Runner Shelby Drope and race director Mike Thibodeau lace up at Westwood Lake Park in preparation for the Run for the Mountain six-kilometre run/walk fundraiser event

Runner Shelby Drope and race director Mike Thibodeau lace up at Westwood Lake Park in preparation for the Run for the Mountain six-kilometre run/walk fundraiser event

Tenth Westwood race could be best yet

NANAIMO – The Run for the Mountain is coming up Sept. 12 at Westwood Lake Park.

Racers who require any inspiration at the Run for the Mountain need only look up at Mount Benson, looming above the lake.

The Run for the Mountain is coming up Sept. 12 at Westwood Lake Park.

The six-kilometre run/walk is about to reach its 10th anniversary, and it’s reason to celebrate, said race director Mike Thibodeau. When the fundraiser event for Nanaimo and Area Land Trust first started, Mount Benson wasn’t yet parkland. During the last decade, the land trust has been able to preserve much of the mountain.

“And now the race continues, in hope that more parkland can be saved for Nanaimo and people who use parkland,” Thibodeau said. “And everybody should.”

Mount Benson isn’t exactly a hidden playground, he said, because everyone knows it’s there.

“But if you look up and you see all the trees, I think for some people, they’d be shocked to know how many twists and turns and ups and downs and trails there are up there.”

The most well-used trail in the area, though, is the one at the mountain’s base, the one that loops around Westwood Lake.

Shelby Drope, the first ever winner of the Run for the Mountain, grew up near the park, ran the trail then, and still runs there any chance he gets.

“Westwood Lake as a running venue is amazing,” he said. “It’s certainly affected my life in a big way.”

It’s doing the same for others, he said; he’s encouraged to see so many young people from high school teams and cross-country clubs out on the trails.

“Just because of the natural venue here that’s accessible to everybody, the overall health of our community is improving,” said Drope. “And the next generation is going to be even greater … as far as the number of people who come here and the quality of life. Everyone gains from that.”

And everyone can join in the 6km run/walk. Thibodeau said a 92-year-old has already signed up. The fastest runners in each division will earn the titles of King of Westwood, Queen of Westwood, etc. and some current and past champions will be participating including last year’s winner, Nic Ascui.

“It’s for the fastest of the fast, it’s for people who want to walk the lake, it’s open to all,” Thibodeau said. “The first year it was all Nanaimoites running it and now we get people from Victoria, Port Alberni, Duncan, all over the Island.”

The race will be held Sept. 12 at 9 a.m. at Westwood Lake Park. To register, please stop by Frontrunners Nanaimo or visit www.runforthemountain.ca. Early-bird registration is $20 for adults and $5 for youths.

Beards could come off

The 6km run/walk course isn’t the only challenge at this year’s Run for the Mountain. Thibodeau and Drope are putting their beards on the line in what’s being billed as the Golden Beard Off. If the event draws more people than its previous record of 306 entries, Drope will shave his beard at the finish line.

“Left to my own devices, I’d never shave completely…” Drope said. “Nobody’s going to be pleased with the outcome of this.”

If 350 people participate, Thibodeau will lose his mountain-man look.

“My skin hasn’t seen the light of day since Grade 6,” he joked.

sports@nanaimobulletin.com