It wasn’t long after moving to Bowen Island a couple of years ago that I discovered the pleasures, and pain, of trail running on the extensive network of trails the island has to offer. Like many other runners and hikers on Bowen my exploration runs on Mount Gardner, through Crippen Regional Park, the Quarry Park, the Valhalla Grind and others soon became a favourite weekend activity.
It didn’t take long for the idea of a Bowen Island mountain trail race to take shape. Gathering a handful of runner friends and family together, I somehow managed to convince a few of them to run the inaugural Handloggers Half Marathon on Labour Day weekend in 2014. The event was a very minor hit in my mind at least: five runners showed up at the start by the ferry dock around 9am on race day and set out through Crippen Park towards Killarney Lake and a loop around Mount Gardner via the historic and scenic Handloggers Trail and back “Across the Rock” via the Mid Island Trail to Snug Cove. We had just enough supporters for one aid station at the halfway point where we were revived with fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies and water.
Not easily discouraged, I soon found a few other like-minded individuals on the Island with a similar interest and before we knew it we were planning our 2nd annual event. This year, on September 5, we are planning for more serious fun. The course includes 21 kilometres of scenic and rugged Bowen Island trails with a moderately challenging elevation gain of about 400 metres along the way. There will be three aid stations with water and snacks along the way and some great recovery treats waiting at the finish.
This year we had an additional incentive to organize a run for charity; our daughter Alison partnered with a San Francisco-based NGO called Mama Hope while completing her Master’s thesis research. Alison spent three months living and working in Kisumu, Kenya and supported the construction of a new classroom block at Akili Preparatory School, an all-girl’s school in Obunga slum. The walls are up, the roof is on, and the windows are in!
It’s time to finish final plastering and paint the interior. School founders David Omondi and Erick Otieno were raised in the slum and managed to get scholarships to attend university. They then returned home to focus on educating and empowering the girls and women in their community. They’ve purchased land and have developed a sustainable farm to generate income for the school as well as provide for the feeding program. Alison collaborated with Akili teachers and students to develop their emerging sports program and is excited for the Bowen and BC community to connect with this locally-driven effort. Thanks to generous race sponsors, all proceeds from race registrations will be donated to the final stages of the school construction project.
To register for the Handloggers Half Marathon, please visit handloggershalf.com