Vancouver marathon relay foursome grows to five after racer takes wrong turn

Inaugural relay allows teams to complete marathon distance

Relay runner Tim Kukko passed the 16-kilometre distance marker of the BMO Vancouver Half-Marathon on Sunday morning and still hadn’t seen the teammate who would run the second leg of the race.

He was downtown. His teammate, Amanda Stevens, was waiting for him at the 12km mark — on a different racecourse — at the border of Pacific Spirit Park on West 16th Ave.

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Stevens heard the race officials call her bib number, 9807, which was the expected process when a relay runner was approaching the transition zone. But because the elite marathoners were racing past the 12km mark where she stood waiting, Stevens was slack-jawed that her teammate would be running at such a pace.

“I know my friend is fast, but he’s not that fast,” she said. “Then they explained.”

Somehow, Kukko had joined the ranks of the half-marathon runners although they run a completely different course than the marathon and relay runners. The half-marathon course takes a right off Midlothian Avenue from the start line at Queen Elizabeth Park to head north on Cambie. That race started at 7 a.m.

The marathon and relay began 90 minutes later at 8:30 a.m. The course leaves from the same place, but swings left to go south on Cambie before cutting west on 49th Avenue.

“We were there really early. We were real keeners,” said Linda Hutchinson, Stevens’s mom and the team’s third runner. If she or Stevens had run the first leg, they would have know right away they’d joined the half-marathon race by mistake.

The pair ran the course last year to celebrate Stevens’s cancer remission.

“This is our third anniversary of my daughter being cancer-free,” said Hutchinson on Monday afternoon.

Their team, called The Required Fields, drew its runners from Edmonton, Thunder Bay and Nunavut, where Stevens and Kukko work together at an Agnico Eagle mine. They run on the airway strip in freezing weather. The fourth runner is Kukko’s wife, Janet Kukko.

The foursome did complete the relay, but only once their team grew to five.

Once Kukko realized something was amiss, he stopped to ask for help. By this time, the marathon and relay had started. A race volunteer named Amy got word to the first exchange where Stevens was waiting for Kukko to arrive. Stevens took off on her 12-kilometre leg as Amy took the team time chip from Kukko and jumped on her bike to cycle to the second relay exchange near Jericho Beach Park where Hutchinson was waiting for her daughter.

“I ran it hard, harder than I thought I was going to run it,” said Stevens, who completed the distance in one hour, 16 minutes.

“It was our chance to run a marathon together,” she said of the inaugural relay event. “We’re going to have to do a re-do because we didn’t get it done the right way the first time. I was laughing and it was awesome.”

Race directors couldn’t track down volunteer Amy, but she was an essential component for The Required Fields.

“Tim was really worried we’d be disqualified,” said Hutchinson. “He was really happy it worked out. He couldn’t say enough about Amy. He really wanted to give her a big thank you.”

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