by John Atkinson, December 1st, 2018

FOR the 35th annual running of the Gunner Shaw Vancouver XC, PIH sent a crew of seven to do battle with Gunner's alter-ego club LGRR and enjoy the terrific multi-terrainic elements that the Jericho Park course offers. And the day was action-packed!

Fun 'n' games began early as the 7am ferry sprang a surprise—filling up fast (with contestants for a robotics competition most conspicuous) and catching out Joe Camilleri, Gary Duncan and Bill Leuze, as dawn broke (not THAT Dawn—she's unbreakable) on what would be a day of glorious sunshine.

The trio's ferry narrow (10 car) miss meant making it for the 11am GS gun-shot start was now out—unless they chartered a chopper. But the boys bravely stuck to their guns, jumping on the 9am ferry and resolving to start the race 20 minutes late, so they could still play a part on the day and for Team PIH.

Gunner Shaw's race director Mark Williams and crew, led by several LGRR titans, plus the Startline Timing team brilliantly ensured the guys' official start was clocked—and their finish-times adjusted accordingly (essentially chipped).

Leigh Sunderland, hubby Tim, Dawn Wilson, hubby Scott and Johnny Atkinson (no hubby) made the 7am ferry by the skin of their teeth (78% full at 0605), so were at the Jericho Sailing Centre—host for the day—in plenty of time, where they were joined by Richard Knowlton (based in Surrey), ensuring PIH had a trio representing as the ribbon dropped.

John also met and had a cool chat with Canadian icon Rick Hansen, the legendary athlete, activist and philanthropist for people with disabilities, prior to the start. Rick was in attendance to support a friend and colleague in his foundation, who was celebrating her birthday. No media were alerted ahead-of-time, and many runners were oblivious to the fact they had a true legend in their midst.

After the fantastic Mr. Hansen had made an impromptu speech to inspire the huddled mass of expectant energy, the gun fired at around 11:05. There was the traditional mad sprint at the start, as the field funnelled down into a bottleneck, before popping out onto the course and into the pumping heart of Jericho Park.

In the 10K, LGRR had Marcus Ribi and Benoit Gignac, last year's winner, galloping wildly for them at the front of the pack. So it was no surprise that they gave the home team a flying start with 2nd and 5th in the two-lap men's race (5k per loop), where grass, trail, slushy mud, water and sand all bubble up en route as part of the dance. They clocked 35:20 and 36:13 respectively.

PIH's Leigh, Dawn, Johnny, Gary, Bill, Richard and Joseph posing after the 2018 LGRR 35th Gunner Shaw on the deck of the Jericho Sailing Centre with the downtown Vancouver skyline in the background across English BayFor PIH, Richard (Knowlton) caught a steadily chugging along Johnny at the start of the second lap—and stretched out ahead to be PIH's first runner home in 41:45 for 21st overall and 3rd in his age group (35-39). Johnny followed not far behind in 24th overall and 5th in his 45-49 age group (42:31) and Dawn (53:07 for 3rd in the F55-59).

Meanwhile the late arriving trio started their race with about half the field already into their second lap, and had a great time weaving through the pack especially along the narrow strip of firmer beach between the soft sand and rising tide often choosing a salty shoe over dry slog to make a pass.  All three managed to finish ahead of the last regular starter.

Gary finished in adjusted 33rd place overall—comfortably winning his 60-64 age group—with Joe, winning the M65-69 age group in 46:33, and Bill (47:15 for 4th in the M55-59)

A total of 148 racers crossed the finish-line in the 10k, while an additional 68 did the 5k, where Leigh placed 4th in the F40+ with a time of 25:57.

Post-race the traditional pizza typhoon took place, as three rounds of the famous Italian dish were blitzed by ravenous runners, along with an assortment of other baked treats and refuelling refreshments—before the awards were presented, to round off a cracking event and another memorable Gunner Shaw Vancouver.


-- Johnny


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