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First Whistler Spirit Run completes dream of beloved Vancouver coach and athlete

For immediate release - September 15, 2008

First Whistler Spirit Run completes dream of beloved Vancouver coach and athlete

Whistler, B.C. - Legendary running coach and athlete Frank Reynolds would approve.

Reynolds, who passed away nearly two years ago at the age of 67, was a fixture in the Vancouver track and field community and accomplished much in his life, but ran out of time to launch the major cross-country race in the beautiful mountain setting he dreamed of.

So, a group of his many protégés stepped up to complete the dream for him. The first-ever Whistler Spirit Run, a two-day cross-country and trail running event for people of all ages, takes place September 27 and 28 at Whistler Olympic Park, in the Callaghan Valley just south of Whistler Village.

But, says organizer Ashley Weber of Vancouver, this inaugural event is not so much a memorial to Reynolds as a chance to further cement Reynolds' philosophy of rewarding participation as well as excellence. "Frank was a very influential person in cross-country running, and he helped many athletes perform at a very high level, but his dedication was to the grass roots of the sport, to participation and to sport as part of a healthy lifestyle, and so that's what we're fostering with this event: fun, participation, inclusiveness and integrity," says Weber.

The Whistler Spirit Run is a series of trail runs over two days. Saturday is a 3K grade 4 to 6 boys and girls combined, 4/5K grade 7 and 8 boys and girls combined, 1K grade 2 and 3 boys and girls combined, 5K high school women, 7K high school men, 8K university/open men, and 6K university/open women with masters men and women. Sunday offers a 10K open trail run followed by a 10K relay with four runners doing 2.5K legs.

"There's a tremendous appetite for this kind of running and racing, especially on trails like these which provide a nice alternative to the more extreme cross-country races. For kids, it's a chance to be introduced to the sport and have fun doing it. For an adult who has done some road running and wants to try something different, these are rolling trails in a unique and beautiful setting," says Weber.

The new Whistler Olympic Park is the site of the 2010 Winter Games events in cross country skiing, biathlon, and ski jumping. Sunday's 10k events wind through the venue's three new stadiums built for those events. Weber says Reynolds, after travelling to a cross country meet in the U.S. some years ago where thousands of people participated, yearned to create a similar race in BC. With help from Whistler Olympic Park and the Callaghan Valley Sport & Cultural Society's many volunteers, the race is becoming a reality, and Weber hopes to see between 250 and 300 runners in the inaugural event, mostly from Vancouver and the Sea to Sky Corridor. "Frank Reynolds was my track coach and mentor, and he was like a second father to me," says Weber, who competed for Simon Fraser University. "It will be an amazing and exciting weekend for me and many people whose lives he changed."

The races won't be only about medals, says Weber. The top three finishers in the junior events will get ribbons, but the elementary school or junior club with the highest level of participation will receive a special Run Jump Throw clinic as a prize for their school. In the high school age group, the club or school with the most runners receives a cash award to go toward training and competition costs. "That's in line with Frank's philosophy of rewarding the top athletes across the line, but also recognizing everyone who's out there," says Weber.

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