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Thousands of runners on streets today for Victoria Marathon

Oct 07 2012
The Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon is regarded as a destination marathon, with about 70 per cent of runners coming from off-Island. 

The Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon is regarded as a destination marathon, with about 70 per cent of runners coming from off-Island.

Photograph by: Victoria Times Colonist , .

In the most famous race Nathan Cullen ran, he finished third.

The winner was Thomas Mulcair.

"I'd take third place [today], but that's not going to happen," quipped Cullen, the Opposition House leader in Parliament, as he readied for today's 33rd annual Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon.

Cullen, a fit 40-year-old who ran CIS track for Trent University and for the NDP leadership against now-Opposition leader Mulcair, will be among the 11,503 runners taking to the streets of Victoria. That's up from last year's 11,424. Cullen will join the 5,503 who will contest the half-marathon. There are 2,056 registered for the marathon, 2,844 for the 8K and 1,100 for the kids race.

Although high profile in politics, Cullen seemed more impressed this weekend in the profile of Victoria's sporting reputation.

"You have people like [Olympic medallists] Simon Whitfield and Silken Lau-mann helping out here at the race launch [marathon press conference] and that could only happen in Victoria," said the MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley.

Indeed, Cullen and the other half-marathon racers today will be chasing the course record of 1: 02: 32 set by Jon Brown of Victoria, who was fourth in the marathon at both the 2000 Sydney and 2004 Athens Summer Olympics representing his native Great Britain.

"You can only run in the north in summer. Here you can do it anytime," noted Cullen.

The Goodlife Fitness Victoria race is classified as a destination marathon, with more than 70 per cent of the participants coming from off-Island to create a $7-million annual impact on the local economy.

There are more than 10,000 Canadians registered, with 9,000-plus from B.C. and most of the rest from Alberta, with nearly 800 runners from Washington state and more than 200 from Oregon. There are 23 nations represented, including Israel and Pakistan.

"You can bring running along with you from the airport," said the Smithers-based Cullen, who flies extensively between Ottawa and his sprawling northern B.C. home riding.

"Running is the easiest sport to travel with."

No golf bags filled with clubs or duffle bags stuffed with pads are required.

Cullen was a serious runner who has a 31-minute personal best in the 10K, although he quickly adds that was back in his prime.

"I won't be on that pace [today]," he chuckled.

Not that it matters. Cullen urged people to try running, no matter your level or if you've even tried it before.

"Just take that first step. I've seen it happen so many times. The rewards will be there for you in the end," he said.

Last year, 347 runners from the Goodlife Fitness Victoria race qualified for the Boston Marathon, third-best among Canadian marathons. Defending Victoria marathon men's champion Thomas Omwenga of Kenya will be attempting today to eclipse his course record of 2: 14: 33 set last year.

The race route begins on Menzies Street through the downtown core into James Bay and Beacon Hill Park and then along Dallas Road to Gonzales Bay. It proceeds into Fairfield, Oak Bay and Uplands before the turnaround to the finish line on Belleville in front of the legislative buildings.

Road closures will be in effect.

The half marathon starts at 7: 30 a.m. and the marathon at 8: 45 a.m. The Thrifty Foods Kids Fun Run gets underway at 10: 15 a.m.

DON'T MISS OUR MARATHON COVERAGE

- Follow our continuing coverage of the GoodLife Fitness Marathon today at timescolonist.com and on Twitter at @timescolonist.

- See full results, breaking news, personal stories and photos of the event online and in the print edition of the Times Colonist Tuesday.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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