The twenty-nine kilometre Sunshine Coast Trail (SCT) Marathon Shuffle is back and in full-force, with a new registration system launching today (February 1).
“It’s been a tough few years for outdoor events,” said Ean Jackson, one of the organizers of this year’s shuffle. “With the worst of the pandemic behind us, our little team of volunteers has been working evenings and weekends to make the event something that will showcase the awesomeness of the Sunshine Coast Trail and bring together the community.”
At 9 am on Sunday, April 30, outdoor enthusiasts will kick off spring in west-coast style with a vigorous adventure, said Jackson. He mentioned that the race isn’t only for seasoned runners.
The original shuffle, which was initiated 30 years ago by SCT founders Eagle Walz, Scott Glaspey and qathet Parks and Wilderness Society (qPAWS), was more of a hike to include the community in the project and enjoy the trail. The trail originated in 1992, spearheaded by Walz and other wilderness enthusiasts. The group wanted to create access to old growth forests for hikers; logging roads and disjointed trails were all the public had before the 150 kilometre trail was built.
This year participants will start at Malaspina Road and follow Sunshine Coast Trail through Tla’amin territory, to the Shinglemill Pub at Powell Lake, with five aid tents along the 29 kilometers of terrain. Volunteers will be handing out oranges and water to participants, who now have eight hours to complete the race instead of just six hours.
“I have seen families and kids, young and older folks participate,” said Jackson, adding that a little training before the event makes sense to prevent injuries.
“Don’t just get up off your couch and join the race; do some preparation.”
But he also emphasized that any able-bodied person has plenty of time to finish.
For the past few months volunteers have been getting the trail “Shuffle-ized,” according to Jackson.
“So many tireless volunteers have been cutting, weeding, whacking and cleaning up the SCT in order for it to be safe for runners and hikers,” he said. “With windstorms and snow there is a lot of work to be done.”
Many volunteers are now in their 70s, and Jackson hopes to recruit new, enthusiastic folks from the area to keep maintaining the trail.
“Most of the people who gave all their time and love to the SCT are getting older,” said Jackson. “We need younger people to step up and take on maintaining the trail and organizing the Marathon Shuffle in future years.”
He is concerned that if it doesn’t happen, the trail will fall into disrepair. Every year hundreds of hikers use the trail thanks to Walz, qPAWS and community support for the project.
“It’s a challenge to put on a world-class event for free,” Jackson pointed out, “but we want to keep the event accessible so people of all ages and abilities can enjoy the shuffle.”
He also mentioned that qPAWS is facilitating 10 weeks of free Saturday morning training runs on and around the trail, for those who want to train and become familiar with the terrain.
There will be shuttle buses from Westview Terminal (for those coming via ferry from Comox and Vancouver Island) and the Shinglemill on shuffle day, so people don’t necessarily have to drive to the event.
For more information or to register, go to sunshinecoast-trail.com/events/marathon-shuffle/registration.