Chasing glory, personal bests or the infamous gold jersey, runners will cover 160 kilometres over eight days next month for the ENDURrun running series.
It begins on Aug. 7 with a half-marathon in Conestogo, finishing the following Sunday again in Conestogo with a marathon.
Stage two is a 15-km run in Conestogo, stage three is a 30-km trail run in Bechtel Park, and stage four returns to Woolwich with a 16-km hill run in Heidelberg. There’s a day of rest followed by a 25.6-km alpine run at Chicopee Ski Resort for stage five, and a 10-km time trial for stage six in Elmira before the final stage – the marathon.
Race organizer Lloyd Schmidt says last year’s series went well with 63 people completing all seven races in this one-of-a-kind running series.
“It was a good combination of competitiveness and participation. It’s such a tough event and sometimes we don’t have that many people do it. So we had a lot of people do it last year and it was very competitive and it worked out very well,” Schmidt said.
So far they have 49 registered, which is still a good number. He says there are some more people considering it, but because it’s such a physically demanding series they want to make sure they’re 100 per cent healthy before they commit. They very well may sign up closer to the date once they know their body is prepared.
“In addition to the people doing the whole week we have guest runners that run certain stages. We have nine relay teams and then we have another competition called the sport which is the last three events, not all seven of them, just the last three. People that can’t get the whole week off so they can just get the one weekend off, that’s kind of the idea,” he said.
Typically about half of the participants are new to the event and half are returning each year. The retuning men’s champion, Robert Brouillette, is coming back this year.
Runners are mostly local, but some are coming from Barrie, Bradford, Ingersoll, Ottawa, and even Calgary and one from the U.S.
“It’s so unique. There’s nothing like it in the world,” Schmidt said.
They’ve had runners from as far as Japan and Trinidad and Tobago over the years.
They’ll have to compete in each of the seven races regardless of the weather to be eligible for any of the titles and prizes.
“We’ve had very, very hot days over the years and we have torrential rains. You have to keep going,” Schmidt said.
As they run many of the races on unfamiliar township roads, he notes they’re not alone out there. They set up lots of manned stations with water, Gatorade and sports gels to support the runners, along with a massage after every race.
He says their goal is to keep competitors in the competition.
And runners all have their own personal reasons for tackling such an intense goal.
“Most of the people, they’re either trying to beat their time from last year or there’s many reasons to do it. They might just want to use this as a week to get high mileage in because they have a race in the fall that they have to prepare for, like a marathon or something,” he said.
They also might be after one of the titles they hand out. The mountain king is awarded to the person with the best combined time between the two mountain stages – Chicopee and Heidelberg. The mountain king receives a different colour jersey.
“And we have two stages that are time trials, they’re flat and fast, so the winner of those two combined is the sprint king. We have two trail races, one at Bechtel Park and one at Chicopee, so we add those two race times together and they’re the trail king,” he explained.
They’ve also created a gold jersey modeled after the Tour de France. Whoever wins the first stage, they get the gold jersey, which they wear on the second stage and then after that the overall combined leader gets the gold jersey.
But it’s about much more than winning a race for many of them who come back year after year.
“Once people do it once they make friends. Not only are they competitors, they become life-long friends. It’s like a reunion every year. We have a lot of people from out of town, not from this area, so once a year they get together. Throughout the week they get together and go out for dinners and things like that. It’s like a running camp or a family reunion,” Schmidt said.
There’s no maximum placed on the number of participants, so interested runners still have time to check out the courses and register at www.endurrun.com.