By Joe Pelletier
The most famous races around the world, the famed Boston Marathon among them, are being cancelled or postponed due to the worldwide Coronavirus pandemic.
But the Skeena Valley Runners were able to pull off a very successful St. Patrick’s Day 5k on Saturday, March 14th, 2020. Though it was anything but easy for race organizers.
Everything seemed to be coming together smoothly for the third annual fundraiser for high school track and cross country running teams at Caledonia and Centennial Christian schools. Then came the global crisis.
Less than 72 hours before the race the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus to be a worldwide pandemic, forcing governments around the world to take drastic measures on a daily basis that we are all still adjusting to.
At that time the British Columbian and Canadian governments advised having events and gatherings of people no larger than 250 people (since reduced to just 50 after the race.) In the past two years, the St. Patty’s Day race attracted over 200 racers, volunteers and spectators. Given the cold temperatures forecasted on race day and slower pre-registrations rates, there was little concern about approaching the government-mandated cap of 250 people.
Organizers still had difficult discussions about cancelling the race anyway, as we witnessed various levels of hysteria worldwide but also emerging in our own community.
But after securing the full blessings of all authorities including Northern Health, BC Athletics and the City of Terrace, as well race sponsors, the decision was made to go ahead with the event with the caveat that any participant or volunteer who was sick with anything resembling a cold or flu was asked to stay away.
Armed with hand sanitizer, the outdoor setting and, yes, toilet paper Skeena Valley Runners felt very confident in delivering a safe event. It was also important to give runners a sense of normalcy and community in a very confusing time.
117 runners and walkers completed the event hosted at Coast Mountain College. 19 pre-registered runners and 6 volunteers chose not to attend, although only a few were confirmed to be absent due to the health scare. The cold weather was likely another key factor.
Brayden Cober won the race with an impressive time of 17:24. Then came the Block party. Teenager Owen Block came in 2nd with a time of 17:51, followed by Colin Scott (18:40) and brother Luke Block (20:08).
Nicki Rehn, a noted ultra runner on the world scene, won the ladies race with a time of 23:04, followed by young Ayla Block (25:12), mom Cheryl Block (25:21) and Bissy Flynn (25:41).
Next up for Skeena Valley Runners is the historic King of the Mountain trail race, tentatively scheduled for July 11th, though world events may again impact the local running scene.