More than 480 individuals and teams ran from Gibsons to Sechelt last Sunday in the 26th annual April Fool's Run Half-Marathon.
After a few days of cold rain late in the week, race weekend brought sunshine and mild temperatures, to the relief of organizers and participants.
The winner had the road all to himself right from the start. Victoria's Nik Southwell, a race morning sign-up, looked focused as he blasted off the start and raced through Roberts Creek, Davis Bay and into Sechelt en route to victory and a new course record of 1:09:58.
It was all part of a plan - a week earlier his partner emailed organizers inquiring about the course record.
Attired in a white shirt with black racing stripe and a Breathe-Right Nasal Strip perched on his nose to give him extra oxygen, the 29-year old looked incredibly light on his feet as he navigated the ups, downs and flat sections of the course. Over six minutes ahead of the rest of the field by the time he reached the Raven's Cry Theatre parking lot, Southwell made it look easy to average a 5:20 per mile pace. "The Fools Half felt very comfortable," he said. "All in all I was glad to have made it out to my first Sunshine Coast trip and will be back in the future. It was a pleasure to have run your scenic and challenging course, and to all those who want to make it out, be sure to make an extended weekend out of it, and enjoy the Sunshine Coast."
As for other top competitors, a small pack was running together in second place through Roberts Creek: Robert Durrant of Langley, James Gardner of North Vancouver, Steve Mattina of Vancouver and Gord Addison of Squamish, followed by Peter Haynes of Vancouver. Eventually Haynes would catch Addison. Durrant and Gardner pulled ahead of the others to finish second and third in 1:16:15 and 1:16:29 respectively.
In seventh place overall was Jim Gordon of Gibsons, the first local finisher and therefore male winner of the George Matthews Memorial Award, in an excellent time of 1:21:36. The women's competition was won in a speedy 1:23:25 (10th overall) by Leslie Black of Vancouver, who has been victorious at the April Fool's Run a number of times in the past - in fact, every time she raced it. The first time was in 1998, clocking 1:28:06 as fifth person overall. "That first year sold me on the run, as I had brought my mum with me while on her annual visit to B.C. and thought the Sunshine Coast sounded like a place she might enjoy," said Black. "My mother enjoyed the local hospitality at its best; a family gave her free breakfast and lunch, a tour and transport to watch the race and catch the ferry. I was determined to go back to Vancouver and tell all my friends and club-mates about this fantastic Ma and Pa event." In second place, 2003 women's winner Rene McKibbin of Delta ran 1:27:44, nearly the same time as before, despite suffering from flu during the week. Vancouver's Shannon Hodge claimed third place in 1:30:03, a couple of minutes off her 2003 second-place time. Hodge finished just behind the winning relay team, Lord of the Run, with Jared Barabash-Burnham and Wyatt Turney from Halfmoon Bay, clocking 1:29:34. Second place relay was another Halfmoon Bay team, Jess & Mack, in 1:32:28, consisting of Jesse Horn and Mackenzie Mitson. First four-person relay was the Grunenberg Clan with Ken and Perry Grunenberg, Lisa Rae and Linda Dandy sharing the distance in 1:37:21.
First local female and winner of the George Matthews Memorial award was Crystal Spence of Roberts Creek in 1:39:28, a great time for a 17-year-old. She placed 14th among the 201 female competitors.
The Fool's Run grew from 325 registrations in 2003 to 477 sign-ups in 2004, and with the great weather and warm welcome shown to the participants, it is likely to grow even more for next year's event set for April 3.