The Top 10 Canadian Trail Running Races
Whether you are an experienced trail runner or just a beginner, there are many trail races across Canada every year that range in length, difficulty and terrain. While the three most popular locations for these trail races are Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec, some of the “must-run” ultra marathon trail races are in places that you wouldn’t expect – such as along the Yukon River in Yukon Territory. Here’s a closer look at 10 of the best Canadian ultramarathon trail races.
Date: September 15, 2018
Location: Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park
Lisa Frazer first overall female in 50k. Blazing time of 7:15! She crossed the finish line with that smile on. This BC racer is no stranger to altitude; she made it look easy. Photo credit: DeniseFletcher @prairiegurl74 #BFF #BF50 #flat50 #ultrasask #anythingbutflat #sasktourism #trailruncanada #smilesandmiles @tourismsask
What makes the Beaver Flat 50 so noteworthy is the terrain – it takes place on the Canadian Prairie. But just because it takes place on flatlands doesn’t mean that the race itself is flat. In fact, the race organizers refer to this challenging race as a “hilly hard-as-hell trail run.” There are over 2,300 meters of elevation gain over a 50K distance. And it gets better than that – the race takes place along very narrow animal trails, where you’re likely to encounter everything from rocks and sand to cacti and bushes. In addition to the 50K version of the race, there are also 5K, 10K and 20K versions.
Date: June 15-17, 2018
Location: Knowlton, Quebec
This Canadian favorite recently celebrated its 40th year, making it one of the nation’s oldest and most respected races. Every year, several thousand participants from around the nation arrive in Quebec for this challenging race, which takes place just about an hour from the center of Montreal. Everything about this race seems to be pet-friendly and family-friendly, including a separate race where owners run with their dogs. The distances are short enough – 2K, 4.5K and 9K – that you can still be a beginner trail runner and enjoy this race.
Date: August 3-6, 2018
Location: Grand Cache, Alberta
As you might have guessed by the name of this race, it’s not for the faint of heart. The 125K Canadian Death Race is considered one of the world’s most intense and challenging ultramarathon races. And if you are not convinced, just consider the tagline for the event: “It’s a killer.” There’s more about the race than just the 125K distance, though. For one, there are over 5,100 meters of elevation gain, so you will need your trail spikes. And, oh yeah, you also have to cross a major river. (Race participants carry a special coin that they then use to pay for safe passage.) If you’re not quite ready for the Death Race, there’s also the Near Death Marathon – shorter, simpler but no less deadly. This event needs to be on your calendar for ultra marathon 2018 races.
Date: August 18-19, 2018
Location: Squamish, British Columbia
This 50K trail race, which takes place approximately halfway between Vancouver and Whistler, is justly famous for its picturesque views. During the race, you’ll be able to soak in stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, as well as glaciers, peaks and Howe Sound. Most people fly in via Vancouver International Airport, making it one of the more accessible races for people across Canada. In fact, the race is famous for selling out within hours. There is a good reason for this popularity, including the fact that trail running legend Gary Robbins will be there to greet you at the finish line. If you’re in peak physical condition, you might consider doing the “50/50” – the 50K trail race followed by a 50-mile race on back-to-back days.
Date: October 13, 2018
Location: Sherbrooke, Quebec
From the very beginning, you know what you are getting into with this trail race – it takes place at the base of a ski mountain. And it only goes straight up from there. If there was ever a race for trail spikes or shoe grips, this is it. You do have a variety of choices when it comes to race distance, though. While the lead event is the 23K climb to the top, there are also more family-friendly options, such as the 5K and the 11.5K.
Date: July 21, 2018
Location: Rossland, British Columbia
If you’re looking for an ultra running trail race amidst mountainous terrain, this 50K race is for you. You’ll race along nearly 45K of alpine singletrack and enjoy stunning wraparound views of surrounding peaks. The race, as you might expect, is quite challenging, so bring your nano crampons. You’ll need to summit two peaks before you even reach a first aid station. The good news, though, is that there is also a side-by-side 1K kids’ race, so you can bring the whole family.
Date: June 15-16, 2018; January 2019
Location: Edmonton, Alberta
Since there are both summer and winter versions of this race, the race organizers use the slogan “revenge is a dish best served twice.” The 100K race is what many refer to as an “urban ultra” – it takes place in Edmonton, but the singletrack and doubletrack trails will take you through forest terrain and along sheer cliffs. If you’re not quite ready for an ultra, there are beginner versions of this race at 5K and 25K.
Date: July 14, 2018
Location: North Vancouver, British Columbia
Popularly known as one of the most challenging and intense races in North America, the Knee Knackering race will get your knees to knacker. This 48K race takes place along the Baden Powell Trail, set amidst Pacific Northwest rainforest. Overall, there are more than 5,000 meters of ascent and descent,.
Date: September 29, 2018
Location: Paris, Ontario
Congrats to everyone who battled the cool, rainy & hilly conditions (typical) at the #runforthetoad 25k 50k and 50k Relay this weekend. **The BDR 6pm Monday Meet-up will continue tomorrow back at home base (Hampton Inn Parking Lot, Brantford) for a little recovery work on the trail - Rain or shine #runbrant #recoveryrun
This 50K race is one of the latest competitions of the summer season. It bills itself as “the perfect race for the entire family.” Entries are capped at 1,500 and trails are groomed wide enough for as many as three runners to race along each other at one time. Shorter versions of the race (12.5K, 25K) offer walking options.
Date: August 5, 2018
Location: Yukon Territory
If you’ve ever wanted to race along the Yukon River and explore the majestic beauty of Yukon Territory, this race is for you. For much of the course, you will be running either next to or above the Yukon River. The race will celebrate its 20th anniversary this year.
As a tribute to just how many amazing trail races take place in Canada each year, there are some races that were left off this list – like the Fat Dog 120 in British Columbia, which was recently ranked one of the most ten most challenging ultras in the world by Outside magazine. And, of course, there are the local favorites – like the Dirty Feet Trail Series (sponsored by North Face) that have become very popular in recent years. So, no matter your running level or your distance preference, you are sure to find an ultra marathon Canada race that satisfies your inner recreationalist.
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