The Squamish 50/50
If you run trails, like to suffer and are looking for a great summer race in British Columbia, then Squamish 50 is the one for you. And if you feel like an additional challenge, the Squamish 50/50 option is always on the table – 50 miles on Saturday, followed by the comparatively gentle 50k on Sunday, guaranteeing that you’ll spend your Monday watching Netf lix.
Directed by Gary Robbins (an incredible ultrarunner himself and our cover athlete, read his profile on p. 46), Squamish 50 is a remarkably hard race. It’s typically very hot and humid on race weekend, and the course itself is rocky, muddy and steep. It’s designed to make you hurt and push your limits.
And yet, year after year, the race sells out in just a few hours. And here are a few reasons why:
All of these painful shenanigans take place in what many consider to be the outdoor recreational capital of Canada. You are going to spend the day running on some of the most beautiful singletrack trails North America has to offer. Sure, it includes the dreaded “Galactic Scheisse,” with a climb that seems to go on forever, and the famous “Legacy” (right after the halfway point) that you must take on, in the midday sun, without shade. Luckily, the race itself is organized to make you feel as comfortable as possible.
The race starts at Alice Lake, right after sunrise. The forest is quiet,
moody and the views are spectacular. If you’re a local runner, chances are you will know most of the people racing around you. The trail running community of Vancouver and Squamish is fairly small, and it’s always a great pleasure to race surrounded by friends. And if you’re travelling to the region for this spectacular experience, you’ll find a few new running pals by the time you come off the trails.
One of the highlights of the race is definitely Quest University (near the third aid station). It’s pretty overwhelming. After running by yourself for a while, you eventually exit the forest to cross the campus, where you’re welcomed by hundreds of people cheering, and some of the most efficient volunteers I’ve ever seen. (All of the race’s volunteers are next level at what they do.) They spot your bib number before you arrive and as soon as you show up, they hand you your drop bag. Someone immediately comes to you, grabs your packs and asks you what you need put in or taken out. Most of the volunteers are used to racing and know how important it is to send you back out as quickly as possible, and they all do a fine job at it.
After a few more hours in back country, the last great obstacle you need to conquer is Mountain of Phlegm, and that’s where you realize how cruel a man Gary Robbins is. Just as you think you are close to the top, the trail goes back down and around for another brutal stretch. And it goes on and on, until the point where you are ready to cry – and just then, you finally reach the top.
This is when you know the race is in the bag. Since Phlegm is the last climb of the day, no matter what state you’re in, you’re probably going to be able to push through (or crawl) the last four kilometres of downhill and the f lat stretch leading you mercifully to the finish line, where Robbins and his majestic beard are waiting for you with a big hug and a medal.
Squamish 50 will challenge you. It is an incredible race, although not recommended as a first ultra, but it will always give you a tremendous sense of accomplishment once you cross the finish line. No matter how long you took to get there.
Most major airlines f ly to Vancouver daily. Then you have to drive the ridiculously scenic Sea to Sky Highway (between ocean and mountains) for an hour to reach Squamish.
Where to Stay
There are many options, from camping to hotels and Airbnb, but make sure to book well in advance, as Squamish is not a large city and the race is very popular.