Ultra Trail Running

// by: MWO

So what inspires a person to go from casually running the trails around our beautiful Chilliwack area, to register for a 50 km race that takes 6-9 hours and involves grueling elevation gains in rugged terrain? Just over a year ago I knew the answer to that question as I headed for the starting line of the Diez Vista 50 km trail race with my long time running partner, Maureen, and about 12 other local Chilliwack trail runners. I must admit, I am still amazed that it was possible to accomplish such a feat. I also get excited when I see photos posted on Facebook of the current group training for the upcoming 50 km Squamish race. Since I am no longer running those distances, I tend to live a bit vicariously through their pictures and training stories.

I don’t think anyone really begins trail running with an end goal of wanting to complete such a grueling challenge. But, for an increasing number of trail runners in the Chilliwack area and around the world, the goal of completing a 50 km trail race is becoming more realistic than ever imagined. It all starts innocently enough, with you surrounding yourself with like-minded fitness and nature lovers, who just enjoy getting out on the trails. You start chatting with people who are excitedly talking about their next 50 km trail race, and you may innocently start dreaming about the possibility of doing one. Before you know it, you are hitting the ‘register button’ on some race site. And, then the fun begins….

When I say fun, I do mean fun. If you have a good organizer, who is also a seasoned ultra-runner, like Clarence Weins, you will be drawn in by the exciting trails, amazing lookouts, and a captivating adventure and story to tell each week. There will be a little blood, sweat, and if you are lucky, snow, sleet, and maybe a few tears during the longer training runs. New friendships will be developed along the way, because for most of us, it is the ‘people’ who keep you going. There will be the people who admire you and give you accolades for being so amazing, and then there will be the people who will regularly tell you that you are ‘crazy’, ‘insane’, or just plain ‘stupid’, to put your body through that kind of challenge. This just adds to the fun, for you are now elite, fit, and crazy! Of course, you have that lovely t-shirt or sweatshirt that you can wear like a badge of honor for years to come after the race.

For me, it was all of the above AND a promise I had made to a friend, who wanted to celebrate being 5 years cancer-free with an epic run. After finishing the same race in 2010, I had already crossed it off my bucket list. But, I just couldn’t say no to such a request from my beloved, long-time running buddy.   We ended up crossing the finish line together, and once again I found myself saying the famous last words, “Never again…”

When asked the question, why would someone even attempt to run for that long, over rugged terrain, with such challenging conditions, I suspect you would get a number of different answers from those who will soon be facing that upcoming challenge in Squamish or other events this summer. I imagine that among those answers, you would find phrases such as: for the challenge, for the scenery, for the joy of accomplishment, and of course, for the friendships made along the way. All of which, I promise, you will find, if you decide to someday cross an ultra-trail race off your bucket list, too.

Ok, so I DID end up in a cast for 8 months after completing the race and missed our local 30 km “Race Around the Lake”, but that is another story for another time…