Charles Helm – Wolverine Nordic and Mountain Society
For 2015, the adult field for the Emperor’s Challenge Mountain Race is capped at 1000. On-line registration opened at midnight on the morning of April 14. By just after 8 pm the same day, the thousand 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 2014 it took 36 hours to fill up; 2013 it took under a week; in 2012 it took a month. The race is four months away on August 8, 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.
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 seventeenth year, can be seen as Tumbler Ridge reaching its full, magnificent potential. It also helps advertise and promote the Tumbler Ridge Global Geopark – participants are given information on the uniquely spectacular geological scenery through which they pass.
Last year’s winners, Kris Swanson of Victoria and Sharleen Balogh of Prince George, gain automatic entry into this year’s race. Almost all of the 2014 top finishers have entered again, along with a number of other top-level runners, setting the scene for another exciting event. It is also gratifying to see support for the race from elected politicians: MP Bob Zimmer and MLA Mike Bernier have entered, and Mayor Don McPherson will be on the mountain volunteering and supporting participants.
Visit www.emperorschallenge.com for details on the 2015 Emperor’s Challenge.