Charles Helm, Wolverine Nordic and Mountain Society
In 2014 the field for the Emperor’s Challenge Mountain Race is capped at 1000. Online registration opened on the morning of April 8. The website crashed several times due to the unprecedented activity. By 3:30 PM on April 9 the 1000 mark had been reached, and the race was closed to further entries. (This does not apply to the Kids’ Races, for which there is no limit on entries.)
In 2013 it took under a week to fill up; in 2012 it took a month. The race is four months away, and one can only speculate on how many athletes might have entered if the numbers had not been capped… Two thousand? Five thousand?
The increasing popularity of the race is astonishing, and unfortunately the capped field makes for many disappointed runners who could not register in time. But the reality is that an unlimited number of participants would not be good for the mountain, nor for the safety of those participating, as in some places the course has bottlenecks and technically challenging sections. Furthermore, there is just enough parking at the start/finish area to accommodate this number. Finally, there is a limit to available accommodation in town.
Part of the motivation when the Emperor’s Challenge was created by a handful of volunteers in 1999 was to help the community through its near-death experience when all the mines were about to close. Little did these folks know how their dream would be realized, and that the race would steadily evolve to become the biggest off-road running event in British Columbia. In 1999 there were just 35 entries in the inaugural event, which even then was billed as “the toughest and most beautiful half marathon in the world”.
The success of Emperor’s Challenge, now in its sixteenth year, can be seen as Tumbler Ridge reaching its full, magnificent potential. 2014 also sees the bid of the Tumbler Ridge Aspiring Geopark to become part of the Global Geoparks Network. Many of the faces on its Steering Committee are the same as those who have helped steer the Emperor’s Challenge. Both initiatives are driven by passionate volunteers. Again, we can speculate: with similar drive, where will the Geopark initiative take Tumbler Ridge and the Peace Region fifteen years from now?
Visit www.emperorschallenge.com for details on the 2014 Emperor’s Challenge.