Canadian Running - - DEPARTMENTS - Michael Doyle, Edi­tor-in-Chief @Cana­di­anRun­ning

The ul­tra-trail scene is eas­ily the most ex­cit­ing in Cana­dian run­ning right now. Al­though the first wave of the run­ning boom over the past 15 or so years was kick­started by road 5ks and half-marathons, many peo­ple are now be­ing drawn to the in­escapable al­lure of the trails. In Jen­nifer Faraone’s fun and re­veal­ing ‘Cross­ing the Line’ es­say (p.80), she per­fectly il­lus­trates how hit­ting the sin­gle­track and for­get­ting about the pesky de­tails of the roads, like pace and PBs, is lib­er­at­ing and rein­tro­duces us to why we first fell in love with run­ning.

One of the most ex­cit­ing as­pects of the ul­tra-trail scene is the emer­gence of women dom­i­nat­ing races out­right. Madeleine Cum­mings’ ex­cel­lent fea­ture on Ailsa Mac­Don­ald is framed around one of the defin­ing races of the ul­tra star’s ca­reer thus far. Mac­Don­ald sur­prises the field, and her­self, by en­dur­ing a bru­tally hot day in the moun­tains and win­ning the Sin­is­ter 7, one of Canada’s tough­est ul­tras – and she won the race out­right.

From a sci­ence per­spec­tive, there’s a se­ries of phys­i­o­log­i­cal fac­tors that pro­vide men with about an eight to 10 per cent per­for­mance ad­van­tage over women in most en­durance events. For ex­am­ple, the men’s marathon world record is 2:02:57, whereas the women’s is 2:15:25, which is a 9.21 per cent dif­fer­ence. But re­cent stud­ies sug­gest that the longer a race goes, the less of a role phys­i­ol­ogy plays, which evens the play­ing field, and maks the event a bat­tle of mind over mat­ter. Mac­Don­ald, and other top Cana­dian run­ners like Alissa St. Lau­rent (whom we fea­tured in the 2017 Trail Spe­cial) are now show­ing that, over the course of a long, gru­elling day of run­ning 100 miles through moun­tain ranges, the ul­tra is the most ex­treme, and per­haps purest test of men­tal strength. A 2017 study from ubc re­searchers sug­gests that women may in fact have a per­for­mance ad­van­tage over men in what they call “ul­tra ul­tra” dis­tances. Our t wo ot her feat ures in t his Trail Spe­cial also high­light Cana­di­ans who ex­hibit shock­ing men­tal tough­ness. Nort h Van­cou­ver’s Wing Tay­lor was one of the few true spec­ta­tors at the now leg­endary 2017 Barkley Marathons, and he gives us an in­side look of that ex­pe­ri­ence. Gary Rob­bins’ char­ac­ter in the face of such ad­ver­sity is both ad­mirable and con­ta­gious, as is David Proc­tor’s in Rhi­an­non Rus­sell ’s in­trigu­ing prof ile ( p.5 4) of the man who aims to run across Canada faster than any­one in his­tory this com­ing sum­mer. These three as­tound­ing Cana­dian ath­letes are break­ing down bar­ri­ers, chal­leng­ing them­selves to look be­yond per­ceived lim­its and re­shap­ing our idea of en­durance sports, in ev­ery pos­si­ble way. It’s an ex­cit­ing time to be a trail run­ner in Canada.

ABOVE Ailsa Mac­Don­ald on her way to the out­right win at the 2017 Sin­is­ter 7 Ul­tra

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