On Sunday, a top field of runners from Vancouver Island and the mainland will take part in the 35th running of the Pioneer 8K road race at the Saanich Fairgrounds.
The Prairie Inn Harriers running club has been hosting the race since the club itself was formed in 1978, says race director Kathleen Birney. She said they are expecting some pretty fast people on Sunday.
“This year, the race is also the provincial 8K road race championship,” Birney said.
Last year’s men’s race winner Geoff Martinson will be back. For the Pioneer 8K, he’s aiming for a sub-24 minute run, which he did in 2013 with a 23:49 race.
“I should be (running) in a few again this year, and out cheering everyone on. These races are great events to be part of,” Martinson said, noting he’ll be racing in a variety of events this year.
Martinson will be joined at the starting line by other top races like Rob Watson of Vancouver and Kevin Friesen of Coquitlam.
On the women’s side, Birney said Natasha Wodak of Vancouver will be back to defend her record-setting race last year. She finished the eight kilometre route in a time of 25:38, breaking a course record held for more than 20 years. She faced competition from runners Dayne Pidhoresky (Windsor, Ont.) and Erin Barrett (Nanaimo). Sidney’s Lucy Smith will also be in the mix. Birney said the womens’ race is going to be the one to watch.
The Pioneer 8K, said Birney, is the kick off race for two different series: the Frontrunners Island Race Series and the Timex B.C. Road Racing Series. And while the event will attract some speedy runners, Birney said it’s an event open to club runners and people who just like to race. She noted, however, it is a road race and not meant for people with strollers, or who like to walk.
“It’s such a great event,” Birney said. “On Sunday, runners like me can race alongside a B.C. champion — at least for a while.”
The Pioneer 8K starts from the Saanich Fairgrounds in Central Saanich at 11 a.m.
— with files from Edward Hill/Saanich News