CENTRAL BEDEQUE – One of P.E.I.’s longest-running road races will feature a new course this year.
The 37th annual Callbeck’s Home Hardware Dunk River Road Race will go on Sunday. The start time is 9 a.m.
For safety reasons, the popular race will no longer start and finish in front of the Bedeque Area Recreation Centre, although parking and washroom facilities will both be available there.
“We are still able to retain some of the character,” said race director Paul Wright. “It is still very much a Dunk River run as it crosses the Dunk River twice.
“The overall terrain will be quite similar. Although we have been fortunate in that there were never mishaps or anybody got hurt, it should be a lot safer where they are not crossing the highway and are running up the highway on the left-hand side of the road when they are finishing.”
The course will now run counterclockwise opposite to the traditional course, and will cover much of the old route. The start and finish will be at the Mount Moriah Mason Lodge at the junction of Trans Canada Highway 1A and the Dunk River Road (Rte. 171) in Central Bedeque.
This will avoid the hazard of having runners cross that intersection as in the past. The actual distance will remain at 7.22 miles (11.6 kilometres), with the addition of an out-and-back segment of one kilometre on the Dunk River Road.
“By keeping the distance the same, it is retaining the aspect of the unique character of the event,” said Wright, who has chaired every Dunk River run.
Wright, who was an enthusiastic 22-year-old runner at the time, was eager to initiate a new running race on some of the roads he trained on in the Bedeque area. After securing race sponsor Callbeck’s Home Hardware, which was based at its original location in Central Bedeque at the time, the Dunk River Road Race was born.
The inaugural race was held on Nov. 18, 1978, and attracted a strong field of 43 runners. Jon Lehmann of Fredericton, N.B., was the overall winner in 40 minutes 42 seconds (40:42), and Suzanne Schmidt of Charlottetown was the first female runner to cross the finish line in 59:09.
The first eight races were held in early-to-mid November. The race was then moved to early September from 1986 to 1990.
The race moved to July in 1991. This change was made in an effort to boost participation numbers. The change paid off as 28 participants registered in ’91.
Pam Power-McKenna of Charlottetown dominated the women’s division through the 1990s with five wins.
Race numbers, especially women competitors, continued to grow in the 21st century. A record field of 79 ran the 2007 race, and the last time there were fewer than 50 runners was in 2004, when 48 participated. A total of 54 runners took part in 2013.
“Things grew to a certain extent on their own,” said Wright. “There was a second running boom, and the biggest thing I see is the number of women participating compared to 20 or 30 years ago.
“The fields are running very close to half and half in a lot of cases, men and women, whereas typically there may be two or three (women) back in the ‘70s and ‘80s.”
Dunk River Road Race notebook:
This is the 37th consecutive year Callbeck’s Home Hardware has sponsored the Dunk River Road Race. It is believed this is the longest-running race to have the same sponsor year after year.
Registration will be held at the Bedeque Area Recreation Centre from 7:45 to 8:45 a.m., and the awards will be presented there at approximately 10:45 a.m.
Coffee mugs inscribed with the race logo will be handed out to the first 72 registered runners.
Plaques will be awarded to the first overall male and female runners. Medals will be presented to the first male and female in the following age categories:
19 and under; 20-34; 35-44; 45-49; 50-54; 55-59, and 60 and over.
The race will be chip timed by R2R, and there will be water stations at 2.4 and 5.4 miles.
Post-race refreshments will be set up at the finish line.
Two runners from Halifax, N.S., Matt Sheffield (37:42, 2006), and Janice Ashworth (42:57, 2005) hold the current course records.
As in 2012 and 2013, any post-expense monies will be donated to the Dr. Shirley Lister Memorial Fund.