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Runners on a gruelling trek of endurance

The ENDURrun series that kicked off in Conestogo last weekend and runs through the end of this week looks to be the ultimate runner’s challenge, with dozens of participants covering some 160 kilometres of ground over eight days.

The series takes runners through seven stages all across the Waterloo Region, starting with a course that runs through the paved scenic nature trails of Conestogo in a half-marathon. The final stage wraps up again in Conestogo, this time a full marathon.

“You have to commit early because it takes a lot of preparation – it takes about a year to prepare for it. You have to train for it physically, you have to train for it mentally, run hills and trails and distance and speed, you have to do all of that,” explained organizer Lloyd Schmidt.

Stage 2 is a 15-km time trial course in Moyer Landing, Cambridge, with a mix of gravel and pavement. A 30-km trek through Bechtel Park in Waterloo was the hilly course for Stage 3, while Stage 4 saw runners hit the scenic, forested trails in Heidelberg for 16 km.

Stage 5 is a 26.5-km run alpine run at Chicopee Ski Resort in Kitchener, then a 10-km track race at St. David Catholic Secondary School in Waterloo, before finishing back at the start location with the Conestogo marathon.

Schmidt said that the layout of these stages is set up a little differently than previous events – the fourth and sixth stages are no longer taking place in Woolwich because of road work.

“Due to construction on Sawmill [Road], we lost two of our courses,” said Schmidt. “We still have two stages in Conestogo – the half marathon and the full marathon – but we moved the other two from Cambridge and Waterloo.”

The 2019 ENDURrun reached its maximum capacity this year, seeing many local runners but some from much further away. This year will see competitors from Ajax, Etobicoke, Ottawa, and even Palm City, Florida. The event tends to fill up early so that runners have time to prepare properly.

“We sold out at 75, but then there’s been quite a few drop-outs,” said Schmidt. “As you know, it’s a tough event to train for, and a lot of people get injured just trying to train for it. Right now, we’re at 63 people doing the full thing. Then we have 16 relay teams.”

One racer who did get injured during the training period is a longtime runner and last years’ participant Deirdre Large, who developed plantar fasciitis in her heel. Despite the setback, she remains determined to push through the series.

“Just taking one stage at a time,” said Large. “And babying my feet after every race – like with an ice massage. I’m hoping for the best; it’s such a great week seeing friends again. I wouldn’t want to miss it.”

This is the 17th year of the ENDURrun, and Schmidt noted that the social aspect is a huge draw that keeps the momentum going.

“It’s become more of a social thing,” said Schmidt. “We have many returnees, and they treat the week as a training week. So they get together, run a tough race in the morning, then get together at night for social activities and things, and make it a really nice week.”

While the group tends to keep things friendly, participants are still racing, leading to a relatively competitive atmosphere.

Four-time defending champion of the ENDURrace, Robert Brouillette, is back this year. He is the holder of the gold jersey, which is given to the overall winner of the ENDURrace, and modelled after the Tour de France. However, experienced marathon runner, Josh Bolton, could give him a run for his money.

“The gold jersey could change,” said Schmidt. “We’ve only had three or four jersey changes throughout the week in 17 years – we might get a couple more this year. It’s very exciting.”

We are currently in the midst of the ENDURrun stages, as the event wraps up on August 18.

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