Perfect conditions last Sunday resulted in a record-breaking day at the 37th BMO Sunshine Coast April Fool's Run, presented by Coast Cable.
After an exciting and intensely fought battle for the majority of the course, Abbotsford's David Jackson edged out Vancouver's Kevin O'Connor for a three-second victory in 1:09:09, in the process pulling O'Connor to a new Canadian Masters 45-49 age group half marathon best.
The women's race was clear-cut but no less exciting. Wildly exceeding all pre-race expectations, Gibsons' Kimberley Doerksen not only smashed the women's event record by more than three minutes, but she did it wearing a rainbow tutu costume, in true Fool's Run spirit. Her 1:14:53 placed her fifth overall in the field.
After spring rains poured themselves out on Saturday, race day dawned dry and calm and mild, with a high of 12 and partial sunshine expected - ideal for racing. More than 625 participants were registered by the time the main group set off at 9:17 on Park Road, one hour after the walkers' early start.
"It was a perfect day for running," said Pat Dejong, regional vice-president, BMO Bank of Montreal. "I found the hills challenging but I was inspired along the route by the well-wishers. And there was such great energy and a warm welcome at the finish line - from cheering spectators and BMO the Bear."
Jackson and O'Connor shot to the front of the pack immediately, separated from the masses by the time they turned the corner onto Reed Road, barely 200m into the race.
"Dave and I went through the slightly downhill first mile in 5:07, then we maintained a healthy pace -neither of us wore a watch," O'Connor said. "The only split we had was at halfway in 34:12 - then I knew we were on for a good time if we could hold it. We shared the lead for most of the race but didn't communicate at all -just trying to maintain the pace, me for the time, Dave for the win."
Jackson attempted to break away at 10k, but he couldn't drop O'Connor. He tried again on the tough Marlene Road climb.
"I felt very comfortable throughout the race and it was going as planned (staying with Kevin) but after I pulled away a bit on the uphill around 15 to 16km, my legs didn't respond well and I was struggling a bit," Jackson said. "When Kevin caught me around 17 to 18km, he quickly went by on the big downhill and got about 20 metres ahead of me."
With 500m to go, Jackson made his move, taking the lead for the final time.
Doerksen was in a class all her own from very early on the course. Dressed in matching rainbow tutus and neon orange racing tops, she and two-time defending champ Lisa Brooking of Langley made quite a splash on the start line. The pair ran together for the first couple of kilometres before Doerksen left her costume twin behind. Soon she was settled in with the men's secondary chase pack, inexorably pulling away from the rest of the women's field.
"The race felt like one of those 'everything fell into place' kind of days: the sun was shining, the spectators were cheering, my body felt good and I was at home on my old stomping ground. It was like being back in my early training days on a course I would do long runs with my dad every weekend," Doerksen said.
Eventually she dropped all her male compatriots and forged ahead in fifth position, racing strongly over the second half of the course for a huge personal best and event record.
"Going into it the thought of getting a personal best and potentially breaking the course record were both in my head, but I had no idea it would be a sub-75," Doerksen said. "I feel like I'm on cloud nine and my face hurts from smiling so much. I love this race, even though I don't like the hills very much, and am so happy to have set a personal best at home."
Top local on the men's side was Mason Gregory of Roberts Creek, who won the title last time he did the Fool's Run in 2011. Mason and Doerksen will get their names engraved on the George Matthews Memorial Trophy, and each received a pair of Brooks shoes.
The finish area in Mission Point Park was the venue for the free Sunshine Care Network Kids Jester Dash presented by Pastimes. At noon nearly 50 children aged seven and under, sporting race bibs they decorated themselves in the hour preceding, enthusiastically sprinted around the 400m loop on the park paths and into the official finish line. After the run each child was excited to receive a toy from Pastimes and a coin bank from BMO.
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