Wolverine Nordic and Mountain Society: A record field of 195 adults turned out on Saturday 6 August for the 7th annual Emperor?s Challenge Mountain Race, in the mountains south of Tumbler Ridge, ?the toughest and most beautiful half marathon in the world?. The gentle breeze and sunny skies and warm temperatures were a contrast to the misty conditions of the previous two years. The circular 21.1 km route, gaining and losing 2400 feet, was run clockwise for the first time, and allowed competitors to better enjoy the incredible alpine scenery of the northern Rockies from the summit and flanks of 6651 foot high Roman Mountain. 185 of these athletes managed to complete the grueling course in under the allotted five hours.
Kris Swanson of Victoria proved himself worthy of the ?Roman Emperor? title for the seventh successive year, a phenomenal achievement. His winning time in the men?s run of 1-39-24 is the second fastest in the history of the race. ?I was thrilled to experience the challenges of the new direction, this race keeps me in touch with the source of my motivation for running, it is my favourite race on the running circuit and I will keep coming back to it for as long as I can,? enthused Swanson after receiving his winner?s cup. Trevor Kolkea of Dawson Creek took an astounding 13 minutes off his previous best time to finish second in 1-47-33.
Stephanie Mills, also of Victoria, won the women?s run for the second successive year in 1-55-30. She remains the only woman to have broken the magical two hour barrier. ?I found the new direction harder, this is an amazing race put on by an amazing community,? she said. Jennifer Becker of Edmonton, working in Tumbler Ridge for the summer, ran a great race to finish second in 2-12-32.
The youngest ever entrant for the full race was ten year old Becky Byren of Oxford, England, who ran the race with her dad in 2-56-43. Thirteen year old Daniel Helm entered the adult event for his second year and showed his promise, coming in 9th in a time of 2-10-05. At the other end of the age spectrum was 64 year old Prince George runner Rudy Kamstra who finished strongly in 3-25-35.
Julie Terry broke the women?s walking record by an amazing thirty-four minutes with a time of 2-49-01. Bob McNeil won the men?s walk in 3-26-10. Twenty kids aged 5-14 entered the various kids? races, running 2.11 or 4.22 kms.
Four adults joined the elite group of seven who have previously received their coveted ?in perpetuity? numbers for having taken part in five Emperor?s Challenge races: Kevin Sharman, Fred Walkley, Pam Sawers and Sue Kenny. At the pre-race briefing the night before, with the Roman theme strongly in evidence (elaborate togas and wreaths, lots of grapes) five kids who have taken part in the kids? race for five years were similarly honoured with similar special numbers: Daniel Helm, Carina Helm, Laura Sharman, Esther Walkley, and Natalie Sharman. Sheena Walkley?s name was added to this inspiring group after the race.
Race organizer Doug Foerster thanked his dedicated committee and the huge number of volunteers, and praised the numerous organizations and sponsors that supported the event, which had a strong Search and Rescue, helicopter and ambulance presence, three massage therapists on hand to tend to aching muscles at the finish line, and an abundance of free food served by the Lions Club.
?Run with the goats, cruise with the caribou, rise to the Challenge? is the motto of the race. The record numbers that rose to that unique challenge indicate that the Emperor?s Challenge has truly come of age. Full results are posted at www.emperorschallenge.com