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Runners need plenty of training to put the endurance in ENDURrun

ENDURrun volunteers waited for racers next to the finish line at Saturday’s 10 km run in Conestogo. The time limit for this course was an hour and 15 minutes. [Veronica Reiner]

An ultimate test of endurance, this year’s 16th annual ENDURrun aims to find the best overall runner of all terrain types.

This year’s event wrapped up last weekend, with Robert Brouillette claiming top spot in the men’s category for the fourth straight year. Aidan Rutherford was second, while Christian Belair was third. In the women’s category, Valery Hobson was the winner, followed by Robyn Collins and Vicki Zandbergen.

Racers competing in the event should train for an entire year to fully prepare for the seven-stage, 160 km challenge, says race director Lloyd Schmidt. That’s what’s needed to succeed at the multi-stage event over the course of a week (stage 1 – half-marathon, stage 2 – 15 km time trial, stage 3 – 30 km trail run, stage 4 – 10 mile [16 km] hill run, stage 5 – 25.6 km alpine run, stage 6 – 10 km time trial, stage 7 – marathon).

“We’d like to get people to commit to the event early, like a year in advance, so that they can properly train for it,” explained Schmidt. “Because we’ve had instances where people didn’t train for it, and it becomes a really difficult event to complete. If they commit to it and they prepare for it all year in advance, and they do the hills and the trails and back runs and everything, they can get through it.”

But how does one prepare to run 160 km in one week, especially within a varied time limit for each course?

“I run six days a week and one double run,” said event participant of two previous years, Karen Batsford. “You have to get used to running on tired legs. It’s amazing what your body can do. You wake in the a.m. barely able to walk, and you wonder ‘how am I going to run a marathon today?’ It shows how the mind plays a role also.”

“Because it’s such a unique multi-stage race and different running conditions every day, I try to cover all of this in my training,” added Deirdre Large, event participant. “I incorporate back-to-back long runs to get used to running on tired legs. So a 30 km run Saturday followed by a 20 km Sunday. I also train on hills, trails and in our extreme summer heat. Very important.”

Participants who slack on the training part often do not manage to finish the races or drop out early.

“We had 57 starters this year. I think we’re down to 47 right now,” explained Schmidt. “So some people didn’t start the event at all, dropped out before we even started. And a couple of people have dropped out since we started. And a couple of people couldn’t hit the time limit, so they were out as well. There are time limits per stage; they have to hit the time limit. If they don’t, then they’re out. That amount depends on the distance and terrain, today’s race was 10k has an hour and 15-minute time limit.”

“Everyone struggles at times,” added Batsford. “Injuries are why people drop out or didn’t make cut off. I ran with a severely sprained ankle. Most people I found pushed through injuries. One lost all their toenails just to finish, to say they finished. All the runners are so motivating, whether they are the leaders of the race or back of the pack. All are inspiring and do it for themselves.”

Last week’s race took participants through various parts of the Waterloo Region. For example, the August 14 run took runners on a 30-km trek starting at Bechtel Park in Waterloo. The majority of events ran through the Conestogo area.

“Each stage is totally different, and we try to run as much of the Waterloo Region as possible,” said Schmidt. “[Saturday’s] stage is from Elmira to Conestogo; it’s very, very flat. So compared to Chicopee, which was grass and trails and hills, tomorrow is flat roads. It’s quite a dramatic change in terrain. And that’s what we like to do; make sure runners run every kind of discipline.”

ENDURrun also features a charity of choice program, where chosen runners select a charity and raise over a $1,000 for it so that they can have their entry fee refunded.

“But we limit that to two people,” said Schmidt. “Because if we returned everybody’s entry fee, we wouldn’t have any money left. This year was actually a good year; one person raised almost $10,000. That’s fantastic. Most people raise $1,000 or $1,500, but [he] went way above and beyond for his charity, Nutrition for Kids.”

There is also prize money for winners of the event, as well as a gold jersey that marks the leading runner. More details are available at ENDURrun.

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