. 11% were 18 and under. 2007 also featured the youngest and oldest records: Art Nolan at 82 years is the oldest finisher under five hours in the history of the race. Tyler Schlief became the youngest male runner for the full race (ten years). Becky Byren from England is the youngest female runner (ten years in 2005).

The male ? female spilt: Over the last few years it has become evident that there are more female participants. In 2007 this was particularly noticeable with almost a 2:1 ratio: 64% females and 36% males.

How many novices? Many people, it seems, come once to say they have done the Challenge. This year 64% did the Emperor?s for the first time.

The future? It seems the present course will be good for 2008. The Organizing Committee is working closely with Peace River Coal to devise a new route close by in case the future mining activities disrupt the present course.

The records: As the course and distance have changed slightly over the years, separate course records are kept for each route, and include whether the race was run clockwise or anti-clockwise. The previous records established by Kris Swanson and Stephanie Mills therefore will stand forever. The 2007 course record set by Canada?s top marathoner, Steve Osaduik, broke the 1 ½ hour barrier for the first time, something that had seemed impossible. It seems to be unbeatable, but then again, that has been said before and proven to be wrong? With Swanson returning in 2008 and Osaduik hoping to be back either in 2008 or 2009 (depending on his Beijing Olympics training) competition amongst Canada?s top mountain runners is likely to be intense.

The gully: Much has been said about the dreaded Mathews Gully, the scenically spectacular but rough route used to relentlessly ascend the mountain (the summit is reached at just 5.5 kms in the 20 km race). Photos taken this year by Dan Wilde illustrate something of the scenery and the hardship of this challenging route, and may act as an incentive (or deterrent) for those thinking of participating next year.

It takes a Community to put on a great race: Over fifty volunteers and many service organizations helped out this year, a truly remarkable performance, and one which enables the reputation of the Emperor?s Challenge to spread far and wide. All volunteers will be presented with a special token of appreciation in the near future. The Organizing Committee meets monthly for nine months of the year, starting immediately after the previous race, and is already working out plans for next year?s event.

The Emperor?s Challenge Organizing Committee and Wolverine Nordic and Mountain Society would like to thank Tumbler Ridge News for the exceptional coverage given to the Emperor?s Challenge in 2007.