On August 11, 2018, the Emperor’s Challenge in Tumbler Ridge was held for its 20th consecutive year. A mountain half-marathon that originally began with just a few dozen people has grown substantially and is now one of the largest mountain half-marathons in the country.
“The Emperor’s Challenge is the longest running summer sporting event in Tumbler Ridge,” said Jerrilyn Schembri, race director for the Emperor’s Challenge. “This race has had a huge impact on the community during the past two decades. From the pride that comes from a community pulling together to put on an event of this magnitude, to the increase in tourism that the event brings. The race has grown from under 50 people in the first year to a race whose 1,000 spots fill up in three hours.”
Each year, the prestigious race attracts approximately 1,300 people to the small town near the foothills of the Canadian Rockies in northeastern B.C. These runners and their travelling companions bring high energy and economic benefits to accommodators, restauranteurs, retailers and tourism operators during their time in Tumbler Ridge.
“The months leading up to the Challenge are filled with excitement here in town,” Schembri continued. “Racers, organizers, businesses and volunteers alike are all busy preparing for the race. The tourist dollars this race brings in helps the community in many ways and some money goes right back into tourism through the building and maintenance of the Tumbler Ridge trail system, which in turn brings in more tourism.”
Over the past two decades, the race has helped runners set and achieve personal goals while encouraging a healthy and fit lifestyle. The half marathon works with many partner organizations to ensure the event runs smoothly, everyone is kept safe and that the community retains benefits from hosting the event. Recent partner groups have included Search and Rescue, Cadets, medics, Ridge Rotors, the Lions, the local graduating class, seniors, chiropractors and the ATV club.
Northern Development has been supporting this capstone race for three years through its Fabulous Festivals and Events program. In 2018, the organizing society received $5,000 to assist with costs associated with hosting the race.