I’ve been running since the spring of 2013, but it was only last year that I tried trail running.
A friend I met on Twitter, Jessica Kuepfer, was an ambassador for a race series called 5 Peaks and couldn’t say enough good things about it. There were six races, one per month from April to September. Another Twitter friend, Robyn Baldwin, gleefully told me she’d bought a season’s pass. I can never resist trying new things, especially when friends are raving, so I checked out the website.
5 Peaks offers two distances, the sport distance, which is between 5K and 7K depending on the trail, and the enduro distance, which is between 12K and 14K. I decided to try just the April race at the sport distance to see how I liked it.
Is it any surprise to learn that I did 4 of the next 5 races?
Running on the road is one thing. It’s easy to fit into your day and road races are much more common in the city than trail races. But running on trails is a different challenge all together. First off, it’s beautiful. The longest I drove to a race was about an hour from Toronto and, in some cases, I was running along cliffs and climbing the escarpment (Rattlesnake Point). Other times running along the side of a lake (Heart Lake) and even running through deep water in a marsh (water feature at Kortright Centre!).
The varying terrain makes the time fly and it’s such a welcome change from running in the city. No headphones are allowed on the course, which I know for some of you can be scary (I’ll be running… without music?!), but in reality it’s an amazing experience to run to the soundtrack of the wind in the trees, the birds, and the footsteps of other runners.
I also got the big surprise of placing in my AC, sport distance, for each race I did (the medals are gorgeous and made out of clay!). It wasn’t the podium that kept me coming back, however, but rather the community. 5 Peaks is extremely welcoming to new trail runners; I never felt like I should be embarrassed that I was new to the sport. They also put a real focus on family. People come with their kids not just to watch, but to race as well! There’s a Children’s Challenge which runs between 500m – 1K (which is actually really far for a toddler to run and, believe me, I’ve seen it) and a 3K timed event for older kids.
Another big bonus is the amazing SWAG that 5 Peaks provides. In each race kit there’s Kicking Horse Coffee (yes please), CLIF Bars, a piece of 5 Peaks swag (e.g. BUFF Canada made a 5 Peaks buff for the first race) and tons of other goodies. After the races there is freshly brewed Kicking Horse Coffee, oodles of nut butter, bagels, bananas, apples, cookies, chips, pretzels and more CLIF Bars. Basically, the best post-race food I’ve ever had. While you’re noshing, the awards are given out. In between the awards, there are games and friendly competition (plank-off, anyone?) and winners are allowed to grab something from the EPIC prize table that features swanky prizes from many more 5 Peaks sponsors.
I’m thrilled that this year I’ve been asked to be a 5 Peaks Ambassador for the Ontario race series. I’ll be at each race over the course of the summer and in between, hooking up with some local run groups and leading some trail runs in Toronto.
Bonus? I’ve got a discount code for you to use if you want to sign up for a 5 Peaks race! Simply enter ALLEGRA at checkout and you’ll get a 10% discount. Click here to see the races available in your area.