Back in the late 1970s on the Sunshine Coast, George Matthews, 30-something English teacher with an aversion to regular exercise, loved to tease fellow writer Fran Berger about her weekly fitness column. One day he made the "mistake" of suggesting it would be no problem for him to run from Gibsons to Sechelt—without training. A delighted Berger accepted the challenge, seeing a race between the two as the perfect opportunity to prove the benefits of her fitness tips once and for all. They and 17 others set out on a 14 mile run together on April 1st in 1978 and created the foundations for the Sunshine Coast April Fool's Run.
Today, the tradition continues with runners making the trek from Gibsons to Sechelt every spring. The addition of the Relay division in the 1980s opened up the event to a wider range of ages and abilities, with its shorter distances.
George Matthews passed away in 2001 after battling cancer. To honour his memory in 2003 we introduced the George Matthews Memorial Trophy which is engraved with the names of the first local (Sunshine Coast) male and female finishers each year.
In 2003, with widespread promotion of the event, over 325 participants ran, walked, and relayed, including many who were first-time visitors to the Sunshine Coast. In 2004, those numbers swelled to 487 registrants, then to 509 in 2005, and over 530 in 2006-2008 — followed by a big jump to 601 in 2010 and another jump to 640 in 2011.
In 2021, we invite you to run the 43rd edition of this scenic event in April. Find out why so many folks have said, "I loved this race—will be back next year with our friends!"
It all started with a challenge between George Matthews and Fran Berger (pictured above right finishing the first April Fool's Day Run in 1978). Nineteen runners started out on April 1st, 1978 from Gibsons, and thirteen arrived in Sechelt. The winner in 1:30 was a young Adrian Belshaw, then a zoology student at UBC living in Davis Bay. Read about the newspaper editor's "ringer" son who slept in and missed the start... he wasn't the only one! A pre-race party kept Fran Berger up a bit too late as well. See several photos and two newspaper articles from the 1978 race — including results!
The race triples in size, with thirty-eight finishers for the second annual April Fool's Day Run from Elphinstone Secondary to the Sechelt Cenotaph. Eric Hagedorn of Roberts Creek is the fastest this time in 1:22, with inaugural winner Adrian Belshaw taking second in 1:26, a four minute improvement over his first attempt. First woman is Patti Cawsey of Roberts Creek in the "splendid time" of 1:49. Read the story, see who had to kiss the winner, and check out the results! (Note that Belshaw hasn't changed his hair style since the late 70's!)
The field shrinks back down to 27 finishers, despite brilliant sunshine. A brisk headwind in Davis Bay slows the times a little. Belshaw returns to claim back his title. A young sister duo, ages 13 and 11, finish first and second among the women. See story, results and photos.
The fourth annual April Fool's Day Run is held on March 29th, 1981, on a cold and rainy Sunday morning, and despite the less-than-ideal conditions a new course record is set by Steven Brindle of Vancouver who finishes in 1:13. First woman is Chris Craigen of Vancouver in 1:34. Sixty-three runners start, with at least 10 from Vancouver who are "unanimous in their praise of the course and how much fun the event was, despite the rain." (sound familiar? echoes of 2003!) A five-mile run is also offered but only attracts three participants. Organizers make plans to advertise the 1982 run in B.C. Runner magazine to attract even more off-Coast entrants. See story, results and photos.
March 28th is the date for the fifth annual April Fool's Run, and just as in 2004, conditions are sunny and much more pleasant than the previous year. Relay teams are allowed for the first time. Thirty individual runners complete the distance plus 42 relayers. Michael Ryan is first in 1:25, "a shade slower" (?) than the 1981 winning time. Ricki Ferguson of Gibsons is the first woman across the line in 1:40. Story, results and photos.
A small but enthusiastic group of 26 runners brave rain at the start, to find sunshine in Sechelt at the finish. All starters complete the course. Mike Metcalfe of Selma Park is the winner in 1:24:28, and first woman is Darcie Young, a grade 12 student at Chatelech, in 1:41:26. Story and results.
Well it wasn't really, despite the tagline of the newspaper story. There were 69 participants, 49 of whom were individual half marathoners and the rest on relay teams — just shy of the 72 participant total of 1982. The winning time is close to the record set in 1981, with Sechelt's Steve Miles clocking 1:13:58. The field includes internationally-renowned ultra-marathoner Al Howie of Victoria (2nd in 1:19:53). The women's race is won by Vancouver's Josephine Boland (1:40:57). Story and results.
This year the Coast News Challenge Cup was won by a contestant from Winnipeg. Glen Chilton was visiting family in Sechelt and led from beginning to end in 1:13:54 despite a determined challenge by last year's winner, Steve Miles of Sechelt. The weather was cold, windy and wet. First woman is Yolunda Heinen of Sechelt in 1:38:57 according to the results, though the newspaper story says otherwise. Story and results.
Only 14 runners this year: many of the regular participants begged off on the grounds that the coincidence of the annual run with the school break and the Easter weekend made it impossible for them to participate. Because the high school was closed (washrooms), the start was moved back to the Weight Room on North Road, making the course a full 1km longer! Glen Chilton returned from Winnipeg for a repeat victory; while Irene Lugsdin of Sechelt was first woman in. No times were printed. Story and results.
The tenth annual April Fools' Run drew a record 80+ participants and saw the Coast News Challenge Cup won outright by three-time winner Glen Chilton, now living in Calgary. Chilton's time was in the 1:09 range but the exact time wasn't given in the report. Irene Lugsdin of Sechelt repeated her victory on the women's side in 1:52:08. Story and results.
"More than 60" runners take part. At the start, they have to circle Sunnycrest Mall before setting out, since Sechelt Council didn't approve the run ending at the Sechelt Cenotaph as it had for the past 10 years. Hmmph. Jim Verster of North Vancouver is the overall winner in 1:21:40; Rieta Hanson is the first woman in 1:40:56. Entry fee was ridiculously cheap, as seen on the entry form. Story and results.
Fifty-five runners "challenge the elements" on a cold spring morning. Jim Verster of North Vancouver wins for the second straight year, in 1:21:15, calling the event "a great local race." Three Grunenberg brothers run: Perry, Ken and Craig, with Ken being the first local finisher. A local woman is also the first woman, Maureen Collins of Grantham's Landing, recording 1:50:31. Story and results.
No story for this edition, but results show that Ken and Craig Grunenberg had a close battle for the win, with Craig prevailing by just 9 seconds in 1:25:17. Petra Nelson wins the women's competition in 1:50:51. Results.
The '16th Annual' April Fool's Day Run undergoes a change in direction and is lengthened by one kilometre. Walkers are encouraged to take part. Repeat winner was Doug Mulligan of Cedar Grove in 1:26:48 (now at least we know who won in 1993). Layle Kenyon of Roberts Creek is first female in 1:43:00. Story, results and photos..
This section is a work in progress. If you have any photos, results, stories or articles from the race for those years not yet shown here, please contact us.
Many thanks to Joanie Proske for the 1978 stories and photos and 1983 finisher certificate; and to Steve Illingworth for the 1979, 81, 82, 83, 84, 89 and 90 articles and photos.