Change is coming to Challenge Penticton.
The Okanagan River channel will factor into the new 42.2-kilometre run course, while Okanagan Lake Park will be part of a stadium-style finish.
Jeff Symonds, the two-time Challenge Penticton champ, likes the change to the run.
“Running on the channel is just a nice place to run. I have always liked that,” said Symonds, who has gone there for training. “I think people will like that and get some rowdy fans on the channel that day too.”
The run course has changed several times over the last 32 years. This latest modification will have athletes start by running west along Lakeshore Drive, then south to a turnaround point at the south end of the river channel, before returning back along the same path to pass through Gyro Park and join Main Street at the 14-km mark.
Symonds said he likes that the course will loop through town.
“I think it’s going to be really key for getting people excited and having them come away with a great experience,” he said, adding that athletes’ friends and family get extra time to cheer them on. “Runners will get to see the people, kind of give them that inspiration a few more times.”
Symonds has competed in events that are energized by the crowd. He said it leaves the athletes with a good feeling.
“I think that’s important when you are doing a race of this magnitude,” he said. “Feel that excitement and feel that buzz.”
The new course maintains the classic out and back, along Main Street, South Main and Eastside Road, with a turnaround north of Parsons Road. This will eliminate the steeper hills of Skaha Estates and Skaha Bluffs, encountered in both directions previously, making the new course flatter and potentially faster for runners.
“We were looking for a faster run route, without going to a looped or double out and back format, which can be confusing for both athletes and spectators” said co-race director Kevin Cutjar. “The stadium style finish in Okanagan Lake Park will also become the Challenge Village and Expo area. These modifications will enhance the atmosphere of the race, but also take significant portions of the race off the streets.”
In previous years, sections of Main Street and Lakeshore Drive have been closed to traffic in the days before and after the race. This will not be required with the new finish line in the park.
The Challenge Half, will have the same course layout, with earlier turn-around points on the Channel and at Skaha Lake Park, keeping that run within city limits.
“I think the full distance race will have more appeal to age-group athletes looking for a faster finish time,” said Cutjar, who competed at Subaru Ironman Canada as a pro. “Our bike course is mostly downhill for the last 30-km and with a flatter, faster marathon, I think we’ll see some personal best times set in 2015.”