Valley First Challenge Penticton announces new run course.

Flatter run course for North America’s oldest full-distance triathlon.

Valley First Challenge Penticton has announced a new run course for both the half- and full-distance races incorporating the Okanagan River Channel and a stadium-style finish in Okanagan Lake Park. The new run course will debut at the 2015 edition of the race on August 30.

While the 42.2 km, full-distance marathon course has varied over 32 years, it has generally maintained a single out-and-back format, including Main and South Main Streets, and Eastside Road along Skaha Lake toward Okanagan Falls.

The latest course modification will have athletes start running west along Lakeshore Drive, then south to a turnaround point at the end of the river channel, before returning back along the same path. The half-marathon runners will turn at an earlier point along the channel. All runners will pass back through Gyro Park at about one third of the way through their respective runs.

The new marathon course maintains the classic out and back, along Main Street, South Main and Lakeside Road, with a turnaround north of Parsons Road. This will eliminate the steeper hills of Skaha Estates and Skaha Bluffs, making for an overall flatter course for runners. The Challenge Half will have the same course layout, with an earlier turn-around point at Skaha Lake Park, keeping that race’s run within Penticton’s city limits. The new layout also keeps the athletes closer to town, allowing spectators to see more action.

 Valley First Challenge Penticton will create an “Energy Zone” in Gyro Park, providing entertainment for spectators and athletes who will pass through the park twice on the run course. The finish line will be moved to a new location in Okanagan Lake Park, where a temporary stadium will be constructed to enable hundreds of spectators to welcome athletes to the finish. Okanagan Lake Park will also become the new Challenge Athlete Village and Expo.

“We’ve created a much faster run route, said Kevin Cutjar, co-race director. “The new course layout will have more appeal to age-group athletes looking for faster finish times over the full distance. Our bike course is mostly downhill for the last 30 km and with a flatter, faster marathon, I think we’ll see some personal best times set in 2015. With all modifications combined, we will enhance the overall atmosphere of the race.”

“Seeing my family and friends means the world to me when I’m racing,” said Jen Annett, local triathlete and two-time podium finisher at Valley First Challenge Penticton. “The new course means I’ll see my supporters again at the mid-point of the run, and there’ll be new tactics in the pro race making for a more exciting event.”

Organizers have worked together with the Penticton Indian Band, to incorporate the “Channel Run”, a favourite route for locals and visitors to Penticton. The City of Penticton Parks department and the Downtown Penticton Association are also in support of the course changes. The three groups are working with Valley First Challenge Penticton to make the event festivities more accessible to residents and visitors, who have not previously been involved.