Women’s Fall Challenge celebrates 20 years

Organizers in high gear since March preparing for Quesnel's premier women's event

Marilyn Van Leusden

Marilyn Van Leusden

As summer turns to fall, one of the premier seasonal events is the Quesnel Women’s Fall Challenge, Oct. 6. It’s time to register and organizers report that entry forms have already begun trickling in.

However, for the volunteers who ensure this is a fun, successful event for almost 600 women, it starts well before the snow begins to melt in early spring.

“Actually, it begins after the lunch finishes,” Cathy Walsh said.

“I take the evaluation forms home and type them up.”

Both Walsh and fellow volunteer organizer Marilyn Van Leusden admitted the work doesn’t really finish until the last time and photo is posted, every table, chair, water jug and miscellaneous equipment and supplies are returned.

On Monday morning after the Fall Challenge, Van Leusden picks up flowers and cookies and delivers them to the Arts and Rec Centre as a thank you for all they do

to facilitate the


“It takes about a week for life to get back to a normal routine,” she said.

“For me, it’s when I stop looking at my computer every half hour.”

Walsh said the first full day of doing things other than WFC she knows the event is truly done for her.

“And in March it starts all over again,” she said with a laugh.

It begins with phoning all the committee members to confirm their participation for another year and contacting potential new members before the March meeting.

Van Leusden is again on the hunt for the new T-shirts, deciding on a colour, seeing what options there are and finally determining the price.

“We need that for the entry form; it’s very time sensitive,” she added.

Sponsorship is also started fairly early and finishes by mid-September.

“Everyone helps solicit draw prizes and that continues almost until the race day,” Walsh said.

By May, with the assistance of Fred Paulson at Big Country Printers, the design is chosen and Van Leusden finalizes the merchandise aspect of the event.

“This is our 20th anniversary, so that was incorporated into the design,” she said.

“We’ll have a big cake, created by Quesnel Bakery and served at race package pickup and the luncheon.”

The committee has also been busy creating  posters and flyers with pictures from past years and featuring some of the founding committee members.

“We also have a collection medals from past years,” Walsh said.

“And we have a trivia contest which will happen along the route.”

Both women emphasized how important volunteers are and with a requirement of between 60 – 70, committee members start solidifying commitments early.

“We know QFC wouldn’t happen without the volunteers who commit, year after year,” Walsh said.

“And this year, we have a terrific prize for one lucky volunteer.”

As race day approaches, some of the last minute details are completed. Merchandise must be right and the numbers good so each participant gets what they ordered, then the shirts and other things have to be sorted and folded. Race packages must be assembled, equipment must be in the right place at the right time.

“After registration closes Friday night at 6 p.m., all entries are entered on the computer and sent to the Stride and Glide site where bib labels are created and then driven down by noon on Saturday in time for race package pickup,” Van Leusden said.

“The guy from Stride and Glide also sticks around to create last minute bib numbers.”

Once race package pickup is finished, a list is created for lunch participants, including random computer draws for door prizes.

After securing proper insurance requirements, putting dog notices at every mailbox site (no one wants to be harassed by an animal), advising the RCMP and ambulance of the event, marking the route (checking for potholes and such), arranging port-a-potties and a myriad of other details, the volunteers are up bright and early race day, long before the first participant arrives.

Each and every volunteer must have everything they need. With seven stations along the race route, first aid kits, vests, signs, tables and water jugs must be in place.

The volunteers are in constant communication and the Dragon Lake boat launch area is a hive of activity.

Each participant (almost 600) must have their number properly affixed. According to Walsh, one of the biggest headaches for the entire event is late registrations.

“We still have large numbers of people not picking up packages on Saturday and they then must stop at Dragon Lake school and that’s where late registrations happen as well,” she said.

But with music blaring and excited participants ready for the start gun, the mass start begins with walkers and runners (marathoners will begin slightly earlier this year) on another epic Women’s Fall Challenge.

Registration forms are at various locations around town. There’s a 5k walk and run, 10k walk and run as well as the half marathon. Pick your passion.

“I would like to encourage everyone who’s ever participated to try to come out for this very special year,” Van Leusden said.

Get the old gang together, invite your friends, drag your sister, cousin, mother, granddaughter – be a part of our 20th anniversary.”

If you’d like volunteer this year, contact Carrie Blennerhassett, 250-747-4552; there’s something for everyone (there’s volunteer jobs for men, they just can’t participate.)