Merville artist Fiona McQuillan Onneken created a metal shoe tag, awarded to participants who completed 100 kilometres, or more, in the Fred Bigelow Virtual 100K Challenge. Photo supplied

Merville artist Fiona McQuillan Onneken created a metal shoe tag, awarded to participants who completed 100 kilometres, or more, in the Fred Bigelow Virtual 100K Challenge. Photo supplied

Comox Valley running challenge honours Fred Bigelow

When Retd. Brig-Gen/Comox Valley Airport CEO/Comox Valley Road Runners board member Fred Bigelow died this past September, it is doubtful that he fully realized how loved and respected he was.

Fred loved the Comox Valley and all it had to offer, going out to run, bike or paddle whenever he could. He led many eager new runners through their first steps in their new sport as a volunteer at the CVRR 5K Learn to Run Clinic and at Extreme Runners’ Thursday Night Trails program. He had his own running group as well that he loved to challenge with night running in the bush or navigating new trails with map, compass and GPS. Fred, and his equally active wife Sarah, have a strong supporting cast of family, friends and colleagues in the Comox Valley and beyond. Many of them honoured Fred’s life by doing exactly what he did, by getting out there.

The Fred Bigelow Virtual 100K challenge, a Comox Valley Road Runners event, is something Fred would have participated in. Throughout November, it delivered motivation and training for all who entered. Participants were challenged to run at least 100k in the month. It had a strong charity component as well. Net proceeds were divided equally between the Cumberland Community Forest Society and the United Riders of Cumberland. These were Fred’s choices and organizations that carry significant influence in some of the best forest management and recreation around.

One of Fred’s favourite lines when he thought you did well was, ‘You don’t suck.’ It might sound understated, but if you received it from Fred you really got a compliment. In keeping with this Fred’ism, the challenge awarded a metal shoe tag to all participants who achieved the 100k goal. The tag bears a stamp with the words, ‘You don’t suck.’ The custom-made tags were created by local runner/artist Fiona McQuillan Onneken of Metal Mantra Jewelry.

GPS, compass, navigation, planning, maps — these were all second hat for Fred. In his honour, his friends and fellow competitors Kathy Campbell, Sarah Seeds and Lynne Swift re-created a MOMAR (Mind Over Mountain Adventure Race) orienteering course as part of the challenge. Set up adjacent to the Cumberland Lake Campground at Comox Lake, it provided a great way to add distance and variation to the runners’ month-long training goal, while also honing their navigation skills. Thanks to Bryan Tasaka of MOMAR for the map use.

You would think 100k would be enough to keep sport enthusiasts busy for 30 days… but no. Although many reached the goal distance with half the month still to go, they kept going. Gordon Harris stands out for riding his bike over 100k on the first day of the challenge. He finished with 567 kilometres on his tires and on his shoes. In the end, out of 144 participants, 115 achieved the 100k goal and then some. An amazing 15 passed the 200K mark, nine passed the 300K mark, two accumulated more than 400K, and incredibly four participants made it well past 500K.

This event challenged all levels of athlete, those folks that find it easy to rack up the mileage but also those who would never have dreamed they could do 100 kilometres. In the end, everyone came together — all in memory of Fred.

Well done folks. You Don’t Suck!


See photos, comments and routes on the free app Strava (search Fred Bigelow 100K Memorial) or #theFred100 on Instagram and Facebook

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