An Eastbournian Abroad with Ashley McMillan: Winter festivals and 50,000 runners out for a Sunday run

This is typically the week (or so) of what is usually referred to as the last big hurrah or official end of the Whistler winter season. Of course we are still a week from one mountain closing and a further five weeks until the other twinned beauty finally closes its door, but for a few weeks, before summer operations begin.

So what is this signalling of the end? The huge Telus ski & snowboard festival is the draw of course. This is an annual event that provides many a freestyle skier and boarder the opportunity to showcase their talents and perhaps allow just as many a music artist the opportunity to perform on stages throughout this 9 day winter extravaganza.

It’s not so much as a scheduled opportunity to see out the season with a bang, so much as a great opportunity to take in some awesome spring skiing conditions and party as hard as one likes on a grandiose stage.

It just so happens that typically after this festival each year, the holidays have passed for a while, kids are all back where they should be - at school and the remaining winter visitors tend to be locals from around the lower mainland area, venturing up for a weekend ski break whilst our enduring season, well…continues.

Someone suggested that maybe as a bit of fun I should enter the ‘Vancouver Sun Run’. “Why” I proclaimed. Because it’s one of the biggest races you’ll ever run in….and it’s short for you.

Well, I often jump at the chance to enter any running event, so why not this one! It was nicely timed, some three weeks out from my main event, the Vancouver marathon and it was a good excuse for a day out…even if I did have to get a lift down at the ungodly hour of 5.30am for the second time in two weeks for a race!!!

Downtown Vancouver was rife with shorts and tight wearing runners making their way toward the hundreds of port-a-loos (never a pleasant experience, but vastly better the earlier you gain entry to one!), various drop bag sites and blocked off streets already crammed long, long before their impending start times. 50,000 runners! Can you believe it?!

A logistical nightmare, but extremely well executed. Just a shame that by the time a number of the forerunners had finished that the vast majority of the participants were still only just crossing the starting line (it was only 10k after all!)! Great bands along the route and one certainly getting into the swing of things in the indoor arena where everyone was ushered toward having completed their race, now in search of food and drink.

It was also a little surprising to see just how much energy a few runners still had as they were throwing themselves around the dance area like there was no tomorrow. Good for them, but maybe this could have been channelled a bit more on the run…??

Back in Whistler spring was still trying. There are even a few tiny bulbs pushing through the old winter gravel around the flower beds I almost never thought I’d see again. Awesome to see and even better once the snow has finally dissipated around the lower valley. Obviously the wildlife is thinking this too as I cannot let this latest piece pass without at least mentioning yet another cougar sighting in the vicinity. Not worried by this, just sharing with y’all.

So, with the co-operation of the weather, final preparations should allow for my marathon taper and training to come together, ready to travel back down to Vancouver once again in a couple of weeks and hopefully with a couple less runners on the road.

In the meantime, leaving parties are cropping up as more and more workers are turning their thoughts to leaving Whistler, either because their work visa (as foreigners – as most of Whistler’s work force is!) or its simply time to move home or to a ‘proper job’ as some will say. Always a tough time to say goodbye to friends you may have gotten to know well, but is the transient society that makes up this beauty spot.

So from this runner, congratulations to everyone who recently completed the Brighton and Boston marathons (couldn’t be any more different in their weather challenges) and good luck to all about to undertake the impending London marathon. There’s time to make the Olympic teams yet!