The Edge-to-Edge marathon is about to get up and running.
The Ucluelet chamber of commerce launched the first Edge-to-Edge Marathon in 2000 hoping to fill the West Coast with tourists during the shoulder season.
The event's success cemented it onto the West Coast's calendar and runners from around the globe are packing their sneakers and heading to Ucluelet for the 15th annual Edge-to-Edge Marathon on June 8. The run traditionally incorporates both Tofino and Ucluelet but it will take place entirely in Ucluelet this year to keep runners off the Pacific Rim Highway.
"June is not as sleepy as it was when we first started this race, which is great because that was the whole idea to bring people here during the shoulder season so it worked, but unfortunately it
also created traffic problems and safety issues," said race director Sue Payne.
Payne mapped out the new course with the help of local volunteers and said finding 42 km of running room within Ucluelet was "an interesting exercise."
She said the course "zigs and zags" through Ucluelet's roads and incorporates the Wild Pacific Trail, which has previously only been part of the half-marathon event.
The new course will also see runners trekking down Port Albion Road to Mercantile Creek near the Thornton Creek Hatchery and this has brought the community of Ittatsoo into the mix.
Payne said Ittatsoo volunteers will run a water station and relay exchange.
"It's going to be a nice way to promote that area," she said.
All runners will start at Ucluelet Secondary School's track where they will complete one lap before taking off and Payne said the intown route will make spectating easier and generate greater excitement in town.
"I think it's more exciting because it's going to be more visible for people to watch," she said. "People will be able to just walk out their front doors and watch and cheer them on."
She said nixing Tofino from the course does not mean Tofino's accommodation providers will be left empty as about 700 marathoners bringing family and friends will look to both communities for lodging. .
"There are people that will stay in Tofino regardless because they've stayed there before and they like it," she said. "There might be a little bit of a switch to Ucluelet just because the start and finish is here but it seems to be not too different than what it's been in the past."
The course's re-routing cost the marathon its standing as a Boston Marathon qualifier and Payne will wait to see how it runs this year before dishing out the roughly $5,000 cost to have it officially re-measured.
"I'd like to run it at least once in order to find any issues," she said adding the original Tofino to Ucluelet course was run five times before becoming an official qualifier in 2006.
"We're hoping that this route will be officially measured next year and it will once again be a Boston qualifier."
She said registration is down from past years and blames an influx of competition.
"The change of route might have influenced it slightly but I think
there's just more runs out there," she said.
She believes the marathon market is being flooded with options and runners are leaning towards niche runs like Whistler's Tough Mudder event.
"I think once the word gets out that a lot of the run is on the Wild Pacific Trail it's going to increase in popularity for sure because that is a niche run; there's not too many marathons that are trail marathons," she said.
Payne said Tofino could be brought back into the fold if a path is built through the Pacific Rim National Park connecting Ucluelet to Tofino.
"If the discussions with the Park are such that the Park does put a bike path through to join the two communities then we would certainly look at reinstating the original route because, let's face it, the point-to-point is a pretty cool thing in itself," she said. "Although we're pretty excited about putting it on the Wild Pacific Trail because I think it's going to lend itself to some spectacular viewpoints."
Anyone interested in volunteering for this year's marathon is encouraged to contact the Ucluelet chamber office at 250-726-4641.
"If you can spare any time on that weekend even a couple of hours would be awesome and we'd love to have you," Payne said.
The marathon costs about $50,000 to put on each year and Payne said it usually breaks even with any profits going towards the next year's event.