North Saanich loss is Oak Bay’s gain

Runners converge on municipality for a second time in 2011

Oak Bay’s reputation as a runner’s paradise continues to grow. This Sunday (Sept. 11) marks the first McNeill Bay half-marathon, the second major race to be run in the community in 2011, following the well-established Oak Bay half-marathon.

The race is actually a relocated version of the Land’s End half-marathon, formerly run in North Saanich.

Race director Phil Nicholls says there’s plenty of room for two similar events in the community.

“I’ve always lived in Oak Bay and I pretty much figure I grew up running on those roads,” he said. “I think it’s such a great place to run.”

Though the new 21-kilometre race has a bit of history behind it, Nicholls has had to do a lot of rebuilding, and he’s had plenty of help from the community in doing so.

The Prairie Inn Harriers Running Club and Oak Bay High’s track team will make up a large portion of the 60 to 80 volunteers needed to help the event run smoothly, and the Oak Bay Police have also been very supportive.

“They’ve been really helpful in putting together the traffic safety plan,” Nicholls said.

The race follows an out-and-back route, starting at Oak Bay High and heading down Cranmore Road before turning north at Hampshire Road. Runners will continue northward on Musgrave Street and Midland Road until they reach Beach Drive, at which point they will turn back to the south, carrying on all the way to the turnaround point at Falkland Road.

Because it’s the first edition of the race at this location, Nicholls has modest expectations for the turnout. As of last week, there were just over 100 runners registered. Nicholls said he’ll be happy if the field tops out at around 200. But what the race may lack in size, it will make up for in strength.

Dylan Wykes, the Canadian record-holder at the half-marathon distance, will be running, as will Nanaimo’s Steve Osaduik, who holds the Goodlife Victoria Marathon mark.

Registration for the race begins at 6:30 a.m. Sunday. The race starts at 8 a.m. All funds raised will go to support Cops for Cancer’s Tour de Rock.

editor@oakbaynews.com