Des­ti­na­tion Race

Bromont Ul­tra, Bromont, Que.

Canadian Running - - DEPARTMENTS - By Alexan­dre Cyr

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.

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