Reprinted by permission of the Campbell River Courier-Islander

Locals succeed at the GREAT WALK


Courier-Islander Reporter

Darcy Bell set out to break the record for the fastest person under 17-years-old to complete the Great Walk from Gold River to Tahsis.

The 16-year-old did it June 5 in seven hours and eight minutes.

As he ran through the darkness and rain -- the race starts at 4 a.m, -- Bell wasn't sure how his pace would measure up.

"I knew it would be close to the record," he said.

There was a great deal of satisfaction in learning he'd set a new one and that he'd placed 24th overall. Bell's still far behind the first place time of four hours and 47 minutes, set by Steve Royer of Courtenay. However, Bell plans to burn his boots again on the Walk next year. It's a well- organized event and the hospitality was great, he said. The people of Tahsis are famous for greeting the Walkers at the end of the trek with bells, horns and cheers. Bell's younger brother Stacey, 10, also won a trophy, for the youngest person to complete the Walk.

"It was harder than I thought it would be," Stacey said.

Out of the 880 people who signed up for the 63.5 kilometre trek, 803 started the Walk and 656 completed the gruelling route. The gravel road features steep climbs on tight switchbacks. Some of the Walkers encountered slush at higher elevations. Rain frequently fell on the trekers.

Brigitte Killat, 71 this July, is an old hand at the Great Walk. Saturday marked the completion of her sixth Great Walk since 1987. She did it in 10 hours and 50 minutes, achieving her goal of completing the trek in under 11 hours.

The cool weather was perfect for her Last year, with its sunny skies, was too hot..

Warm, sunny weather would have suited Chris McKenzie, Hunter Griffiths and Chris Geoghegan all 1l-years-old, just fine. They completed the run in just under 13 hours, after giving the rest of the field a half hour head start. They did the Walk to raise money so their soccer team can go to the games in the Interior this summer.

The Walk was a lot longer than they'd expected, Griffiths said.

"I thought the finish line would be closer," he said. "But it kept going and going."

They plan to do it again next year.

The Great Walk is organized to raise money for the Tahsis Lions Club, but participants aren't required to raise money for any charity. This year, more than $95,000 was pledged to 119 charities.

Running the event is satisfying for the people who put it together, event organizer Betty Ganyo said.

"Our walkers tell us that this is the best organized event of its kind that they have ever seen," she said. "I guess that's why we keep doing it."

Saturday's running of the Great Walk was the 22nd time the event has been held.

"This is a huge event for both communi- ties (Tahsis and Gold River)," she said. "Everyone gets involved, not just the Lions Club members. It takes a tremendous effort from a great many volunteers here and Gold River to make this happen every year."

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