- 3 miles/5K, 6 miles/10K, 13.1 miles/Half Marathon, 26.2 miles/Marathon, 50K, 50 miles, Relay
- Trail Race
- Event Website
I am far from a marathon veteran, having only completed two so far but I can so to this point that the half-marathon I completed at the Blue Mountain Resort as part of The North Face's first Endurance Challenge in Canada is the hardest race I've done.
The events leading to me doing this race were actually quite fun - as part of one of the earliest Twitter BibChats, I won a free entry in to any of TNF Endurance Challenge Series. I really didn't think I would be able to realistically use the prize, but when I saw there was one in Ontario, the wheels started turning and through the support of my family and help of an amazing Twitter friend, Michelle, it all came together.
While locals refer to Blue Mountain as "Blue Bump", as it is relatively small by ski hill standards, running up the "bump" is another story altogether. There was over a mile of elevation change from start to finish of the race, including a quad burning mile long descent at the end. In between was a variety of terrain, ranging from single track to gravel roads to open grassy areas. Large chunks of the actual trail were part of Ontario's Bruce Trail and was quite technically challenging, made even more challenging by the heavy overnight rain that muddied up the trail and made all rocks and wooden bridges as slippery as ice.
Finding the resort and parking were simple and the area was well marked to find the kit pick up, expo and other race related activities. While the expo was small, the sponsors were well represented and there were even games for kids there to win prizes and keep themselves occupied. Prior to the race, ultramarathoning legend Dean Karnazes gave a short pep talk and was also responsible for the official start, which was a great touch.
The course markings were generally pretty well done, although a number of runners did get lost and shorten their race. The problem areas were general at unmanned intersections with multiple choices that weren't marked as clearly as needed. By the time the half-marathon runners joined in with the later starting 5 and 10 k runners, there was definitely a little more congestion and confusion than I would have liked. Another concern that organizers tried to address was people using head phones on the trail. Even with repeated requests by organizers, there were still many runners wearing these devices, which was unfortunate as it made the course less safe for other runners in tight areas and when trying to pass.
Overall, it was a fantastically run race and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who was looking for a challenge. This is certainly not a course where you are going to get anywhere near a PB for distance, but it will be one that you will remember!