The 2009 Emperor’s Challenge Mountain Run is gearing up to be the most brutally exciting event in the eleven year history of the race, with the news that both Kris Swanson and Steve Osaduik will be returning. “The world’s toughest and most beautiful half marathon” takes place each August in some of the finest scenery in North America, south of Tumbler Ridge.
Swanson has stamped his mark on the race since its inception in 1999, with a staggering nine Emperor’s trophies to his credit. This stands as one of the greatest achievements in the history of mountain running in Canada. The only time he temporarily forfeited his crown was in 2007, to Osaduik, who had recently triumphed in the Canadian Half Marathon.
Now these Titans are set to slog it out on the tundra on a completely new route, over Babcock Mountain. It is anyone’s bet how Swanson’s mountain running skills and mastery of the soft alpine surface will fare against Osaduik’s phenomenal speed and endurance on the road. One thing is evident: two of Canada’s finest athletes will be on Babcock Mountain when the race begins at 9 a.m. on Saturday August 8th.
At the other end of the spectrum, most participants will simply respond to the challenge and try to finish the twenty-one kilometers within the allotted five hours by jogging or walking. Already there have been around two hundred advance registrations, pointing to another bumper field in what has become the biggest wilderness running event in north-western Canada.
The youngest participant for the full distance has been ten, and the oldest eighty-two. Twenty-eight adults and seven kids have received their coveted “in perpetuity” numbers for completing five Emperor’s Challenges. Another twenty-eight adults and four kids are potentially eligible to receive this honour in 2009.
Gold finisher’s medals are presented to those finishing in under two hours, silver for those in under three hours, and bronze medals for the rest of the finishers. In 2009 for the first time there will be age-group awards as well with categories for 18 and under, 19–34, 35-49, 50-64, and 65 and over.
Kids are catered to through tough races of their own, of one fifth or one tenth the adult distance (4.2 or 2.1 kilometres). A festive atmosphere prevails at the finish, with a marquis, massages, refreshments, awards ceremony and much more. The event is spectator friendly, and telescopes are trained on the upper reaches of the mountain to see who heads off it first.
The start and finish are at the Core Lodge, 35 kilometres south of Tumbler Ridge. The highest point is on the mountain summit, some 2000 feet above. It may seem hard to believe, but many say that the brand new Babcock Mountain course has even finer features than its predecessor. It passes through entrancing rocky scenery, right over the summit, and through the valley that bisects the mountain, past alpine tarns, with glorious views of Roman Mountain and the northern Rockies on a fine day. The incline is never quite as steep as on the old route, but this translates into a constant uphill battle for the first sixty percent of the race, which super-fit runners may possibly be able to do without walking. Osaduik’s 2007 record time of 1:28:45, and Stephanie Mills’ 2004 women’s record of 1:48:12 may be up for grabs.
“Run with the Goats, Cruise with the Caribou, and Trot with the Ptarmigan,” and be a part of this great event, or just come out and watch, and celebrate the achievements of all those who rise to the Emperor’s Challenge,
For further information on the Emperor’s Challenge visit www.emperorschallenge.com