Des­ti­na­tion Race

Squamish 50

Canadian Running - - FEA­TURES - By Wing Tay­lor

There was a short but steep climb out of the for­est with spectators wait­ing at the top. I hadn’t seen spectators in a while, hav­ing just come off the sin­gle track trail Galac­tic Sheisse, the big­gest climb and de­scent of the day. They cheered me on as I passed them and started down a f lat sec­tion of dirt road. More spectators, more cheer­ing. I could hear mu­sic in the dis­tance. Very soon I found my­self com­ing around the cor­ner of a build­ing, and as I rounded it, the hill­side be­low the Quest Univer­sity aid sta­tion sud­denly came into view. Cow bells and cheer­ing erupted – over 200 folks sit­ting on the hill­side and cheer­ing ev­ery sin­gle run­ner. A surge of adren­a­line shot through my limbs as I climbed the stairs up to the aid sta­tion where a large and en­thu­si­as­tic group of vol­un­teers waited to as­sist. Some­one handed me a Freezie. Hey, it was trail run­ning leg­end El­lie Green­wood who handed me that Freezie!

It was Sat­ur­day of Squamish 50 week­end, and I had just reached the 30-mile mark of the 50-miler. Orig­i­nally a 63-kilo­me­tre race known as stormy (Squamish Test Of Run­ning Metal, Yeah), elite ul­tra­run­ner Gary Rob­bins and Ge­off Lang­ford of Ridge­line Events took over the race late in 2011 and re­branded it as the Squamish 50. In that time, they have grown it into ar­guably the largest ul­tra trail event in Canada, with a com­bined to­tal of over 1,100 run­ners be­tween the four events: a 50-miler on Sat­ur­day, a 50k and a 23k on Sun­day and a “50/50” for run­ners wish­ing to test them­selves with both the 50-miler and 50k on back-to-back days!

Put to­gether those 1,100 run­ners, their crews, friends and fam­i­lies, plus over 250 vol­un­teers, and you have a few thou­sand peo­ple as­sem­bled in Squamish, B.C., for a full week­end of world-class trail run­ning, food, drink and gen­eral mer­ri­ment. With the start and fin­ish lines set in full view of the mas­sive 2,300-foot-high Stawa­mus Chief gran­ite mono­lith, and sev­eral points along the course that of­fer views of spec­tac­u­lar Howe Sound, the runs man­age to be quite scenic de­spite the fact that you spend quite a while climb­ing and de­scend­ing sin­gle track trails in the heav­ily forested moun­tains north and east of Squamish. With the 50-miler boast­ing over 3,350 m of climb­ing and the 50k check­ing in with over 2,600 m, these are se­ri­ous

moun­tain ul­tras. That said, the cour­ses wrap around Squamish in such a way that crew and spec­ta­tor ac­cess is easy, es­pe­cially in con­trast with some ul­tras where one needs to drive for hours and hike long dis­tances to aid sta­tions to see the ac­tion. The ma­jor aid sta­tion at Quest Univer­sity (which is also the start of the 23k on Sun­day) of­fers easy ac­cess and a com­fort­able at­mos­phere for crews and fam­i­lies. Other spec­tat­ing points along the course are all within a short drive of the start/fin­ish area.

The Squamish area has nu­mer­ous ac­tiv­i­ties to keep non-run­ning friends and fam­ily mem­bers busy while you suf­fer on the trails. Rid­ing the nearby Sea to Sky Gon­dola, hik­ing up the Chief or around Shan­non Falls, or even driv­ing an hour up the road to Whistler are all good op­tions (although on a nice sum­mer week­end these at­trac­tions can all draw sig­nif­i­cant crowds). With just a bit of re­search into the lo­cal scene you can find plenty of lesser known but stun­ningly beau­ti­ful hikes, moun­tain bike trails and other out­door ac­tion.

Of course, the main rea­son to come to the Squamish 50 is to run. With chal­lenges rang­ing from the 23k all the way up to the 50/50 (130 kilo­me­tres and 6,100 m of climb­ing), there are dis­tances for all lev­els from noob to nut­ter. Swag is top-notch with T-shirts for all run­ners, medals for all fin­ish­ers and, for those fin­ish­ing the 50/50, the cov­eted cus­tom trucker cap. I man­aged to nab one of those caps, and the feel­ing of com­ing down the rau­cous fin­ish line chute and hav­ing Gary Rob­bins high-five you and pop one of those on your head is worth all the months of train­ing. Wing Tay­lor is an ul­tra trail run­ner liv­ing in North Van­cou­ver.

DES­TI­NA­TION SQUAMISH, BRI­TISH COLUMBIA Squamish 50 DATE Au­gust 18–19, 2018 DIS­TANCE 23K, 50K, 50 miles WEB­SITE

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