The 9th running of the 100 km Barkerville Rush Relay started promptly at 7 a.m. Sunday from the big Goldpan site at the junction of Highway 97 and the Barkerville highway.
The runners were immediately faced with the first of the many challenging hills along this road to gold country. Local runner Kevin Sturt led the pack, opening up a solid lead for his team, The Grizzly Bears.
By the time he handed off to teammate Jim Nicholas at Blue Ridge Road, the runners were stretched out over two kilometers. Nicholas maintained the great pace all the way to Cottonwood House, more than 17 km.
Whitney Christy of The Golden Gang, did not let him extend the gap very much, though.
The second exchange was in the middle of the historic Cottonwood House site, giving runners and support crews their first exposure to Gold Rush–era ambiance. The availability of coffee and sticky buns was a much-appreciated bonus.
Karoly Peter took over for The Grizzly Bears and extended their lead further, powering up the infamous Mexican Hill and striding on to the next exchange at Blessings Grave.
The mother black bear and three little cubs seen on this leg were quite habituated to the vehicle traffic, but the presence of runners had the cubs up a tree at one point, though momma was unconcerned and focused on eating the spring greenery.
At Blessings Grave, Barry Nakahara took over from Peter, and continued to open up their lead as he traversed the gently climbing stretch past Troll ski resort and Beaver Pass, with a final hill to the Stanley turn-off.
Nakahara was the only runner to beat the 12 noon cut-off for the second mass start, handing off to Barb Mark.
The noon start at the Stanley cemetery was initiated a couple of years ago to close up the gap between the front and the back to reduce the time that volunteers had to be out on the course, particularly those up in the snow on stage seven.
A further cut-off of 2:30 p.m. for starting stage seven was implemented last year and has added to the improvement of the overall logistics, particularly the feeding of the last runners and volunteers and tabulation of results.
Mark arrived at the Jack of Clubs Lake exchange ahead of the pack, sending 13-year-old Taro Nakahara off towards Barkerville. Young Takahara did a creditable job staying ahead, though Julie Coussette of The Golden Gang narrowed the gap and Don Crawford of BRRou Ha Ha recorded stage five’s best time.
The entrance gate to Barkerville was the site of the exchanges for both stages seven and eight, with the stage seven contestants running the obstacle course of stagecoach and tourists in the old town, then struggling through the snow up to Summit Rock and beyond, before retracing their steps.
At this point, the gorgeous weather of the morning had turned overcast with a chill wind and an occasional drizzle.
The mountain weather did not defeat anyone, but no one lingered long to get out of wet running shoes and into warmer clothes at the end of this stage. Except, however, for Joanne Peacock, who followed her run up the mountain by doing a double header, running the final leg into Wells.
Keven Sturt also did his second run of the day, not only having the best time for stage one in the morning, but also producing a first place finish for stage eight and cementing an overall first place finish for The Grizzly Bears.
Participants and volunteers were regaled by MC Don Cunningham in the evening, before being treated to a great dinner in the Wells Community Hall.
Out-of-town contestants expressed their pleasure with the over-all event, the great organization, the warm welcome and the great scenery and wildlife. Quite a number of people were in Wells/Barkerville for the first time, and many are sure to return.
We wish to express our appreciation to all of the participants, volunteers and supporters for a memorable event. Full results are posted on the barkervillerushrelay.com website and photographs will be uploaded soon.