Run­ning in Rid­ing Moun­tain

With Prairie hu­mil­ity, a half-marathon is born in one of Canada’s finest na­tional parks

Canadian Running - - DESTINATION RACE - By Tara Campbell

Often de­scribed as one of Canada’s best-kept se­crets, western Man­i­toba’s Rid­ing Moun­tain Na­tional Park will soon play host to its first half-marathon, thanks to the vi­sion of El­lis and Deb Crow­ston. This hus­band-and-wife duo has been or­ga­niz­ing the 30-year-old Rid­ing Moun­tain Triathlon for the past 10-plus years, and now will in­tro­duce the often-over­looked park to the run­ning com­mu­nity. “Over the years Rid­ing Moun­tain hasn’t de­vel­oped into a re­ally well-known na­tional park,” says El­lis Crow­ston, who grew up 90 kilo­me­tres south of the park in Brandon, and life­guarded there in the ’70s. The park tends to be over­shad­owed by the “al­most-mono­lithic” na­ture of Banff and Jasper, says Crow­ston. “When peo­ple start think­ing of trav­el­ling they al­most au­to­mat­i­cally go that route.” While Crow­ston un­der­stands the lure of the Rock­ies, he wants run­ners to know there are nat­u­ral won­ders and geo­graphic di­ver­sity to be dis­cov­ered on the Prairies. “Rid­ing Moun­tain over the years has never re­ally been pro­moted and been put out there as this gor­geous spot,” he ex­plains.

It’s a Prairie ex­pe­ri­ence, but don’t make the mis­take of pi­geon­hol­ing it with a pre­con­ceived no­tion of f lat land and empty spa­ces, cau­tions Crow­ston. “There’s a com­bi­na­tion be­tween the ter­rain and the vista that you’ll en­counter when you start run­ning through the park,” says Crow­ston, that is sec­ond-to-none. “There’s a wide-open lakeshore run along the Clear Lake [the park ’s main body of wa­ter], that’s as beau­ti­ful as it gets; and trails cut­ting through the for­est area that have been de­vel­oped over the years that are hard packed and easy to run.”

Run­ners are also treated to a trek through the Bo­real For­est,

where deer are often spot­ted and the dis­tinct sound of elk call­ing out bounce off trees and into the wide-open spa­ces. “It’s built on the side of an es­carp­ment,” says Crow­ston. “So there’s this sort of un­du­lat­ing to­pog­ra­phy that re­ally opens up op­por­tu­ni­ties for all types of train­ing for all kinds of events.”

Though sur­rounded by t he kind of nat­u­ral scenery most often as­so­ci­ated with trail rac­ing, the Rid­ing Moun­tain Half-Marathon is unique in that it is de­signed as a road race. Eighty per cent of the course is on a paved sur­face, and the other 20 per cent hard packed trail.

The race starts at the his­tor­i­cal town­site of Wasagam­ing, and winds through the camp­grounds be­fore head­ing into the park and along the shores of Clear Lake, end­ing with a shot into the ex­pan­sive cabin coun­try.

The Crow­stons see this race as be­ing an ideal op­por­tu­nity to ex­plore Rid­ing Moun­tain Na­tional Park at a prime time of year; as the lush trees are turn­ing colour and a calm set­tles in af­ter the sum­mer rush. They have no de­sire to turn the race into a mas­sive event with thou­sands of ath­letes, but rather Crow­ston says they see it as serv­ing a sim­ple pur­pose.

“What we re­ally want is to have it where run­ning groups and clubs can come up in the mid­dle of Septem­ber and spend that last week­end be­fore set­tling into win­ter to­gether, en­joy­ing the park and ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a unique race.”

Get­ting there

The city of Dauphin is 13 kilo­me­tres north of the park, and Brandon Air­port is about 95 kilo­me­tres south of the park. If you’re driv­ing from Win­nipeg, it’s ap­prox­i­mately three hours west via the Trans-Canada High­way/MB-1 W and Yel­low­head High­way/MB-16 W.

Where to stay

From the Lake House Bou­tique Ho­tel to the Rid­ing Moun­tain Na­tional Park–Wasagam­ing Camp­ground, there are plenty of ac­com­mo­da­tion op­tions at the park. The half-marathon is be­ing held in the off-sea­son, which means dis­counted rates.

ABOVE While the half-marathon is new, the or­ga­niz­ers have put on a lon­grun­ning triathlon event in the park

OP­PO­SITE AND BE­LOW Clear Lake in Rid­ing Moun­tain Na­tional Park

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