New race will scale Mount Douglas

Victoria Run Series introduces Mount Doug Ascent, starting Saturday at 11 a.m.

Local runner Matthew Winkler is excited to compete in the Mount Douglas Ascent on Saturday

Local runner Matthew Winkler is excited to compete in the Mount Douglas Ascent on Saturday

It won’t be an easy race, but it also won’t be a long one.

Victoria Run Series owner-operator Chris Kelsall believes the Mount Doug Ascent, a 1.6-kilometre run up Mount Douglas on Saturday, is an intense shot of adrenaline that non-runners can compete in too.

“Racing up the road, rather than on a trail and with such a short distance, makes the race doable for non-runners,” Kelsall said.

The unique event is unlike anything in the Victoria Run Series which offers several track-based events. However, it’s not the only event on Mount Doug, as it borrows directly from the annual Lambrick Park secondary King and Queen of the Hill student race, which happens near the end of September.

This race will start at the bottom of Churchill Drive at 11 a.m. and finish at the summit. It will take place during the park’s regular road closure hours, meaning there will be no cars allowed. Runners should come in at anywhere from eight to 25 minutes.

Seeing runners on Mount Douglas is common. Whether it’s on the road or the trails, there are dozens per day. According to the popular running app Strava, 175 users have made 1,018 attempts up Churchill with a top time of five minutes and 51 seconds. That Strava segment, however, is only about 1.3km, a touch short of the Mount Doug Ascent.

One of the favourites to be first up Mount Doug on Saturday is Matthew Winkler, a 27-year-old 800-metre specialist who still holds the record of 1:50 for his NCAA school, Christopher Newport University in Virginia.

Earlier this year, Winkler competed in the Whistler Red Bull 400, in which runners slog up the 400m incline of the Olympic ski jump, and he says that’s the closest thing geographically and physically to this race he can think of.

“Most incline races also include a decline, so this is unique in that you’ll be finished when you get to the top,” Winkler said.

Currently, Winkler is in good form and looking to make a return to the Canadian national track and field championships at the 800m level, which he competed at in 2011. Prepping for a race like this is also a little different, he said.

“It’s a lot of work, a certain amount of it is mental but you have to put in the work to prepare your body,” he said.

The Whistler Red Bull 400, for example, is an unheard of 38-degree incline. Mount Douglas will be less steep, but much longer.

“You have to do interval work ahead of something like this and the main thing to remember when you’re racing is to keep a short stride,” Winker said.

This year Winkler’s competed in several Island-based race series, including the Island Trail Running Series, which offers the annual Mount Tzouhalem race in Duncan. That race is on a trail and has two routes, a 13km course with 650 metres of vertical gain and a shorter 7km course with 340m of vertical gain.

The Mount Doug Ascent is only about 165 metres of gain, maybe more, but will certainly be challenging to all comers.

“It’s a run that gives a sense of accomplishment without months of training, such as a half marathon would require,” Kelsall said. “Plus, it has an epic view at the top.”

People who have general fitness, and who run here and there, such as at a soccer or hockey game, can use that general muscular fitness to give the Mount Doug Ascent a try, he added.

To entice participants, the top male and female winners get a full growler of beer.



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