An Eastbournian Abroad with Ashley McMillan: Early morning records and Whistler firsts

So the big talk leading into last weekend here in the mountains was all about Whistler’s inaugural half marathon. Billed as one of the most scenic and picturesque many will ever run, it didn’t let anyone down.

This event had been in the planning for quite some time and the organizers had endured many a challenge in pulling it off, not least, the actual route. Right from the announcement of the course, those in the know were satisfied that it probably wouldn’t be fast route or one where many put down a solid personal best, not least because of the tough hills in the first half and the many twisting turns and out and back stretches. That said, there was naturally a course record set – it was the first ever to be ran after all!

Before the start gun was fired there was the obligatory intro, good wishes and warnings to watch out for bears on the course – only in Whistler (imagine having to watch out for moving objects in the London marathon!). It was even suggested after the event that some of the road directions were indicated by bear droppings altered to show directions!!

The gods had timed everything nicely. Sumer arrived for the day of the race. Fortunately the start time was early at 7.30 and so the temperatures weren’t too hot when most people made it over the finishing line. The rest of the day though lent itself nicely to many of those competitors and ‘fun’ runners, finding their way to a nice sun trapped patio. I suspect though that many of these individuals having just ran the farthest they’d ever done (or certainly their longest in a very, very long time), now having placed themselves onto a comfy patio chair (any and all forms of seating would have felt comfortable at this stage!), will have struggled to get up again after a few celebratory drinks and a bit too much sun.

The rest of the weekend remained sunny and hot, hot, hot. Just what the doctor had ordered and a real shot in the arm for anyone living around these parts as we’ve waited very patiently for spring to really show its true form. Was it here for good…hmmm, we’ll see, but we’ll take anything we can get at the moment, but the forecast is good right now. It’s a fickle thing, but small matters such is how nice the weather forecast looks has a quite the impact on the numbers of visitors coming up from the lower mainland areas. Good weather = good business. It’s the same in summer as it is in winter. Sure, we have numerous facilities and more options than you can shake a stick at for activities, restaurants, stores, etc, but for those who live within a hundred mile or two and have the ability to decide last minute if they should drive up or not, if there was little or no snow, they may decide to hold off until a later date or go elsewhere (god forbid).

So the summer (Ok, maybe a bit premature so we’ll call it the sightseeing or biking season) is upon us. This means that things are slowly beginning to ramp up for business once again after a brief several weeks lull in trade and numbers. There are still many local restaurant deals to be had in their efforts to drag trade from locals and visitors alike through their doors whilst the town is quiet. There are those business’, mainly restaurants, that have perhaps shut down for a few weeks for renovations, upgrades, decoration, etc – The traditionally slow periods in spring and ‘fall’ offer the brief opportunity to get certain work done on premises that would ordinarily have a much bigger impact on their ringing tills at other ‘guaranteed’ busier times.

It is therefore with dismay that I just find out, having been out of town in some of the lower mainland areas outside of Vancouver, that the Whistler gondola is presently out of commission ‘until further notice’. Not a good sign, but at least Whistler Blackcomb had the decency to post it on their Facebook site. Thankfully, the town is not yet packed with its expected high numbers and access to both the bike park and the mountain sightseeing is still available through other channels. Just something else they’ll need to fix, not least because of the unnecessary bad PR these reports tend to self generate.

So as we all wait for the mechanics to get to work on the damn gondola, some of us mad enough and with short memories of the weekend’s self inflicted pain, the opportunity to sign up for the 2012 half marathon will open up this Saturday for a brief period. For those that have caught the running bug, there are plenty of other running events this year - just come and have a look at my scheduled race calendar, there’s trail races, mountain races, more half and full marathons and even one ultra marathon. Not interested…? Well apart from the host of other activities, there’s always the promise of the patio bar action and barbeques. Keeps most folk happy round these parts!