The annual Freeky Creaky 50 race in the North Okanagan at Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park was mired with setbacks this past weekend when a man was caught allegedly stealing signs and flags that were put up by organizers to map out the course.
RCMP said they are investigating after the 59-year-old man became "confrontational" when two race volunteers confronted him and he allegedly assaulted one of them, they said in a statement.
Race organizer Dawna Jodoin said she and a fellow volunteer had noticed as they were setting up the courses for the 10K, 25K, 50K and 100K trail races that many of the flags they had put up were missing over a 20 to 30 kilometre stretch.
"We were running out of flags, so we started turning around and picking them back up," said Jodoin.
Half an hour later, they saw a man picking up their flags.
"We asked him, 'have you seen anyone removing our flags or sign?' And he said, 'yes, it's me,'" said Jodoin.
The man indicated he was upset because he didn't think they had the proper documentation posted at the entrances, but Jodoin said he had removed it.
The RCMP also said race organizers had permission from B.C. Parks to put up flags and markers for the event within the provincial park.
Jodoin and a race volunteer then explained to the man that the flags tell racers where to go, she told Daybreak South host Chris Walker.
"It's very dangerous for these people if you remove these flags. They have no idea where they're going. So, the conversation ensued and got a little heated," she said.
"He walked up and head butted me in the face."
Jodoin wasn't injured, but she called the police and the man was arrested, she said.
Jodoin was grateful the man told her where he had hidden the race materials.
"He did tell us where he had hidden all the flags, because it was hundreds and hundreds of flags and probably 50 signs, directional signs, which we had now run out of because they were missing," she said. They were then able to reflag the course.
Marking the course is very important to keep runners safe, she added.
"I mean we have bears in our area," she said. Race planners had purposely routed the course to avoid an area where a mother bear and her two cubs had recently been spotted.
"They are so deep in the bush, in the dark, it is extremely dangerous for people to remove flags or pick them up," she said.
"I think that generally most people are happy to have events run in the park, as long as you're doing them properly and clean up after yourself."
She said they have encountered some opposition to setting up races in the past but never to this degree.
Unfortunately, though, this wasn't the end of the blunders they encountered.
On the day of the race, many got lost in the beginning, because someone reversed the arrows, she said.
However, after they announced what had happened, community members rode their mountain bikes to intersections along the course to help direct people.
"It was just amazing," said Jodoin.
"Even some of the racers, after the race, went back out to make sure that certain areas weren't disrupted again ... the community just came together and it really, really helped us out."