June 25th, 2018

Running and wine tasting in the Okanagan

By Medicine Hat News on June 17, 2017.

Photo by Steve MacNaull Numerous bridges cross the Okanagan River.

Steve MacNaull

Special to the News

Naomi and Cheryl’s enthusiasm is contagious.

I’m already stoked the morning is warm and the sky is blue and cloudless.

But when I meet fellow runners Naomi Garrish and Cheryl Gillson by the Okanagan River in Oliver, B.C., they are bubbling, much like the waterway.

They want to tell me all about the inaugural Baldy Marathon coming up Oct. 1.

But rather than stand around and gab, they suggest we do what runners do best — jog and talk.

We set off from Oliver Community Park, the same leafy green space the 10-kilometre, 20-kilometre and full-marathon routes of the Baldy Marathon will start Oct. 1.

To begin, the trail is paved and the tree-lined and 25-metre-wide Okanagan River is azure and still to our right.

Soon enough, just as the trail turns to packed earth, the current in the river picks up and the movement of the whitening water seems to match our increased pace.

Comfortable in our strides, the conversation amongst the three of us also quickens.

I learn Naomi is the Oliver-born-and-bred, pharmacist-owner of the local Shoppers Drug Mart and Cheryl is her assistant manager.

Both are accomplished Ironwomen, triathletes and marathoners.

However, this time around they’re planning to register for the 20k event of the Baldy Marathon.

Naomi is busy training for the upcoming Alcatraz triathlon in San Francisco and wants to leave something in the tank for the Baldy event, too.

The two women are happy to have another signature running event in the South Okanagan.

“The Baldy Marathon is local and the route is flat, peaceful and partially-shaded along the Okanagan River,” said Naomi.

“It’s a runner’s dream.”

It’s a sentiment echoed when I catch up with Mount Baldy Ski Resort assistant general manager Andy Foster and Baldy Marathon operations manager Tony Munday.

“Mount Baldy reopened last winter under new ownership and introducing the Baldy Marathon is a way for the resort to get more involved in the community, give back to tourism and take the resort one step closer to becoming a four-seasons resort,” said Foster.

Mount Baldy Ski Resort is a 35-minute drive from both Oliver and Osoyoos, just north of the Canada-U.S. border.

Two chairlifts serve 35 runs over 600 skiable acres at a top elevation of 7,000 feet.

The daylodge and village, which is being developed more with resort cabins and subdivision, is at 5,650 feet.

Although the marathon carries the Baldy name, the 10-kilometre, 20-kilometre and full-marathon runs will not be held at the ski resort.

Oliver, along the Okanagan River, was chosen because it will be glorious Oct. 1 in the fall sunshine and colours.

It’s also perfect timing to tie Baldy Marathon into the biggest event of the Okanagan’s biggest annual festival.

“The finish line will be right here at Oliver Community Park and come into the Festival of the Grape, which is the largest event of the Fall Okanagan Wine Festival,” said Munday.

“The 39 wineries of the Oliver Osoyoos Winery Association are a sponsor of the Baldy Marathon and when I spoke to the association about buttoning the marathon into Festival of the Grape everyone was super excited.”

The $85 entry fee for the 10-kilometre run, $140 for the 20K and $200 for the full marathon includes entry into Festival of the Grape, which features a raucous grape stomp, wine tasting and food stations.

If runners don’t want to wander the festival sweaty, there’s a free shuttle to and from local hotels so athletes can clean up and return to the wine tasting and fun.

Of course, this being the Okanagan during wine festival and Oliver’s status as the Wine Capital of Canada, many runners will want to imbibe.

The seated tasting featuring three wines and a charcuterie plate overlooking Vin Amite’s five acres of vineyards is a good place to start.

Translated from French, the winery’s name means wine and friendship, two things you’ll revel in as you taste vintages like the aromatic white blend Chanson D’Amour (song of love), lightly-oaked Pinot Gris and co-owner Catherine Coulombe’s favourite Chardonnay.

A stop at Hester Creek Winery’s Terrafina restaurant is a must for its famous signature potato and truffle pizza paired with Trebbiano, a white Italian variety that only Hester Creek makes in the Okanagan.

Check out http://www.skibaldy.com/marathon.

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