It was a cold, dark start at 6 a.m, for the ultra runners on Saturday (Oct. 17) with participants needing headlamps for roughly the first hour of the race. While temperatures were low, it was the ideal conditions for long-distance running.
“This is perfect race weather, 12 degrees and cool,” said ultra runner-up Roy Kok, who won the event last year. “It was spitting rain a bit, but I’m from Vancouver so rain is just like oxygen
Kok was close to bettering his time of six hours, 22 minutes, 32 seconds (6:22:32) from last year, but a devastating hamstring cramp on the fourth lap put him on the sidelines until he was able to continue running. Winner Jesse Booi passed Kok at that point to take the win with a time of 6:18:10.
“Jesse tried to stop because he’s a really nice guy, but I made him keep going,” said Kok. “I tried to catch up to him but got cramped again and that was it. After that I had to slow down, I didn’t have a choice. But I’m still really happy with the finish, 6:40 isn’t a bad time.”
It was Booi’s first Whistler 50 ultra having only run one other 50-milers in the last three years, his time of 6.18.10 just eight minutes short of the qualifying time for ultra world championship events.
“[The course] was a lot more rolling than I thought it would be,” said Booi, who trains with the Fraser Street Run Club in Vancouver. “I was kind of looking for a flat 50-miler, but it was beautiful. Every time I passed Lost Lake I wanted to stop and take a photo and dunk my legs in.”
Booi hit his wall on the third lap but was able to maintain his pace to eventually overtake Kok on the fourth lap.
“It wasn’t an extreme bonk situation but it got a bit dark there for a bit,” he said. “I wanted to make the 6.10 time but I’m happy just to finish. I’ve been working on staying properly hydrated and nourished (in races) lately, sometimes you don’t think you need to hydrate on such a cold day but you still do.”
The fastest lady of the day was Catrin Jones of Victoria, finishing with a course record time of 6:24:50, well ahead of runner up Melanie Bos (6:50:25). It was Jones’ first time competing in the ultra distance at the Whistler 50, having participated in the relay before with friends.
“I come up here and run the Whistler Half [Marathon] every year if I can, I love that race and there’ similar parts to the [course],” said Jones. “The scenery is incredible, you can’t really go wrong going past Lost Lake, especially this time of year with the fall leaves. It’s just spectacular.”
A handful of locals attempted the ultra distance on Saturday, with Katie Mills (7:46:54) placing fourth and Jordan Lenham (8:08:29) seventh overall. Tory Scholz from the Whistler Running High Club has completed the Whistler 50 Ultra before but this year chose to coordinate the eight-person relay team of her club.
“I call the Whistler 50 ‘my Christmas’ because you get to see the same people from the running community of Greater Vancouver once a year in Whistler, and then you get to party with them” said Scholz. “This year a two-person and a four-person relay were added, so with all the options for distance I saw some of my marathon friends, track friends and trail friends. It was a huge mix.”
For full results head to whistler50.com. The Whistler Running High Club meets for group runs every Monday night at 6 p.m. at the Nita Lake Lodge.