Marathon big on local runners

As usual, this year’s Woody’s RV Marathon and Half Marathon will have a distinctive Central Alberta flavour, with a generous group of runners heading to the starters line for the first time.

As usual, this year’s Woody’s RV Marathon and Half Marathon will have a distinctive Central Alberta flavour, with a generous group of runners heading to the starters line for the first time.

“We have about 500 competitors from Lacombe, Sylvan Lake and Red Deer, including a number of first-timers,” title sponsor Woody Paylor said Thursday, while looking ahead to the Marathon and Half Marathon, which starts at 8 a.m. near Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School.

“The Red Deer Runners Den (with support from the Red Deer Runners) had an 18-week clinic preparing for this event and they had 150 people enrolled. There’s also a group from Sylvan Lake that has entered, about 30 runners who were in a clinic there,” added Paylor. “We have lots of support from Central Alberta.”

The event is expected to attract more than 1,100 runners— including close to 200 for the 42-kilometre marathon —­ from four provinces and from as far away as New York, Pennsylvania and Texas.

David Corbett of Sherwood Park will defend his men’s title, while 2006 winner Jack Cook of Edmonton and 2007 and ‘08 runner-up Brendan Lunty of Camrose have also entered this year’s marathon. Ian Blokland of Camrose is another anticipated front-runner.

“The men’s race will be very competitive,” said Paylor.

There are no former champions entered in the women’s category, leaving that portion of the competition wide open. Close to 60 per cent of the 2009 runners are women, which, according to Paylor, is up “two to three per cent” over last year.

“And something that’s a little unusual this year is that we have five 13-year-olds doing the half marathon,” he added.

While the overall numbers are down slightly this year, the Woody’s RV Marathon and Half Marathon remains popular with both runners and support staff.

“The appeal is still there,” said Paylor, “and we have over 300 volunteers who have again held their hands up to help us.”

The 2009 event is taking on a green look, Paylor added.

“The organizers have eliminated a lot of the posters and entry forms. They’ve encouraged people to register online to cut down on the waste of paper,” he noted.

“They are also encouraging the runners to bring a bottle that can be refilled at the water stations instead of having a bunch of cups to dispose of, and a lot of recycle bins will be placed around the course. They’re trying to make it as environmentally friendly as they can.”

Marathon memos: Paylor, the owner of Woody’s RV World and a world class triathlete, and Cook, a member of the national ultra marathon team, a three-time winner of the Canadian Death Race and current Death Race record holder, are among the list of celebrity participants that includes 2002 Olympic freestyle ski bronze medalist Deidra Dionne and mixed martial arts competitor Jason MacDonald . . . The youngest runner to enter this year is an 11-year-old from Saskatchewan, while the oldest is a 77-year-old from Calgary . . . The guest speaker for the Saturday night pasta dinner at the Black Knight Inn is Scott Jurek, the course record holder and seven-time winner of the Western States 100-mile Endurance Run, and two-time winner of the Badwater Ultramarathon. “He’s very well-known in running circles,” said Paylor of Jurek, who is also the three-time defending champion of the Spartathlon event and winner of the Hardrock 100-mile Endurance Run . . . Phil Meagher of Fort McMurray holds the men’s marathon course record of 2:36.58, set in 1999. The women’s record of 2:59.42, set in 2001, is held by Sonja Frank, also of Fort McMurray.ß

Contact Greg Meachem at gmeachem@bprda.wpengine.com