Advertised as the running challenge of a lifetime, ENDURrun mimics the Tour de France, but for running instead of cycling. Competing over eight days, runners crush 160 kilometres through seven stages.
Now getting ready for its 15th anniversary in the region, the challenge is based on ENDURrun director Lloyd Schmidt’s own experience.
“It came from my personal training program. I used to run about 100 miles a week in training so I just kind of incorporated it into a race,” said Schmidt.
Over the past 15 years, Schmidt says the real difference he has seen is in the number of people interested in competing.
“First year we had nine,” he said, noting they peaked a few years ago with 60 competitors doing the full 160 km. “This year we are at about 43 who are doing the whole thing, and then we also have guests spots available for each stage, so runners can just run a stage if they want. And then the relay – we have 14 relay teams introducing 987 people to the event.”
The relay allows for teams of people, usually seven, dividing the stages up amongst the group to complete the full 160km.
“Also, the sport competition is the last three days, for people who maybe can’t get the full week off of work,” he notes.
The event begins on August 13 with stage 1, an early morning half-marathon. Stage 2 sees competitors doing a 15-km time trial, followed by a 30-km cross-country run as stage 3, the final consecutive event finishes off Wedneday evening with a 10-mile hill run.
“Half marathon is probably one of the most common races in the long distance community, so we start off with that. Monday is a 15-km time trial. They start one minute apart and the slowest goes first and the fastest goes last one minute apart so that the last person can see the person in front of them – every person you pass its another minute you’ve gained. It is a huge advantage for the winner,” he explained. “Stage 3 is a 30-km trail race. It’s all trails so it is harder to run on and it’s also the third day in a row. Stage 4 is in the evening so they get to sleep in on the Wednesday.”
Mimicking the French tour, male and female cumulative time leaders after each stage have the honour of wearing the pristine gold jerseys for the following stage.
After a much needed rest day, competitors start up again on Friday morning with a 25.6-km mountain run through Chicopee ski hill.
“Friday we hit them with Chicopee, and it is the hardest run but they have the day off (before),” he said. “So that’s 25 km of mountains and that’s probably the hardest day. Even though the marathon is longer, Chicopee is harder.”
Stage 6 welcomes runners to a 10-km time trial, and the final of seven stages is a full marathon on Sunday morning.
The competition isn’t for the faint of heart.
“If you haven’t trained it is going to be a torturous week. If you train properly – you have to do hills, you have to do trails, you have to do distance – and the serious ones they do simulations where they run three or four days in a row hard just to get used to running hard every day,” he said. “The more you prepare, the better the week will go. If you don’t take it seriously, it will hurt.”
Still, each year they see competitors coming back to really test their ability.
“Runners are just so proud to have completed,” he said. “We have a lot of returning runners, they keep coming back year after year.”
It is a marathon for the volunteers as well, however, with 378 volunteers needed to make sure ENDURrun goes smoothly.
“We are up at sometimes 3 a.m. in the morning setting the course up, and then we usually time the race and get the water stations out and then when the race is over you take it down and start it all over again the next day,” he said, noting they only have about three spots to fill before the event begins.
One of Run Waterloo’s 18 yearly events, ENDURrun takes the cake on being the most labour intensive, bar none.
For competitors though, achieving a personal best can also come with a monetary return for top spots.
ENDURrun’s 15th annual race will be happening August 13-20 in location throughout Waterloo Region.