Williams Lake runners again conquered a difficult course to grab second overall in the 2011 Barkerville Rush Relay Race on May 22.
The Barkerville Rush Relay is a 100-kilometre relay race which begins at the Goldpan on Highway 97 in Quesnel. The race course follows Highway 26 to the historic town of Barkerville, then up a snow-covered trail past Richfield and back to conclude in downtown Wells at the Community Centre. The course has a total elevation gain of 3,300 metres and is sponsored by Running Room BC.
The Williams Lake “Claim Jumpers” relay team, with members Mark VanderMaaten, Leo Rankin, Sirel Molinar, Gary Stokes, Larry Johannesen, Sharon Munk, Tony Fiala and Jen Clarke placed second overall out of 25 teams and second in the very competitive Open Men’s category.
The Williams Lake team has performed well in Barkerville, with second-, first- and third-place finishes overall in 2009, 2008 and 2007, respectively. As well, Larry Johannesen was awarded a mug for the fastest men’s time in his individual leg of the race this year.
Runners are assigned to one of the eight legs of the race and were required to touch off with a team member at the exchange zone.
Race sections vary in length from eight to 17.4 kilometres. The trail section from Barkerville to Summit Rock Station above Richfield courthouse was exceptionally tough this year because the upper sections were still covered in two to three feet of soft snow. Tony Fiala endured this most difficult leg of the race, often breaking through up to his knees in crusty crystalline snow.
Many wild animals were spotted along the course including at least seven black bears. For the first time in a number of years, no grizzly bears were observed. The general consensus is that the late spring and deep snow has kept them in hibernation. There was a strong presence by the RCMP who monitored for bears and used sirens and noise makers to frighten the ursine offenders away from the running course.
Teams were required to provide vehicle support at all times to their relay teammates in case bears appeared unexpectedly on the course. Gary Stokes came within 30 feet of one browsing bear but it fortunately ran into the bush as he approached.
The relay was very well organized by the running community in Quesnel and there were splendid post race meal and exceptional draw prizes, medals and awards at the closing ceremonies. A magnificent time was had by all participants. Plans and discussions are already underway for another excellent team next year.
A second Williams Lake team, the Stacked Deck, competed in the recreational section and came second.