June is the official kick off to trail running season, and we’ve picked out the top races we will be keeping track of this summer. Check out the bottom of this article for our picks – and for the gear to get you there.
New at the sport? Here is some insight on why trail running offers a different challenge from the traditional pavement pounding sport.
1. Trail running engages a wider range of muscles.
There are so many other things happening during a trail run than simply putting one foot in front of the other. The grade is constantly changing, there are endless roots, rocks and other obstacles to watch out for and the path is never totally straight. Unlike a road run, on the trail you’re forced to utilize your core muscles, smaller leg muscles and arms just to keep yourself balanced. Training all of these things to work together and avoiding the repetitiveness involved in running on a straight, flat surface are definitely beneficial practices.
2. The solitude is empowering.
As mentioned above, for many people running is as much of a mental exercise as it is a physical one. When you’re running to clear your head or to relieve stress, fighting for space on a congested sidewalk is not an ideal situation. Spending time alone on the trail with nothing but your own thoughts is a recipe for great ideas and personal clarity! Some of my greatest epiphanies have occurred to me while sweating it out amongst the trees. Plus, being able to enjoy your own company is a pretty rad skill to have.
3. You’re less likely to get bored.
As nice as it is to spend quality time with yourself, sometimes you don’t have 10km worth of material to discuss. Or, sometimes your iPod dies and after the 3rd silent kilometre you’re left wondering if you even like running anymore. It’s times like these where you realize the power of the trail. To avoid a tumble, you need to be more engaged mentally than you would be on a road run. For me, this actually helps time pass a lot faster because I’m focusing on more than just my distance count.
4. The trail will be easier on your bod.
Running continuously on pavement or concrete is not good for anyone. This is not only due the higher impact, but also due to the fact that you’re repeating the same motion over and over again on that hard, flat surface. A natural surface trail is a lot more forgiving and, as we discussed above, allows for more variation in your running technique. Anyone who’s dealt with a knee injury or shin splints before knows that once the injury is there, it’s a long and difficult process to come back from – best to avoid at all costs.
5. Nature is neat.
Perhaps we’re just a nature nerds at heart, but we love hearing the crackling of sticks and leaves under our feet as we cruise along a trail. It’s like listening to a rain storm; there’s just something calming about it. There’s also a good chance that you’ll cross paths with some wildlife during a trail run, especially if you’re running in the early morning or around dusk. These encounters feel extra special because when you see wildlife on foot in the forest, rather than from your car window or backyard, you are now the guest in their territory. To us, it’s kind of a grounding experience. Let’s just hope that any furry friends you encounter are as happy to see you as you are to see them.
Our Top Trail Picks Across Canada
July 7-9 – Crowsnest Pass (Coleman), AB.
For its 10th anniversary, this course will be taking runners through remote and rugged areas of Alberta’s beautiful Rocky Mountains. The event can be run individually or as part of a team, with as many as seven members, and includes seven stages over a 30-hour duration. This race guarantees beautiful views and challenging heights – is there a better combination?
July 8 – North Vancouver, B.C.
The Knee Knacker has been held each year since 1989 and has become a staple course in the trail running scene. With over 5, 000m of ascent and descent, this 48km race passes through the Baden Powell Trail, in North Vancouver, and finishes at Deep Cove from Horseshoe Bay.
Aug. 11-13 – Cathedral Provincial Park & Manning Park, B.C.
Considered the most scenic ultra-marathon in Canada, the 120-mile race has elevation gain just short of Everest at 8,673m(!). The longest trail of the event offers a river crossing, and is notably challenging because of its climbs. The event offers a mix of technical and non-technical trail, and the race is point-to-point in a remote area of British Columbia, meaning you’re sure to get that much needed dose of nature!
Sept. 8-9 – La Malbaie, QC.
From 5K to 125K – and 10K, 28K, 42K and 65K in between – Ultra-Trail Harricana has become one of Quebec’s top trail running events because of its variety in distance, and its challenging back-country terrain.
And you thought the prairies were flat. Beaver Flat 50 is a hilly hard-as-hell trail run at Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park, SK with over 2300 meters of vertical gain across 50 kilometers. Beaver Flat 50 is a tough get-your-feet-wet, wreck-your-shins, and roll-your-ankle kind of run. You’re going to love it, hate it, and love it some more.