The Pacific Rim National Park is back in the running for the West Coast’s marquee marathon event.
The Park is in preliminary talks with Ucluelet about putting Long Beach back in the Edge-to-Edge Marathon’s race route and the two parties are expected to hash out an agreement in time for 2016’s run, according to Park spokesperson Kiri Westnedge.
“Over the coming months we will work with race organizers and the district of Ucluelet to formalize an agreement and to identify a race route that offers a fabulous experience for runners while respecting the ecological values of the park reserve,” she said.
The Park was once a prominent Edge-to-Edge feature but was removed in 2014 when the Tofino-to-Ucluelet race was adjusted to become a Ucluelet-only course.
Westnedge said the Park is excited to get back in.
“The Edge-to-Edge Marathon is an excellent way for runners and spectators to experience the outstanding natural beauty of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve,” she said.
“The event showcases the Park Reserve and region as a destination for people looking to connect with nature and enjoy an active lifestyle.”
She touted Long Beach as an excellent setting for runners to enjoy.
“Long stretches of hard packed, silver sand, the ocean breeze, waves crashing nearby, and the earthy smell of the encroaching rainforest provide a unique running experience and an incredible way to connect with one of Canada’s natural places,” she said.
“The Edge-to-Edge Marathon is a unique adventure race, and Pacific Rim National Park Reserve provides the spectacular scenic backdrop. Runners won’t notice the kilometres roll by as they take in the natural splendour of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve’s wild coastline.”
Ucluelet chamber of commerce executive director Sally Mole said the Park’s excitement is shared by both the marathon’s race committee and marathoners who have missed putting their sneakers in the sand.
“We did hear from some runners that they liked the run on the beach so we wanted to incorporate some beach time,” she said.
She suggested marathon runners could start at Long Beach and head towards Ucluelet and the Wild Pacific Trail.
“We’d only have a couple of kilometres on the highway before we hit the bike path and then we can deke out onto the Wild Pacific Trail so it should be a safe route and a fun route,” she said.
“You get beach, a little bit of bike path and then the trail.”
She said Ucluelet also had talks with Tofino about spreading the event across both towns again but this idea was ultimately crossed out.
“We had some preliminary discussions about that. It was not logistically feasible and it remains logistically unfeasible,” she said.
She said the costs associated with incorporating both towns, along with dangerous stretches of Pacific Rim Highway, make including Tofino a costly venture.
“There’s a section of the road that would require some pretty serious safety precautions,” she said adding additional buses and Porta-potties would be needed. “It just adds to the expense of the race.”
Last year’s marathon cost about $25,000 to run, according to Mole.
Changing the course into a Ucluelet-only event in 2014 cost the marathon its status as a Boston Marathon qualifier but Mole said the race society is not itching to bring that status back.
“People that want to qualify for Boston want to do an easy race. This is not an easy race,” she said.
“No hardcore runner is using it for a qualifier because they just can’t get the time so I don’t see that being a factor at all and I don’t think there’s a will from the committee to bring that back.”
She noted the marathon brings a valuable activity-surge to local businesses and showcases the region as an attractive vacation destination.
“We see a lot of repeat customers but that being said we see some new ones that come in and those people come back because they experience the West Coast feel and they love it and it’s a great family destination so they bring their families back,” she said.