The first weekend in May saw temperatures above +18 Celsius — weather not seen around these parts since October of last year — and the great conditions arrived just in time for Manitoba’s first ultra-marathon.
Dwayne Sandall and his family, along with a team of volunteers sacrificed untold hours of their time, money, and effort to bring within reach ultra-marathoning for local athletes.
Never before has there been an event in Manitoba to test both veteran ultra-marathoners and newly aspiring ultra-marathoners. Prior to this, the only true ultra test would come if someone in Manitoba would travel. Some people, like Dale Wohlgemuth from Landmark, has previously travelled to Morocco, California, Montana, Saskatchewan and North Dakota in search of that gruelling test.
“The Spruce Woods Ultra is the real deal,” said Wohlgemuth. “Hard cut offs. Three distance options. Very well organized. Top it off, it is tough to run. Ultra runners like tough races. Plus, I can spend time with my family without travelling. I can drive my truck to the race, and home afterwards.”
Over 140 people attended, and there was a huge amount of people in the 50 mile race. Other races included the ½ marathon and 50 km.
There were 16 people who attempted to tackle the daunting 100. Of those 16 runners, 6 were over 40-years-old and three were over 50. Even though there are arguments about the definition of an ultra-marathon’s length, there is no argument when it comes to completion of the 100 : this guarantees acceptance into the exclusive ultra-endurance community.
This event is the international benchmark of an ultra-marathoner. Even though there may be disagreements as to the length of an ultra-marathon within the running community, no one doubts that completion of this race entitles you the ‘right’ to call yourself an ultra-marathoner.
Because this super-endurance race was held here, more opportunities to attract and evaluate local talent are available. At this race alone, the top female and male 100 mile finishers have never raced in a 100 mile event in the past.
Winnipeg’s Mallory Richard, 29-years-old, sailed effortlessly across the beautiful provincial park hills to arrive with a finish time of 20 hours and 34 minutes. 40-year-old Juraj Karak from Brandon, relentlessly drove himself to the top of the podium, with a time of 19 hours and 43 minutes.
Many people commented on how smooth Mallory Richard was, and the veteran racers, like Wisconsin’s Tuscobia 150 mile record holder, Sue Lucas from Dauphin, stated: “I think she’s amazing. Every time I saw her in the race she looked faster. I look forward to seeing what she can accomplish at Superior 100 in the fall. She’s got speed I never had or will have. I think she has a very promising ultra future if she keeps it up.”
“Everybody who finishes is a winner,” said finisher Juraj (pronounced Yuri) Karak about the 100 mile contestants. Everybody who is at the start line is a winner. You cannot think about injury; you have to clear your mind, and be free.”
And due to the variety of races, entrants can compete in events that are similar in length to the traditional running events.
Because of the bicycle patrols, there is an added level of safety that is only a few minutes away. The cyclists followed the ultra runners throughout the night, making sure they were safe, and if they needed assistance, it was a phone call away.
Jason Carter and the people at Fatbike Manitoba did a fantastic job of doing just that. They are hoping to continue this great relationship between the trail running community and mountain bike community.
The next trail running event is on July 6th: Where’s the Beach, in Stead, Manitoba. Distances are 33/66/99 kms.
There will be a series of Trail Running events held at Bird’s Hill Park, July 19, Aug 9, and Sept 6. Distances will be 6, 7, 8 and 14 kms. Registration costs for all of the races is $85, or a per day cost of $25 for all of the events except for the 22 km event, which will be $40.
For more information, visit http://trailrunmanitoba.com/
All photos by Gregory McNeill, who was one of the 100-mile ultra-marathon competitors.
An album featuring more great photos of this event taken by Gregory McNeill can be seen by clicking here.