TC 10K organizers add wave start, half-marathon

And they’re off!

The official launch of the 25th annual Times Colonist 10K began Thursday with announcements of more rewards, changes to the start to improve the race experience and a half-marathon component on race day April 27.

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The most welcome news for the expected 12,000 participants is the introduction of a wave start to ease congestion at the start line on Government Street. Runners will start in groups based on their expected finishing times, cutting down on people tripping over each other at the start of the run.

“We have listened to feedback from the participants, volunteers and our partners on how to make things better,” said Cathy Noel, general manager of the Victoria International Running Society, which hosts the run.

Overcrowding is a problem other race venues would like to have. The run, originally called the Garden City 10K, has grown from about 3,000 participants in its first year to what is now Canada’s second-largest 10-kilometre run.

“It has definitely caught on,” said John Coates, one of six people who have run every race in the event’s history. “I started wanting to run my age. By now it gets easier every year,” he said.

Coates has even inspired 26 of his neighbours on Swan Street to lace up and join him, although he says elite runners need not fear his group’s accomplishments.

That Coates is part of a group is no surprise to Noel, who notes that close to 6,000 participants last year belonged to a team. That sense of running with a group of like-minded people has also contributed to the success of running clinics leading up to the race.

The running society now hosts 16 clinics operating out of recreation centres on southern Vancouver Island, with more than 450 participants eager to get training and support from seasoned volunteer leaders.

The run has grown so popular that organizers added a half-marathon this year.

The route has not been finalized, but will start at the University of Victoria, continue through Oak Bay, join the TC 10K route at Memorial and Dallas Road and finish in front of the legislature with the 10K runners.

This inaugural half-marathon is expected to sell out and will be capped at 1,500 participants, with registration opening at noon today.

“The half-marathon expands the opportunities for participants under the umbrella of the TC 10K,” said Brent Fougner, president of the Victoria International Running Society. “It is a needed niche in the running festival.”

Runners will find more entertainment along the route, with “theme corridors,” Noel said.

While the prize purse has been increased to $16,750 for the winners in each category, the biggest winners, in terms of bragging rights, are the rest of the field, who will now receive a medal as a lasting memento of their efforts.

Other winners include five charities — B.C. Cancer Foundation, Every Step Counts, Help Fill a Dream, Heart and Stroke Foundation and Raise-a-Reader, who received more than $21,500 from registrations last year. People will find it even easier to donate this year with an online pledge system.

Early-bird registration of $35 for individuals and corporate team members ends today. Starting Saturday, registration will be $40, and school team members $30.

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