Bromont Ultra, Bromont, Que.
The Bromont Ultra offers seven different distances amid the autumnal beauty of southern Quebec’s Mont Brome, as well as an exhilarating community vibe and one tough course. And every dollar from the race goes to charity.
The city of Bromont, nestled in southern Quebec’s leafy countryside, has long been known in the skiing community for its hills and trail network. It was only a matter of time before runners took to the daunting climbs of nearby Mont Brome. In 2014, Quebec was experiencing an ultrarunning boom. Gilles Poulin could not think of a better time to unleash his dream project: founding an ultra race.
“For a few years, I had been raising money for charity by running ultramarathons,” says Poulin. “Eventually, I wondered how much of a difference we could make if more people would join me in testing their limits.” Poulin soon acted on his vision, and for four years now, the Bromont Ultra has welcomed an inf lux of runners of all speeds and creeds to tackle the rocky, mountainous terrain. The first ultra event of its kind in Quebec offers seven individual race distances ranging from 2k to 160k, and two team relays of 80k and 160k. “We wanted to create a race where people could go beyond their usual distances, no matter what those are,” says Poulin. “We want every runner to get to experience that feeling of surpassing limits.”
The race happens on the first weekend of October, when the grassy hills of Mont Brome are decorated in yellow, orange and fiery red. The pleasant yet cool weather makes running feel comfortable and breezy, even though the tricky, switchback-filled trails present a challenge to any runner. The course, which is interspersed with f lat road sections – to the racers’ relief – forms an 80k loop. “All races are run on the same trail,” says Poulin, “so you can have the 160k runners racing alongside some 25k runners – the atmosphere is great and runners feel supported.”
The help from local running fans and volunteers ensures a smooth experience for all participants. “We get instrumental support from the community,” says Poulin. “Volunteers help with aid station organization, and work a 2 4-hour localfood restaurant by the basecamp.” The restaurant satiates thousands of runners and spectators, and prepares a meal a minute. “The basecamp – where the race begins and ends – is like a village. From
the time the longest race starts on Saturday morning, to the event’s end on Sunday afternoon, fellow runners, community members and supporters from everywhere come and cheer nonstop.” Poulin says. The camp hosts as many as 5,000 people at times. and even when the sun drops, the party continues. “We have bonfires at night to keep people warm and the good vibes going,” says Poulin.
Although participants are guaranteed a good time off the course, nothing can save them from the event’s treacherous terrain. “I’ve raced ultras in Colorado, Texas and Virginia,” states Poulin, “and we have nothing to be jealous about. This course in our backyard is the real deal.” Two of the race’s regulars, four-time finisher Pierre LeQuient, and well-known Quebec actor and Bigfoot 200 (mile) finisher Pat Godin, can attest to the course’s difficulty. “I am an experienced runner,” says Godin, “but I have two Bromont Ultra dnfs to my name. Despite these results, I have very fond memories of this race. The first 80k loop is done in the daylight, but it’s the second one that really tests you – you run in the dark. I like a challenge; it’s always on my to-do list.” LeQuient recognizes that such a race requires a great deal of mental preparation. “I have run in every edition of the race, and I’m not even sure if I have the key to success yet.” LeQuient recommends getting a good headlamp, and taking short 10–30 minute breaks between the two 80k loops. “Obviously, you also need a bit of luck,” he laughs.
Poulin is thrilled that LeQuient, Godin and an increasing number of others keep marking his race on their calendars. Just as he had envisioned, funds raised for charity increase every year. “Last year, we raised $265,000 for 14 different charities. We encourage people to run for whichever cause they choose,” Poulin says. He even offers to set up PayPal accounts for fundrasiers for his event. Poulin’s motive is strictly philanthropic; none of this money returns to him or to the race. “We get paid by seeing people surpass themselves, and strive to reach beyond their perceived limits. Impossible is not a fact, it’s an opinion,” he says.