Boys wearing Canadian flags for capes played street hockey near the finish line; a little girl watched them, sporting a pair of Maple Leafs worn like Mickey Mouse ears; a local band on stage filled the air with folksy fiddle music; and friends and family members waited with camera phones ready for hundreds of runners doing the annual Canada Day Athletes in Kind 8K race.
The first runner across the finish line was Austin Rebalkin, of Maple Ridge, in a time of 31:07.
The 16-year-old, who attends Samuel Robertson Technical, had taken second at the BMO Okanagan Marathon last October for those 19 and under, but the AIK 8K was his first victory.
“This is the first time I’ve ever won a race – it feels incredible,” he said.
Right behind him was Scott Shupe, also a local runner, who found Monday morning’s extreme heat bogged down the runners. It wasn’t 31.4 C yet, as it would be later in the day, but the sun was already beating down Monday at 9 a.m.
“It was brutal,” he said.
Over the first half of the race the runners were in shade and there was a breeze. But the only reprieve in the final sweat-soaked kilometers was a spray hose set up by Pitt Meadows firefighters.
Shupe, a veteran marathoner, was the fastest in his 40-49 class at 31:14. He started in the middle of the pack, and as the race went on he regularly “picked off” those ahead of him, until he was running with the lead. He was leading the entire pack at about the seven klick mark.
“I gotta hold on here, man,” he told himself, but soon he could hear Rebalkin’s breathing.
They had a battle, that the teen won in the final leg.
Shupe’s son Marshall, who is in Grade 6 at Albion Elementary, won the morning’s 2k run for kids.
The fastest woman was Soraiya Abdulla, who ran in the female 20-29 class, in a time of 32:54.
Also noteworthy was Bruce Johnson being the fastest of the five entrants in the men 70-plus class, in a time of 47:39, and Lenore Montgomery won the women’s 70-plus class, over two other entrants, in a time of 50:19.
Reigning champion Nathan Wadhwani, who finished the 8k in a time of 27:58 last year, has an upcoming competition with the national track and field team, and didn’t want to risk injury in a run this week. He will travel to Donetsk, Ukraine to run the 3,000m race in the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) World Youth Championships July 10-14. He was at the race, to hand over the mantle.
The annual AIK 8K race combined with a ball hockey tournament to give a sporty feel to the Canada Day Celebrations, which were held at the Pitt Meadows Family Recreation Centre on Sunday.
About 300 people took part in the run, and organizer Lorie Muller set a goal of $8,500 for the charity run. The money will be used for practical support for the parents of children undergoing cancer treatment at Children’s Hospital. Mullet explained that the funds are overseen by the B.C. Childhood Cancer Parents Association, made up of parents who have all had a child who needed cancer treatment.