The first race in the Frontrunners Island Race Series – the Harriers Pioneer 8K – takes place on Sunday, January 11 at 11 am. Vancouver’s  Theo Hunt is the top seed in the men’s field, with Erin Burrett, the 2014 women’s winner, also returning. The 8K is hosted by the Prairie Inn Harriers and is the first race of the Timex BC Road Running Series. Pioneer is also the designated BC Athletics Road Race Championship for all age categories.

Over 4,800 registered for the 2014 series, now in its 34th year. “The Harriers Pioneer 8K is a great way for runners to start the year,” says Cathy Noel, President of the Vancouver Island Runners’ Association (VIRA). “The competition is always exciting among the top 10 spots in each age category, with all of the races open to all levels.”

There will be a strong elite field on Sunday with many of BC’s best athletes competing. Hunt, from Vancouver, will have stiff competition from three-time winner, Jim Finlayson, who is the top-ranked Master. Burrett, from Nanaimo will be joined by last year’s second placed female, Natasha Wodak (Vancouver) who won the event in 2011 and 2013 where she set the Pioneer course record and a Canadian 8K record of 25:28.This broke the previous record of 26:08, set by Debbie Bowker in 1986. Dayna Pidhoresky (Vancouver) is also a podium contender on Sunday as is Lucy Smith (Sidney), who is ranked as the top female Master.

“The women’s Masters field is simply outstanding with not only Lucy Smith, but Tina Connelly from Port Coquitlam, and local favourites Marilyn Arsenault and Claire Morgan running,” says Bob Reid, High Performance Athlete Director. “The men’s Masters field is also competitive with Kevin O’Connor, Bruce Deacon and Craig Odermatt. This is going to be the strongest field assembled for the 2015 Island Series, and we should see some national age class records set.”

There is a new age division in the series this year – M85-89 – and Maurice Tarrant is expected to set a Canadian 8K age category record. The current record is 54:03, and in 2014 Tarrant ran the Pioneer 8K in 45:46. Tarrant has completed over 150 Island Series races in the last 30 years and has finished in first place in his age category an incredible 300 consecutive times, including all of his other races on Vancouver Island. He has set 70 Canadian age class records in every distance from 400 metres on the track to a full marathon on the roads. Many of these records still stand today.

The Harriers Pioneer 8K starts and finishes at Saanich Fairgrounds, 1528 Stelly’s X Road, Saanichton, BC. Runners can register online until midnight, Wednesday January 7 at, at Frontrunners, 1200 Vancouver St on Saturday January 10, or on race day. Race registration until January 7 is $25 for adults and $20 for students, $30 and $25 on January 10, and on race day $35 and $30.

Eight races make up the Frontrunners Island Race Series. The Harriers Pioneer 8K will be followed by Cobble Hill 10K on January 25, Cedar 12K on February 8, Hatley Castle 8K on February 22, Synergy Health Management Ltd Bazan Bay 5K on March 8, Comox Valley RV Half Marathon on March 22, Merville 15K on April 12, and Sooke River 10K on April 19. Synergy Health Management Ltd Bazan Bay 5K and the Comox Valley RV Half Marathon are also part of the Timex BC Series. All races are sanctioned by BC Athletics.