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Local Sinners earn podium spots

Thursday, 13 July 2017. Posted in Shootin' the Breeze

Local Sinners earn podium spots
Andrew Fairhurst closes in on the Sinister 7 Ultra finish line at about 4 o’clock Sunday morning. He was third to finish and placed second among male soloists.   Photo by Shannon Robison

Local Sinners earn podium spots

By Tyler Ryan

Running in the Sinister 7 Ultra or volunteering to make it happen is something many locals look forward to each year.

To see familiar faces on the podium of such a difficult race is incredible.

Having sold his share of Sinister 7 Ultra ownership a few years back, Andrew Fairhurst of Coleman tackled the course for the first time as a solo runner this year.

He was the third competitor overall to finish, securing second place in the men’s division with a time of 20 hours 45 minutes 29 seconds.

He crushed his goal of finishing within 24 hours.

Shirlene Gietz from Coleman was the second woman to cross the finish line with a time of 24:48:52. She had competed in previous years with Team BBK, also from Coleman, but this was her first time running solo.

“My whole goal was to finish, and I wasn’t going to quit,” she says.

She had solid support from Sasha Harriet and her crew, along with her family and the other soloists who helped her take the race “one leg at a time.”

She has no intention of running in the race next year, saying “it was one of those bucket list kind of things.”

Team BBK placed second in the female team category, just behind the RRAC female team from Edmonton.

Members of team BBK were Kathy Wakaluk-Yanco, Jody Peebles, Jackie Woodman, Christine Misseghers, Kendra Kennedy, Laurie Huska and Lana Ross.  

The ultramarathon also offers a $500 scholarship for students from Crowsnest Pass Consolidated High School to compete. It has been provided to the students for nine years.

Jody and Ryan Peebles were the first to organize and coach the young athletes.

This year, Andrew and Erin Fairhurst took the reins to coach the co-ed high school students team, Running on Teen Spirit. They finished in 33rd place in the mixed category, with a combined time of 22:27:51. Team members were Sommer Hagley, Samantha Williams, Anna Koevoet, Hayley Williams, Stanley Van Buul-Gustafson, Noah Schuh and Christian Wadstein.

In total, seven teams and five solo runners from Crowsnest Pass and Pincher Creek participated in Sinister 7.  

The ultramarathon has a huge economic impact on Crowsnest Pass, giving many local businesses a boost. The race attracts runners from all over Canada and there are even international competitors who come out.

Jessica Atkinson, owner of Stone’s Throw Café in Blairmore, has been a sponsor since the first year, and says the race “absolutely” benefits her business.

“We love the Sinners, because they’re the happiest group of customers that we see in our store,” she says, using the nickname given to race participants.

“I think it definitely brings in all kinds of business to the restaurants and the liquor stores and the gas stations and the holiday homes and hotels,” she says. “Everybody is full and it’s a busy weekend for everyone.”

Susan and Ian Lowe-Wylde are the owners of Spry, a fitness and yoga shop in Blairmore that also sponsors the race.

Susan echoes Jessica, saying the economic impact on both her business and Crowsnest Pass in general is fantastic.

She constantly hears visitors say they want to return to the Pass with their families, and racers tend to come back to experience the running trails.

“Our community has really embraced all of these runners who are coming from far and wide,” she says.

This year, Susan and Ian donated Icebug running shoes and Luna sandals to race winners.  

Management at the Kanata Hotel in Blairmore also attest to the race’s impact. The hotel was completely booked with racers, their partners and families, as were many other local hotels and campgrounds.

Brian says the race brings in an estimated $2 million in revenue for businesses in Crowsnest Pass, citing an economic development officer who helped assess the value of the event.

Even though the 2017 Sinister 7 Ultra has just finished, Brian is already looking forward to next year’s race on July 8 and 9.

Registration opens Dec. 1 at noon and is expected to fill up very quickly.  

Brian plans to keep the number of racers fairly consistent over the next few years, but hopes to eventually draw more solo runners and female athletes.

“I would like to start to see over 500 solo runners in the race, but that will take some time,” he says. “It could take another 10 years to get it to that level.”

“I’m just happy to see it increasing over time and I’m not particularly chasing a number.”

Even though the race is difficult, it’s not insurmountable. Shirlene Gietz thinks anybody can compete if they push hard enough, remove any self-doubt and “just take it one leg at a time.”

“The support from the community is unbelievable,” she says. “Being out there on the trail, you meet so many people who are going through the same struggle that you’re going through.”

20170709 Sinister Seven Shirlene Gietz TR
Shirlene Gietz took second place in the women’s division of the Sinister 7 Ultra.   Photos by Tyler Ryan

20170709 Sinister Seven Team BBK Kendra Ann Kennedy Jackie Woodman Laurie Huska Kathy Wakaluk Yanco and grandson Emerson Christine Misseghers Lana Ross Jody PeeblesTR
Known locally as the BBK, this group of Crowsnest Pass runners was second among female teams to cross the Sinister 7 finish line. From left are Kendra-Ann Kennedy, Jackie Woodman, Laurie Huska, Kathy Wakaluk-Yanco with grandson Emerson, Christine Misseghers, Lana Ross and Jody Peebles.

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From the July 12, 2017 print edition of Shootin’ the Breeze.
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