Ninety people dominated the Babine Mountain Provincial Park in a true test of physical endurance and perseverance in the first annual Hah Nic Na’ Aah Mountain Marathon.
Trail marathon runners started at Driftwood Hall and ran up McCabe Trail to the summit and back down, while the half marathon runners started in the summer parking lot and also ran up and down the same trail.
“About every third runner who came to the finish line from up top either had bleeding knees or bleeding elbows just from falling,” said Richard Joseph, the race organizer. “But even though there were bleeding and cuts, there were still lots of smiles to be seen.”
The marathon drew people from Prince George, Cortes Island and as far away as France.
The first participants to finish the full marathon were Cormac Hikisch, finishing in three hours and 20 minutes, and Ngaere Gilbert who finished in four hours and 13 minutes.
“The trail is pretty tight in a lot of sections, pretty rocky, you’re always having to focus on your steps,” said Gilbert. “It was was a lot more mentally stimulating . . . it’s almost like a video game, you’re just going so quickly that you always have to watch where you’re stepping.”
The first male runner to cross the finish line in the half marathon was Jack Stratton, who finished in one hour and 44 minutes, while the first female to finish was Nadene Butler in one hour and 52 minutes.
Steve Webb ran the half marathon, finishing in two hours and 37 minutes.
“We used to hike into the Babines all the time as a young family,” said Webb. “It’s a long uphill, the elevation gain is something like 1,200 metres or 4,000 feet, for most people outside of the north, that would be the equivalent of going from sea level to above the height of Grouse Mountain. The challenge was the sustained uphill grade, the first half of the race was up hill.”
“I finished standing up, which was my goal,” he laughed.
According to Joseph, the race was so popular in its first year because it represents a shift from road to trail running.
“It’s easier on your body because you’re not jarring yourself. When you go from running on a trail to running on pavement or asphalt, you can definitely feel it in your joints and people are just appreciating being out in the wilderness. It’s a different kind of workout, you need to be on the ball.”
Joseph said he hopes to continue the race next year as well.
Without hesitation, Gilbert and Webb both agreed they will be back in 2015.