Sunday was an emotional day for the 47 runners who completed the gruelling test of endurance that is the ENDURrun, the eight-day, seven-stage competition that took them across 160 kilometres, including a full marathon that ended in Conestogo.
It’s an event where attrition plays a big part.
“We had the most finishers out of any year this year,” said organizer Lloyd Schmidt. “We probably also had the most withdrawals or dropouts as well.”
Robert Brouilette, 26, set a new personal best in his fifth consecutive championship, with an overall time of 10:06:01. It didn’t happen without a challenge, as 29-year-old Josh Bolton gave him a run for his money this year, winning the first two stages in Conestogo and Cambridge before ultimately dropping out due to an injury.
“[Josh] was just a minute or two behind [Robert] heading into the final stage, and he just couldn’t go,” explained Schmidt. “He tweaked an achilles [tendon] at the race the day before, and didn’t want to risk any further injury.”
Brouilette said that his training regimen consists of back-to-back hard days (long run followed by a speed workout, or vise-versa) is key for strength, while having a proper fueling plan (such as water and energy gels) for longer stages is crucial to surviving those hot summer runs.
Coming in second overall was Aidan Rutherford with an overall time of 10:48:33, and Robin Richard-Campeau was third place after completing the series in 11:28:44.
Robyn Collins took the gold jersey in the women’s section with a time of 12:33:56. It was speedy enough to earn the 42-year-old the fifth-fastest master of all time, approximately two minutes behind her 2018 record. Rounding out the podium was Catherine Desrosiers (who also took second in 2017) and Vicki Zandbergen, who finished third for a fourth time.
“The idea is to see who the overall best runner is under all conditions, so you’re not just a road, trail, track, short, or marathon runner,” explained Schmidt. “You want to be good at all these disciplines.”
Training for an event of this intensity level is challenging: of the 82 people registered, about 20 didn’t start. Fifteen dropped out during the event, said Schmidt.
People come out to ENDURrun for a variety of reasons – some enjoy running competitively, while others look to simply finish the monumental challenge.
“I enjoy the friendships that have been created,” said Elmira racer Merlin Frey. “That’s the fun part of this competition as well – even though we’re competing against each other, we’re encouraging each other as well.”
Of all the event’s stages, Schmidt noted that participants often find the Chicopee stage in Kitchener the most challenging due to the many obstacles, including roots, rocks, and big hills. Other difficult stages are Bechtel Park in Waterloo and the final Conestogo marathon.
For those interested in getting a sense of the ENDURrun, participants have the option to register as a guest. The guest entry involves joining runners for a single stage out of the seven and helps to get a feel for the event, community, and course.
Schmidt said the 2020 ENDURrun already has a good head start – after opening up registration last week, 33 people have already signed up.
“That’s a good sign for us. People are taking it seriously, they’re committed to it, they’re putting a lot of money into an entry fee, so they’re committed,” he said. “Of those 33, 14 are new people that have never done it before. So they’ve been following the event, and waiting for registration to open up, and as soon as it opened up.
“It’s created its own community of people. People come out all week to volunteer, help, and support. It’s quite a thing – it’s taken on a life of its own.”
More than 300 volunteers dedicate their time to making the event a success, from serving runners in all conditions to food preparation. For more information, check out www.endurrun.com.