Scenic McNeill Bay Half Marathon returns for second year

Half Marathon 21 kilometres of scenery along water of Oak Bay

Before he was an Olympian

There will be no icy ponds to run through at this year’s McNeill Bay Half Marathon, no man-made obstacles other than 21 kilometres of scenery along the Oak Bay route.

The race is next Sunday, Sept. 9, beginning and ending at Oak Bay High. It’s the second year since relocating from the Peninsula, where it ran for 16 years as the Land’s End Half Marathon in Sidney.

“My races are old school,” said organizer Phil Nicholls. “As I call it, it’s an accurate and good value, and maybe out of the norm with the future of fitness compared to the new age (Tough Mudder type races) out there.”

Not that 21 clicks is easy. But Nicholls, a multiple winner of the Victoria

Marathon, is well aware the race calendar in Victoria, the Island, and across southern B.C. has plenty of options, some of them with a lot more than just running.

Nicholls also added a new five kilometre Litespeed distance added this year.

So to reward those who register is a door prize, a Quintana Roo triathlon bike for the half marathon runners and a Litespeed road bike for those in the 5km. Each bike is world class, worth thousands of dollars.

“Events used to be a lot lower key. The bikes are meant to tie into the multisport culture of today and the 5km really opens it up to non-fitness people, though the sport of running itself is still very much alive,” Nicholls said.

New this year, both the races will end with one-and-a-quarter laps on the 400 metre Jack Wallace Memorial track of Oak Bay High. There’s also a new turnaround on the half marathon course which will eliminate a couple of the hills.

Oak Bay High’s leadership group will be on hand as the some of the race profits will benefit the Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock fundraiser, which the school’s students famously contribute to.

Last year Nicholls invited Dylan Wykes to run the McNeill Half, knowing Wykes had yet to qualify for London.

Wykes set a course record of 64 minutes, a tough number to crack. The race ended up being part of Wykes’ Olympic campaign. In April he qualified for the Olympics with Canada’s second fastest marathon ever.

This time last year Wykes was still on the rise, and then he was the top Canadian in London at 20th overall and has become Canada’s fastest modern marathoner, Nicholls said.

The Litespeed starts at 7:50 a.m., half marathon at 8 a.m. Register online at Islandrunner.ca or call 250-595-2378.

sports@vicnews.com

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