Approaching my 2 year anniversary as a parkrun Event Director, I’m no stranger to modifying the welcome briefing as circumstances dictate. Goose poop on the route? Icy conditions? Slippery leaves? Puddles? A rowing competition? All useful information for participants to know, but nothing really extraordinary.
Last week I was a guest Run Director at Whistler, which is how I found myself giving my most extended, unusual welcome briefing to date!
On Wednesday, Travis (Whistler’s Event Director) messaged asking me to give him a call to discuss the tiny toads. Travis has recently added a newborn baby to his household, and I wondered whether sleep deprivation was finally taking its toll. Nevertheless, call him I did, and discovered that we actually had to reroute the course due to these tiny toads!
The toads (which are indeed tiny – about the size of a quarter) are a protected species, and every year they take a summer holiday. Their migration path crosses our usual parkrun route, so to avoid trampling we sent our runners around a modified course.
OK OK…this stretches the wildlife analogy a little bit, but “bear” with me (spoiler alert!). On the Sunday, Whistler was hosting a Full and Half Ironman competition, and our trail was unusually busy as these incredible athletes fine tuned their bodies ahead of the big day.
With all these lean, mean iron machines charging around, I felt it appropriate to warn our participants about the athletic creatures they might encounter en route. And logistically, request that our parkrunners run very purposefully towards our timekeeper as they finished, so we didn’t accidentally clock times for non-parkrunners!
When undertaking the Risk Assessment for Richmond Olympic (my home parkrun, 2 hours south of Whistler), we wondered whether bears were a legitimate cause for concern. Although the North Shore mountains provide our backdrop, the likelihood of a bear making it unchallenged through a heavily urbanized area all the way to Richmond would be quite something, so we omitted it.
Not so for Whistler – this is real bear country! A few minutes before I was preparing to start the briefing, our Tail Walker came over to report a bear sighting 250m from our start line! She had been on an early morning run while I was setting out the route, and a bear had casually strolled across the trail at about 8.45am. Fortunately it didn’t seem to be very interested in staying around for parkrun, and had since left the area.
Of everything I announced in the briefing, this was the most excitedly received. I pointed out the bear aware tips at our start line, and gave everyone the opportunity to pass on running if they preferred. All 40 brave souls decided to run, although for local Alan Devillers who gives bear tours for a living, this was just another day in the office!
Despite the occasional wildlife hazard, Whistler parkrun is still well worth a visit. It loops round the iconic Lost Lake Park, and is a must-do parkrun for locals and tourists alike! Catch it while you can – much like our friends the bears, Whistler parkrun hibernates during winter as the trail becomes a cross-country ski track.
By Becky Maybury, Richmond Olympic Event Director (occasionally moonlighting as Whistler Run Director)
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