10:00 a.m. at Ferland Park on Sunday May 14, Fort doctor Pieter van Zyl started the Vanderhoof to Fort St. James Relay Race. There are eight stages of approximately 8 km each, usually done by teams of eight runners. Van Zyl knew from the start his team was going to win, not because he was confident they were fast runners, but because they were the only team this year.
This is the 38th annual Mother’s Day Relay alternating starts between Fort St. James and Vanderhoof and most years they’ve had more than one team. Some years they’ve had as many as 14 teams. Keith Gordon, race organiser says he hopes to get more teams running next year and perhaps move the race day to a Saturday to attract church-going runners and those running families who like to prioritise family time for the Sunday Mother’s Day.
To get participation numbers up, Yvonne Gilbert smiles suggesting “We have to get those Vanderhoof runners on board!”
Keith Gordon shares some race trivia: “The relay is not tied to Mother’s Day. This day was picked because it’s two weekends after the Vancouver marathon so local runners who do that could rest up before running again.”
“There’s no baton passed between relay runners. It’s a hand slap honour system!
“Three times we’ve had one runner do all eight stages. Chris Budoc from Prince George, Stan Irvine from Vanderhoof and another fellow from Prince George named Richard, his last name escapes me.”
“Some years we’ve had elite teams that finish below four hours, one was an all female team. Notable runners who’ve participated include Brian and Wanda Nemethy, Shane Biadeau, Dick Vonegen.
“Sean Houghton, age 13, biked the whole route on a mountain bike with one speed in a time of 3:35:51. Sean has biked this route eight times now, since he was five years old.”
“The race was founded in 1977 by Gordon Rennie, big time runner, teacher in the Fort.”
The average time for the team this year was under 40 minutes. When noting his 8 k finish time now in the “forties” Keith reminisces, “I’m a lot slower now. I used to be in the twenties but that was a long time ago.”
2017 RELAY RACE RESULTS
Pieter Van Zyl 37:14
Chris Greenaway 44: 15
Neal Gooding 34:53
Yvonne Gilbert 42:19
Keith Gordon 40:02
Cordell Ware 33:25
Vincent Chingee 45:16
Travis James 37:50
Team time for 62 km
SUMMARY OF THE ROUTE
Out of Vanderhoof Starting from the park the runners head north and take the bridge crossing the Nechako. Then runners turn east and take Loop Road all the way round past the golf course and airport. The stake marking the end of stage one is just before the 90 degree turn to the west.
Airport Flats Here’s one for the flat land runners who don’t like hills. Run from the hand-slap hand-off past three more 90 degree turns. Then you run for half a mile through s gradual left turn and run for another 150 metres or so and hand-off at the second stake.
Twelve Mile Hill The first two miles are easy on this one but then there is the very long and steep 12 mile hill. This is a tough stage and is around 10% slower than the others. You run right over the top and back down towards the little swamp that heads to the west. You hand-off 200 m before the bottom.
Jackpine Alley This is a hilly logged section althoughwith about as much up as down. You run past the much-painted rock and through the regenerating pine forests. Towards the end there’s a long gentle down hill then a short down and short back up again. The exchange stake is on a gradual left corner just south of where a narrow road comes out from the west side.
Past Echo Lake This is a fairly easy stage with mostly flat terrain but with a few more bumps just past the midpoint. It goes past the Echo Lake turn off (only 27 km to go). The hand-off is on a flat section aout 500 metres south of the Dog Creek Forest Road.
Through Dog Creek Fort runners are getting close to home now. The stage goes through Dog Creek, over a few bumps then a nce gradual downhill through some pasture land then upa small hill. The last 600 metres consists of a downhill stretch and ends on a fill in the grassy swamp with an island of trees on it.
Spencer’s Ridge There’s only a little hill to start this stage off then a nice downhill with an S trun, then past the gravel pit, then Spencer’s Ridge road then the long almost flat stretch of 3 km. It ends just before the northern access to Airport Road.
Into the Fort This is the easiest stage except that it comes at the warmest part of the day. The route just follows the main street with a 90 degree left turn at the five corners (it’s okay to use the shorter merge lane on your left but watch out for cars coming at you). Go through downtown Fort St. James and around past the Mr. Gee and then Cottonwood Park and look for the Junkers Airplane. Run hard as your teammates are waiting and cheering. An “official” finish line should be scratched in the dirt.