This year’s Whistler 50 Relay and Ultra, returning to the resort for a second year, will be front-and-centre in Whistler Village on Saturday (Oct. 20) as all finishers will be received in Olympic Plaza.
That’s perhaps the most notable change for the race in 2012, as last year’s finish line was relegated to the Whistler Golf Club parking lot, across the highway from the Village.
Race director Ron Adams said he likes the course a lot more this year because of the atmosphere runners will get to experience on Saturday.
“The course goes right through the middle of the Village on the Village Stroll,” said Adams. “That means all of the other runners in the relay … who have finished for the day are going to be in restaurants and bars along (the course) and it’ll be quite a lively place with everybody cheering the runners on.
“I think it’ll be a lot more exciting atmosphere.”
The majority of Saturday’s participants will come in teams of eight for the 50-mile (80-kilometre) relay — more than 150 teams came out for last year’s inaugural event. Team members take turns running legs of seven and 13 km on the 20-km loop course.
But the true test of endurance is the solo Ultra race, which sees runners do four gruelling laps of the course. Racers will head out on the Valley Trail south from the Village, make their way past the Whistler Golf Club and head on to the Nicklaus North area. The route snakes around Lost Lake and back past Spruce Grove Park before returning to the Village.
“In North America, generally, trail races are king,” said Adams. “This is really more like a road race run on trails, and one of the nice things about the course is that you don’t have to think about motor vehicles — there are only a few road crossings in total.”
While trail runs often introduce runners to very challenging terrain, the Whistler 50 has less than 100 metres of elevation change throughout the course, which should make for some quick finishers, said Adams. Eight hours will likely be a “median time” for solo runners on Saturday.
“Some courses are designed to be tough and challenging, and that’s the appeal,” he said. “Other courses are designed to be a fast course where you can test yourself to see how fast you can run, and the Whistler 50 falls into that category.”
The race, put on by B.C. Athletics, has also earned a bronze label from the International Association of Ultrarunners, which means it is recognized as a national team qualifier.
“Being a national team qualifier is a big deal,” said Adams, who added that the Whistler 50 is the final event on the Association of Canadian Ultramarathoners 2012 race schedule. The race is one of just four in Canada to carry the bronze label designation this year.
Whistler has become an increasingly popular spot for Ultra-distance races over the past couple of years with new 50-mile events making their debuts, and Adams said it’s the resort setting that makes it a unique and attractive location for such events.
“You have a race where you get can out of bed in the morning, walk down to the start, and when you’re finished, walk back to your hotel room and have a shower,” said Adams. “Often, you’ll wind up with courses in rugged terrain where if you’re staying anywhere close to the course, you’re camping.”
Ultra competitors will leave the start line at 6 a.m. on Saturday, while the relay teams send their lead-off runners at 8 a.m. The leaders in both races are expected to begin arriving at the finish around noon.
Visit www.bcathletics.org/whistler50 for full event details.