Runners competed in the 42nd King of the Mountain foot race in Terrace on July 13, 2019. This year, the 43rd annual race will be held in a virtual format due to the pandemic. (Contributed photo)

King of the Mountain foot race switches to virtual format

Organizers didn’t cancel because event is fundraiser for Terrace SAR

The annual King of the Mountain foot race in Terrace will look different this year because of the pandemic.

Normally all contestants run together on the same day around Flathead Loop trail, but this year, the 43rd anniversary of the race, the competition will be virtual. Contestants can run the route any time between July 11 and August 11, tracking their position and time using a GPS app. This year the race will be about 6.5 km long with about 330 m of elevation change.

Joe Pelletier, president of race organizer Skeena Valley Runners, said the pandemic situation is so fluid that organizers decided to play it safe and not plan a traditional race this year.

“You’re seeing all the big name events, like the Boston Marathon, they’re going virtual, so we said let’s just go virtual too,” he told The Terrace Standard.

He said a physical race would have been limited to 50 people and runners would have to stagger their starts to maintain 6 ft. of distancing, per provincial guidelines.

“And no after party, which is a big part of these events,” he said.

Pelletier said runners will pay a fee to enter the race and 100 per cent of the proceeds will be donated to Terrace Search and Rescue, which is pushing to complete its new headquarters building on Greig Ave. this year.

“One of the big reasons we’re pushing through rather than cancelling is, historically, King of the Mountain is a fundraiser for Terrace Search and Rescue and this year, more than many years, they need financial help.”

Organizers had to alter the route slightly this year, Pelletier said. Normally, runners start at the Sportsplex arena and run up to Flathead Loop. But with the virtual format going on for a month, organizers can’t manage traffic and other safety conditions around the arena, so runners are asked to start the race directly on the trail. This shaves roughly 2 kilometres from the race, which means the recorded times will be significantly shorter than previous years.

“It’ll be quite a bit quicker than previous times,” he said. “We’ll have to make that adjustment on the trophy and make that note in the historical archive of the race.”

Pelletier said he hopes the virtual format will reduce some pressure and make the race accessible to folks who are normally intimidated by the mountain challenge.

“This is a mountain and it kind of scares some people off,” he said. “Now, because it’s not an event, and they can just do it on their own and still participate, we’re hoping to get a lot of walkers out, maybe the casual runners, rather than just some of the hardcore mountain runners.”

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