Radiant sunshine and eager runners welcomed the return of the Country Roads Marathon on June 14.
The rural romp was run from 2000 to 2004 before going on hiatus. “It was the first one in 11 years,” confirmed race director Steven Royer, who was pleased with the way things went on Sunday.
The event featured out-and-back courses from the Vanier Track for marathon, half marathon and four-person team relay. The marathon, which was a Boston qualifier, was won by Mike Bridges of Merville in 3:06.43. Derek Vinge of Courtenay took top spot in the half marathon in 1:24.10.
The Lazo Road Crew of Comox won the relay in 3:35.39. Complete results are at countryroadsmarathon.com
Royer and his wife Liz decided to revive the race after a running acquaintance took his life one week before they were married. “That kind of woke us up a little bit,” Royer recalls.
“After we were married (on the Comox Glacier) I said, ‘Hey, Liz, who not bring the Country Roads Marathon back and raise money for suicide awareness?’ And that’s how it started. That was the whole purpose of the race (Sunday).”
Royer said funds were still coming in several days after the race, with a final figure expected to be available next week. All funds raised will support the Vancouver Island Crisis Society suicide prevention programs.
While the turnout for the first running of the race in several years was predictably low, an unexpected boost to the cause came from participants in the seven water stops along the routes.
Royer notes marathoners and relay teams voted for their favourite water stop, with $350 going to first place, $250 to second and $150 to third. “When we announced the winners, the third-place team (TLC Home and Property Maintenance) gave their winnings to suicide awareness, and the second-place team SOS Orthotics) did the exact same thing.”
First Credit Union and Insurance won first place and also donated their prize money to the cause. Other water stops were staffed by Goat FM, ELM, Zinc and BCNU.
There was a respectable turnout of participants for the race’s return. And what the field lacked in quantity it made up for in quality – “Dr. Janet Green ran her 322nd marathon,” Royer noted. “She won a pair of shoes for first female in the marathon. Mike also won a pair of shoes from Extreme Runners as first male in the marathon, so he was happy. And he won free entry for next year. It was a good day for him,” Royer added.
With three relay teams, 47 half marathoners, 13 marathoners and four walkers this year, Royer said the good news is they have vowed to be back next year. “The people were all really, really happy and said they’d be telling their friends about it. So now we have a good base.”
Royer says he is committed to being race director for at least five years, and adds the event will definitely be held again in 2016. Gary Egli organized the Country Roads Marathon for its first five years, and he was on hand Sunday to blast the starting horn when the marathoners took off at 7 a.m. precisely.
Why the early start? Royer said safety is the main reason, as it is cooler at that time of day and there is less traffic on the roads. The walkers enjoyed a 6 a.m. start.
But beating all the participants out of bed were the organizers and volunteers, some of whom were at the track at 2:45 a.m. “It was our first year and we wanted to make sure everything went smoothly for everybody,” Royer said.
“Overall, I was very, very happy and ecstatic … I saw a lot of happy faces at the end. And that’s what it’s all about it,” said Royer, adding he was also glad to see families and well-wishers turn out to cheer the runners on.