NOTE: This story contains a correction from the originally posted story. 5K division winner Sophie Mallory, originally referred to as a teen, is actually only 10 years old.
More than 1,200 women and girls endured the blazing morning sun on Sunday and tackled courses of five 10 and 15 kilometres up and around Westhills for the fifth annual Victoria Goddess Run in Langford.
Residents around the running routes helped participants battle the heat by spraying their garden hoses overhead to cool runners off, while area preschoolers unleashed their water guns. The gestures weren’t lost on the beneficiaries.
“The neighbours were great,” said Lansdowne middle school teacher Rajene Chaytors, who led a team of Grade 6 girls who ran the 5K or 10K events. The spraying, along with additional water stations along the course, helped make the weather bearable, she added.
With clusters of entrants representing running, social or other groups, and countless more individual participants putting their bodies to the test, these athletic endurance events were the culmination of a weekend full of activities designed to bring women together in a comfortable, non-intimidating environment.
“This was my first time doing a real 5K; it was really exciting to get out there,” said Duncan resident Dana Adzich, one of numerous women doing their first race. “It was hot, but it was great having the support of all those people on the sidelines encouraging us to go on. As soon as I wanted to stop, there was a lady beside me saying, ‘come on we’re almost done,” so that was really nice.”
Running buddy Mariah Dupuy, who has run races before but was entered in her first Goddess Run, also appreciated the uniqueness of the events.
“This is a really great one, I love that it’s all women and really super supportive. But it was smokin’ hot out there,” she said.
This year’s events, including a special outdoor yoga session, the bathrobe race, motivational speaker sessions and concert activities at the Westin Bear Mountain Golf Spa and Resort, as well as the actual races in the heart of Langford, drew up to 1,600 people in all.
Race director and Goddess Run co-founder Cathy Noel is a veteran running event organizer who determined some years back that there was a niche in the market that wasn’t being filled. The past few years have seen many newcomers, she said, as well as those who participate in the entire weekend’s activities.
“It’s not just about the running events, where you’re worried about the finish and your time, it’s about the yoga and the social events … and having a lot of laughs,” Noel said. “It’s about relaxing and getting away from their normal life and commitments and just enjoying themselves.”
Noting the Goddess Run has a different feel and environment than the more running-focused races she’s involved with, such as the GoodLIfe Fitness Victoria Marathon, she said the goal of the event is to inspire women to become more active, in a way that is non-threatening and welcoming.
While many out-of-towners make a full weekend getaway out of it, she said, participants are motivated to do this event for a variety of reasons.
There are some who use the races as continued training or to set themselves a benchmark for other events, some who run to raise money for charities, and others who simply set completion of the run as a sign they’re heading in a healthy direction.
Noel gave as an example a woman she works with on the event who works at Bear Mountain. The woman has lost 50 pounds since January in preparation for the Goddess Run and now plans to run the marathon in the fall. She was among a group of friends gathering for the first time in a while, and was excited to present her new slimmed-down form to her friends.
“It has changed her life, she’s inspired her family and now they’re all going to the gym,” Noel said. “It’s those kinds of stories that remind me, that’s why I do it.”
In terms of hard results, Victoria’s Kate Van Buskirk won the 15K event handily in a time of one hour, one minute flat, followed by Jennifer Kanigan of Courtenay in 1:08.41 and Duncan’s Raisa Papish in 1:10.24.
Victoria’s Jessica Lougheed crossed first in the 10K event in 45 minutes, nine seconds, followed by fellow locals Yana Hempler in 46:56 and Marlena Stubbings in 49:25. Ten-year-old runner Sophie Mallory of the Sole Sisters team was fastest in the 5K race, finishing in 23:00 flat, while Kara Hobby of Victoria was next in 23:38 and local runner Kristina Matthews third in 24:53.
Full results and other information can be found at racedaytiming.ca/results/.html and clicking on results, then Victoria Goddess Run 2016 5K, 10K or 15K. Find more photos from the event at the Gazette‘s Facebook page.