An additional five kilometres tacked onto the second annual Alberni Paper Chase didn’t seem to deter runners in the least on Sunday, Mar. 3 as they warmed up at Cherry Creek Community Centre.
Parked vehicles lined the roads around the hall, which was packed with athletes sporting t-shirts, shorts and tank tops on the cool but sunny winter morning.
About 400 runners registered for the 15 km endurance race, which follows a rural course incorporating a detour through the McLean Mill historic site. When the final count was in, 231 crossed the finish line. Last year 243 ran the course.
First place went to Dusty Spiller of Duncan with a time of 52:04 followed by John Vanderveen (53:45) and Mark Cryderman (54:05), both from Campbell River. The top-ranking runners from Port Alberni were Jordan Erg (54th at 108:28), Brian Callender (57th at 108:56) and Mathew Green (110:33).
Many of the participants arrived from elsewhere on the Island, which only stands to reason since the Alberni Valley event marks No. 5 in the seven-race series of the Vancouver Island Runners’ Association (VIRA). The local competition is sponsored by the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce.
Bill Collette, chamber executive director and one of the event organizers, said the revived race fills a niche in Vancouver Island race series, bringing the total number of events to eight.
“They like to have eight in the series,” he said.
Alberni Paper Chase originated in 1980 and was revived by the chamber in 2017.
With a smaller running community than in larger Island centres such as Nanaimo and Victoria, the valley has no organized run group, Collette explained. That makes it more practical to host a VIRA event to attract participants from all over with economic spinoffs for valley commerce.
Some felt that the longer course — the 2017 event was 10 km — might not be as popular this year, but the numbers appeared to put that theory to rest.
“Fifteen kilometres is a little more daunting for some people because it’s early in the year, even though it’s later in the series for regular people,” said Jason Seabrook, a local runner, as he got set to start the race.