TC 10K half-marathon a full-on challenge

With the Times Colonist 10K approaching, dedicated runner Nick Walker found himself wondering if he wanted to step out on a different foot.

Not only is this year’s race the 25th annual running of the TC 10K, but it’s also the first time the event has hosted a half marathon. Decisions, decisions.

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In the end, Walker, 31, co-owner of Frontrunners, opted to run the half marathon on April 27.

“It’s a pretty amazing feat for the race to be going on that long [25 years],” he said. “But it’s kind of fun to do new events, an exciting new course and always be up for a challenge.”

“Although when I’m out there racing, I’m sure I will be thinking: ‘I wish had done the 10K.’ Especially when I go through 10K and think: ‘I could be done now,’” Walker said.

The TC 10K is Canada’s second largest 10-kilometre race after the Vancouver Sun Run. In 2013, 12,288 people registered for the TC 10K’s two runs, the 10-kilometre and the 1.5-kilometre Family Fun Run. By the middle of last week, more than 10,000 people had registered.

The TC 10K supports five charities: B.C. Cancer Foundation, Every Step Counts, Help Fill A Dream, Heart and Stroke Foundation, and Raise-a-Reader.

And this year, organizers of the TC 10K are taking the event to a new running level by including the half marathon.

“It will offer another running opportunity, a goal for people to graduate from the 10K to a half marathon,” said Cathy Noel, TC 10K race director.

The half marathon has been designed as a point-to-point race, meaning runners won’t have to complete a loop, or run back over the same ground. It will start at Centennial Stadium at the University of Victoria and wind down through Oak Bay, often along the ocean front, and finish in front of the legislative buildings, where the 10K finishes.

By the middle of last week, Noel said, the half marathon had attracted about 300 entrants. Organizers are planning on a minimum of 750, but would love to see 1,000 turn out.

At 21.1 kilometres, it’s more than double the distance of the 10-kilometre course. The half marathon has become an increasingly popular event, with its own special challenges. It’s no longer considered just a pared-down version of the full marathon.

“It’s a recognized distance,” said Brent Fougner, president of the Victoria International Running Society. “There’s a Canadian Half Marathon Championship and a World Half Marathon Championship.”

So Fougner said it’s hoped the inclusion of a half marathon will offer a greater variety of serious challenges for a wider variety of runners. And that will help turn the TC 10K into a destination event, one that attracts runners from across Canada and even outside the country.

Ten-kilometre races have become common. And while a definite challenge for any athlete, they are often community events and sometimes crowded. But a half marathon requires another level of mental toughness and commitment.

“It’s opened it up for a whole new type of runner to come to Victoria for our weekend,” Fougner said.

For runners, the half marathon also has an advantage over a full marathon because it doesn’t require as long a training period.

Recovery from a half marathon is also easier and shorter. So a runner can turn in a good race and the following day continue to enjoy a holiday weekend. But recovery from a full marathon can take several days of serious rest followed by gentle, careful exercise.

“Physiologically speaking, the body is better built to run a half marathon than a full marathon — that is, in terms of the fuel a body has on board,” said Jonathan Foweraker, designer of the new course and director of the race.

Foweraker, 43, of Saanich, said the course should be a fast one, with a net downhill slope. Some parts will undulate, but overall the runners will be travelling downhill.

It will also take runners through some of Greater Victoria’s most beautiful spots, such as the Uplands neighbourhood and past Cattle Point along the ocean looking across to the mountains in Washington.

“On a nice day, it’s just a gorgeous place to run,” Foweraker said. “The route is very scenic and we are doing our very best to make it a fast route for the runners.”

“It’s something new, something a little bit different,” he said. “And it allows us to show off all the wonderful spots that Victoria has.”

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