'High Hopes strategy' works in terrific Whistler Half Marathon weekend

WHISTLER — There were two sizable protests here Saturday, one opposing oil near a G7 finance ministers’ meeting, the other on infamous Blueberry Hill where gasping weekend warriors moaned about including wannabe ski slopes in the Whistler Half Marathon race course.

Or, was it just me who felt like planting a flag after reaching the summit of that one-kilometre ascension?



Unlike past years where I reached the base of this beautiful-but-daunting neighbourhood in the clouds and waved the white flag, on Saturday my “High Hopes race strategy” was to do “shuffle intervals” up the beast, saving precious seconds and passing dozens of runners who geared down into speed-walker (or crawling) mode.


Yep, humour helped conquer that hill and a few other challenges later near Lost Lake, where runners navigated cross-country ski trails and “undulating” paths and roads before heading to the Olympic Plaza finish line.

Whistler Half Marathon race director Dave Clark and his crew did a superb job on the weekend. They added Sunday’s Dog Jog to the winning formula, too. (Gord Kurenoff photo)

Race director Dave Clark, who reached out to this blogger-jogger four years ago to “give wonderful Whistler a try,” was sporting an ear-to-ear smile as the annual half marathon, 30K, 10K, 5K and Kids’ Race attracted one of the largest entries in the great event’s colourful history, including 737 runners in the half.

This was my third 10K here in the past four years, and the best yet as I shaved 13 minutes off my previous best thanks to some actual training, dieting and helpful coaching. And while I’ve added some hills to the weekly training grind, nothing compares to Blueberry Hill, where many a dream of personal bests are laid to rest for flatlanders like me.

Racers were treated to a lively CLIF Pace Team warmup crew on Saturday morning, who just made a great morning even better. (Gord Kurenoff photo)

Clark, who added a Sunday morning Dog Jog to raise funds for the Whistler Animals Galore Society — it was an instant hit — worked his way through the 10K starting corral early Saturday morning to thank this writer for supporting his volunteer group’s efforts over the years to stage a memorable race weekend and raise funds for

A few other highlights from Saturday’s Whistler showcase:

Cloverdale teacher Eva Ojea crushed the Whistler Half Marathon on Saturday morning then later soaked up the great sights in the village.

From big chill to big thrill for terrific teacher

Eve Ojea, a lovely teacher at Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary in Cloverdale and one of the people I always hope to see smiling at weekend races, was shivering Friday night while doing some last-minute shopping in chilly Whistler Village.

It might have been June 1, but a biting wind, some rain and cool temperatures made it feel like winter in this ski resort, now taken over by mountain bikers, golfers, tourists and posers.

She bought a long-sleeved shirt and, jokingly, considered adding a parka. But on Saturday morning she was relieved to crush the half marathon in ideal running conditions. She clocked a PB 2:15 in the half (she did 2:49 four years ago) and was thrilled all day with that accomplishment.

“I ended up wearing the new long-sleeve shirt and it was perfect. And so was the post-race pasta and steak,” she smiled.

Ray Huston of Abbotsford, third from left, and his team flash the W for Whistler. (Gord Kurenoff photo)

Huston shows off humour, large team

Ryan Huston of Abbotsford yelled across Olympic Plaza on Saturday morning after seeing me do my signature warmup routine — one small stretch and a big yawn!

“Hey, did you drive up here, or run?” Huston joked. “Doing the 30K or the half?,” he joked again.

After informing him I was too old for the Kids’ Run, and not trained enough for the Dog Jog, the 10K was my only viable option.

He asked who I was running with and yours truly pointed to my headband: “Lone Wolf, just like the picture!”

Huston then pointed to his large group (show-off) and said tongue-in-cheek they were all “serious runners who like to have some fun.”

So, I got the fun bunch together for a photo and asked them to make a W with their fingers — as in W for Whistler.

“Do you make an L for your team photo, as in Loner,” one blurted as onlookers laughed.

Yeah, fun team there buddy!

Live music and DJs added to the festive atmosphere in Whistler during the weekend, even if they didn’t entertain all requests! (Gord Kurenoff photo)

Few high notes from musician, mascot

Almost fell over laughing at the 5K water station when a dancing mascot, dressed as a CLIF Bar, shouted “Great job … you look hungry!”

Sure, I hear that often, but I expected that comment from the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory sales clerk, not an energetic mascot promoting sports nutrition and my favourite pre-race snack!

Another fun moment occurred during Friday’s package pickup when a gifted musician entertained the masses and asked if anyone had a “special request.”

I asked if she’d run up Blueberry Hill for me on Saturday and, apparently, that’s not what she meant. My bad!

Fun On The Run blogger Gord Kurenoff of The Vancouver Sun races for the Olympic Plaza finish line on Saturday morning in the Whistler Half Marathon. (Lisa Kurenoff photo)

Party people (barely) keep an eye open at finish line

They are my support/cheer crew, important people who often remind me the race clock should never determine whether you had a good time being part of race weekends, or life for that matter.

My wonderful wife Lisa, and her awesome parents Linda and Dennis Hill — who look forward to the annual Whistler get-away as much as this runner — were extra excited this year as they marked a milestone wedding anniversary.

We went to the village’s Old Spaghetti Factory on Friday night under the premise this “you look hungry” blogger needed to carbo load, when in fact it was to reveal the in-laws were going to Thailand in the fall as their 35th anniversary gift.

After a long night of celebrating just like the stag and stagette parties parading through the village, they found their way to the finish line just as I arrived, looking like they needed lots of coffee and a nap — and maybe a CLIF bar!

“You should do the half next year,” grinned my father-in-law, denying hangover symptoms. “That way we can sleep in longer before coming down to the finish area!”

Family, eh?!!!

FINISH LINES: The 28th annual Abbotsford Police 5K Challenge Run will be held Saturday in the Fraser Valley community, starting at 9 a.m. For more info, or to enter, click . … Race No. 4 in the MEC Vancouver Road Race Series will take place Sunday morning at Garry Point Park in Richmond. There will be a half marathon, 10K and 5K. For more info, or to enter, click HERE. … The always awesome Scotiabank Half Marathon and 5K takes place on Sunday, June 24. Thrilled to be taking part in the 5K and hope to see you there. For more info, or to enter, click HERE.

Gotta run …

Dennis and Linda Hill, with daughter Lisa in the middle, celebrated a milestone wedding anniversary in Whistler on the weekend. (Gord Kurenoff photo)

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