Starting gun fires for Island Race Series

The first event of the annual eight-race Island Race Series has traditionally been the fastest.

Another swift field, headed by Olympians Lucas Bruchet and Natasha Wodak, will look to devour the new course today in the 39th Harriers Pioneer 8K.

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Bruchet represented Canada in the 5,000 metres and Wodak in the 10,000 metres at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

Neither are strangers to this event. Wodak is the women’s record holder after setting a searing pace to clock 25:28 in 2013 to set both the event and Canadian 8K road-race records. Bruchet won the Harriers Pioneer men’s race last year in 23:24.

Bob Reid, the Harriers Pioneer 8K high-performance director, described the race as “a high level of elite competition.”

The men’s race record, however, has proved stubborn with Carey Nelson’s 22:58 from 1985 still standing. Versatile Nelson is a member of the University of Victoria Sports Hall of Fame and represented Canada in the 1,500 metres at the 1988 Seoul Olympics and the marathon at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Nelson, 54, is still churning those legs and will be reliving old times as he races today.

So too is fellow veteran Peter Butler, who set the original Pioneer 8K men’s record of 23:09 in 1982. Butler, who turns 60 next month, has run the fifth-fastest marathon in Canadian history with a 2:10:56 in 1985 and represented Canada at the 1982 Brisbane and 1986 Edinburgh Commonwealth Games.

The new out-and-back Pioneer 8K route goes through gently rolling farmland and begins and ends on John Road in North Saanich. So look for fast times on the Saanich Peninsula this morning.

The starting gun blasts at 11 a.m. Race-day registration is open until 10:15 a.m. at North Saanich Middle School on McDonald Park Road.

The Island Race Series continues with the Cobble Hill 10K on Jan. 21, Cedar 12K on Feb. 4, Hatley Castle 8K on Feb. 18, Port Alberni Paper Chase 15K on March 4, Comox Valley RV Half Marathon on March 18, Tri-Stars 10K on March 25 and the Synergy Health Management Bazan Bay 5K on April 8.

The Harriers Pioneer 8K is also the lead event for the B.C. Super Series, which features 12 races this year on the Island, Lower Mainland and Okanagan.

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